By Beth Ann Toupin, Amnesty International USA’s Iraq Country Specialist
This post is the first in a three-part blog series commemorating the launch of Amnesty USA’s redesigned Urgent Action Network. Read on for how this updated tool will help activists make a stronger impact.
Amnesty International is all about individuals having impact. It may be hard to see sometimes how your actions as an activist can have a real, meaningful effect on someone’s life halfway around the world, but they do.
Take Abdullah al-Qahtani. Amnesty USA posted an Urgent Action (UA) for Abdullah when he was at risk of being executed in Iraq. We called on activists to write letters to Iraqi authorities calling on them to overturn his sentence. That UA grew to an online action that received 50,000 signatures within 24 hours of going live. And then, even more amazingly, Abdullah’s life has been spared for now.
Soon after the action, Abdullah’s uncle thanked Amnesty International, saying:
“I would like to express my family’s heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Amnesty International and its supporters for their precious help and support for Abdullah. This help has brought the much needed attention to Abdullah’s plight…Abdullah needs an opportunity to present his case fully and fairly. He also needs to have the chance to exercise his human rights.”
Urgent Actions (UAs) have helped us have immediate impact on cases with imminent outcomes since the first full Urgent Action was issued in 1973.
Today, UAs continue to be one of the most powerful tools in organizing activists’ response. And we’re looking to strengthen that impact.
As we continue to update our tools, we can strengthen that impact and make a difference, not only in the lives of Abdullah and Osama, but in the lives of so many others unfairly imprisoned or otherwise persecuted.
Urgent Actions help us organize mass phone and letter-writing campaigns to officials with the power to stop the persecution of individuals and communities at risk. These phone calls and letters are tangible actions that cannot be ignored. The sight of letters piling up or the voice of another activist on the telephone ensures accountability and achieves real change.
And if you ever doubt the power of those actions in the age of the Tweet, just remember: Abdullah is still alive. With the execution of his four co-defendants, we feared his death was imminen. Six months later, he is still alive in part because of the tens of thousands of Amnesty activists who joined his family to pressure the Iraqi government on his behalf.
As we continue to urge the Iraqi authorities to give Abdullah a fair trial, we’re using the momentum of his case to illuminate others at risk of execution in Iraq, such as Osama Mahdi, a 32-year-old father of two accused of killing an Iraqi army officer. Like Abdullah, Osama was reportedly brutally tortured while in detention and the “confession” used to convict him was obtained under duress.
The impact our actions can have on the lives of real people is extraordinary. As we continue to update our tools, we can strengthen that impact and make a difference, not only in the lives of Abdullah and Osama, but in the lives of so many others unfairly imprisoned or otherwise persecuted.
I can’t wait to share the new Urgent Action Network with our activists and see the impact it will have. With its new capabilities, we will be able to be an even stronger voice for justice.
Go to the Urgent Action Network today and sign up for email notifications so you can receive information on urgent cases like Abdullah’s and Osama’s and take action. Please share it with your social networks to urge others to join us in standing up for human rights everywhere.