Write for Rights is a one-day letter-writing marathon organized by Amnesty International (AI) to end human rights abuses.
Each year, the global campaign highlights 10 human rights cases, and on Dec. 10 – International Human Rights Day – AI chapters from around the world spend the day writing letters to government officials. By shining a light on those abuses, they aim to help people who are wrongly imprisoned be set free or receive legal assistance and medical treatment.
“Imagine being locked away, alone, not knowing if anyone cares where you are,” according to a statement issued by AI last year. “Now imagine receiving a letter from someone you don’t know, telling you they believe in you. That’s what real letters can do: bring hope to people in the direst of situations. And when they arrive in huge numbers, they are also an unmistakable reminder to the prison authorities and others that the world is watching.”
In 2019, AI chapters from 200 countries, including Canada, sent 6.6 million messages.
Last year, nearly 80 Canadian AI chapters participated in the event, which is ongoing through January.
Among the 2020 cases were:
- Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni, who was arrested in March 2019 for reporting on the ongoing demonstrations in the North African country;
- Saudi Arabian activist Nassima al-Sada, who was arrested in 2018 for demanding women’s rights and held in solitary confinement for a year; and
- Columbian farmer Jani Silva, who repeatedly receives threats from the military, multinational corporations and illegal groups such as drug traffickers for her environmental activism.
YEARS OF SUCCESS
Write for Rights dates back to the early 2000s, when a young Polish man met a young woman at a festival, and the two talked about a 24-hour event in Africa, where people wrote protest letters to the government.
“Inspired by her story – and wanting to see her again – he invited her to his local Amnesty group where they decided to do the same thing,” according to a 2018 blog post on the AI Canada website, amnesty.ca.
Since 2002, Write for Rights has been held each year, growing into the world’s largest human rights event. In that time, more than 50 people have been freed from wrongful imprisonment.
In 2015, Burmese activist Phyoe Phyoe Aung was included among that year’s cases. A young human rights defender, she was arrested (along with many other students) for peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar in March 2015. After immense pressure brought on by the power of the pen, she was freed the following April – just a few months after the 2015 campaign ended.
While AI focuses on just 10 cases each year, the group lists nearly 24,000 active campaigns on its main website, amnesty.org.
To read more about Write for Rights, visit the event’s Canadian website at writeathon.ca.