On Thursday night, one of the world’s most famous artists unveiled a giant new mural in New York protesting the imprisonment of a young artist in Turkey. The ‘Free Zehra Doğan’ painting by Banksy appeared on a wall on the corner of Houston Street and Bowery in East Village, and was verified as his on Banksy’s official Instagram page.
The mural shows a series of tally marks reflecting the number of days Doğan has been in jail. She is painted behind bars in one block, with one of the bars replaced by a pencil. The words ‘Free Zehra Doğan’ appear in the bottom right corner of the 20-metre artwork.
Doğan, a Turkish-Kurdish artist, received a near three-year jail term last year after sharing images on social media of her 2016 painting of Turkish flags draped over buildings destroyed in Nusaybin, a town in Mardin province. The pictures were intended to show the outcome of the conflict between the Turkish military and Kurdish terror group the PKK, which left parts of southeast Turkey looking like a war zone. Instead, Doğan found herself accused by the Turkish state of making ‘terrorist propaganda’.
After being handed a prison sentence of two years and 10 months, Doğan reportedly tweeted in a now deleted post: “I was given two years and 10 months [jail time] only because I painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. However, they [Turkish government] caused this. I only painted it.”
Showing solidarity with the young artist, Banksy posted a picture of the mural on his Instagram page and wrote: “Sentenced to nearly three years in jail for painting a single picture. #FREEzehradogan”
In a statement issued to The New York Times, Banksy said: “I really feel for her. I’ve painted things much more worthy of a custodial sentence.”
The elusive British artist, whose real identity is guarded in secrecy, has carved out an international reputation for his striking graffiti. His politically provocative artworks appear suddenly on walls around the world.