Top Ten Reasons to Write for Rights

October 28, 2011

Fall is my favorite time of year: the air is cooler, the leaves are pretty, Amnesty International student groups are back together again, and people start signing up for the Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon.

In this—the world’s largest human rights event—we use letters, cards and more to demand the human rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. We show solidarity with those suffering abuses and work to improve people’s lives.

Those are some pretty amazing reasons to participate, but in case you need more, here are my top ten reasons to Write for Rights:

TEN years: the number of years Mahdi Abu Dheeb, the former president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) was sentenced to by a military court in Bahrain, after supporting a teachers’ strike amid widescale pro-reform protests in Bahrain.

NINE years: the amount of time Shaker Aamer has been detained without charge at Guantanamo Bay, and also the number of years Indigenous Mexican women Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú have awaited justice from the Mexican government for the heinous crimes perpetrated against them by Mexican soldiers.

EIGHT prisoners released following the 2010 and 2009 Global Write-a-Thons, from Ethiopia to Myanmar.

SEVEN days a week, 52 weeks a year, for more than 20 years: how long Shin Sook-ja and her daughters have been held in Yodok political prison camp in North Korea, where inmates—including children—are tortured and forced to work in dangerous conditions.

SIX months: the length of time the already-lengthy prison sentences of Behareh Hedayat and Majid Tavakkoli were extended after the two youth leaders issued a joint statement from prison, encouraging others to continue to push for change in Iran.

FIVE Tamil students, including Ragihar Manoharan, shot dead by Sri Lankan security forces on January 2006, whose families still await justice or at the very least recognition of this atrocity. Those who actively pursue justice in this case have been subjected to harassment, death threats and intimidation.

FOUR in ten urban households in Nigeria do not have secure housing tenure; over 200,000 people living in around 40 informal settlements in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods as part of the states’ urban renewal program for the city. Up to 17,000 people have already been forcibly evicted.

THREE years: the amount of time Jean-Claude Roger Mbede has been sentenced to jail in Cameroon on a conviction of “homosexuality”.

TWO countries—Somalia and the United States—are the only ones not to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the sentencing of juvenile offenders to life imprisonment without the possibility of release. At age 16, Christi Cheramie was sentenced to life in prison without parole and has spent more than half of her life in a Louisiana prison.

ONE person can make a difference for the human rights of all these individuals (and many more), just by taking part in Write for Rights.