BERNARDO CAAL XOL / GUATEMALA
JAILED FOR DEFENDING A SACRED RIVER
Bernardo Caal Xol has done everything he can to peacefully protect his people’s land and natural resources from plunder and biodiversity loss. When the river they rely on for survival was threatened by the construction of two hydroelectric power plants, Bernardo and his people protested. He was publicly smeared with repeated and baseless accusations. In 2018, a judge sentenced Bernardo to more than seven years in prison, convicting him without any evidence.
TELL GUATEMALA TO FREE BERNARDO TODAY
JANNA JIHAD / OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES
HARASSED FOR EXPOSING ISRAELI VIOLENCE
Janna Jihad just wants a normal childhood for herself and all other Palestinian children. But the 15-year-old Palestinian teen lives in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – and life under systematic discrimination is anything but normal. Having begun documenting military violations at the age of seven, Janna’s principled journalism has attracted unwanted attention. She’s been harassed and threatened with death, but she won’t give up – not until institutional racism against Palestinians ends.
TELL ISRAEL TO PROTECT JANNA FROM DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE
CIHAM ALI / ERITREA
TAKEN AT 15 AND NEVER SEEN AGAIN
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Eritrea, Ciham Ali wanted to be a fashion designer. But at 15, her ambitions were cut short when she was arrested trying to flee Eritrea – and never seen again. The authorities appear to have taken her in retaliation against her father’s suspected involvement in a coup attempt on the government. Nine years on and no one knows where Ciham is being held. Meanwhile, the US government has been silent on their citizen’s plight.
TELL THE USA TO SPEAK OUT FOR CIHAM
RUNG PANUSAYA / THAILAND
FACING A LIFE SENTENCE FOR PEACEFUL PROTESTS
Once a shy, quiet teenager, Panusaya – known as “Rung”, meaning “rainbow” – has become a leading voice in Thailand’s democracy movement. The university student, a vocal proponent for equality and the right to freedom of expression, opposes the use of the lèse-majesté law to silence government critics. In March 2021, the authorities jailed her for 60 days under this law. She went on hunger strike for 38 days and was released. Today, she faces dozens of charges against her and life imprisonment.
TELL THAILAND TO DROP ALL CHARGES AGAINST RUNG
MOHAMED BAKER / EGYPT
LOCKED AWAY FOR DEFENDING FREEDOM
Human rights lawyer Mohamed Baker must do without his wife, cats, and everyone else he loves. Falsely accused of terrorism, he’s in prison for defending the rights of some of the most marginalized people in Egypt. The prison authorities have treated him especially cruelly, refusing him a bed, mattress, outdoor exercise, even family photos. Defending people’s freedoms should not cost him his own.
TELL EGYPT TO RELEASE BAKER IMMEDIATELY
SPHERE / UKRAINE
ATTACKED FOR DEFENDING
& WOMEN’S RIGHTS
Sphere NGO have been championing LGBTI and women’s rights since 2006, and are among the oldest organizations of their kind in the country. Founded by activists Anna Sharyhina and Vira Chernygina, they provide a safe space for women and LGBTI people in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. In recent years, however, they have suffered dozens of attacks by violent anti-LGBTI groups. Anna and Vira report these incidents, but the police have failed to hold anyone accountable.
TELL UKRAINE TO BRING SPHERE’S ATTACKERS TO JUSTICE
IMOLEAYO MICHAEL / NIGERIA
FACING TRUMPED-UP CHARGES FOR PROTESTING POLICE VIOLENCE
When young people took to Nigeria’s streets in October 2020, Imoleayo Michael joined them. They were protesting against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad – or SARS – a police unit notorious for violence. The young computer programmer promoted the protests on social media, using the hashtag #EndSARS. Two weeks later, armed men took him from his home and locked him in an underground cell for 41 days. He’s facing trumped-up charges and years in prison.
TELL NIGERIA TO DROP ALL CHARGES AGAINST IMOLEAYO
MIKITA ZALATAROU / BELARUS
ELECTROCUTED, AND JAILED
Mikita Zalatarou was waiting for a friend when he was swept up in a crowd of protesters and straight into a nightmare. Within 24 hours, officers arrested the 16-year-old at his home, accusing him of throwing a Molotov cocktail at riot police. They locked him up and allegedly tortured him. Despite a lack of evidence, Mikita – who also has epilepsy – was convicted and jailed for five years.
TELL BELARUS TO RELEASE MIKITA AND GIVE HIM A FAIR TRIAL
WENDY GALARZA / MEXICO
SHOT WHILE PROTESTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
For Wendy Galarza, helping to raise young children is the best way to create a fairer world. It’s a goal she works hard for in Mexico, where women are often abused and killed for being women. In November 2020, she joined a march protesting the murder of a woman known as Alexis. During it, police fired shots and Wendy was wounded. She launched a case against the police, but those responsible for the violence have not been brought to justice.
DEMAND JUSTICE FOR WENDY FROM MEXICO’S AUTHORITIES
what is write for rights?
Every year to mark Human Rights Day on December 10th, hundreds of thousands of people around the world send a letter and sign an online petition 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), support human rights defenders, stop 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 60+ years of human rights activism shows us that it still works. Check out our Successes Page for proof! Volume matters: the more participants in Write for Rights, the more letters and e-mail messages we generate, increasing our influence on government officials.
How it works
• Amnesty identifies cases—including Prisoners of Conscience, human rights defenders, torture survivors, and communities at risk—where global activism can make 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 cases as possible
• Letters and online petitions arrive at government offices, and are sent to prison cells and to families all over the world
• Change happens. Hope grows. As messages flood mailboxes, prisoners’ conditions improve or they are released. Human rights defenders are better protected. Torture stops. Executions are halted.Participants like you let us know how many letters they sent on each case. We use that information in our advocacy, and share it with the cases themselves—and with you.
History of Write For Rights
Write for Rights – also known as the Write-a-thon – may be the world’s largest human rights event, but it has humble origins. Over twenty 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 60+ 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.