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Amnesty International’s Annual Write-a-Thon: Your words can save lives!

November 17, 2010

From Amnesty International


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.

Each year hundreds of thousands of people across the world 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.


1. SIGN UP to Write for Rights!

Join HERE. Choose as many cases as you wish (case files and sample letters below). Participate as an individual, or host an event and invite friends, family, and members of your community to join the call for human rights. Check out our Write for Rights map to find an event near you.

2. Get your RESOURCES.

Everything you need to participate in Write for Rights is now available, including case summaries, sample letters, promotional materials, and helpful tips for holding a successful Write for Rights event (these resources are all below as well). If you’d like hard copies of these items or have questions, email us:

3. WRITE and MAIL your letters. (Common questions also covered in the Q&A Resource below.)

  • December 4-12 are the key dates, but feel free to start earlier or later.
  • Each case contains a “You Can Help” section which includes addresses for where to send your letters. Address and send your letter to the government official at the top of the sample letter. If you can, we suggest you send a copy of your letter to the official listed under “copy to” at the bottom.
  • A personal letter is often the most effective way to convince government offcials to take action. However, if you don’t have time to write personal letters, you can print and sign the sample letters, or you can send an email, if applicable. If you want to send an email, please use the Scribd “Select Text in the Document” tool to copy the associated letter. This icon is to the right of the magnifying glasses with the + and – symbols and looks like a capital I.
  • Current postal rates:

Within the United States:

Airmail Letters (up to 1 oz.) $0.44 | Postcards (max. size: 6″ x 4.25″) $0.28

To Mexico:

Airmail Letters (up to 1 oz.) $0.79 | Postcards (max. size: 6″ x 4.25″) $0.79

To all other countries:

Airmail Letters (up to 1 oz.) $0.98 | Postcards (max. size: 6″ x 4.25″) $0.98

We fight our battles armed with a pen and paper

Vodpod videos no longer available.



Albertine – Maternal mortality


Albertine, a 25-year-old mother of two from Burkina Faso, died of childbirth complications after her treatment was delayed. Her brother-in-law had to make several long trips to and from the hospital to borrow over US $100 – significantly more than the average monthly income – to pay for medicine and blood. Albertine’s story is not unique. Every year, more than 358,000 women around the world die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of these deaths can be prevented if all women have timely access to quality maternal health care. If passed, the Global MOMS Act will be an important step towards ending preventable maternal deaths. Read More »


Aung San Suu Kyi and Su Su Nway – Prisoners of conscience


Amnesty International welcomes the release of Aung San Suu Kyi on November 13, 2010, but calls on the government of Myanmar to release all of the prisoners of conscience in the country.

Su Su Nway is a labor activist who is serving a prison term of eight years and six months for raising a banner. Amnesty International considers Su Su Nway to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression. Urge the Myanmar authorities to release Su Su Nway immediately and unconditionally. Read More »


Mao Hengfeng – Prisoner of conscience


Mao Hengfeng has been repeatedly detained, tortured and ill-treated because of her work to defend human rights. She is currently serving 18 months in China’s “re-education through labor” system for having protested in 2009 the arrest of human rights defender Liu Xiaobo. (In October 2010, Liu Xiaobo was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.) She has also campaigned against forced abortions and forced evictions in China. Despite the abuses she has endured, Mao Hengfeng continues to be heartened by messages of international support, including those from Amnesty International members. Read More »


Women in Congo – Rape as a Weapon


The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been called the rape capital of the world. Every year, thousands of rapes are reported. Many more rapes go unreported, because of the personal risk and shame associated with being attacked. A central problem is the use of rape as a weapon of war by all sides in the Congo wars. However, the frequency of rape as a weapon, and the almost total impunity for perpetrators of these atrocious crimes, have led to an increase in the incidence of rape in all corners of the country. The Congolese government, in collaboration with the UN, must develop a long-term, comprehensive action plan to end impunity for crimes committed in the country. The perpetual cycle of violence against women in the DRC must end. Read More »


Femi Peters – Prisoner of conscience


Femi Peters is the Campaign Manager for the United Democratic Party, a political opposition party in the Gambia. In October 2009, he was arrested during a peaceful political demonstration, and charged with a number of crimes including “control of use of loud speakers in public.” After months of trial, he was convicted and sentenced to a mandatory jail term. There are serious concerns for his health amid the appalling prison conditions. His family has not been allowed to visit him. Read More »


