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

Student Activist Spends Birthday Behind Bars in Azerbaijan

Jabbar Savalan

Jabbar Savalan behind bars after making a comment critical of the government on Facebook

Back in February, we told you about 19-year-old Jabbar Savalan, a student activist from Azerbaijan who had been arrested after he posted on Facebook calling for protests against the government.

In May, Jabbar Savalan was convicted on bogus charges and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

This Sunday, September 4th 2011 Jabbar will turn 20 years old in prison. On his birthday we want Jabbar to know that he has the support of people all over the world.

Send him birthday cards showing your solidarity or post a birthday greeting on our Facebook page that we’ll deliver to Jabbar.  Let Jabbar know that he’s not alone and that we’re taking action to ensure he won’t have to spend another birthday behind bars.

You can also send a message to the President of Azerbaijan urging him to immediately and unconditionally release Jabbar from prison.

Join the “Free Jabbar Savalan” Facebook page

Troy Davis Hearing in 4 Weeks

Four weeks from today, June 23, Troy Davis will get a day in court. Not a perfunctory hearing where lawyers and judges parse the written affidavits of all the witnesses who have recanted their trial testimony, but a real hearing, where those witnesses themselves will testify, in person and under oath, about what they really saw that summer night in Savannah, Georgia, more than 20 years ago. 

The hearing may be filled with high drama, as the witnesses are likely to face vigorous cross-examination.  And the outcome is far from certain.  Because this is an evidentiary hearing, and not a new trial, Troy Davis is presumed guilty and must prove his innocence. And the directive to the judge from the Supreme Court  – that he “make findings of fact” as to whether Troy Davis can “clearly establish” his innocence – does not exactly specify what the judge can do once those facts are found.

Which is why those of us who have worked so hard for justice in this case must not hold back now.  June 22, the day before the hearing begins, will be a Day of Solidarity.  A time to reflect on how far we have come in highlighting the fundamental unfairness in this case, and a time to show that we remain hopeful, but vigilant, and that we recognize the great challenge Troy Davis faces in the requirement to prove his innocence.

Solidarity events can be large (rallies, vigils, film screenings, speakers), or small (information tables, house parties or discussions).  What’s important is that we all take action together.  More information about the hearing and an Organizing Kit for taking action are available online, and you can register your event here. Please take action at this critical time!

What to Do with Your Leftover Holiday Cards

I just got off the phone with a colleague in Mexico who has been working with the women of Atenco, and she told me she had come into her office after vacation to see that it was nearly filled with huge bags of mail. The bags were all stuffed with holiday cards bearing messages of solidarity and support for the women, sent by participants in AIUSA’s 2008 Holiday Card Action. “There must be over 10,000 of them,” she said, “the women will be so happy.”

Although New Year’s and the other holidays have passed, it’s not too late to take part in this solidarity action for the women of Atenco and 11 other individuals at risk. The action continues though the end of the month, so if you have any leftover holiday cards, this would be a perfect way to use them up. Or, if you’re like me and are only just now starting to write your holiday cards, why not send a few more? Most of us greet the new year with feelings of hope, determination, and optimism–sharing that spirit with others is a perfect way to start 2009.