write for rights 2023: my fifteenth year #w4r2023

2023 marks the fifteenth year that I have participated in Amnesty Interntional's Write for Rights.

Fifteen years ago, I chose one case, one person. I wrote to officials about them, and wrote to them as well. 

I upped the ante a bit more every year, until the year (date unknown!) when I challenged myself to write a letter for every featured case. Since then I've written at least one letter for each of the 10 featured cases, and at least one letter of support.

In 2014 I also joined Amnesty's Urgent Action Network. Urgent Action sends you cases on an occasional basis; you write to officials on their behalf if you can. I respond to about half the emails I receive, depending on what's going on in my life. 

There is one more piece I want to add: I want to organize a virtual letter-writing group event. This is an obvious step for me, but so far I haven't been able to get it off the ground. But I haven't let go of the idea. Eventually I'll figure it out.

I'm not sharing this to win praise or admiration. I'm sharing it to encourage you to write with me.

It's very easy

My annual W4R letter-writing takes about an hour -- and that's because I choose to write for every case, 10 global cases plus one from Canada. You could easily do the whole thing in 15 or 30 minutes.

The only cost involved is international stamps, as I like to send paper mail when possible. I consider this part of my end-of-year charitable donations (albeit not the tax-deductible kind). If postage money is a barrier, you can easily choose only cases that can be contacted by email.

Amnesty offers tons of support. There are sample letters, toolkits, case cards. If you're intimidated by doing this on your own, there are groups you can join to help motivate you. There are also resources for educators and organizers. 

This year there was even an option to receive a paper kit by postal mail. That's a lot of paper, so I didn't order a kit, but if it would help motivate you, sign up for Write For Rights and Amnesty will send you one.

It works

Amnesty has developed Write For Rights because it works: go here and scroll to "success stories".

Last year, people in more than 200 countries took over 4.6 million actions -- letters, emails, tweets, petitions. They helped individuals in dire circumstances, while exposing conditions and highlighting urgent issues.

Write For Rights saves lives. It gives comfort and support to people who are suffering for their activism. It shows families of these heroes that they are not alone. 

W4R 2023: this year's global cases

This year's global cases focus on these individuals, countries, and human rights.

➤ Maung Sawyeddollah, in Myanmar, is exposing Facebook's role in the murderous campaign against people from the Rohingya ethnic group. 

➤ In Australia, two Indigenous people known as Uncle Pabai and Uncle Paul are fighting to save their ancestral lands from the ravages of climate change. To save a culture that has been passed down through generations for thousands of years, they have gone to court to demand Australia take immediate and meaningful action against climate change.

➤ Thapelo Mohapi, in South Africa, is in hiding and fears for his life. Thapelo is a leader of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a grassroots movement working to improve the lives of people in South Africa. Members of the group are being targetted and murdered.

➤ In Tunisia, Chaima Issa speaks out against an autocratic government. She has been arrested, detained, and banned from meeting with others or speaking in public. She remains defiant, despite facing decades in prison.

➤ Rocky Myers is an intellectually disabled Black man in the US state of Alabama. He is on death row for murder, despite there being no evidence linking him to the crime. His trial was a riddled with issues, including a witness who has since admitted that they lied. After nearly 30 years on death row, Rocky could be executed at any time. 

➤ Justyna WydrzyƄska, in Poland, has been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for helping women access safe abortions.  

➤ In the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Mansoor is being held in an isolation cell. Ahmed's "crime" is speaking the truth about the UAE, providing the world with a very rare glimpse of the rampant human rights violations in that country -- including fake trials, and the detention and torture of dissenting voices. For more than a year, no one knew where Ahmed was being held. Now he faces a decade in prison.

➤ Thulani Maseko, in the southern African nation of Eswatini, endured more than a year in prison, until he was executed in his own home. Thulani's "crime" was defending human rights in a country ruled by an absolute monarchy.

In Brazil, the son of Ana Maria Santos Cruz organized "Walks of Peace", where people would speak out against police abuses. He was repeatedly threatened, and then murdered. Ana continues to fight for justice for her son.

➤ In Kyrgyzstan, Rita Karasartova leads the Institute for Public Analysis and is a member of a democracy movement. For her peaceful work against poverty and injustice, Rita was arrested, detained, and denied access to healthcare. She is now under house arrest, charged with attempting to "violently overthrow the government".

Human rights abuses in our own backyard

In the list of annual cases, Amnesty reserves one spot for the letter-writer's country. I love this idea. It reminds us that urgent human rights issues don't happen only in faraway lands. The cases in Canada usually involve Indigenous peoples, and are often taking place in my own province -- still known as "British Columbia".

➤ The Wet'suwet'en First Nation is under threat from a huge pipeline being constructed through their traditional and unceded territory. Wet'suwet'en land defenders have been harassed, intimidated, forcibly removed, and criminalized by the RCMP, Canada's national police force. They need our support.

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