"Thank you to Amnesty International's supporters! Your campaign has been successful, as my release shows. But my case is not over yet. Please keep supporting me, my community and others in Cambodia. We can achieve the most success when we all work together." - Yorm Bopha, 2013 Write for Rights Case Yorm Bopha is a Cambodian housing rights activist, previously imprisoned for defending her community's rights at the former Boeung Kak Lake in the capital Phnom Penh, where thousands of people had been forcibly evicted since 2007.
"I started receiving some letters from AI members. It was the first flicker of light in my dark days. I truly believed AI will do all it can for my release. Only after my release, I was amazed to know the magnitude of AI's work for my release. I felt privileged to be part of the global letter writing campaign in 2013-2014. All those activities are beyond my wildest imagination."- Dr Tun Aung: 2013 Write for Rights Case. Dr Tun Aung is a Muslim community leader and medical doctor who was imprisoned for trying to prevent communal violence, was released January 2015.
"We would like to take the opportunity to truly thank you for all your support. To each one of you: nomaá [thank you].” - Ines Fernandez Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantù, 2011 Write for Rights case. After featuring in the 2011 Write for Rights the Mexican government finally accepted formal responsibility for the rape and abuse of Valentina and for Inés Fernández Ortega by Mexican soldiers in 2002.
“Amnesty International is a symbol of human rights and freedom, not just in Azerbaijan, but everywhere in the world. I am grateful for all the hard work done by your organisation and other organizations which fight for freedom in Azerbaijan." "I did not feel alone, I knew people believed in me"- Jabbar Savalan: 2013 Write for Rights CasePrisoner of conscience Jabbar Savalan was pardoned and freed within days of letters arriving in Azerbaijan following the 2011 Write for Rights
"Thank you for your hard work and your campaigns to secure my release from prison...Your letters, phone calls, and petitions were my protection during the months I spent in solitary confinement. You were my voice when I had none." - Birtukan Mideska, 2009 Write for Rights Case A prisoner of conscience sentenced to life in prison, Birtukan Mideksa was held for nearly two years in Ethiopia solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and association. Her case was featured in Write for Rights 2009, and was released in October 2010.
“When I feel I am left with no hope or will to fight, I'll get a letter out and it will inspire me and a light of hope appears again. The confidence in myself and ability to change something returns!” - Ihar Tsikhanyuk, 2013 Write for Rights Case. Write for Rights participants took at least 172,439 actions for Ihar Tsikhanyuk in 84 countries. Ihar was beaten by police when he tried to set up a LGBTI rights organisation, in Belarus.
“When I [received] all these letters saying that I’m not alone, it [made] me feel great. And I think, yes, it’s true, I’m not alone. They really are supporting me.” - Yecenia Armenta, 2015 Write for Rights Case. Yecenia was imprisoned for 4 long years, after being tortured in order to force a confession that she killed her husband. As part of Write 4 Rights 2015 over 300,000 actions were taken on her case urging the Mexican Government to drop the charges and release her. This activism helped shift public opinion and media coverage, and pressured the government; she was acquitted and released in March 2016.
“Every letter, every visit, every word has strengthened us and reinforced our determination in this long but just struggle for freedom and democracy.” - Yves Makwambala, 2015 Write for Rights Case. Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala are prisoners of conscience who were imprisoned in March 2015 for their role in pro-democracy activism in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After 170,000 people stood up and asked for their release, they were freed in August 2016.
A History of Letter Writing
Every year around International Human Rights Day on December 10, hundreds of thousands of people around the world send a letter or e-mail on behalf of someone they've never. Our messages help convince government officials to release people imprisoned for expressing their opinion (called "prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty), stop the use of torture, commute death sentences and end other human rights abuses.
Letter writing has always been at the heart of Amnesty International's human rights campaigning and 54 years of human rights activism shows us that words really do have the power to change lives. But volume matters: the more participants in Write for Rights, the more letters and e-mail messages we generate, increasing our influence on government officials.
Last year, hundreds of thousands of people around the world helped send over 3 million messages, and we helped change lives as a result. Individuals whose cases we've featured also tell us that the burst of activism generated by the campaign helps to inspire and encourage them as they continue to struggle for justice.
This year, with your help, we want surpass 4 million actions and make a difference in the lives of all of the cases. If you're with us, please sign up now!
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS
Amnesty looks at our global portfolio of cases, including Prisoners of Conscience, human rights defenders, torture survivors and communities at risk to decide who will be featured in each year's campaign.
We identify cases where global activism can have a huge impact, right now, and share them with Amnesty activists.
Amnesty grassroots leaders sign up to organize events and actions - or write on their own - on behalf of the cases on December 10.
Letters, tweets, emails, faxes, text messages and petitions start arriving at government offices, in prison cells and to families all over the world.
Change happens. Hope grows. As messages flood mailboxes, prisoners get better conditions or are released. Human rights defenders are better protected. Torture survivors finally get the reparations that they need to heal. People know that others, worldwide, are taking their injustice personally.
Amnesty receives updates about the kinds of actions people are taking and the ways in which it is making a difference. Every year, we better understand how Write for Rights changes lives
Write for Rights is the world's largest human rights event, but it has humble origins. Twelve years ago, a young man named Witek met a young woman named Joanna at a festival in Warsaw, Poland. Joanna had just returned from traveling through Africa, where she'd seen activists organizing 24-hour events to write protest letters to governments.
Witek invited Joanna to join a meeting of his local Amnesty group. Together, they decided to write Urgent Action appeals for 24 hours, beginning at noon on Saturday. When they emailed their idea to all the other Polish groups, it turned into something much bigger, bringing together activists across the country. Then, their idea went viral.
They emailed their idea to all the other Polish groups, and it turned into something much bigger, bringing together activists across the country," explains Grzegorz Zukowski, from Amnesty Poland. Then, their idea went viral.
Witek and Joanna emailed Amnesty offices across the world, and people started sending back pictures of themselves writing letters - by Niagara Falls, in Japan, in Mongolia. It was a spontaneous, grassroots initiative that grew and grew.
Every December since, Write for Rights has inspired thousands of people to write letters to distant governments. Some still do it Polish-style, over a hectic, sleepless 24 hours. No matter where Write for Rights is taking place, it is driven and sustained by Amnesty's grassroots human rights activists.
And it still has real grassroots appeal: "The main power behind the marathon are the local communities and groups," says Grzegorz Zukowski from Amnesty Poland, "The school groups write more letters than anyone else. Our record is held by Bircza, a small town with only 1,000 inhabitants. In 2011, they wrote 13,000 letters."
Over 54 years after the first call to action that inspired our movement, a hand-written letter is still one of the most powerful tools we have as activists. When people from across Canada and around the world write the same letter, our voices united cannot be ignored. So don't stop here, or with your letters. During Write for Rights 2015, recruit others to join or host an event or plan a creative action to engage your community. Whatever you do, let us know how you're taking action for human rights!