Norma Cruz – Human rights defender


Human rights defender Norma Cruz leads a women’s rights organization, Survivors’ Foundation, based in Guatemala City. As a result of her work documenting cases of violence against women and fighting for justice, she has been repeatedly threatened with death. Some of her relatives have also suffered threats and attacks. Norma Cruz and other defenders in Guatemala face constant danger. Read More »


Filep Karma – Prisoner of conscience


Filep Karma is serving 15 years in prison for simply raising a flag. The former civil servant was arrested in 2004 for raising a flag symbolizing Papuan independence from Indonesia. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and seeks his immediate and unconditional release. His colleague Yusak Pakage was freed in July 2010, after campaigning by Amnesty International members. Now Indonesia must free Filep! Read More »


Majid Tavakkoli – Student activist, prisoner of conscience


Student leader Majid Tavakkoli was arrested on December 7, 2009, for speaking at a demonstration marking Student Day in Iran. Following an unfair trial, one which his lawyer was not allowed attend, he was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. He now suffers from a serious respiratory condition that may deteriorate while he is imprisoned. He is a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising his human right to freedom of expression. Read More »


Walid Yunis Ahmad – Unlawful detention


Walid Yunis Ahmad went missing after his arrest on February 6, 2000. For three years, his family wondered if he was alive before learning that he was detained and tortured by authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan. After more than 10 years, the security agency, Asayish, continues to hold him even though they have yet to charge him with an offense or bring him to trial. He remains in solitary confinement. Amnesty International calls on authorities in Iraq to release Walid Yunis Ahmad if he is not promptly charged and tried. Read More »


Women of Atenco – Violence against women


In May 2006, police detained and physically and sexually assaulted dozens of women in the town of San Salvador Atenco. Although authorities have acknowledged that abuses took place, none of the perpetrators have been held accountable for the crimes committed against these women. More than four years later, the women continue to seek justice. Amnesty International is pressing Mexican authorities to prosecute those responsible for these abuses. Read More »


Roma families – Forced evictions


In 2004, around 100 Roma people were forcibly evicted from their homes in Miercurea Ciuc in central Romania. Around 75 of them were relocated to metal shacks right next to a sewage plant. The conditions are unsanitary and the horrible smell is unbearable. The rest of the evicted community is living by a garbage dump two kilometers outside the town. The Roma families were told that the move would be temporary, but six years later, local authorities have no plan to relocate them to adequate housing. Read More »


Reggie Clemons – Death penalty


Reggie Clemons was sentenced to death in Missouri as an accomplice in the 1991 murder of two women. Clemons has maintained his innocence, and his case illustrates many of the flaws in the U.S. death penalty system. Shortly after a 2009 execution date was stayed, the Missouri Supreme Court assigned a judge (a “Special Master”) to investigate the reliability of his conviction and proportionality of his sentence. Call on Missouri’s Governor to grant clemency in this case. Read More »


Write for Rights Q & A: Amnesty International’s Annual Write-a-Thon

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Amnesty International Sample Letters 2010 Write a Thon

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Case Overview

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Case Direction

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Your Letters Make A Difference!

Last year, more than 12,000 people across the United States sent tens of thousands of letters on behalf of people who were living with the daily threat of human rights violations. Those letters worked and have helped to improve the lives of people and communities.
Your words have power. USE THEM. Join us as we write for rights – SIGN UP TODAY!
Below are highlights of the successes achieved through Amnesty International’s Write for Rights.



Novelist and human rights activist Musaad Suliman Hassan Hussein, usually known by his pen name Musaad Abu Fagr, was held in prison without trial for almost three years, despite obtaining several court orders for his release. Amnesty International considered Musaad Abu Fagr to be a prisoner of conscience, detained on account of his peaceful expression of his views.

He was released from Abu Zaabal Prison near Cairo on July 13, 2010.

Musaad Abu Fagr has thanked Amnesty International for its campaigning for his release, “Amnesty International’s support is one of the reasons that I was released,” he told the organization, “your messages gave me a sense of solidarity”.


Prisoner of conscience, Yusak Pakage was released from Doyo Baru prison on July 7, 2010. He was sentenced to 10 years in December 2004 for peacefully raising the Morning Star flag, the outlawed symbol of Papuan independence, to protest Indonesian government policies.

Pakage expressed his thanks to Amnesty International for all the work put towards demanding his release, “For me, Amnesty is everything… From someone who suffered and who now smiles again thanks to Amnesty”.

