Write for Rights: Prisoners freed following largest ever letter writing campaign

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world came together to call for justice in Amnesty International’s most successful ever letter-writing campaign, the organization said today. 

In December 2013, more than 2.3 million letters, emails, SMS messages, faxes and tweets were sent in the “Write for Rights” campaign, beating last year’s record of 1.9 million actions. 

Messages pressuring authorities led to the release of two prisoners of conscience: the Cambodian housing rights activist Yorm Bopha and the Russian peaceful protester Vladimir Akimenkov. 

“It shows that when ordinary people stand together and send a clear message demanding governments fulfil their duty to protect and uphold people’s human rights we can achieve fantastic results,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. 

“It was a truly global moment as hundreds of thousands of our members and supporters came together with one voice to take action against oppression and injustice.” 

The Write for Rights campaign focused on the cases of prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia, Myanmar, Russia, Bahrain and Tunisia; individuals victimised by the state in Cambodia, Mexico, Turkey and Belarus; and harassed communities in Nigeria, Palestine and Honduras. 

Throughout December members and supporters came up with a host of original and creative ideas to show their support for the campaign. 

Flash-mobs interrupted wintry streets in Canada, others collected signatures while running marathons in Guinea, and sang their hearts out at concerts in Portugal and Italy. Workshops and sit-ins were held in Morocco, with demonstrations in Nepal. 

Activities included creative light projections near the Eiffel Tower in Paris and in central Istanbul. In Iceland, more than 50,000 signatures were collected, twice the number achieved last year – meaning a third of the total population of Reykjavik took part in this global human rights event. 

Even in Democratic Republic of Congo, after decades of civil war, volunteers organised events to support those at risk in other countries. Barrister Grégoire Kauli Moket collected more than 1,800 letters  and  signatures after he organised Write for Rights debates at university faculties and high schools in Lubumbashi, Katanga. 

“It has been moving to see how this wave of solidarity has spread around the world. I’m extremely proud that the wave is getting bigger every year,” said Salil Shetty. 

The greatest testament to Write for Rights is the success it achieves and the hope it brings for those at the centre of the campaign. 

Speaking after her release on bail the Cambodian housing rights activist Yorm Bopha expressed her thanks. 

“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,” she said. 

Hakan Yaman, a Turkish driver who was beaten, his eye gouged out and left for dead by police in June 2013 spoke of his renewed hope after seeing his image projected onto the Çaðlayan courthouse and Galata Tower, in Istanbul. 

“Your tremendous support, all what you are doing for me, has lifted my morale. I thank you and all those who have been by my side over these difficult times very much. My hope is for justice to be done,” he said 

Belarusian Ihar Tsikhanyuk, a drag artist and LGBTI activist beaten by police for being gay, received thousands of letters of support. “When I’m left with no hope to fight, I’ll get a letter and the light of hope appears again,” he said. 

“Write for Rights is a key moment which goes to the heart of Amnesty International’s work: taking action on behalf of others, showing solidarity with those who courageously stand up against tyranny. A single letter to the authorities can be brushed aside, but thousands of letters all calling for human rights changes are difficult to ignore,” said Salil Shetty. 

“We know from decades of campaigning that writing letters does save and change lives. We proved it once more last December and hope it will go from strength to strength.”