By Louisa Anderson, Global Campaigner at Amnesty’s International Secretariat.
It’s been incredibly exciting, almost overwhelming, to see how much has happened over the last few days as Amnesty activists all around the world have taken part in Write for Rights, our annual global letter-writing campaign.
It’s moments like these that demonstrate the essence of what Amnesty is about – individual, simple actions that, when multiplied in huge numbers, can truly have a positive impact on the situation of people and communities at risk.
Moved and driven to action by the personal stories featured in Write for Rights, hundreds of thousands of activists around the world are busy writing letters to government authorities on behalf of those whose voices need to be amplified. Over 700,000 messages have already been sent in the past week.
They have been writing also to those individuals whose lives and rights are at risk to show them solidarity and try to bring them some relief.
As the letters pile up we are seeing how they are already having an effect.
The Cambodian housing rights activist Yorm Bopha was released on bail after Amnesty activists wrote almost 90,000 appeals on her behalf to the Cambodian authorities. Her case was featured in our campaign after she was imprisoned on false charges,
She wrote to thank us and encouraged us to keep campaigning for her:
“Thank you! Your campaign has been successful, as my release shows! … We can achieve the most success when we all work together!”
How can one not feel moved when the sister of Mikhail Kosenko, a Russian man who was imprisoned following a protest in Bolotnaya square, tells you that a letter recently received from the UK made her brother smile a little for the first time in many weeks? She said:
“Somebody had written, not quite correctly but very diligently, several phrases of support in Russian”.
And Miriam Lopez, who was tortured by Mexican soldiers in 2010 and is seeking an investigation into her case, has received hundreds of messages of support. Those messages have empowered her to continue her battle. She told us:
“It’s incredible that there is so much support from different countries and cultures, and that people who don’t even know me feel solidarity with me and support my struggle. I truly thank you all and hope that I can soon give good news regarding the case.”
Some of the individuals and communities whose cases are included in the campaign are themselves participating in Write for Rights. Activists from the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh travelled to Spain, where over 70 groups around the country had organised activities. Ihar Tsikhanyuk, a Belarusian gay activist, travelled to Ukraine and France to talk to activists about his experience of being beaten by police for his sexuality.
See our Facebook album featuring just some of the amazing events taking place worldwide during Write for Rights:
Hakan Yaman, a Turkish minibus driver who was beaten and burned by police after getting caught up in the Gezi Park protests attended a demonstration by activists appealing for justice for his case:
“Your tremendous support, all you are doing for me, has raised my morale. I thank you and all those who have been by my side over these difficult times. My hope is for justice to be done.”
Write for Rights is also a powerful reminder of the diversity of this global movement. Amnesty is youth activists in schools in Ghana, as much as rights holders in Taiwan, like Judy Cheng, who told us why she is supporting Yorm Bopha:
“I am an Amnesty International supporter. I am also a rights-holder who suffered from forced eviction. In August 2013, my house in Huaguang was torn down. Today I stand here in front of our ruined houses to support Yorm Bopha. When I heard her story, I felt a wave of nostalgia. As women of Huaguang who, like Bopha, have been fighting for our rights, we want to support her.”
Amnesty International’s activists all over the world look for the most creative ways of raising their voices. The great range of actions taking place simultaneously around the world for these individuals is impressive: workshops, film screenings, concerts, events in local communities in South Africa, large-scale night-time light projections onto embassies in Paris, letter-writing on a ship on the Baltic Sea, 24-hour letter writing events around the world, including at 500 schools in Poland, a flashmob in Denmark, outdoor parties in Brazil.
In 17 countries where there is no official Amnesty International presence, such as Timor Leste, Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea, volunteers are organising events including marathons and arts festivals where they are gathering signatures.
Behind that diversity, the message is the same: “Our words together can make a difference!”
The campaign carries on. This weekend there are hundreds of events scheduled all over the world. But even if you cannot make it to any of then, you can still just sit down at home, grab a pen and write to authorities asking for justice to be done, or to individuals at risk to show them your solidarity. You can also send a message online.
As you can see, it’s a very simple act that really makes a positive impact.
Find out more