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

Rally for Filep Karma in Washington An Apt Metaphor

Today, Amnesty International activists and supporters rallied in front of the Indonesian embassy in Washington DC to raise their voices on behalf of prisoner of conscience Filep Karma, an activist who’s spent the last 7 years in prison for raising a flag.

The rally was held a week after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Indonesia for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Entrepreneurship Summit.  Amnesty International urged Clinton to publicly state that human rights will play as important a role as trade and security in US–ASEAN relations.


Matching Gift Challenge Ends Thursday – Don't Miss Out!

“As long as injustice and inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest. We must become stronger still.” – Nelson Mandela

We are shifting into overdrive!

The membership drive is coming to an end, and we’re close to meeting our new $300,000 matching gift challenge, but we haven’t crossed the finish line yet!

We need to raise $94,570 by Thursday or we’ll lose the opportunity to double our funding to $600,000.

I know you won’t let that happen – you are Amnesty. Together we are the defenders of humanity, and we have work to do.

Please donate today – no later than Thursday – to help Amnesty secure a $300,000 matching gift.

More than 13,150 donors have risen to our September challenge, inspired by Amnesty’s successes and moved by an unwavering devotion to human rights.

I am humbled by this tremendous response, and I know the dissidents and human rights activists for whom we advocate are profoundly grateful for your support.

When political prisoner Yusak Pakage was released in July, he thanked you for his freedom. He spent almost six harrowing years in an Indonesian prison for waving a flag.

When Egyptian novelist Musaad Abu Fagr was released this summer, he thanked you for your letters. A featured case in our 2009 Global Write-a-thon, Musaad was detained for speaking out against the demolition of thousands of homes in the Sinai Peninsula.

For the unjustly imprisoned, we must light the candle still.

Facing execution despite significant and persistent doubts about his guilt, Troy Davis is alive today because of your letters and phone calls. In a devastating blow to his case, a federal court recently denied his petition for relief.

As long as there is hope, we will continue to fight for Troy Davis.

Honor their sacrifices. Make your commitment to human rights today with a gift to Amnesty.

Never doubt how powerful you can be when you join your light with ours. Thank you for all you do.

Indonesian Prisoner Yusak Pakage Released!

Yusak PakageIndonesian prisoner of conscience Yusak Pakage has been released from prison! Along with fellow political prisoner Chosmos Yual, Pakage was released this morning from the Doyo Baru prison. Pakage was sentenced to a 10 year jail term for raising the Morning Star flag in December 2004. He, along with Filep Karma, was found guilty of “rebellion” for flying the outlawed symbol of Papuan independence as a sign of peaceful protest of Indonesian government policy.

Pakage has expressed his thanks to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for all the work put towards demanding his release. Amnesty supporters took action by petitioning the Indonesian government, holding vigils, and standing in solidarity on his behalf.

While we welcome this great news, fellow prisoner of conscience Filep Karma still remains in prison. We must continue to take action in demanding Karma’s release.  Call on your Members of Congress to support House Resolution 1355 calling for the release of Indonesian political prisoners. Additionally, you can stand in solidarity by contributing messages of hope and support and writing directly to the president of Indonesia.

Pakage’s release is a huge success, but we need your continued support to demand that Indonesia uphold international laws of free and peaceful expression!

Another Way to Celebrate Flag Day!!

While we live in a country where there is a holiday that honors the American flag, it’s hard to imagine that in other countries it is considered a crime to raise a flag!  Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption of the American flag, is celebrated in the United States on June 14th.


It may seem silly that we have an entire day devoted to a rectangular piece of material, but the meaning of the flag runs deeper than that. The American flag is a representation of not only the freedom our country possesses as a whole, but also the freedom bestowed to each individual – a kind of freedom that is often denied in other parts of the world.

In December of 2004, Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage were arrested for raising the West Papuan flag, known as the Morning Star” flag during a peaceful ceremony outside Abepura in Papua, Indonesia. The flag is a symbol of Papuan independence. Filep and Yusak were subsequently charged with rebellion for allegedly leading the flag-raising event, and were later sentenced to prison for 10 and 15 years respectively in May 2005 for charges of treason for “betraying” Indonesia by flying the outlawed flag. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience, detained purely for the peaceful and legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression.


Message to Obama before Indonesian trip

Supporters rally for Yusak and Filep in front of the White House. © AIUSA

Supporters rally for Yusak and Filep in front of the White House. © AIUSA

Just this week, our Individuals at Risk team received a special message from Yusak Pakage and Filep Karma – two prisoners of conscience in jail for peacefully raising a flag – from their prison cells in Indonesia. Here’s what they wrote:

Since our being sentenced to prison, Amnesty International has opposed our being imprisoned for legitimately exercising our right to freedom of expression. We wish to express our appreciation for Amnesty’s advocacy.  

We will continue fighting for Filep and Yusak until they are freed and their rights restored.

President Obama is taking a trip to Indonesia in less than a week, and we want him to carry a message of freedom and hope to Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage. That’s why this past weekend, scores of Amnesty activists and supporters braved torrential rain to rally in front of the White House with flags, banners, and posters asking President Obama not to forget human rights and these two Prisoners of Conscience when he meets with Indonesian President Yudhoyono. Speakers from East Timorese Action Network (ETAN) joined us in calling for their immediate and unconditional release. It was indeed a powerful show of solidarity and our determination to secure the release of both Filep and Yusak!

President Obama spent four years of his childhood in Indonesia and this trip marks a special opportunity to forge an understanding between the two countries based on human rights. But this can only happen if President Obama commits to speaking up for those who were punished for speaking out.

If you weren’t at the rally, it’s not too late to help Filep and Yusak. Call on President Obama to pressure the Indonesian government to release Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage. 

Or if you have the time, call the White House comment line: 1-202-456-1111 (TTY/TDD 202-456-6213). Or if you have trouble getting through, call the White House switchboard: 1-202-456-1414 and ask to be connected to the comment line.

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.

The Dangerous Act of Raising a Flag

With all the patriotic spirit and flag-waving (and questions about lapel pins) that we’ve been seeing lately surrounding the Presidential election here in the United States, it can be easy to forget just how powerful a symbol a flag can be, and how heavy a price can be exacted for raising the wrong one. But as election season draws to a close and we in the Individuals at Risk Campaign prepare for the annual Global Write-a-thon, I’ve been thinking a lot about Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage, whose case is featured in this year’s Write-a-thon.

Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage

Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage

On December 1, 2004, some 200 people participated in a nonviolent ceremony outside Abepura in Papua, Indonesia, during which the Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence, was raised. Filep and Yusak were later charged with rebellion for allegedly leading the flag-raising event. In May 2005, a court sentenced Filep Karma to 15 years in prison and Yusak Pakage to 10 years on charges of treason for having “betrayed” Indonesia by flying the outlawed Papua flag. Amnesty International considers Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage to be prisoners of conscience who have been detained purely for the peaceful and legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

So whether you’re feeling good or bad about the results of the election in the United States, if you see a flag waving, think about Filep and Yusak, and do something to help them by signing up for the Write-a-thon. Write a letter, save a life!