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Write a Letter! Change a Life – Join us at Amnesty International’s Write for Rights

    December 03, 2015

    In Toronto, Amnesty International’s Write for Rights offers our community a unique opportunity to make a difference in protecting human rights. Come and join us! Participation is free and open to everyone.

    When:  Saturday December 5, 2015 1:00 PM to 7:00 PM
    Where: Centre for Social Innovation (Annex)
    720 Bathurst Street (south of Bloor) Toronto

    You can also participate online or find other Write for Rights events at www.writeathon.ca

    During the annual Write for Rights campaign,  hundreds of thousands of Amnesty International supporters and activists around the world will send letters, emails, SMS messages, faxes and tweets calling for the release of activists jailed for peaceful dissent, supporting victims of torture and pointing a spotlight on other human rights abuses.

     “Our campaign promises exciting, uniting and effective activism bringing together people from all different walks of life,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.

     “When hundreds of thousands of people say they stand by a human rights defender, the impact is huge. It gives the human rights defender the strength to keep going. It also sends a message to their oppressors that they cannot keep their crimes secret and the world is watching for their next move. Every letter, email and petition signature that authorities receive is a chink in an armour that would otherwise be impenetrable, chipping away at the power of those authorities who commit human rights abuses."

     2014 was a record-breaking year for the campaign. Hundreds of thousands of people participated in more than 200 countries and territories, sending 3,245,565 messages offering support or calling for action on the cases of 12 individuals and communities experiencing human rights abuses. More than a million messages have been sent in support of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi since the campaign raised his case.

     Freedom of expression under threat

    The 2015 Write for Rights campaign illustrates the growing pressure on freedom of expression. It calls for the release of several people jailed or facing trial as a price for peaceful dissent:

    • Canada: Welcome refugees – in the face of the largest refugee crisis in over sixty years, Canadians have overwhelmingly expressed a desire to sponsor and assist more refugees from Syria.
    • Canada: Help Make Canada “Open for Justice” – The Canadian mining, oil and gas industry have a poor record when it comes to respecting human rights in other countries.
    • Canada: Respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples – Plans to construct the Site C dam are made without respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Peace Valley.
    • Malaysia: Political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque or “Zunar”, who faces a long prison sentence under the Sedition Act for tweets criticizing the country’s judiciary.
    • Myanmar: Phyoe Phyoe Aung, leader of one of Myanmar’s largest students unions, one of 54 students and protesters jailed after protests on 10 March 2015.
    • Saudi Arabia: Lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, currently serving a 15-year prison sentence followed by a 15-year travel ban and a fine for his peaceful activism. Before his imprisonment, he defended many victims of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, including Raif Badawi, who was supported by last year’s campaign.

     “We are seeing a growing crackdown on dissent in many places, with arrests and trials of the most outspoken designed by governments to send a chilling message that speaking out comes at a high price. Many governments are terrified of people power - and react by attempting to limit it,” said Alex Neve.

     “More than ever, we need to stand in solidarity with brave people who stand up for human rights, despite the risks. Human rights defenders may be the immediate victims of the crackdown, but we all pay the price if the result is a society where people are afraid to speak out.”

     Amnesty International selects cases where the campaign has the potential to change people’s lives or bring needed public exposure to an injustice, while seeking to cover different regions, genders and several different human rights issues. We will feature three cases on Canada as well: "Welcome Refugees", "Help Make Canada Open for Justice" and "Respect the Rights of Indigenous Peoples". 

    For further information:
    Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations (416) 363-9933 ext. 332 bberton-hunter@amnesty.ca