The Turkish-Kurdish painter and journalist Zehra Doğan has been sentenced to 2 years, nine months, and 22 days in prison for creating a painting which depicted the destruction caused by Turkish security forces in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province, a Kurdish region in Turkey.
According to Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, the Mardin Second High Criminal Court in Turkey handed down the sentence because she drew Turkish flags on buildings destroyed by Turkish forces. However, according to Artforum, the court expressed that Doğan’s sharing of the image of her work, featuring current military operations, was the cause for her prison sentence.
“I was given two years and 10 months [jail time] only because I painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. However, [the Turkish government] caused this. I only painted it,” Doğan posted in a now-deleted tweet as reported by online Turkish journalism and human rights platform Turkey Purge.
According to the Art Newspaper, authorities arrested Doğan at a cafe late July, claiming that her artworks proved that she was connected to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish government.
“Art and paintings can never be used in such a way,” said Doğan’s lawyer, Asli Pasinli, according to Voice Project, an international organization committed to freedom of expression and creative activism. “This is an attack on art and artistic expression.”
After a two-year cease-fire between Turkish security forces and PKK militants ended, the former have been attempting to clear cities of the latter since July 2015.
According to Amnesty International’s report in December 2016, after violent crackdowns by Turkish authorities, about half a million people were forced from their homes over the past year—which may be considered collective punishment.
In a statement for Fairpress, Doğan said: “[The judge has] punished the wrong actor: Not the one who destroyed the town, […] not the one who shot the photo, but the one who painted the photo. They made this painting, not me.”