Activism Guide – Fall 2019

Amnesty International is built on the idea that people coming together against injustice can be a game-changer! The sum of each of our actions creates a powerful force that has proven to be effective in igniting positive social change. Use this guide to take action this winter, and check back frequently for updates and new actions!

  1. Review this guide with your group to become familiar with AIUSA’s key campaigns and programs, which all groups are asked to work on.
  2. Use the Key Activism Dates and Take Action sections for each human rights issue to help you build your action calendar.
  3. Let us know what you’re working on! We’ll make sure you have resources for each area and update you when new information or tools are available.
  4. Get creative! The Activism Guide provides you with the basics, but we hope you’ll use it to put your stamp on our work. Let us know your plans and if you need any ideas or support.
Important Calendar Dates

Climate Justice
China’s Mass Detentions
Abolish the Death Penalty
Urgent Action Network

#IWelcome: Refugee and Migrant Rights


Refugees around the world

Every day, all over the world, people are forced to make the most difficult decision of their livesthey are forced to flee their homeland to escape persecution and torture or other severe human rights abuses, armed conflict, and horrific violence. Many have no option but to seek resettlement in a new country they can call home. But governments around the world aren’t doing enough to help. The Trump administration has implemented a series of discriminatory and restrictive policies, starting with the Muslim ban and followed by successive refugee bans, cuts to refugee admissions, and the implementation of extreme vetting processes. These actions have not only choked refugee resettlement worldwide, but have also had dire consequences for tens of thousands of refugees and left the lives of many hanging in limbo. When intimidated by the state of the world, some build a taller wall; we’re building a longer table.

What you can do
  1. Sign this email action and, with your Amnesty group, gather signatures for a petition demanding DHS keep its promise to resettle the Aziz family in the US! Malik, Sana, and their two sons Tariq and Yousef were forced to flee Iraq fearing for their lives because they were threatened and attacked for their Christian faith. Despite getting accepted for resettlement to the US in 2016, they have been stranded in Lebanon and stuck in limbo following the Muslim and refugee bans. They were finally told they would be able to resettle in Michigan in September this year, but at the last minute their case was thrown back into review and their lives into uncertainty. Tell the US government to keep its promise to the Aziz family! You can find hardcopy for petition signature collection here.
  2. With your Amnesty group, gather signatures for a petition calling on your Members of Congress to support the National Origin-Based Anti-discrimination for Non-Immigrants Act, otherwise known as the “NO BAN” Act (H.R. 2214 & S. 1123), which would repeal Trump’s Muslim and refugee bans, the asylum ban, and prevent the Administration from setting such discriminatory bans in the future. You can find hardcopy for petition signature collection here
  3. Use this toolkit to help us build a “longer table” with refugees and asylum seekers in your community.
Resources available


Asylum in the United States

Every year, tens of thousands of people come to the US asking for asylum or other forms of humanitarian protection. They are refugees in search of protection, and include children and families. But upon arrival at the southern border, many are forced to stay in Mexico, without money or access to lawyers, and wait in dangerous conditions and legal limbo while their claims are processed. Many have been imprisoned and held behind bars for weeks, even months, in US detention centers without proper due process or the care they deserve. While the detention of children and families isn’t new, the Trump administration has been deliberately targeting them through policies seeking to deter, punish, and criminalize people seeking safety in the USA. The consequences have been devastatingchildren are held in cages and locked up in freezing cells, without adequate food or medicine; most tragically, children have died in custody. These violations are a stark reminder of our country’s hypocrisy when it comes to what we strive to stand fora pillar of welcome and freedomand what’s actually happeningthe cruel treatment of people, families, and kids because of where they were born.

