Zehra Doğan is a Kurdish artist and journalist from Diyarbakir in Turkey. She is the editor of Jinha, a feminist Kurdish news agency with an all female staff. She was jailed for a painting of the destruction of the city of Nusaybin in 2017, and in 2018, the street artist Banksy created a mural of her in New York.
In 2015 Doğan was the recipient of the Metin Göktepe Journalism Award, named after the journalist who died in police custody in Turkey in 1996. The award was for Zehra Doğan’s work about Yazidi women escaping from ISIS captivity.
From February 2016 Doğan had been living and reporting from Nusaybin, a Turkish city on the Syrian border. On 21 July 2016 she was arrested at a café in Nusaybin. On 2 March 2017, she was acquitted of the charge of belonging to an illegal organisation, but was given 2 years, 9 months and 22 days in jail for posting a painting to social media.
“I was given two years and 10 months [jail time] only because I painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. However, they [Turkish government] caused this. I only painted it,” Doğan said on Twitter following the sentencing.
In prison, she and other women created the newspaper Özgür Gündem Zindan (Free Agenda Dungeon), whose name is a play on Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda), an Istanbul-based publication that catered to Kurdish audiences.
Her publication, Jinha, was shut down on 29 October 2016 by Turkish authorities, one of over 100 media outlets shut down since the failed military coup in July 2016.
In November 2017, Chinese dissident artist Ai WeiWei published a letter he wrote in solidarity with Doğan’s case, drawing parallels between Chinese and Turkish repression of artistic expression.
On 16 March 2018, England-based graffiti artist, Banksy unveiled a mural in New York showing black tally marks for the days of Doğan’s imprisonment, with one set becoming bars behind which Doğan’s face looks out from jail.