Artists at Risk (AR) has long been advocating for the release and just treatment of Fatoş İrwen (bio page). Since 2016, she has faced harsh prison conditions under charges designed to silence dissident freedom of expression and action in Turkey under President Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian regime.
As part of AR’s campaign, Fatoş İrwen was a participant in AR’s The AR Pavilion Berlin: Mutatis Mutandis in October 2018 (Documentation: The Artists at Risk (AR) Pavilion Berlin: Mutatis Mutandis) and her work will also be represented in upcoming AR-related exhibitions.
The Financial Times is one of the first major international newspapers to mention her predicament (Rachel Spence, September 27, 2019).
Fatoş İrwen is an artist and teacher from Diyarbakır, Turkey who was imprisoned in 2016. Her charges are based on evidence provided by an anonymous witness in relation to a protest she attended in 2013. She was taken into custody while trying board an internal flight in Turkey, unaware of the nature of charges made against her. She was eventually charged with “resisting the police, opposition to the law against demonstrations and assemblies, propaganda for a terrorist organization, belonging to a terrorist organization” and sentenced to two years in prison.
Fatoş İrwen, was born and raised in the Sûr neighborhood of Diyarbakır. She attended Dicle University. After receiving her diploma, she began teaching in Batman, in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey. She later continued her art and teaching career in Diyarbakır.
After struggling to get access to art materials, İrwen was able to produce works in prison. However, Artist at Risk (AR)’s sources have explained that Irwen is imprisoned in the same jail were other prisoners held hunger strikes in support of the Kurdish cause. (Especially the case of the ex-MP of HDP is internationally known). Some of the strikers have already died there, and a state of heightened anxiety reigns in the complex. Reports suggest that Irwen’s health is in a fragile state, and in her last communications she has been increasingly wary of censorship of her letters.
Fatoş İrwen is due to be released in the coming months, but her future under the current authoritarian regime is uncertain. Unlike Zahra Dogan, whose case was made famous by Ai Weiwei and Banksy, İrwen’s case is unfortunately little known internationally.
Artists at Risk (AR) is currently campaigning to bring attention to this brave young artist’s difficult and unjust predicament and ill-treatment by the Turkish authorities. We demand not only her immediate release from prison, but that she be able to travel and communicate without impediment to internationally recognized standards of freedom of movement and expression.
Artist Fatoş İrwen, also thrown in jail, Kedistan Net, 03/10/2017.
Istanbul Biennial: eco-warriors outdone by dissidents, Financial Times, 27/09/2019.