Imprisoned Kurdish-Turkish artist and journalist Zehra Doğan has expressed her gratitude for a tribute by a painter in New York as well as revealing the horrific conditions she has suffered in a Turkish prison in a letter to British-based graffiti artist Banksy, according to a report by Kurdistan 24.
“I’m writing this illegal letter to you from a dungeon which has a history of bloody tortures, in a town with a lot of bans, in a denied country,” Doğan wrote from a prison in Diyarbakır where she has been incarcerated for months.
“This letter is illegal,” she admitted, “because I have a ‘communications ban’ that forbids me from sending letters or making phone calls.”
Doğan describes details of the “horrible” atmosphere in the prison where inmates regularly commit suicide. “In days like these, one can’t endure living,” she wrote.
She was handed down a prison sentence in March 2017 for publishing her painting of the destruction of the town of Nusaybin in Mardin province which remained under an on-and-off curfew for months in 2016.
On March 15, 2018 Banksy unveiled a mural in New York in tribute to the imprisoned Doğan. The British artist’s 70-foot-long mural represents jail cell bars which count the number of days the 29-year-old has spent in the Turkish prison.
A portrait of the Kurdish artist is seen peering out of one of the jail cells in the mural, with her left hand holding one of the bars (which also represents a pencil). “Free Zehra Dogan” is written in the bottom right corner of the mural.
Above the tribute is the painting of Nusaybin which led to Doğan’s imprisonment accompanied with the phrase, “Sentenced to two years nine months and 22 days in jail for painting this picture.”
In her letter Doğan thanked Banksy for his support which she said brought her “enormous happiness.”
“Far away from me and our people, it was the best reply to the crooked regime that can’t even tolerate a painting,” she wrote. “With your support, my painting now accomplished its mission of showing the atrocities.”
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 239 journalists and media workers were in jail as of July 9, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 178 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 143 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.