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!
Every day, all over the world, people are forced to make the most difficult decision of their lives — they 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.
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 devastating — children 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 for — a pillar of welcome and freedom — and what’s actually happening — the cruel treatment of people, families, and kids because of where they were born.
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.
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.
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].
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 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 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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visit Amnesty’s website to learn more about the death penalty
Have more questions? Reach out to [email protected] to get them answered!
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.