If there is one thing that COVID-19 has taught us, it is the power of ingenuity in the face of adversity, and the current work Amnesty International activists are doing is nothing short of powerful!
Our volunteers have had to think outside the box to continue the essential work of human rights activism from their homes rather than in the usual community-based events and as excellently put by Nazila Nik, AI Canada Iran Country Coordinator, it is the nature of the work that must keep us inspired. She writes:
It is difficult to keep focused and motivated for most of us during these unprecedented times. I cannot even imagine how harder it is for prisoners of conscience, unjustly behind bars at the first place, confined in a dirty place under the rules of authorities devoid of compassion and without any regard for human rights. Their families, worried to death, must feel even more hopeless than before. The least we still can do is to show them that they are not alone or forgotten. We can use the ways still available to us and online solidarity/advocacy events is one of them.
So whether it is online Amnesty group meetings or larger solidarity engagement actions, activists across the country are showing that we are not letting up on human rights activism and rather instead, will continue to inspire those to get involved in solidarity and take action. Here are some more examples of what they’ve been up to:
Letter Writing campaign for #RiosVivos communities in Colombia
The AI Canada National Youth Organizers gathered online to write letters in support of the #RiosVivos communities in Colombia. With 19 participants and 26 letters written, the group was able to put together some fantastic solidarity messages shared online.
“The Indigenous communities of Rios Vivos fighting for their land and water matter, their voices matter and need to be heard and listened to. During this time of physical distancing, I think it’s more important than ever to show our solidarity with communities fighting to protect their human rights. Taking part in the online letter-writing event for Rios Vivos showed that no matter what is happening in the world our strength comes from bringing our voices together.”
Rebecca Schmidtke, AI Toronto BHR – Indigenous Issues Team leader and national youth organizer
First virtual Nowruz event
Amnesty members and supporters gathered for our first virtual Nowruz event and wrote over 60 solidarity cards for human rights defenders in prison in Iran. They were joined by members from our sister AI USA section.
“I took part in the first virtual Nowruz event organized by the AI Toronto Iran Team as it is solidarity actions that can help prisoners of conscience keep up their spirits. Physical and psychological abuse is employed by prison staff to strip them of dignity, intimidate them and make them terrified and broken. Solidarity messages sent by activists boost the morale of the prisoners of conscience, remind them that their cause matters and they are not forgotten. A former Iranian prisoner of conscience Kamiar Alaei on many occasions mentioned how he and his brother were cheered up by the Nowruz messages that they received while on a medical furlough at home.”
Daria Ermuskhina, member AI Toronto Iran Team/ Action Network for Women’s HR
Earth Day challenge
AI Canada Youth Organizers created a fun and easy to use engagement tool, for those over Instagram. Participants asked to not only provide their responses, but to also tag their friends to try the challenge next, who later passed it along to their networks, and so on and so forth. This was a great way to stay connected with one another, whilst also being part of a larger, important discussion in time for this year’s Earth Day.
I participated in these actions because I realize that even though I don’t have a huge social media following, I do have a few hundred. If you multiply those few hundred by every participant then in no time at all we have the potential of reaching out to so, so many people. The world needs reassurance and the Earth Day or Mother’s Day Challenges I took part in were some of the ways to remind ourselves, and the people who are affected, that Amnesty still stands strong.
Luna Cardenasi, National Youth Organizer
Mothers of the Disappeared in Mexico solidarity action
Historically on May 10th, activists flood the streets in solidarity with mothers belonging to the Movement for our Disappeared in Mexico. Instead, this year, we flooded the internet! Many of our members took part on May 10th Instagram Solidarity Challenge and Virtual Rally in order to amplify the voices and calls for action.
“Activism to me is showing up in solidarity using any means possible. I participated in Amnesty’s action for the disappeared in Mexico because mothers could not storm the streets for their children this year and we had a chance to make sure they were not deprived of a day of power and community. If online is the only place we can support and recognize each other’s fight for rights, then that is where we should be right now.”
Laila, National Youth Organizer
A huge THANK YOU for all the tireless efforts, support and committment from all our members and supporters!