write a letter of support to omar khadr

Amnesty International has an an ongoing project called Write For Rights.

There's a list of actions that you can write a letter to support. They gave you background on the case, and recommendations on the content and format of the letter. Some cases have more than one suggested letter-writing action, such as sending a message of support directly to the person who's the subject of the action. There are actions in English, French, Spanish and Arabic, and they involve people struggling for basic freedoms all over the world.

On December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human-rights supporters - people like you and me - held "Writeathons" at their homes, organizations and places of worship. They gathered to celebrate human rights and write letters to governments in support of specific people's cases.

To date, more than 22,500 letters were sent from all over the world. There is ample evidence that letter writing works. And you know what? We don't have to judge our actions' effectiveness before we take action. It costs us so very little. It's worth it just to try.

I love the Writeathon idea. It breaks down something that often feels overwhelming and insurmountable - global human rights abuses - into a series of small, personal, do-able actions. Obviously, I missed the December 10 event, but we can all still write a letter, or more than one letter. An FAQ on the Writeathon is here.

Here's a suggestion for a letter, which I've lifted from the Facebook group Send 1000 Letters of Support To Omar Khadr.

I'm going to write a letter of support to Omar Khadr. I hope you will, too.

* * * *

"Nobody cares about me."
"I want to go back to Canada."
- Omar Khadr during his 2003 interrogation at Guantánamo


Tell Omar Khadr that we DO care and that he hasn't been forgotten (even in the midst of the "political crisis").

• Sign a card with a friendly greeting.

• Write a short message of solidarity.

• Create a colourful drawing.



Omar Khadr was 15 years old (a child under international law) and a Canadian citizen when U.S. forces in Afghanistan took him into custody in 2002.

He was transferred to the U.S. Guantánamo prison several months later as a "war on terror" detainee. Seriously wounded when first detained, his interrogation began immediately and continued for three years without access to a lawyer.

He has been reportedly tortured and now faces a grossly unfair trial before a military commission. Other governments have protected and brought home their citizens held at Guantánamo. Not Canada.


Letters of Hope for Omar Khadr
c/o Amnesty International Canada
312 Laurier Avenue East
Ottawa ON K1R 6Y7


"We are thinking of you and sending all good wishes from the Canada."


Omar is now held in the communal conditions of Camp 4 where it is easier to receive books and other things from his lawyers and Canadian officials. It would be especially meaningful if you could personalise your message by perhaps referring to Omar's interests especially if there are things that you share in common with Omar. For example, Omar is a keen reader so you could write "I hear you've read Harry Potter, I'm a big fan, too", or "I read To Kill a Mockingbird in school".

Omar's reading list includes The Life of Pi, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Swiss Family Robinson, Tin-Tin Comics, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter: The Deathly Hollows ("the best book he had ever read"), The Da Vinci Code, Canadian Geographic, National Geographic, various car magazines, Grade 7/8 math, science, and English textbooks, and books on origami and yoga.

His other pastimes include soccer, volleyball, basketball (a favourite), and ping pong; observing the birds and iguanas that come into the camp; chess, dominoes, writing letters. A more complete list of Omar's interests can be found on the Amnesty website: here.

• LANGUAGE: English or your own language

• SALUTATION: Dear Omar,


For the safety of the recipient, please do not include political comments in your message. Also avoid referring to religion, for example, write 'you are in our thoughts' rather than 'you are in our prayers'. You may use Amnesty International cards for this action, and mention Amnesty International. You may put your name and address on the card.

As a part of its annual write-a-thon Amnesty International will bundle together all the messages of hope and support and expedite them directly to Guantanamo, and into Omar's hands.


• Register your letter with Amnesty International here.

• Wanna know more about this whole write-a-thon thing? About the writeathon.

• Ever considered joining Amnesty International? Become a member.


allan said...

From Saturday's Globe & Mail:

Khadr under rubble during attack, lawyer says

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA -- Omar Khadr could not have possibly thrown the grenade that killed a U.S. soldier during a 2002 firefight because he was buried under the rubble of a collapsed roof, his lawyer argued in court yesterday, pointing to photos from the firefight that show Mr. Khadr under so much debris that a U.S. soldier inadvertently stepped on him.

But Colonel Patrick Parrish, the judge in Mr. Khadr's Guantanamo Bay military commissions hearing, banned Lieutenant-Commander Bill Kuebler from showing the photos in court, meaning the public did not get to see them.

"I don't want things shown that may not be admitted [as evidence]," Col. Parrish told a clearly exasperated Cdr. Kuebler, who tried for several minutes to change the judge's mind.

Asked afterward why the judge didn't allow him to show the photos, Cdr. Kuebler told reporters: "Because they show he's innocent."

Robyn said...

I'm a member of Amnesty International, but I haven't yet participated in a writeathon. My sister has, however, and we were just talking about this on Friday morning. In the past she would get groups of friends together to make holiday cards for prisoners of conscience.

Ex: http://www.amnestyusa.org/individuals-at-risk/holiday-card-action/page.do?id=1361002

deang said...

I first found out about Amnesty International 25 years ago in college, and every meeting was essentially a writeathon: "This evening, let's get as many letters written as we can about this issue." We would write and write and write, dozens and dozens of letters produced each time, and you inevitably learn what's going on in the world as you help out.

Great idea, Laura.

accidental altruist said...

wow! I just saw this post. I've come to your blog from time to time (I love your blog title btw). I'm the person running the facebook group and now the facebook page for Justice for Omar Khadr. Thanks for posting this! Just so ya know, you can keep writing letters to Omar. His trial is currently scheduled for January 26th. Omar intends to respond to as many letters as he can.

laura k said...

Thank you, AA! I'm glad you saw the post. I was grateful to have the opportunity to write to Omar.