Activism Guide – Spring 2020

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 year, 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
  • January 11: Anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center
  • January 31: Deadline to report your Write for Rights letters!
  • March 6-8: AIUSA Annual General Meeting (AGM) – National Human Rights Conference!
  • March 8: International Women’s Day
  • April 4-12: National Week of Student Action
  • May 1: May Day celebration for workers and immigrant rights
  • June: LGBTQ Pride Month
  • June 2: National Gun Violence Awareness Day (Wear Orange Day)
  • June 20: World Refugee Day



The charged atmosphere of a presidential election brings with it unique challenges and opportunities for human rights organizations like Amnesty International. The office of the President of the United States has the capacity for enormous human rights impact, both positive and negative. Amnesty International does not take a position on which candidate should be the next President, but we do believe that the next U.S. President must protect and advance human rights here at home and around the world.

Amnesty International believes that human rights are not a “Democratic thing” or a “Republican thing.” They are universal and binding obligations that we expect any administration to prioritize in its foreign and domestic policy. Over the next 16 months, Amnesty activists can raise the profile of human rights in public discourse, while keeping out of the partisan politics of election campaigns.

The 2020 Elections Toolkit will provide:

  • Clear guidelines on what Amnesty representatives (including AIUSA local and student groups) can and cannot do in relation to the 2020 elections.
  • Resource materials
  • Action ideas for raising human rights during this election season

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. 

#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


Eighteen years after it was created to detain suspected “terrorists” beyond the reach of the law, the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center remains open and continues to imprison 40 Muslim men indefinitely, without charge or fair trial. One of those men is Toffiq al-Bihani, a 47-year old Yemeni man who has been in U.S. custody since 2002 and never even been charged with a crime. He was tortured by the CIA in Afghanistan and transferred to Guantanamo in 2003, where he has remained ever since. Although he was cleared by the Obama administration to leave the prison in 2010, Toffiq remains imprisoned there still. For the 18th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, we are asking members to take online action to Close Guantanamo and transfer Toffiq al-Bihani immediately.

Since President Trump took office, there’s been a dramatic increase in civilian killings from U.S. drone and other air strikes. Although the U.S. claims to investigate civilian deaths and injuries, the government has refused to acknowledge thousands of civilian deaths and injuries from U.S.-led air strikes that Amnesty International has documented. It has likewise refused to assist the survivors. Tell the U.S. government to conduct meaningful investigations of all claims of civilian casualties from U.S. lethal operations, and to provide compensation.

  • With your Amnesty group, raise awareness about Toffiq al-Bihani’s case and U.S. drone strikes. Generate online actions for both cases and gather as many signatures as possible!

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


Because you ❤️ human rights