What you can do
  1. No company should see a business opportunity in a system that locks up kids simply for seeking safety in the US! Between March 2018 and April 2019, the US government locked up for months on end in the Homestead detention facility in Florida, over 14,300 children who fled to the US. While all the remaining kids in Homestead were relocated from the facility in August 2019, Homestead is still open for business and can detain children at any time. The private contractor, Comprehensive Health Services (CHS), a subsidiary of Caliburn International, LLC (Caliburn), continues to operate Homestead, and their contract is soon up for renewal. Homestead is no home for children and must be shut down.
    • Send an email to the President and CEO of Caliburn, demanding CHS stop its operations at Homestead as soon as possible and not renew its contract to operate this facility! 
    • Share this online action on social media with the hashtag #SayNoToHomestead. Please note, do not use any other hashtag, and if you choose to add a note to your tweet of the online action link, only use wording that is pulled directly from the language in the online action itself.
    • Sign a postcard to President and CEO of Caliburn. Request postcards and other Amnesty materials here.
    • Send an email to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) demanding HHS shut down the Homestead detention center. You can find hardcopy for petition signature collection here.
  2. Working with your Amnesty organizer, plan for the Day of Action calling for an end to the detention of children! On November 20, 2019, Universal Children’s Day, Amnesty activists will drop banners across the country! A time-honored strategy of deploying a message in a public space, a banner drop gets a simple statement out in a creative and artistic way to reach potentially hundreds or thousands of people in your community. Contact [email protected] if your group is interested in this action and we’ll send resources and guidelines on how to proceed!
  3. AIUSA is joining The Butterfly Effect project to raise awareness about immigrant children held in detention in the US. This youth-led art project is working to create a visual representation of this pressing issue. At one point, there were reportedly up to 15,000 children detained across the United States. Learn more about the project and make butterflies in your group. Once made, put them on display in a public place, and engage your community in taking action to stop child detention in the US.
  4. With your Amnesty group, gather signatures on several key petitions targeting the US government actors with the authority to ensure people seeking safety, including children and families, are treated with dignity, fairness and respect:


Resources available

End Gun Violence


Gun violence in the U.S. is a human rights crisis. Over 108 people die every day from gun violence. In 2017, more than 39,000 people were killed with firearms. Simply put, insufficient laws and unfettered access to guns are jeopardizing our right to live and to feel safe. You have the right to go about your daily life in security, free from fear. You have the right to be free from discrimination, including enduring disproportionate rates of violence based on the color of your skin. And most fundamentally: You have the right to live. No one’s rights can be considered secure as long as our leaders fail to do anything about gun violence. 

Congress returns on September 9th, and in the wake of the horrific and highly-publicized mass shootings during August, we expect the gun violence prevention debate to be front and center. This presents us with unique opportunities to pass good bills through Congress, but we must be wary: legislators may try to add amendments to otherwise good bills that would stigmatize communities, and we refuse to support progress at the expense of anyone’s human rights.

What you can do
  • Priority: Help make universal background checks the law of the land. This is the first step in making sure that guns don’t fall into dangerous hands. It simply means that before the sale of any gun, the potential buyer is checked for violent criminal convictions, a history of domestic violence or other factors that might prohibit gun ownership. Universal background checks make a big difference: states with this policy in place have significantly less gun trafficking, 47% fewer women killed by an intimate partner in firearm-related violence and substantially fewer suicides using a gun. But while the House passed their universal background checks bill back in February, the Senate has failed to act for seven months. Here’s how you can help: 
  • Help make hatred and bigotry less deadly
    • Read about the intersection of hatred and gun violence
    • Host a campus conversation, including action opportunities from the resource above.
    • Make sure that your gun violence prevention advocacy is intersectional and advocates for solutions that respect the rights of all communities. We cannot accept progress at the expense of anyone’s human rights–this means that we must reject bills with amendments that stigmatize immigrant communities, persons with mental health conditions or any others. 

Banned Books 2019: Defend Free Speech

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Every year during the third week of September, the American Library Association celebrates free speech by honoring books and their authors who have been censored.  At the same time, Amnesty International activists draw attention to people around the world who have been imprisoned, threatened, or murdered because of what they published or because of their work in the publishing or media industries. Banned Books 2019 will spotlight 11 cases of individuals who are journalists, publishers, a social media commentator, an environmental reporter and a filmmaker, from countries spanning the globe.

What you can do

Learn about these individuals, share their stories and take direct action. This is also a great opportunity to partner with your local library, bookshop, book club and more!

If you would like to request printed bookmarks to distribute, contact [email protected].

Banned Books Week Cases – 2019

Akram Aylisli – Azerbaijan – Novelist – Persecuted because of Book – Facing 3 Years in Prison – Books Burned

The 81-year-old writer had previously been awarded the official title of People’s Writer, as well as two of the highest state awards in Azerbaijan. After the 2013 publication of Stone Dreams, Aylisli was stripped of his titles and medals and the President signed a decree stripping him of his presidential pension; his books were also burnt, and a politician from a pro-government party reportedly offered a US $13K reward to anyone who cut off one of his ears.

