After sharing a painting on social media that depicted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings, journalist and artist Zehra Doğan was accused of terrorist involvement.
Turkish artist and journalist Zehra Doğan has officially been sentenced to 2 years, 9 months and 22 days in prison. She was prosecuted for her portrayal of destruction in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province by Turkish security forces against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Doğan was arrested on July 21 while sitting at a café. “I was given two years and ten months only because I painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. However, they caused this. I only painted it,” Doğan wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
Security forces have been attempting to clear southeastern cities in Turkey of PKK militants since July of 2015, following the end of a cease-fire that had lasted two years. Amnesty International reported that an estimated half million people have been forced from their homes as a result of the crackdown, and some will be subject to persecution by law.
Authorities cited the arrest for “sharing of social media” about Nusaybin, and for painting Turkish flags on the destroyed buildings. Authorities claim the artwork proves her connection the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish government. “My client is a journalist and a fine arts graduate. The drawings [Doğan] made were shared without [political] comment, “ said Doğan’s lawyer, Şiraz Baran, at a hearing on March 2nd.
Multiple witnesses testified against Doğan, accusing her of illegal PKK involvement, but without any solid evidence or knowledge of her name. One witness claimed, “There was… a short lady with a nose ring… I do not know the individual’s identity; she is probably a journalist.” Doğan contested these were not crimes, but journalistic activities. She is a registered member of the Union of Journalists of Turkey.
Originally from Diyarbakir, Turkey, since February 2016, Doğan has been living and reporting in Nusaybin, located near the Syrian border. Doğan is also a writer and editor for the feminist news agency JINHA, a site with a staff composed entirely of women. JINHA publishes in English, Turkish, Kurdish and Persian. She continues her journalistic work while incarcerated, and has been criticized for creating the publication Özgür Gündem Zindan (Free Agenda Dungeon) with other imprisoned women.
In 2015, Doğan was awarded the Metin Göktepe Journalism Award for excellence in written journalism, regarding her reporting on Yazidi women escaping from ISIS. The achievement is named for Metin Göktepe, a journalist who was tortured and murdered while in police custody in Turkey in 1996.
Doğan was acquitted of the charge of Illegal Organization Membership at the March 2nd hearing but prosecuted for sharing the painting on social media.