Myanmar: Student Activist, Phyoe Phyoe Aung, Finally Free

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Family members welcome student protest leaders Nandar Sitt Aung (L) and Phyo Phyo Aung (R) as they arrives for a hearing at her trial in Tharrawaddy town, Bago Region in Myanmar on April 8, 2016. Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi on April 7, vowed to press for the release of political prisoners and student activists, hinting that a mass amnesty may be imminent as her government seeks to stamp its mark on power in the former junta-run nation. / AFP / YE AUNG THU        (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)

Phyoe Phyoe Aung (right) outside court, 8 April 2016. Credit: YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images

Phyoe Phyoe Aung, who was detained in Myanmar after helping to organize largely peaceful student protests, has finally been released more than one year on.

Amnesty supporters across the world wrote more than 394,000 letters, emails, tweets and more for Phyoe Phyoe Aung during Write for Rights, our global letter-writing marathon. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

3,714,141 Thank Yous!

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LWM 2015 - AI Netherlands. Letter Writing Marathon at the Dutch Office Amnesty International The Netherlands Amsterdam. Every December, to mark International Human Rights Day, hundreds of thousands of people around the globe take part in the world’s largest human rights event: Write for Rights.

Amnesty supporters across the world wrote an astonishing 3.7 million letters, messages, emails, tweets and so much more as part of Write for Rights 2015, the global letter-writing marathon.

From Afghanistan to Zambia, dedicated campaigners, students, school kids and loads of others demanded change on behalf of people and communities suffering appalling human rights abuses. We at Amnesty International USA generated 312,205 of those actions and we are deeply grateful to each and every one of you who took part. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

18 Cases YOU Helped Change in 2015

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Amnesty International campaigns for the release of prisoners of conscience – people who have been jailed because of their political, religious or other conscientiously-held beliefs, ethnic origin, sex, color, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, sexual orientation or other status, provided that they have neither used nor advocated violence.

In 2015, YOU helped put the pressure on 18 cases to ensure the release of many journalists and activists. The list below is reflective of how we can work together to create positive change in the lives of others. Thank you for all your support – together, we are standing up for people risking everything to speak out. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Azerbaijan: Leyla Yunus Released, but 18 Other Prisoners of Conscience are Still Behind the Bars

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By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik, chair of the Eurasia Coordination Group at Amnesty International USA

Leyla Yunus, one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights defenders and former prisoner of conscience was freed on December 9. The Baku Court of Appeals changed her sentence with a conditional release due to her deteriorated health. The court placed her on probation for the next five years and maintained her guilty verdict, widely denounced as political retaliation for her work. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why I’m Taking Action for Zunar

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Drawing with embedded photograph showing one of this years cases for Write for Rights. All design assets associated with this campaign available here: 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.


Letter from Shawkan Photojournalist Imprisoned in Egypt

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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.


Free my Father, the World’s Longest Imprisoned Journalist

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By Aigul Bekzhanova

My name is Aigul, and I am writing to you about my father, imprisoned journalist Muhammad Bekzhanov.

My father is the world’s longest imprisoned journalist, together with his codefendant Yusuf Ruzimuradov from the same paper, jailed at the same time in 1999.

My father’s crime? He dared to speak the truth about human rights abuses by the Uzbekistani government. In 1999, security forces tortured him nearly to death, and forced him to confess to “anti-state” crimes. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

My sister Rania is missing in Syria

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By Naila Alabbasi

I first realized that something was wrong when I couldn’t get hold of Rania. I had been calling my sister’s house phone and mobile for several days with no answer.

I later discovered that a group of armed men from the Military Intelligence had come to my sister’s house on 9 March and arrested her husband, Abdulrahman, without giving any reason. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Belarus: Political Prisoners Released, but Authorities Need to Do More for Human Rights

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By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik

On August 22, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka issued an order “based on the principle of humanism” to release six political prisoners, including Mikalai Statkevich and Yury Rubtsov, recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

Mikalai Statkevich was one of six opposition presidential candidates who were imprisoned in connection with a largely peaceful demonstration that took place on December 19, 2010. Tens of thousands of Belarusians gathered in central Minsk to protest against unfair elections. The demonstration was mostly peaceful, but when a violent incident broke out at the doors of Government House, riot police moved in to disperse the crowds. Over 700 people were detained, the overwhelming majority of whom had been peaceful participants and bystanders. Most of the detained were charged with administrative offences and sentenced to 10 to 15 days in prison. Many who were sentenced for participating in the demonstrations were released after they agreed to sign a confession for organizing or taking part in “mass disorder.” Mikalai was sentenced to six years. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST