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

Outpouring of Support for Majid Tavakkoli on His Birthday

Activists celebrate Majid's birthday in "Azadi Square" in DC

Amnesty International activists and supporters responded to our call for action on imprisoned Iranian student activist Majid Tavakkoli’s birthday with an overwhelming demonstration of support.

Our partners United4Iran created a birthday video in which supporters tell Majid—and the Iranian authorities who are unjustly imprisoning him—that he is most certainly not being forgotten on his 25th birthday.

On Sunday May 22, Washington DC activists held an action on DuPont Circle, renaming it “Azadi (Freedom) Square” and holding a birthday party for Majid Tavakkoli, complete with chocolate birthday cake.


Remember Majid Tavakkoli On His Second Birthday Behind Bars

Majid Tavakkoli

On May 22 one young man will turn 25. But he will not be able to celebrate his birthday with friends and family as many young men would. Instead, Majid Tavakkoli will be spending his 25th birthday in a dank and fetid cell in one of Iran’s most squalid prisons.

What could he possibly have done to deserve this? Majid Tavakkoli was a student leader studying ship building at Amir Kabir University of Technology and had the audacity to exercise his internationally guaranteed right to freedom of expression by making a speech to mark Students Day in December 2009, in which he criticized the government. He was arrested shortly thereafter and has been in prison ever since then. He was beaten in detention and held in solitary confinement.


Join The Virtual Protest In Iran's Azadi Square

Amnesty activists carry out Azadi Square action

Shortly after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, authorities renamed a large public square in Tehran Meidan-e Azadi, or Azadi Square. This square was the site of large demonstrations in the wake of the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential elections; thousands of peaceful protesters were arrested, beaten and tortured for exercising their right to freedom of expression while dozens were killed by security forces.

And at the same time that the Iranian government publicly declared their support for the democracy activists in Egypt and Tunisia, they denied a permit for a peaceful solidarity demonstration in February, and have only intensified their brutal crackdown on civil society activists. The irony is not lost on most Iranians, who deplore the glaring disparity between the Iranian government’s high-flown rhetoric and its appalling treatment of its citizens.

Amnesty International’s new Azadi Square action will bring attention on the incongruity between the rhetoric and the reality, and to call upon the government to end their repression and fulfill the promise of freedom implied by the name of the most prominent public place in Iran’s capital.


Recognizing Critics, Empowering Dissidents: A Statement of Solidarity with Advocates for Human Rights in Iran

By Nazanin Boniadi and Roxana Saberi

Journalist Roxana Saberi and actress Nazanin Boniadi

Journalist Roxana Saberi and actress Nazanin Boniadi

In June 2009, hundreds of thousands of courageous men and women took to the streets in Iran, demanding their inalienable rights amid the turmoil of the country’s disputed presidential election. News of the deaths of innocent people such as Neda Agha-Soltan and Sohrab Arabi, raids on the dormitory of the University of Tehran, mass show trials, and reports of the torture and rape of political prisoners made the world take notice.

Sadly, the international community has since largely averted its gaze, despite the fact that Iran continues to violate its international obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.

Prisoners of conscience are still languishing in jail, and execution by stoning is still allowed, as is the execution of juvenile offenders. The authorities continue to suppress the freedoms of expression, opinion, assembly and religion, while many students are being denied their right to higher education based on a discriminatory system that penalizes them for their political and religious beliefs.

It seems that Iranian authorities are systematically targeting current and future community leaders in what appears to be a relentless crackdown on student and human rights activists.

Amnesty International has included one such case, that of student leader and prisoner of conscience, Majid Tavakkoli, as an urgent action in its global Write-a-thon campaign.


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!