2.5 million actions and counting: Looking back at Write for Rights 2015
THANK YOU to all Write for Rights participants for creating amazing momentum on December 10th, International Human Rights Day!
We could actually feel the wave of energy from east to west as thousands of Canadians gathered from coast to coast to write letters, tweet and even draw pictures for our annual global letter-writing marathon.
Supporters of all ages organized a record-breaking 1,700 public and private events in homes, schools, cafes, workplaces and more to send strong human rights messages to world leaders and to stand in solidarity with people facing human rights abuses.
The numbers are still coming in, but so far you're reporting an amazing 70,000 actions in Canada -- adding to a still-growing global total of 2.5 million actions!
Haven't reported back yet? You still can at writeathon.ca!
We're so inspired by your photos and stories from December, like St. John's-Ravenscourt School in Winnipeg, where students made short videos on articles from the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Ridley College in St Catharines (pictured left) who organized assembly speeches, an interactive art installation, a tea light vigil in the library and a student-made documentary. Another unique event was at Montreal's Dawson College, where striking teachers wrote letters on the picket line!
A few highlights from around the world:
- Amnesty International Netherlands pushed the boat out this year, literally! They launched their first ever "letter-writing marathon boat" that sailed through Amsterdam's canals for 24 hours.
- Amnesty International UK used stencil art on London’s streets to draw attention to Waleed Abu Al Khair's case. Activists also organized a kiss-in in front of the Greek embassy to show support for Costas and other survivors of homophobic violence.
- Amnesty International France staffed a letter-writing station inside the Louvre art museum.
- Amnesty International Taiwan created a video about taking Write for Rights into the schools in a big way, reaching 14,000 students!
We’ve received heart-warming thanks from several people we stood with on December 10th:
Malaysian cartoonist and activist, Zunar, who faces a long prison sentence for a tweet, shared his thanks the way he knows best -- with a cartoon! He also added a few words by video:
"I would like to say thank you to Amnesty International for highlighting my case. Thank you to the Amnesty activists, people from around the world, who took part in the Write for Rights campaigns. For taking part in the petitions, the letter-writings, and doing drawings to protest my case to the Malaysian government."
During a January 29th visit between Amnesty International delegates and torture survivor, Yecenia Armenta, in Mexico, the Amnesty representatives delivered hundreds of Write for Rights letters from around the world, adding to the hundreds she had already read one-by-one. She expressed her deep thanks in conversation with her visitors:
"When I receive all these letters saying that I’m not alone, it makes me feel great. And I think, yes, it’s true, I’m not alone. They really are supporting me. It makes me happy. It’s exciting to think that there are people who still care about the rights of other people…and they don’t even know me...I am immensely grateful and I think [the activists] are doing the nicest thing you can do, which is helping people who are facing such unjust situations. It fills me with pride and I truly feel that it’s a wonderful thing."
Costas from Greece, who survived a homophobic and racist attack on himself and his partner, shared his thanks days before the Greek Parliament's historic December 22 vote to extend civil unions to same-sex couples:
"All this mobilisation of the people from all over the world is very moving...This is what I think the letters from all over the world stand for: that all love is equal, and it must be seen as nothing else under any circumstances...Your letters remind us we are not alone in this. It is our right to hold our beloved one’s hand regardless of their gender, skin colour, religion. 'Freedom needs virtue, needs daring' like the poet Andreas Kalvos said. Thank you for being virtuous. Thank you for daring."
Student activist Phyoe Phyoe Aung's parents were able to speak to her at the court hearing on December 15 in Myanmar. She asked them to pass on the following message:
"Receiving letters gives me real inspiration for what we are doing. I have begun to notice that the world is watching and cheering us – we are not alone. I thank everyone very much for their support for me and our movement. Although we cannot see the results from the government yet, it can influence their mindset. People have sent inspiring letters, supportive letters, letters about lovely animals, letters about their beautiful countries, letters about their beautiful and cute pets, and some lovely poems. Your letters are not just letters, they are also big presents and great strength not only for the students but also for Burma’s future."
Albert Woodfox, who has spent 43 years in solitary confinement in a US prison shared his gratitude to you:
“As a result of this campaign, I have received thousands of letters from around the world pledging solidarity and support. These messages from beyond the prison walls have become an enormous source of strength for me as I continue my fight for freedom.”
Participants also sent solidarity letters for women and men from El Estor, Guatemala, who courageously filed a lawsuit in Canada against a Canadian mining company. One of these women is Angelica Choc, the widow of Adolfo Ich Chamán, a respected Indigenous Maya-Q’eqchi community leader and outspoken critic of mining activities, who witnesses say was killed by private security guards contracted to Compañia de Niquel Guatemala, a subsidiary at the time, of HudBay Minerals. The lawyers for this group shared an emotional thanks for your support:
“We've been completely bowled over, touched, made weepy, etc. regarding the amazing number of letters of support for our clients from Amnesty International members. We've received over a hundred letters so far. It touches us deeply, and I am certain our clients will be similarly touched. I will be taking the large and growing package of letters down with me next time I go, and I plan to set aside a chunk of time to go over them with Angelica and the rest of the folks in El Estor."
While some struggles for justice will be longer than others, your letters change lives. We'll continue to watch the numbers and for updates on this year's cases. In the meantime, thank you again to everyone who has made Write for Rights 2015 so amazing!