Write a letter for human rights this December

This post is part of our Write for Rights series

Right now, we’re almost halfway to our Write for Rights goal – 350,000 letters! But we need your help. Every letter pledged brings us closer to the tidal wave of letters that can save lives around the world.  That’s why it’s so important for you to make a pledge to Write for Rights this December!

Your words DO have power. They can bring freedom to prisoners of conscience. They can demand justice for survivors of torture. They can offer hope to human rights defenders at risk. Your words can save lives.

We’ve got the proof real success stories told by the people who’ve experienced horrific human rights abuses.

Just check out this video below from one of our previous Write-a-thon cases – Bu Dong Wei, a prisoner of conscience jailed for his activities as a member of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in China.

Stories like this one are why each year more and more people across the world come together to mark International Human Rights Day on December 10 by taking part in Amnesty International’s Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon – the world’s largest letter writing event. We write letters to demand that the rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. In doing so, we show solidarity with those suffering human rights abuses and work to bring about real change in people’s lives.

Anybody can take action – whether you want to put on a public event in your community, hold a private event at home with friends and family, or simply write letters as an individual.  So please join today – pledge to Write for Rights.

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!

Write-a-thon Series: Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini

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

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini © Private

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini © Private

Despite having been cleared for release more than four years ago, twenty-six-year-old Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini remains detained in Guántanamo. Odaini was sent to the detention center at the U.S Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in March 2002 along with fourteen other Yemeni nationals, all of whom were turned over by Pakistani police. In June 2005, U.S. authorities declared Odani suitable for release from Guantánamo. Yemeni authorities are prepared to take him back, however he continues to be detained without reason. He has not been interrogated for nearly two years and the reason for his continued detention is unclear.

Participate in this year’s Amnesty International annual Global Write-a-thon and help free Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini by writing a letter on his behalf to the Commander of the Joint Task Force Guantánamo. Be one of the thousands of individuals asking why Odaini and fellow detainees remain detained despite being cleared for release. By putting pressure on the Commander now, we hope to help release Odaini and fellow Yemenis and enable them to go back to Yemen. Writing a letter could not only help Mr. Odaini but the other detainees currently being unlawfully held in Guantánamo.

By Morgan Brescia, AIUSA Campaign for Individuals at Risk

Write-a-Thon Series: Aung San Suu Kyi

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


Aung San Suu Kyi, © Chris Robinson

Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has called for political change in Myanmar and has spent 14 of the last 20 years being punished for it. The military junta that has run the country since a 1962 coup has cracked down on political dissent, jailing thousands of reformists and activists. Aung San Suu Kyi, the primary face of the movement for democracy, has been kept under house arrest, unofficially detained, and subjected to other restrictions since the National League for Democracy (NLD), which she co-founded, won a 1990 general election. The NLD was immediately denied power by the ruling State Peace and Development Council.

Aung San Suu Kyi is one of Amnesty International’s 10 priority cases who you can help free by participating in our Global Write-a-thon running from December 5-13. She has most recently been placed under 18 months’ house arrest in August, a move that the international community has censured as a government pretext to prohibit her from participating in state elections scheduled for 2010.


More on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Reflections on its 60th anniversary by former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, author and former child soldier Ismael Beah, doctor and human rights activist Farai Madzimbamuto, and our own Larry Cox.

And a classic 1988 Amnesty International animated guide to the UDHR — with voice over by Debra Winger and Jeff Bridges, and music by David Byrne (among other ’80s alt-rock luminaries).

Happy Human Rights Day — write a letter and help save a life this week!

Happy Human Rights Day!

Manya Menapace, 81, of Pennsylvania, has already started writing letters for the Global Write-a-thon

Manya Menapace, 81, of Pennsylvania, has already started writing letters for the Global Write-a-thon.

Today is a day when I feel especially grateful for all my rights–that I can write this blog entry, that I am free, that I am not in prison just for expressing my beliefs, that I can choose my religion, that I am able to make my own choices about marriage and family, that I have an education, that I can work, that I can rest, and that I can get care when I’m sick.

Human Rights Day is not a happy day for everyone, though. Right this minute, there are prisoners of conscience languishing in cells, people on death row waiting for the end to come, and human rights defenders looking over their shoulders wondering if today is the day the death threats will be carried out. What can I, who am so rich in rights (though no less rich than anyone should be) do to help these individuals?

I can write. I can put pen to paper and tell the authorities why I’m concerned, and push them to do what needs to be done. Thousands of people around the world are doing just that today, and all this week. Today, don’t just raise your glass and toast to human rights–pick up a pen and act!

Time to Start Writing, Stamping, and Sending!

Today is the first official day of Amnesty International’s 2008 Global Write-a-thon! Over the next week and a half, thousands of people around the world will be writing letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, human rights defenders, and other individuals at risk. Because so many people around the world are participating, authorities will receive a tidal wave of letters appealing for the human rights of these individuals, and they will find it hard to ignore.

There has already been a huge amount of interest in the US. Over 6,800 people have registered on the AIUSA website, pledging to write over 185,000 letters, and there has been support from different blogs, as well as on Facebook. There are even resources available in Spanish.

If you have any doubts as to whether or not your participation can really make a difference, all you have to do is check out this letter from Sami al-Hajj, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee who was featured in the 2007 Write-a-thon, or read about some of the other successful cases.

Just because the Write-a-thon starts today doesn’t mean it’s too late! All you need is a pen, paper, stamps, and the desire to change someone’s life.

A Sad Anniversary

Remember these men from Indonesia? Monday was the four year anniversary of their arrest, and Amnesty is encouraging people to blitz the Indonesian government with emails on their behalf.

Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage, who are also featured in this year’s Write-a-thon, were arrested and sentenced to prison sentences of 15 and 10 years, respectively, for their nonviolent activities. Amnesty International considers the two men to be prisoners of conscience. Please take a few minutes out of your day to campaign for the release of these men.

It's Separation of Church and State, Stupid

© Emad Nasry

© Emad Nasry

Not persecution of the Church by the State. Unfortunately for Patriarch “Abune” Antonios of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the government of Eritrea doesn’t think that way. Considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty, he has been under house arrest since January 2006 after continually resisting government interference in religious affairs.

Minority faith groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and over 35 evangelical Christian churches are banned in Eritrea. An estimated 2,000 members of minority evangelical churches which have been outlawed since 2002 are in detention in harsh conditions. Amnesty International has received reports that some detainees have been repeatedly beaten up and tied in painful positions in order to force them to renounce their faith.

In the US, it’s easy to take religious freedom for granted (this may be especially true for Christians?), but clearly not everyone is so lucky. What would you do if your religion or spiritual belief system were banned or oppressed in the country where you live?

You're Free to Go Now…Just Kidding!

Can someone please explain this to me? How is it OK to arrest someone, send them to Guantánamo, keep them there a couple years, clear them for release, and then not let them leave? Among all the things that confuse and upset me about the way the US government has dealt with the detainees at Guantánamo, the situation of Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini is one of the most baffling.

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini  © Private

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini © Private

A Yemeni national, he was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan, where he had gone to study Islamic law. In 2005, US authorities declared him suitable for release, and Yemeni authorities indicated that they were willing to take him back. But now it’s almost 2009, and Odaini is still stuck in Guantánamo. This situation does not appear to be complicated. Unlike some other Guantánamo detainees, it’s not as if Odaini would be at risk of torture if he returned to Yemen, and it’s clear that he’d be welcomed there. What’s the holdup??

Odaini’s lawyer says “For all he knows, he could be there for the rest of his life.” I really hope this isn’t true, and that Odaini is not feeling totally hopeless.