Write a letter, change a life

In this issue of WIRE you’ll meet 12 very different people and communities. What they all have in common is that there is a real opportunity, right now, to make a positive difference in their lives.

This December, for the 12th year in a row, women, men and children all over the world will come together – in community centres, on street corners, at home and online – to do one very simple thing: write letters.

Our messages – more than 2.3 million in 2013 – have a particular kind of power. Imagine spending days, months, years thinking the world has forgotten you. Then suddenly, thousands of letters arrive: tangible proof that you are not alone. That’s what happened to Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, who was released earlier this year (see page 3).

And that’s what will happen to many others as we sharpen our pencils and get typing during the world’s largest human rights event, Write for Rights.

Join us! You’ll find everything you need to take part in this special edition of WIRE, Amnesty’s global campaigning magazine.

Posted in Belarus, China, Greece, India, Individuals at Risk, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, USA, Uzbekistan, Venezuela | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dreaming of what was left behind: the fight for land rights in Colombia

Tranquilandia, a peasant farmer community in the north of Colombia ©Joel Stangle.

Tranquilandia, a peasant farmer community in the north of Colombia ©Joel Stangle.

By Marcelo Pollack, Colombia Researcher at Amnesty International.

There is a tragic irony to the name of Tranquilandia or Tranquil land, a peasant farmer community in the north of Colombia. The land is far from peaceful. Residents there were forced to leave their homes and land after many of them were killed and forcibly disappeared, mostly by paramilitary groups operating in the area.

Tranquilandia’s story is far from unusual. Nearly six million Colombians have been driven from their homes by Latin America’s longest internal armed conflict, which, for more than 50 years, has pitted the security forces and paramilitaries against a variety of guerrilla groups. That is equivalent to 13% of the population and gives Colombia one of the highest forced displacement levels in the world. Continue reading

Posted in Colombia | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Tunisia promises better protection for women’s rights

Amnesty petition is handed to Mohamed Salah Ben Ammar, Tunisia’s Minister of Health and Neila Chaabane, Tunisia’s Secretary of State for Women and Families, 18 November 2014. © Meriam Zemzari

By Jihane Bergaoui, Amnesty USA’s Country Specialist for Morocco and the Western Sahara

Tunis feels like a city poised at the crossroads of a new identity, with uncertainty, worry, and hope felt in equal measure. The street art from what has been labelled the Arab spring is still a striking presence on the buildings there. It reminds you at every second turn of the hope that fuelled the uprising, of the desire for freedom.

That desire for freedom seemed even more pronounced last week, when I was in the Tunisian capital watching my colleagues from Amnesty Tunisia handing in a petition signed by over 198,000 Amnesty International supporters worldwide. Continue reading

Posted in Algeria, Domestic Violence, Morocco, Sexual Violence, Tunisia, Women, Women's Rights | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Time to stop criminalizing beliefs in Indonesia

Tajul Muluk, a Shi’a Muslim religious leader from East Java, is currently serving a four-year sentence for blasphemy.© JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP/GettyImages

By Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific

Indonesia has come a long way on human rights since the end of the Suharto era. But despite the progress, there have been some serious setbacks over the past decade — not least when it comes to the issue of freedom of religion and expression.

The past ten years have been marked by shrinking space for religious pluralism, with those professing minority beliefs increasingly facing threats, violent attacks and imprisonment.

Across Indonesia, churches and mosques have been burned down, whole communities forced to flee because of their beliefs, and a range of laws and bylaws introduced to silence the expression of minority beliefs. Continue reading

Posted in Censorship and Free Speech, Discrimination, Indonesia, Religious Groups | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Young, Black, Alive – Breaking the silence on Brazil’s soaring youth homicide rate

The new “Young Black Alive” campaign is aimed at tackling the underlying human rights issues behind Brazil’s soaring youth homicide rate. © Anistia Internacional Brasil

By Atila Roque, Executive Director of Amnesty International Brazil

Earlier this week, many people around the world waited with bated breath for a grand jury’s decision in a case where a police officer shot dead an unarmed young black man on the street. While the 9 August shooting of Michael Brown took place in the US suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, the case has a deep resonance here in Brazil. The tragic course of events leading up to the teenager’s death could just as easily have played out on the streets of our cities or favelas.

Of the 56,000 homicides in Brazil every year, 30,000 are young people aged 15 to 29. That means that, at this very moment, a young person is most likely being killed in Brazil. By the time you go to bed, 82 will have died today. It’s like a small airplane full of young people crashing every two days, with no survivors. This would be shocking enough by itself, but it’s even more scandalous that 77 per cent of these young people are black. Continue reading

Posted in Brazil, Children, Discrimination, Juveniles and Human Rights, Killings and Disappearances, Racial Discrimination, Unlawful Killings and Extrajudicial Execution | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating women’s rights heroes

As part of My Body My Rights, we're celebrating women's rights heroes for 16 days of activism against gender violence, 25 Nov-10 Dec. © Amnesty International

As part of My Body My Rights, we’re celebrating women’s rights heroes for 16 days of activism against gender violence, 25 Nov-10 Dec. © Amnesty International

On 25 November 1960, three women known as the Mirabal sisters were assassinated by state agents in the Dominican Republic because they dared to challenge the ruling dictator. These women’s rights heroes – women who became symbols of popular and feminist resistance – are commemorated on this day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Today, kicks off 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, where people around the world will be challenging violence against women and girls in its many forms. This means standing up to attitudes and behaviours that value men over women – and that are expressed in many ways, from casual insults to outright violence.

These attitudes are at the root of what prevents so many women and girls from making decisions that affect their bodies and their lives – and that block women and girls from claiming their rights and participating in society equally with men and boys.

Continue reading

Posted in Algeria, Egypt, El Salvador, Europe And Central Asia, Maternal Health and Reproductive Rights, Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Rights, Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Rights, Morocco, Sexual Violence, South Africa, Tunisia, Women, Women's Rights | Tagged , | 4 Comments