Wei Zhili – China – Reporter working on Labor & Migrant Worker Rights –Detained since March 2017

Wei Zhili is the editor of “New Generation” (xinshengdai), a website which monitors and reports on labor conditions and internal migrant workers in China. In March he was arrested amid a crackdown on student activists, labor activists, factory workers and others supporting a growing labor rights movement. His wife has been harassed & her web accounts suspended.

Hankezi Zikeli, aunt of US-Based Uyghur Journalist Gulchehra Hoja – China – At Risk of Torture

Hankezi Zikeli is the aunt of Gulchehra Hoja, one of the most well-known Uyghur journalists. Since moving to the USA about 18 years ago, Gulchehra Hoja has worked at the Washington-based Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service. At least twenty-five of her relatives have been detained at some time, and the family has received reports that Hankezi Zikeli has suffered a nervous breakdown while in detention. Gulchera Hoja has been unable to get updates regarding her brother and other relatives. The family belongs to the Uyghur ethnic minority group that has long suffered violations of their rights to freedom of religion and association and other human rights; over the past year or more, authorities have engaged in an unprecedented crackdown targeting them.

Sanaz Alahyari and Amirhossein Mohammadifar – Iran – Journalists Detained – Facing Charges
Iranian journalists Sanaz Alahyari and Amirhossein Mohammadifar are staff members of Gam, an online magazine that reports on social justice issues, including labor rights. These Prisoners of Conscience have been detained since January 2019, along with journalist Amir Amirgholi, solely in connection with their reporting on the protests of workers at Haft Tappeh sugar cane company in Khuzestan province over grievances concerning unpaid wages.

Mustafa al-Kharouf – Israel/Occupied Territories – Photojournalist – Stateless – Arbitrarily Detained – Facing Deportation
32 year old photojournalist has been detained since January 2019; he is facing deportation from East Jerusalem and subsequent family separation despite 20 year residency. As photo-journalist for Anadolu Agency, he has been reporting on human rights violations commit-ted by Israeli forces. Amnesty International fears that al-Kharouf’s arbitrary detention and the decision to deport him are intended to stop his journalistic work.

Journalists – Mexico – 10 Murdered in 2019 – Several in direct relation to their work
Francisco Romero Díaz, Norma Sarabia Garduza, and Rafael Murúa Manríquez Death is an occupational hazard for journalists in Mexico, where more than 150 have been killed or disappeared since 2000. In 2019 the killing of journalists continues unabated.

Maria Ressa – Philippines – Executive Editor of Online News Agency – Repeatedly Detained & Facing Years in Prison
Ressa currently faces 8 court cases, while the directors and staff of Rappler, the online news agency she leads, face 11 charges. These prosecutions are part of a campaign to silence critics of the government. Since President Rodrigo Duterte was elected, media outlet Rappler has consistently drawn attention to the deadly reality of the ‘war on drugs,’ and the thousands of unlawful killings of poor and marginalized people perpetrated in its name. Its persistence in documenting these abuses has attracted the wrath of the Philippine authorities.


Oleg Sentsov – Russia – Filmmaker & Essayist – Sentenced to 20 Years
Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian film director sentenced 20 years imprisonment in 2015 for allegedly setting up a branch of a ‘terrorist group’. Sentsov faced trial in Russia, despite being arrested in Crimea and being a Ukrainian citizen. As a filmmaker, he is best known for his film Gamer as well as his short films. Sentsov won the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.

Loujain Al-Hathloul – Saudi Arabia – Social Media Commentator –Detained Since May 2018
In May 2018, activist and social media commentator Loujain Al-Hathloul was arrested in light of her advocacy for women’s rights. Loujain spent the first 3 months of her arbitrary detention incomunicado and was subject to torture, sexual abuse, and other forms of illtreatment. She remains in prison pending the next court session.



Ahmet Altan – Novelist & Journalist – Detained since 2016 & Facing up to 15 Years – Turkey
Ahmet Altan is a prominent novelist, essayist, and journalist. On September 10, 2016, Altan was arrested as part of a wave of arrests of thinkers and writers. He has been accused of giving subliminal messages to rally coup supporters on a TV broadcast before the 2016 coup attempt. (Pen America) (Radio Free Asia)

Nguyen Van Hoa – Vietnam – Environmental Reporter / Catholic Advocate – Sentenced to 7 years – Tortured
24 year old reporter for Radio Free Asia sentenced to 7 years in prison in November 2017 in light of his reporting Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation marine environmental disaster. Urgent Action May 2019 | Committee to Protect Journalists | NYTimes (2017)

Download the PDF for librarians and booksellers

Download the PDF for Bookmarks

Download the PDF for the Core PacketDownload the PDF for ALL the petitions

Climate Justice: Join the Global Climate Strike on September 20

While many people largely understand climate change through the impacts it will have on our natural world, it is the devastation that it is causing and will continue to cause for humanity that makes it an urgent human rights issue. The climate crisis will compound and magnify existing inequalities. And its effects will continue to grow and worsen over time, creating ruin for current and future generations. The failure of governments to act on climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence may well be the biggest inter-generational human rights violation in history.