Amnesty supporters took action on his behalf during the 2008 Global Write-a-thon.


Mohammed al-Odaini was held without charge by the U.S. government for over 8 years, since the age of 18. Al-Odaini was detained in March 2002 along with several other Yemeni nationals, and sent to the detention camp at the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. In June 2005 he was deemed suitable for release from Guantánamo. Yemeni authorities stated that they were prepared to take him back, yet he continued to be unjustly detained.

On July 13, 2010, Mohammed al-Odaini was released from Guantanamo and returned back to his home country of Yemen.


Human rights defender Rita Mahato received threats of death, rape and kidnapping as a result of her work assisting women who have suffered from acts of violence. The police failed to provide Rita with protection, or investigate the threats, and she feared for her life. Following the Global Write-a-thon, her safety improved, and AI’s support renewed her strength to continue.



Hana Abdi, a women’s rights advocate, was released from prison in Iran on February 26, 2009. An Iranian Kurd, she was arrested in October 2007 for her work with Campaign for Equality, an organization that seeks equality for women in Iran. Her three-year prison sentence was happily cut short when authorities freed her in February 2009.


Ma Khin Khin Leh, a school teacher and young mother, was freed from prison Burma on February 21, 2009. She was arrested 10 years earlier for allegedly planning a demonstration to protest the deteriorating economic and human rights environment in Myanmar. For this “crime,” she was sentenced to life in prison. Following her release in February, Ma Khin Khin Leh could finally return to her daughter, who was only three years old when her mother was first arrested.



Bu Dongwei was released on July 18, 2008, approximately four months before the end of his term of re-education through labor in China.

Bu Dongwei was serving a 30-month sentence in connection with his activities as a member of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in China. He was working in Beijing for the US-based Asia Foundation when police detained him on May 19, 2006. Bu Dongwei was accused of “resisting the implementation of national laws” and “disturbing social order.” Police claimed that they had discovered 80 copies of Falun Gong literature in his home, although his family says that there were no more than 8 Falun Gong books in the house when Bu Dongwei was detained.

The officials in the re-education through labor facility where he was held showed Bu Dongwei letters that were addressed to him and that had arrived from abroad. Although the officials did not let him keep the letters, he now knew that there were people out there who were aware of his plight and who wanted to help.


» Read this letter from Sami al-Hajj
» Watch a video of Sami al Hajj post-release

Sami al Hajj, a Sudanese cameraman, was held by the U.S. government without charge for over six years.

Prior to his detention, Sami al Hajj was a journalist working for the television station al-Jazeera. Following the September 11 attacks on the United States, he was asked by his editors to cover the international conflict in Afghanistan. Sami al Hajj was detained while on assignment, traveling through Pakistan en route to Afghanistan.

Sami al Hajj was held in Pakistani custody for nearly 3 weeks before being transferred to U.S. custody and taken to Bagram air base in Afghanistan. He was stripped of his passport, his visa to travel to Afghanistan, and his press identification. Sami al Hajj described the 16 days he spent detained at Bagram air base as “the worst in my life” because of the torture he endured there. On June 13, 2002, he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay.
Sami al Hajj has said that while in U.S. custody he was subjected to a range of torture and ill-treatment, including beatings and denial of prescribed medication for cancer.

In May 2008 Sami al Hajj was released and reunited with his wife and young son.


As leader of the youth opposition organization Young Front, Zmitser Dashkevich’s efforts to bring about greater freedom for the people of Belarus cost him his own.

Authorities charged Zmitser Dashkevich in September 2006 under Article 193 of the Belarusian Criminal Code, with “organizing and running an unregistered organization that infringes the rights of citizens.” Article 193 had been added to the Criminal Code in the lead up to the presidential elections in March 2006. It was part of a series of amendments that enabled authorities to penalize civil society organizations and outspoken critics of the government.

Although hundreds of people, including opposition politicians, writers, diplomats and civil society activists, rallied outside the court in Minsk in November 2006 to call for the immediate release of Zmitser Dashkevich, the court sentenced Mr. Dashkevich to one and a half years’ imprisonment. The closed trial lasted just two days. On December 15, 2006, the Minsk City Court denied an appeal made by Mr. Dashkevich’s lawyer, and the original sentence was upheld.

Zmitser Dashkevich was released less than two months after the 2007 Global Write-a-thon.

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