SOURCE: Rûdaw, Yasmine Mosimann & Shawn Carrié, March 6, 2020
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Fatos Irwen, a Kurdish artist from Diyarbakir, was released from a Turkish prison on Thursday having served more than three years behind bars.
Irwen, whose work the Stockholm Performance Art collective has described as exploring “mechanisms of political power and suppression” through performance and installation work, was charged with resisting arrest, unlawful assembly, and creating propaganda for a terrorist organization, according to the advocacy organization Artists at Risk.
Irwen was arrested in her hometown of Diyarbakir while trying to board a flight to Istanbul in 2016. “Her charges were based on evidence provided by an anonymous witness in relation to a protest she attended in 2013,” Artists at Risk said in a statement calling for Irwen’s release.
Fatos’ brother Niyazi Irven told Turkish newspaper Gazete Duvar in 2017 that a secret witness is said to have told authorities she was throwing stones at police during a protest.
“The judge asked for evidence, photos, videos, anything that could be found. There was nothing at all,” he said.
Curator Isın Onol told Rudaw English that Irwen was incarcerated at a Diyarbakir prison between September 7, 2017 and March 2, 2020. Irwen spent several months in jail before sentencing.
She was imprisoned at the same time as Zehra Dogan, another artist who was jailed after thorough trial focusing on her controversial paintings.
“To be an artist means to pay a heavy price in today’s Turkey,” Dogan told Rudaw English in a telephone interview. “Art is a means of witnessing something that exists with common sense, so those who stand against a government which is already so against common sense are, of course, artists,” Dogan said.
Artists, as well as journalists, academics, and civil society figures have been swept up in the Turkish government’s crackdown following the Gezi Park protests of 2013 and the attempted coup of July 2016.
“I’m happy that Fatos is free, but there are many other of our friends still inside, not least of them Osman Kavala, who one of the people who has most opened a space to support artists and free thought in Turkey,” Dogan said.
A prominent philanthropist accused of masterminding the Gezi Park protests, Osman Kavala was jailed for more than two years before a court acquitted him. Within an hour of his release from prison in February, he was re-arrested and charged in connection with the 2016 coup attempt. He faces an aggravated life sentence if convicted.