Turkey: Release journalist and painter Zehra Doğan

Zehra Doğan (Fot: PEN international)

17 August 2017 – Today, PEN International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Zehra Doğan. Pending her release, the Turkish authorities should allow her access to painting materials, in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules, in particular Rule No. 105).

‘PEN International is dismayed by Zehra Doğan’s conviction and imprisonment, which we consider a violation of her right to freedom of expression, as an artist and as a journalist’, said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International.

On 12 June 2017, Doğan was taken into police custody while she was on her way to a family visit. On 24 March 2017, she was convicted of ‘propagandising for a terrorist organisation’ under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law by the Second High Criminal Court of Mardin province and sentenced to 2 years, 9 months and 22 days in prison. Since her arrest, Doğan has been held in Diyarbakır’s E-type Closed Prison. Doğan’s conviction relates to a previous arrest in July 2016, following which she was charged with ‘propagandising for a terrorist organisation’ and membership of a terrorist organization and spent four-and-a-half months in prison prior to her release pending trial on the first of these charges.

The criminal charges against Doğan concern a painting, news article and her social media activity. The painting at issue is her recreation of a photograph taken by the Turkish military and disseminated by social media accounts linked to the Turkish security forces. The picture was taken during the five months’ curfew imposed on the town of Nusaybin, which was a site of the conflict between the Turkish army and the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party). Although Doğan neither took the picture nor added the Turkish flags, the Court in its decision states that, ‘the defendant photographed a scene in Nusaybin and painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. It is clear that the painting is against the operations that were conducted as a result of the PKK terrorist organisation’s violence and force. The painting is beyond the limit of criticism of the operations carried out by the security forces in order to restore public order and it is propaganda for the PKK’s barricade and trench policy’. Doğan argued at her trial that producing a painting of a real-life event based upon a photo taken and disseminated by the Turkish military was part of her work as a journalist.

The news item in question is an article written on 22 December 2015, in which Doğan cites the call of Elif Akboğa, a ten-year-old resident of Nusaybin, to all children: ‘We are hearing gunfire right now. When the shots intensify we run to our homes. When the tanks go away we take to the street to protest. I think we are right. I know our voices will be heard one day.’ Lastly, the Court also considered Doğan’s social media activity between 21 December 2015 and 9 December 2016 to be evidence of her guilt. In a Tweet posted after the Court’s decision, Doğan wrote: ‘They gave me a prison penalty for taking the photo of destroyed houses and putting Turkish flags on them, but it wasn’t me who did it, it was them. I just painted it.’

Zehra Doğan (born in 1989) is the founding editor of the world’s only women’s only news agency, Jin News Agency (JİNHA), which was closed on 29 October 2016 by Statutory Decree No. 675. It is one of four news agencies and 55 newspapers that have been closed since the beginning of the state of emergency, 13 months ago. For her work for the agency between 2010 and 2016, Doğan received numerous awards, including the prestigious Metin Göktepe Journalism Award for her reportage ‘The Screams of Yezidi Women’.

In addition to our call for Doğan’s immediate and unconditional release, PEN International also appeals to the Turkish authorities to release all others who are imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression and reiterates its call on all parties for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Send a message of support:

Please consider sending a letter or postcard to show support and solidarity. Please note that the prison only accepts letters in Turkish. If you don’t speak Turkish, you can use the model letter provided.


Zehra Doğan BK-4
5 Nisan Mah. Emek Cad.
Diyarbakır E Tipi Kapalı CİK
Bağlar/Diyarbakır 21080

‘Zehra, yalnız değilsin. Emeğinle gurur duyuyor, cesaretini kutluyoruz. Sesinin dünyada duyulduğunu bilmeni istiyoruz. Özgürlüğün için mücadele vermeyi sürdüreceğiz.’ (Reads: Zehra you are not alone. We are proud of your work and celebrate your courage. Your voice is heard around the world and we will keep advocating for your freedom.)