Zehra Dogan, a Turkish citizen who is ethnically Kurdish, was arrested in July in one of the first waves of detentions following the failed coup attempt in Turkey earlier that month. She was charged with being a "member of an illegal organization" — apparently the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — Jinha, a news organization Dogan worked for, reported at the time.
— tiyatrolarcomtr (@tiyatrolarcomtr) March 13, 2017
Now, she has been sentenced to two years, nine months and 22 days in jail.
"I was given two years and 10 months [jail time] only because I painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. However, [the Turkish government] caused this. I only painted it," Dogan wrote in a tweet earlier this week. The tweet has since been deleted, but was reported by Turkey Purge.
Dogan's painting shows the town of Nusaybin, which sits near the border with Syria and has a large Kurdish population. Nusaybin has seen heavy and sustained fighting since the collapse of a ceasefire between Turkey and the PKK in July 2015. Dogan painted several demolished buildings draped with Turkish flags.
— Roni Alasor (@ronialasor) March 7, 2017
The Turkish government argued to the country's Second High Criminal Court of the Mardin province that the paintings and Dogan's social media statements prove that she is connected with the PKK, Artnet News reports. Dogan, who is also a journalist registered with the state and a member of Turkey's Journalists' Union, said in her defense that she had shared the image without comment, and that all the crimes she is accused of are regular journalistic activities.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, around 2,000 people, most of them Kurds, have been killed or detained as part of security operations within Turkey since the ceasefire. The rights body said it was "particularly alarmed about the results of satellite imagery analysis, which indicate an enormous scale of destruction of the housing stock by heavy weaponry," in Nusaybin in a report earlier this month.
Turkey is often accused of violating the human rights of its Kurdish minority. Human Rights Watch issued a report this month detailing a crackdown on Kurdish political parties and elected officials, which has seen some elected mayors jailed.
According to Turkey Purge, more than 130,000 teachers, civil servants, academics and state officials have been fired since the attempted coup, and nearly 50,000 arrested.