Top Ten Reasons to Write for Rights

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.

Those are some pretty amazing reasons to participate, but in case you need more, here are my top ten reasons to Write for Rights: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Write for Rights

By Michael O’Reilly, Senior Campaign Director Individuals at Risk

This post is part of our Write for Rights series

When was the last time you wrote a letter?  Not emailed…but really wrote a letter.

What if I told you that writing a letter could help save a life?  We’ve got nearly 50 years of history that proves this fact.
It was a letter of passion written in 1961 by Amnesty’s founder, Peter Benenson, that ignited a movement that’s now more than 2.8 million strong.

Birtukan Mideksa © AI

It was a letter of solidarity sent by many, but for the cause of one, that just weeks ago helped lead to the release of Ethiopian prisoner of conscience and 2009 Write-a-thon case Birtukan Mideksa from life imprisonment.

It is a letter of thanks signed by a person who has experienced unthinkable human rights abuses that both warms our hearts and fuels our fire.

So it should be no surprise that it’s a letter of hope that I’m asking you to pledge to write now.

Join Write for Rights – the world’s largest letter writing event.

In the days surrounding Human Rights Day – December 10 – people from more than 50 countries will unite to write letters on behalf of those in danger of severe human rights abuses.

Our global network of activists, acting independently and in groups of various sizes, will then go to work sending truckloads-worth of letters and postcards to repressive governments and other officials responsible for neglecting human rights.

In the U.S., we will shine our light on 12 specific cases from around the world who are in need your support and solidarity, including:

·    Aung San Suu Kyi – democracy icon imprisoned in Myanmar for most of the past 21 years after winning elections by a landslide
·    Majid Tavakkoli – a student leader imprisoned in Iran for speaking at a peaceful demonstration marking Student Day.
·    Women of Atenco – beaten and raped by police and left without justice in Mexico.

Your words have power.  They can bring freedom.  They can deliver justice.  But most importantly, they can offer hope and let human rights defenders around the world know that they are not alone.

Thank you for standing up to Write for Rights!

Ethiopian Prisoner of Conscience Birtukan Mideksa Released!

Birtukan Mideksa

Birtukan Mideksa ©AI

Amnesty International welcomed Birtukan Mideksa’s release from prison yesterday. The leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) opposition party in Ethiopia, Birtukan Mideksa has a long history of speaking out against the Government of Ethiopia.  In the aftermath of the potentially corrupt 2005 elections, in which the ruling Ethiopian People’s Democratic Revolutionary Front (EPRDF) retained control, she was one of many CUD officials who refuse to take office and participated in mass demonstrations.  The protests were violently dispersed by police: 187 people were shot dead and 765 others were wounded.  Birtukan Mideksa was arrested for the first time in November 2005, charged with treason and sentenced to life in prison.  After being held for 18 months, she signed a letter of apology and was released.  The other terms of her pardon remain unclear.

 On 28 December 2008, Birtukan was arrested for a second time, after speaking at a public meeting in Sweden regarding the process and terms of her previous release. The Government gave her three days to retract her statement, and when she refused, arrested her again.  Much of her sentence was spent in solitary confinement, and she was also not allowed to see her 4 year-old daughter until mid-April, 2009.

 Birtukan Mideksa’s case was featured in Amnesty International’s 2009 Global Write-A-Thon, during which thousands of people from around the world petitioned for her release by sending letters to the Government of Ethiopia. The organization Free Birtukan has also been campaigning tirelessly for her release.

 Learn more about other priority cases, and sign up for the Global Write-a-thon!

Elizabeth Stitt, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.

Write-a-Thon Series: Birtukan Mideksa

This posting is part of our Write-a-Thon Cases Series. For more information visit www.amnestyusa.org/writeathon/

© AI Birtukan Mideksa

© AI Birtukan Mideksa

Birtukan Mideksa, an opposition party leader, is serving a life sentence in Kaliti Prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She was previously arrested in November 2005 after the Coalition for Unity and Democracy party, of which she was a leader, disputed the results of local and parliamentary elections.

Post-election demonstrations turned violent – security forces shot dead 187 people and wounded 765 others, while at least six police officers were also killed. Birtukan Mideksa was charged with treason among other charges, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Local elders working with detainees negotiated a process which led to a pardon by Ethiopian authorities. Birtukan Mideksa and others were released in June 2007 after serving more than 18 months in prison. The exact terms of the pardon remain unclear.

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