One Letter Can Change a Life. Millions Can Start a Human Rights Movement

W4RHumanRights

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

We Need Your Help Today: Ensure this American Torture Story is Never Repeated

It’s been exactly one year since shocking new details emerged about the CIA’s torture program. After years of investigation, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence published a report – known as “the torture report” – that contained more than 6,000 pages.

Now this landmark report on torture is in danger of being buried – and we need your help. Call the Justice Department today.

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The Beauty and Ugliness of Guantanamo

Guantanamo Bay detention camp

This week I traveled to Guantanamo naval station, on the southeastern tip of Cuba, to observe the military commission proceedings. So far, the thing that surprises me most about Guantanamo is how beautiful it is.

On the beaches here, stones crackle like fireworks as the waves recede over them. Green hills are dotted with yellow flowers. The breeze is the kind that gently stirs your appetite, or tempts you to nap in the shade.

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Girls Should be Students, not Brides

Shelter for survivors of forced marriage in Kaya city, northeast Burkina Faso.

By Naureen Shameem, Amnesty USA Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

What is it that enables you to make your life your own? Could you meaningfully choose your own life if your sphere of opportunity had been cut off as a child?

Globally, at least 25,000 children are married every day. 1 in 9 marry before the age of 15. Although the prevalence of child marriage worldwide has received more coverage in recent years, the rates remain staggering.

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How Toilets Can Make Schools Safer

This photo is of the Kobito / Kombito  2 settlement water source which shows there is household rubbish in it.  People drink the dirty water because the other option is to walk two kilometers to the next water source which is a broken pipe that has not been repaired by the Sol Is Water Authority (SIWA) for years.

Safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, collectively known as WASH, aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind for women’s rights advocates and activists, least of all during 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. Yet they are undoubtedly huge barriers to safety, equality and education for women and girls worldwide.

One of the most insidious impacts of lack of WASH is on girls’ educational access, success, and sense of safety. One in three people worldwide doesn’t have access to a decent toilet. In low-income countries it is estimated that nearly half of all schools don’t have safe drinking water, decent toilets or hygiene facilities on the premises.

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Why I’m Taking Action for Zunar

Drawing with embedded photograph showing one of this years cases for Write for Rights. All design assets associated with this campaign available here: https://amnesty.app.box.com/s/9w3s2c96tz7kl0i26gb914bj0ua1qvlb Zulkiflee Anwar “Zunar” Ulhaque faces a lengthy jail sentence after taking to Twitter to condemn the jailing of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Zunar is a political cartoonist well known for his satirical attacks on government corruption and electoral fraud. He now faces nine charges under the Sedition Act, a draconian, outdated law from 1948 dredged up to grant the government sweeping powers to arrest and lock up its critics. In the first six months of 2015, more than 40 journalists, academics, political activists and lawyers were interrogated, arrested or charged under the Sedition Act. The space for dissent and debate in Malaysia is disappearing fast.

By Harry Belafonte, artist and activist 

All my life I have used my art to fight for social justice. So when I see freedom of expression under serious attack, I must act.

That is why I stand with Amnesty International today in demanding justice for courageous Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar “Zunar” Ulhaque, who is facing decades in prison for political Tweets he sent in February.

Join me. Urge the Malaysian government to immediately drop the charges against Zunar.

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After Paris: Don’t Sacrifice Human Rights in the Name of Security

By Dana Gallaty, Security with Human Rights Action Network

amnestyIt is concerning, though unsurprising, that some U.S. lawmakers’ and politicians’ initial reactions to the horrific attacks in Paris earlier this month were to respond to one set of human rights abuses by threatening another.

Last month, Donald Trump suggested American Muslims should be tracked and forced to carry identification cards denoting their religious beliefs. That statement—and the din of anti-Muslim fear-mongering on mainstream media right now— echo the anti-Semitism that preceded atrocities committed during World War II against Jews in Europe. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Letter from Shawkan Photojournalist Imprisoned in Egypt

Photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, was arrested on Wednesday 14 August 2013 as he was taking pictures of the violent dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013. He is one of dozens of Egyptian journalists arrested since former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted on 3 July 2013.

Photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, was arrested on Wednesday 14 August 2013 as he was taking pictures of the violent dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013. He is one of dozens of Egyptian journalists arrested since former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted on 3 July 2013.

This letter was first published by Mada Masr here.

Amnesty International has collected nearly 90,000 signatures worldwide in a petition calling for Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid’s release ahead of his first court session, scheduled for December 12 at Cairo Criminal Court.

Mahmoud Abu Zeid, more popularly known as Shawkan, has written a letter of thanks (below) to all those calling for his freedom.

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Much to Be Thankful For

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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

When Educating Girls Means Putting Your Life on the Line

Fawzia Nawabi, investigator at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Mazar-e-Sharif, gathers information in a local women's prison.

Fawzia Nawabi, investigator at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Mazar-e-Sharif, gathers information in a local women’s prison.

By Elsie De Laere, Afghanistan country specialist

In Afghanistan, standing up for women’s rights means putting your life on the line—this includes the educators who “dare” to educate girls.

This 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we are highlighting the critical role of access to education for girl children—as well as the barriers to this right. And in Afghanistan, the threat to women’s rights defenders—including educators—is a huge barrier to girl children accessing their fundamental right to education.

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