As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we wanted to pause and give thanks to our members and supporters for helping to make freedom and justice possible for countless people this past year. Here are some highlights of the successes and progress you helped to make possible.
Jean-Claude Roger Mbede of Cameroon
Release of prisoners of conscience
Facing calls from around the world, governments released numerous prisoners of conscience in 2012. From a young activist in Azerbaijan who protested the government, to a student in Cameroon who was imprisoned on charges of “homosexuality” to an Egyptian blogger who criticized the army’s abuse of peaceful protest, the power of your voices helped open prison doors for individuals at risk around the world.
A visit from a human rights hero
On her first visit to the U.S. in more than 20 years, Burmese democracy leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Amnesty Ambassador of Conscience Daw Aung San Suu Kyi joined Amnesty International USA to inspire the next generation of human rights activists in a town hall meeting with young people at Washington, D.C’s Newseum. We were both grateful and humbled by her presence.
Some superstars take pride in being known by just one name, but Amnesty International USA’s star guest on September 20th goes by five: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. A town hall event aimed at the next generation of activists had young people on busses at 4 AM to make the trip to Washington, DC. The venue was perfect — the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the First Amendment.
Addressing the Rights Generation, Amnesty’s Frank Jannuzi asked the audience to keep their phones and electronic devices on during the event. Hashtags and suggested messages scrolled on the large screen as students found their networks and tweeted the story. Mid-Atlantic student leader Stephanie Viggiano was on Facebook with a video she created that day with her phone.
By Alex Wagner, MSNBC host and moderator of Amnesty’s “Rights Generation” Townhall with Aung San Suu Kyi
If people have heard of the Southeast Asian country known alternately as “Myanmar” or “Burma,” they are just as likely to have heard mention of its national heroine: pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.
When Burma— as it has always been known in my family— was plunged into economic ruin, crippled by ethnic strife and subject to gross violations of human rights at the hands of an oppressive and illegitimate military regime beginning in 1962, my family emigrated to the United States, where they would eventually become American citizens. But not once in the last half decade did they— or I— ever lose sight of the faraway country once called home, a place shrouded as much in secrecy as it was sadness.
For both exiled Burmese and the global community that has followed Aung San Suu Kyi’s decades-long struggle for human rights in the face of one of the world’s most brutal military juntas, her recent release from 15 years of house arrest has capped a stunning series of changes inside the country, led in large part by newly-elected president Thein Sein.
In October, Amnesty applauded the announcement that the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize would be awarded to three world-changing women—Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman. In addition to celebrating the work of these women, we’re also very happy that they’re all free to attend the award ceremony tomorrow.
While this year’s winners travel to Oslo to accept their awards, this freedom of movement is not the reality for many activists around the world, including past prize recipients. Today, we remember five past recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize who have been unable to attend the award ceremony due to persecution:
Fall is my favorite time of year: the air is cooler, the leaves are pretty, Amnesty International student groups are back together again, and people start signing up for the Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon.
In this—the world’s largest human rights event—we use letters, cards and more to demand the human rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. We show solidarity with those suffering abuses and work to improve people’s lives.
In the first episode of Amnesty’s new online magazine show (created by Amnesty UK) we have Wikipedia’sJimmy Wales talking about Internet freedom, a birthday message from Aung San Suu Kyi the latest human rights news you may not have seen on your regular news station as well as an instructional video on how to perform the perfect Carpet Karaoke. Don’t know what that is? Watch now.
Keys inscribed by activists to encourage the release of the more than 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar.
By Ulana Moroz Senenko, Individuals at Risk Campaigner for Asia
Last November, Amnesty International welcomed the release of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from detention. Although her release was certainly a reason to celebrate, more than 2,000 political prisoners remain behind bars in Myanmar.
In honor of Suu Kyi’s 66th birthday, Amnesty International activists around the world signed thousands of keys urging the authorities to unlock the prison doors and free all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.
Members of Amnesty International Group 159 in Arlington, VA delivered these keys last Friday to the Myanmar embassy staff in Washington DC. The keys were presented adhered to a paper scroll more than 50 feet long. This dramatic visual advocated for those whose rights have been denied as a result of their peaceful activism. In accepting the keys, the authorities are forced to acknowledge those who are unjustly imprisoned in Myanmar.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been the beacon of hope and change for nearly two decades in Myanmar (Burma), will be celebrating her birthday on June 19th.
Though the celebration may be inhibited, as over 2,000 political prisoners remain in prison in Myanmar. Their conditions of detention are often inhumane and horrific; they have been convicted without the benefit of effective counsel or fair trials; and they have been convicted under vaguely worded laws that criminalize peaceful dissent.
Amnesty International members across the globe have urged the Myanmar authorities to unlock the prison doors and release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.
The 2nd North American leg of the U2 360 Tour kicked off this past weekend in Denver with Amnesty International volunteers in full force! Amnesty has been on the road with U2’s 360 tour since the first date in Barcelona back in June 2009.
Globally, Amnesty has gathered over 100,000 signatures supporting our Demand Dignity campaign. Not to mention on average, the thousands of people in each stadium who have seen our bright yellow shirts and have heard Bono mention Amnesty International from the stage!
There is an antidote to the weariness, cynicism and paralysis perpetuated by the heartless churn of our 24-hour news cycle: Just listen to the voices of those who walk the razor’s edge each day as they fight to change the world. Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi addressed Amnesty activists by phone at the end of Day 2 of our 50th anniversary conference, graciously acknowledging the role of grassroots activism in her release after 15 years of detention by the military junta and encouraging us not to forget the 2,000-plus political prisoners who remain locked up in Burma.
Her brief address was followed by a riveting speech by Jenni Williams, co-founder of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, a group of women who have been jailed, tortured and persecuted for their non-violent demonstrations to demand social justice. Williams recalled one August night when police abducted seven WOZA members. “The phone calls started at 3 a.m. We heard our members had been arrested in suburbs, so we called Amnesty International. By 12 noon, all seven members were delivered back to their homes by the same police officers who had abducted them,” said Williams.
Earlier in the day, I spotted New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof listening to similarly harrowing tales at the well-attended panel discussion, “Muzzling the Watchdogs,” featuring Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho, Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam and Iranian American journalist Roxana Saberi. All three had been arrested, imprisoned and persecuted for their work to expose injustice, and each was the subject of Amnesty International urgent actions and/or international letter campaigns demanding their freedom.