What You Can Do

Amnesty International worldwide has signed on in support of the youth-led Global Climate Strike starting on September 20th, three days before the UN Climate Summit in New York City. Millions of people will walk out of our classrooms, workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels. Our house is on fire — and we must act like it. Millions of us will take the streets to demand a right to a future, and we’re inviting you to #strikewithus. Find a strike near you to attend on September 20 at the Fridays for Future website or the Global Climate Strike website. If you don’t see an event in your area, organize one! Be sure to post photos and videos of your strike on Instagram and Twitter, using #fridaysforfuture and #strikewithus, and tagging @amnestyusa.


Act to End China’s Mass Detentions in Xinjiang

Over the last year and a half, disturbing reports have emerged of intrusive surveillance, arbitrary detention, and forced indoctrination targeting Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang). It is estimated that over a million people have been swept up in these detentions. In a recent report, Amnesty International documented the testimonies of more than 100 individuals, including former detainees, about the situation in Xinjiang. Chinese authorities have denied these allegations and call the detention centers “vocational training centers,” but the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Co-Rapporteur has called XInjiang a “no rights zone”. It is time for the Chinese government to open up to independent investigation and reveal full details of the measures being taken in Xinjiang.

What you can do
  1. With your group, gather online petition signatures asking Congressional representatives to support two key pieces of legislation that address the human rights violations being perpetrated by Chinese authorities in the XUAR: the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 (S. 178) and the UIGHUR Act of 2018 (H.R. 1025).
  2. Join the Urgent Action on behalf of Buzainafu Abudourexiti, a Uyghur woman who returned to China from Egypt where she had been studying for two years and who was then taken from her parents’ home in Urumqi. She was sentenced in a secret trial to seven years in prison, but there is still no information about the charges against her, and this appears to part of a wider crackdown on Uyghur students who have studied abroad. She is being held incommunicado in Urumqi Women’s Prison and is at grave risk of torture. 

Congressional statement on Xuar Hearing, House Foreigh Affairs Subcommittee

Oral statement on situations requiring the attention of the UN Human Rights Council

Up to one million detained in China’s mass “re-education” drive

Abolish the Death Penalty: Stop Federal Executions

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances without exception regardless of who is accused, the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution. Half the countries around the world no longer have a death penalty, and in the US 21 states have abolished this cruel punishment; four more whose governors have placed a moratourium on executions. All people have the right to live, and we all have the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment.

On July 25, the US Department of Justice announced its plans to resume executions of people on federal death row, beginning with five people scheduled to be executed between December 9, 2019 through January 15, 2020. The death penalty is irrovocably broken in the US. The death penalty is applied disproportionately against people living in poverty and people of racial minorities. In addition, 166 have been exonerated from death row in the US since 1973. The only way to eliminate executing a person that is innocent is to eliminate the death penalty altogether. We must speak up against these killings and make our voices heard.

What you can do

Now is the time to grow support for abolishing the death penalty and let voicese of opposition to the death penalty be heard in our local communities. The federal death penalty can be applied to cases in any states, even in those states without a death penalty or a moratrium on executions. In the face of the resumption of federal executions, put your thoughts on paper and write a Letter to the Editor (LTE) about why you oppose the death penalty as not just broken, but iraparble. Ahead of the December 9th scheduled execution, share why you believe the United States should abolish the death penalty and not carry out these killings in your name. Check out our resources below for, tips for writing an LTE, more fact and stories on the death penalty on our website, and be in touch with staff if you have questions. Share your published LTE on social media and include #EndTheDeathPnealty and tag @amnestyusa.


Tips for Writing Op-eds and Letters to the Editor

Visit Amnesty’s website to learn more about the death penalty

Have more questions? Reach out to [email protected] to get them answered!

The Urgent Action Network and Case Commitment Initiative

Join the Urgent Action Network and take action to support individuals at risk, including political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and human rights defenders. Are you an educator? Learn how to engage your students in human rights by using our Educator’s Guide


Human rights are under threat: