What is Write for Rights?
Every year to mark Human Rights Day on December 10, 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 55+ years of human rights activism shows us that it still works. Check out our Successes Page for proof! 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.
This year, with your help, we want to surpass 4 million actions and make a difference in the lives of all 10 cases.
- Q: Should I type my letters on a computer or write them by hand?
- A: It is most effective to write your letters by hand, because that demonstrates a deeper level of concern for the case. We have heard this from former prisoners and former government officials. However, if you are pressed for time, it is better to type than to not write at all–just be sure to report any letters you write!
- Q: How do I know what to write?
- A: You may download all 10 case sheets and 10 sample letters on our Resources page.
- Q: Should I copy the sample letter exactly as it is written?
- A: If you have time it is most effective to write your own letter using the sample letter as a guide, and to add a line or two about why you personally care about the case. But if you are short on time, you may copy the sample letter.
- Q: Why should I report my letters?
- A: It is critical to report the letters that you, your students, or guests at your event write by January 15. Not only do we use that information in our follow-up advocacy with government officials to help resolve each case, but we also share the total number of letters written with each case or their families to provide hope and let them know that the global community cares. Make sure your letters count!
Here’s How Write for Rights 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. Participants write their letters between October and December 31st. They report their letters by January 15.
- 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 by January 15th. 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 Writeathon – is the world’s largest human rights event, but it has humble origins. Fifteen 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 55+ 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.