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

7 things you probably didn’t know about migrants

A migrants’ belongings at a shelter in Mexico, 2010. © Marc Silver

Is a migrant the same as an immigrant? Are migrants good or bad for the economy, and can you name some famous ones? Find out today, on International Migrants Day.

1. What’s the difference between an immigrant and a migrant?
All immigrants are migrants, but not all migrants are immigrants. And just to confuse things, there are also “emigrants”. Here’s how it works: A migrant moves around within their own country, or from one country to another, often to find work or join family members, because of poverty or a crisis. If you’re from Italy and go to live in Spain, then you would be an emigrant in Italy and an immigrant in Spain. You can be called an “international migrant” if you have foreign nationality or were born in another country. “Immigrant” and migrant are often used interchangeably and tend to get mixed up with the word “asylum-seeker” (see below).

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Posted in Asylum, Migrants, Racial Discrimination, Refugees | Tagged | 1 Comment

Eastern Ukraine: Facing growing hardship, sliding towards a disaster

A Ukrainian soldier stands guard as a woman walks by on her way to a polling station in a village near Lugansk, eastern Ukraine. © ANATOLII BOIKO/AFP/Getty Images

By Krasimir Yankov of Amnesty International’s Ukraine Team

It’s not easy getting to Luhansk nowadays. One must either cross an active frontline and risk getting shot at, if coming from the north, or take an eight-hour detour from the south through the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”, which is under the control of pro-Russian separatists. I decide to opt for the latter and, after quickly fixing my papers with the de facto authorities in Donetsk, my companions and I are on our way.

Driving through Donbass, the coal-mining region of eastern Ukraine, has always been a special kind of journey. The landscapes are gray, rolling flat fields with slag heaps from nearby mines dotting the skyline every now and again. The winter, which has already settled in, adds to the gloom with its sub-zero temperatures and ice on the occasional houses we pass by. But after a while I start noticing something even more sullen – the almost complete lack of people on the streets. Continue reading

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Two years on, Laos activist still missing

Taken from beside a police post in the Lao capital Vientiane on December 15, 2012, no one has seen or heard from Sombath since. © www.sombath.org

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

In August 2005, in front of an audience in Manila, Lao development worker Sombath Somphone received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership.

Known as Asia’s Nobel Prize, it showed that Sombath’s work was appreciated not just by the people of Laos but across the region. Continue reading

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7 Things You Need To Know About Transgender Rights (And Changing Your Legal Gender)

Credit: Alison McDonnell

Credit: Alison McDonnell

1. Who is a transgender person?
A transgender person’s sense of gender differs from the sex they were given at birth. They experience and express their gender identity in a variety of ways. Some transgender people see themselves as fully male or female, while others see their gender identity as a continuum between the two. Some wish to change their bodies through gender reassignment treatment which may include hormone treatment, chest surgery or genital surgery. Others may want to have only some treatment or no treatment at all.

2. What is a person’s ‘legal gender’?
In most countries, individuals have a legal gender that corresponds to the sex they were given at birth. This legal gender appears on official documents (including birth certificates, identity cards and passports) and determines how people are perceived throughout their lives. People have to show these documents when they do everyday things, like enrolling in school, applying for a job, or opening a bank account. Continue reading

Posted in Discrimination, Europe And Central Asia, LGBT Rights | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments