By Maya Delany, Amnesty USA Student Activist Coordinator for Western Massachusetts
Last December, I arrived at my student group’s annual Write for Rights AmnesTEA event and was greeted by dim lighting, steaming beverages, and our group members sitting in a circle writing letters. I poured myself some tea, read summaries of each case, and started writing a letter to the King of Saudi Arabia about Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who has been sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for simply expressing his opinions.
Last year’s Write for Rights, with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide writing a record-breaking 3 million letters and email actions SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Meredith Reese, Missouri State Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator (SDPAC)
It had been twenty-two years, seven months, twenty-two days and countless hours since Reggie Clemons was sentenced to death until, on November 24, 2015, the Missouri Supreme Court threw out not only his sentence but also his murder conviction in its entirety. They sent the case back to the state, who has sixty days to decide whether to retry the case. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, one of 12 cases in Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign this fall, has been in prison since 2008 because she suffered a still-birth.
Teodora still has 23 more years to serve out of a 30-year prison sentence, which is supported by El Salvador’s draconian abortion law. El Salvador has a total ban on abortion, meaning that abortion is illegal even if a woman’s or girl’s life or health is at risk, if the fetus is not viable, or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
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by Gerry Carolina Rivadeneira, 2015 Ladis Kristof Fellow
March 8, 2011. This was the day my activist self was born.
I remember it was a hot sunny day in the middle of Miami, Florida. I was standing on stage with a microphone in my hand and I told the crowd, “We are here for Women’s Rights! Women’s Rights here and worldwide!” The microphone became my tool for advocacy as I was standing there on top of the stage, rallying the participants before the 5k Walk 4 Women’s Rights began. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Photos by Eli Bartz Photography
“Is your activism grounded in anger?” my friend asked. We sat around in the dimly lit restaurant after a day of workshops, panels, and planning at the Midwest Regional Conference vigorously discussing and debating this question. Our conversation went on for hours, drowning out time and the waning voices of our fellow diners. It had been a long, energizing day, and our minds were racing. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Last November, we decided to send our sixth delegation of organizers and human rights observers to Ferguson. In response to requests from community members, AIUSA staff and members chose to go through training, to bear witness, to stand for accountability, and to lift up the voices of community members living their human rights.
These choices reflect a commitment to live our values in a way that recognizes that local human rights abuses are global human rights challenges. Amnesty sections, structures and offices from Hong Kong to Venezuela, and from Brazil to Turkey have made important changes to bring their work closer to the ground. Part of that shift for us here has meant a commitment to working more closely with communities who are most impacted by human rights abuses here at home. And by embarking on an ambitious body of human rights work, at AIUSA we also knew we would have to examine the ways our structure and staffing reflect that same commitment. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Moses Akatugba
My name is Moses Akatugba. For 10 years I was on death row in Nigeria. I was arrested, tortured and imprisoned when I was just 16 years old. I was sentenced to death.
Police officers beat me with machetes and batons. The pain I went through was unimaginable.
This May, my execution was halted and I walked free. Your Write for Rights letters saved my life. Thank you. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
I don’t know about you, but I hate writing. My hand cramps, I get ink everywhere and my penmanship is illegible. However, despite all that, every December 10th on International Human Rights Day, I sit down and write letters as part of Amnesty’s annual global Write for Rights campaign. Why? Because in my 10 years with Amnesty International, I know that letters can literally save lives.
For example, one of last year’s Write for Rights cases was Moses Akatugba. He was tortured in Nigeria as a teenager into confessing to stealing three cell phones, and then sentenced to death. Earlier this year, he was pardoned and walked free. He said, SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
On August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared, Amnesty launched “Silent Shadows” – a poetry competition in Sri Lanka to mark the decades of enforced disappearances experienced there. That sentence raises at least four questions:
- Why enforced disappearances? Enforced disappearances are a particularly heinous form of human rights violation. Government agents detain a person and the government later denies any knowledge or responsibility for his or her whereabouts or status. The victims are often tortured and in fear for their lives, while their relatives live with the agony of uncertainty over their loved ones’ fate.
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By Michaela Miragliotta and Marissa Gutiérrez-Vicario
A flock of birds is silhouetted against a geometric jigsaw sky of triangles in varying shades of turquoise in the mural now welcoming students, teachers, and visitors at the Pan American International High School (Pan Am) in Elmhurst, Queens, New York City. The birds burst forth from behind thick bars and soar across the expansive wall to reach the Statue of Liberty, which is illuminated by a brilliant sun. The words “Justice,” “Freedom,” “Equality” boldly line the top of the mural and encourage those who see it to reflect on those ideas as they relate to immigration, according to Mirian, one of the students who worked on the mural. The new addition to the school is rich both in design and content, and the process behind its creation even further adds to its significance for the students and community.
The core group of eight students who created the mural were in an art class that was part of a special program that worked with Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), a non-profit organization that teaches young people about human rights through art. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST