Each year, hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens around the globe mark International Human Rights Day on the 10th of December by taking part in Amnesty International’s ‘Letter Writing Marathon’. The event titled “Write for Rights” calls on Amnesty International (AI) members and supporters around the world to write as many letters as possible in support of individuals who are at high risk of having their rights violated, asking concerned authorities to take actions. In doing so, they offer support and show solidarity with those suffering from human rights abuses and try to bring about real change to people’s lives. Individuals at risk range from people who are prisoners of conscience to human rights defenders receiving threats because of what they do.
Being a member of Amnesty, I applied to be a volunteer for the marathon and was selected to organize a letter-writing event for 2011. I was truly ecstatic.
The aim of the event was to generate as many letters as possible on behalf of 14 selected cases of individuals from different parts of the world, ranging from Azerbaijan to North Korea to Yemen to Mexico to Iran. Amnesty International was fighting for their freedom and rights. Along with other fellow shortlisted volunteers, I received copies of case files with details of each individual at risk. We were supposed to make these available to our invitees to inform them about the issues and to inspire them to write letters on as many cases as possible. We also needed to campaign within our communities to mobilise as many people as we could to write.
The theme of our series of events was “Think Locally, Act Globally”. These events were organized in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Hyderabad. Venues ranged from schools to law chambers to youth forums. A large number of students, teachers, lawyers, civil society members, social activists, poets and writers participated. Some of my friends showed special enthusiasm in helping organize the marathon by working unconditionally. They were wonderfully creative and painstakingly looked for ways to convince others to join the event and write letters. We made our own posters and also used materials provided by AI, like colorful paper, case cards and pamphlets. These contained Amnesty logos and eye-catching images with the Amnesty brand colours of black and yellow. One of the volunteers also made an online petition that we got signed by thousands of online users to build pressure on authorities to act for human rights.
Our efforts bore fruit. The joint voice we raised was heard! Our passionate appeals and personal messages resulted in two cases yielding successful results. A long-pending case of indigenous rape victims in Mexico was officially taken responsibility for by the Mexican government and a student activist in Azerbaijan was released. This was indeed a great success for all of us and we were overjoyed.
One participant reflected:
“This is the first time I did work of this nature and I found it surprising that there are so many people willing to help out the innocent people around the world. I felt honored to be of some help and I want to make it very clear that these people are not alone in their miseries and distress.”
In total, AI supporters from around the globe sent more than 800,000 letters as part of Write for Rights. So globally, it was a huge success too. AI’s work was highly admirable and appreciable. Their online communities officer went the extra mile and made every possible effort to facilitate us and make our events a success. Indeed, it was a truly unique way to stand for human rights. AI greatly appreciated our efforts and sent all the organizers and helpers thank-you notes in February this year to express its profound gratitude to us.
If you are interested in helping end human rights abuses, sign up as international members of Amnesty International by going to this link and following the instructions – http://amnesty.org/en/join
You will receive emails about human rights campaigns including frequent online petitions that are targeted to your interests as well as information on opportunities to take action. You can also become a volunteer, and lead activism initiatives in your community. Furthermore, you will have full use of AI online communities.
Good luck, future activists!