Fatos Irwen, a Kurdish artist and educator who has been incarcerated in Turkey since 2016, has been released from prison after more than three years behind bars, the Art Newspaper reports. Known for her performance and installation works which challenge issues related to gender politics, Irwen was arrested in 2016 at an airport in Diyarbakır, Turkey, from where she intended to travel to Istanbul.
The artist was eventually charged with resisting the police, violating a law against demonstrations and assemblies, and belonging to a terrorist organization. According to the advocacy group Artists at Risk, which has campaigned to secure her release, “her charges were based on evidence provided by an anonymous witness in relation to a protest she attended in 2013.” The group says that prosecuting Irwen was another attempt by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian regime to silence freedom of expression.
Zehra Doğan—an artist, and activist, and journalist who was sentenced to two years and ten months in prison for creating a painting which depicted the destruction of the predominantly Kurdish city of Nusaybin following a Turkish military operation—was released in February of last year. In an op-ed published by The Independent in March 2019, Dogan urged international powers to continue to pressure Turkey to release the wrongfully imprisoned.
“I am now outside prison, but there are many journalists, artists, students, academics, and politicians under arrest as a result of their thoughts,” Doğan wrote. “There are enough of these people to turn Turkey’s prisons into the world’s largest educational institution, but their notebooks are seized, the books they want to read are banned, and the artworks they create are ripped to shreds. Do not forget them and do what you can to help them.”