Kurdish artist and journalist Zehra Doğan freed

Kurdish artist and journalist Zehra Doğan has been released after spending nearly 600 days behind bars in Turkey, pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency reported on Sunday. 

Turkish authorities on July 23, 2017, sentenced Doğan to two years and nine months in jail for “exceeding the limits of criticism” by depicting the destruction of the southeastern Mardin's Nusaybin district by state security forces. She also faced charges for "making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organisation" in her work.

From late 2015 to early 2016, Nusaybin, like other predominantly Kurdish districts of the southeast, was a scene to a bloody conflict between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters and the Turkish army. After several months of fighting, much of the city was destroyed and Turkish authorities bulldozed a large part of what was left to make way for high-rise apartments. Tens of thousands of people were displaced.

Doğan depicted the warn-torn southeast districts and civilians killed by the clashes in her paintings. She describes her work as a "documentation of rights abuses in the country." 

Zehra Doğan
Mardin's Nusaybin district, an artwork by imprisoned Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan

Speaking after release, Doğan said she was happy to be free but also upset for the hunger strikers behind bars. There are more than 300 Kurdish political prisoners who are involved in an indefinite hunger strike protest led by pro-Kurdish MP Leyla Güven - that has almost reached to its fourth month. The protests aim to end the policy of isolation and the release of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK which has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.