What is Write for Rights?

Every year around International Human Rights Day on December 10, hundreds of thousands of people around the world send a letter or e-mail on behalf of someone they've never met, as part of Write for Rights. Our messages help convince government officials to release people imprisoned for expressing their opinion (called "prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty), stop the use of torture, commute death sentences, and end other human rights abuses.

Letter writing has always been at the heart of Amnesty International's human rights campaigning and 54 years of human rights activism shows us that words really do have the power to change lives. But volume matters: the more participants in Write for Rights, the more letters and e-mail messages we generate, increasing our influence on government officials.

Last year, hundreds of thousands of people around the world helped send over 3 million messages, and we helped change lives as a result. Moses Akatugba was released from death row in Nigeria. The City of Chicago passed a law ensuring justice for survivors of torture by police. Carmen was released from prison, after being jailed under El Salvador's ban on abortion. Prisoner of conscience Murad Shtewi was released by Israel. And prisoner of conscience Liu Ping, in China, was able to have a visit from her daughter.

This year, with your help, we want surpass 4 million actions and make a difference in the lives of all ten cases. If you're with us, please sign up now!

Here's How Write for Rights Works

  • Amnesty looks at our global portfolio of cases, including Prisoners of Conscience, human rights defenders, torture survivors and communities at risk to decide who will be featured in each year's Write for Rights.
  • We identify 12 cases where global activism can have a huge impact.
  • People like you sign up to organize letter writing events, join events, or write on their own in order to generate as many letters on those 12 cases as possible. Letter writing can happen between the official Write for Rights dates of December 4th to 18th, or anytime between October 1st (when the cases are made public) and December 31st.
  • Letters, emails, faxes, and Tweets start arriving at government offices, in prison cells and to families all over the world.
  • Change happens. Hope Grows. As messages flood mailboxes, prisoners get better conditions or are released. Human rights defenders are better protected. Torture survivors finally get the reparations that they need to heal. People know that others, worldwide, are taking their injustice personally.
  • Participants like you let us know how many letters and other messages you sent on each case, and we share the good news that came about thanks to your activism. Please report your letters by January 15th, using this form!

History

Write for Rights - also known as the Writeathon - is the world's largest human rights event, but it has humble origins. Twelve years ago, a young man named Witek met a young woman named Joanna at a festival in Warsaw, Poland. Joanna had just returned from traveling through Africa, where she'd seen activists organizing 24-hour events to write protest letters to governments.

Witek invited Joanna to join a meeting of his local Amnesty group. Together, they decided to write Urgent Action appeals for 24 hours, beginning at noon on Saturday. When they emailed their idea to all the other Polish groups, it turned into something much bigger, bringing together activists across the country. Then, their idea went viral.

Witek and Joanna emailed Amnesty offices across the world, and people started sending back pictures of themselves writing letters - by Niagara Falls, in Japan, in Mongolia. It was a spontaneous, grassroots initiative that grew and grew.

Every December since, Write for Rights has inspired thousands of people to write letters to distant governments. Some still do it Polish-style, over a hectic, sleepless 24 hours. No matter where Write for Rights is taking place, it is driven and sustained by Amnesty's grassroots human rights activists.

Over 50 years after the first call to action that inspired our movement, a hand-written letter is still one of the most powerful tools we have as activists. When thousands of people write the same letter, our voices united cannot be ignored, and we help change lives for the better--those of our cases, and our own.

Rivertown Kids Write for Rights, NY

Success Stories

"Thank you to Amnesty International's supporters! Your campaign has been successful, as my release shows. But my case is not over yet. Please keep supporting me, my community and others in Cambodia. We can achieve the most success when we all work together."

- Yorm Bopha, 2013 Write for Rights Case

Yorm Bopha is a Cambodian housing rights activist, previously imprisoned for defending her community's rights at the former Boeung Kak Lake in the capital Phnom Penh, where thousands of people had been forcibly evicted since 2007.

"Thank you for your hard work and your campaigns to secure my release from prison...Your letters, phone calls, and petitions were my protection during the months I spent in solitary confinement. You were my voice when I had none."

- Birtukan Mideska, 2009 Write for Rights Case

A prisoner of conscience sentenced to life in prison, Birtukan Mideksa was held for nearly two years in Ethiopia solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and association. Her case was featured in Write for Rights 2009, during which thousands of people from around the world petitioned for her release by sending letters to the Government of Ethiopia. Birtukan was released in October 2010.

"I am overwhelmed. I thank Amnesty International and their activist for the great support that made me a conqueror in this situation. Amnesty International members and activist are my Heroes"

- Moses Akatugba, 2014 Write for Rights Case

Moses Akatugba was sixteen years old when he was arrested under suspicion of armed robbery in 2005. Moses spent more than three months in police detention, where he says that police officers repeatedly beat him with machetes and batons. He told Amnesty that they tied and hung him up for several hours, and then used pliers to pull out his toe and fingernails. Finally, Moses was forced to sign two pre-written confessions, and was sentenced to death in 2013. During Write for Rights 2014, activists took more than 800,000 actions on Moses' behalf, and now he will walk free!

"I am alive today, after 33 arrests, because members of Amnesty International spoke out for me. Amnesty International is our big sister. When I’m in prison, if I know that someone, my big sister, is shouting for me, telling people about me, then I feel less distressed, less frightened and less alone."

- Jenni Williams, 2011 Write for Rights Case

Jenni Williams is the leader of WOZA, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, and was featured in Write for Rights 2011. She has endured dozens of arrests and beatings for leading peaceful protests demanding social and political reforms in Zimbabwe. WOZA has inspired tens of thousands of women and men to stand up for their rights to free speech and assembly and the fulfillment of basic needs such as food and education.

"The support I received was so great that I did not feel like I was imprisoned. I did not feel alone, I knew that people believed in me."

- Femi Peters, 2010 Write for Rights Case

Gambian opposition leader Femi Peters was released from prison on December 10, 2010, after serving most of his 12-month sentence for charges relating to a peaceful demonstration organized by his party. While in prison, Femi received copies of hundreds of letters Amnesty International members had written to Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, calling for his release. His son recorded the following thank-you message to supporters.