Kurdish artist, journalist granted Index on Censorship’s arts award

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People pass by a new 70-foot-long mural by anonymous British artist Banksy on March 16, 2018 that was unveiled on March 15, 2018 at the corner of Houston and Bowery in New York, to draw attention to the imprisonment of Zehra Dogan, a Kurdish painter from Turkey. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY

The London-based Index on Censorship, a campaigning publishing organization for freedom of expression, has given this year’s Freedom of Expression Arts Award to Kurdish painter and journalist Zehra Doğan, according to a statement on the organization’s website.

Doğan, who used to work for the now-closed Kurdish news agency (JİNHA), was released from a Turkish jail on Feb. 24 after two years, nine months and 22 days in prison.

She was convicted of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” in social media posts and news stories. During her imprisonment, Doğan was denied access to materials for her work.

Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards exist to celebrate individuals or groups who have had a significant impact fighting censorship anywhere in the world. Awards are offered in four categories: Arts, Campaigning, Digital Activism and Journalism.

Doğan said in an article on the Index on Censorship website that Turkey’s prisons are filled with artists, intellectuals and politicians; “because we reject these limits forced upon our freedom of expression and we will continue to reject them. There are thousands of prisoners on hunger strike, following the example of member of parliament Leyla Güven. Many are critically ill, please share their story.”

She said although authorities are trying to restrict their freedom of expression in prisons through the books they refuse to give them and the letters they find “suspect,” there are countless inmates who have overcome this situation through their own productivity.

“I dedicate this prize to them,” she said.

 Doğan’s reports covered curfews in Turkey’s Southeast imposed during a military offensive against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the occupation by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) of Kurdish-populated towns in northern Syria.

In March 2018 famous British street artist Banksy portrayed Doğan and her drawings on a mural in New York City.

Doğan was one of the founders of JİNHA, Turkey’s first women’s news agency, which was shut down by a government decree in 2016.

In June 2018 the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) gave Doğan a Courage in Journalism award.

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