The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kia Guarino, 202-509-8188,

World's Largest Letter-Writing Event Saves Lives and Frees People Unjustly Imprisoned; Amnesty International Activists to Use Pens to Fight for Global Justice

From December 5-13, Local Activists Host Write-a-thon Events across the United States and in More Than 30 Countries Worldwide on Behalf of Victims of Human Rights Abuses


Since it takes more than
a Twitter post to free a prisoner of conscience, tens of thousands of human
rights activists around the world will participate in Amnesty International's
eighth annual Global Write-a-thon fromDecember 5 -13. Activists
will join their voices in a global call for governments to respect and
protect basic human rights, release individuals unjustly imprisoned, and
stop the torture and ill-treatment of others. Additionally, volunteers
will send messages of hope and encouragement directly to prisoners of conscience.

Taking place around International Human Rights
Day, December 10, Amnesty International's Write-a-thon gives activists
the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of imperiled individuals
around the world. Activists in last year's Global Write-a-thon sent more
than 295,000 letters, cards, and petitions on behalf of prisoners of conscience,
human rights defenders under threat, men and women facing execution, and
other cases of serious human rights violations.

"During last year's Global Write-a-thon,
more than 7,000 people in the U.S. pledged to write 200,000 letters in
support of our cases," said Michael O'Reilly, Amnesty International USA's
program director, Individuals at Risk Campaign. "Every year, this worldwide
event gets bigger and bigger and we expect to top all records this time

Following the participants' hard work over
the last two years, 4 of the 21 featured prisoners of conscience were released.
These include Ma Khin Khin Leh in Myanmar, Hana Abdi in Iran, Zmitser Dashkevich
in Belarus, and Bu Dongwei in China.

Highlighted in the Global Write-a-thon for
the second year are the Women of Atenco. On May 4, 2006, 45 women were
arrested without explanation in Mexico during a public protest in support
of local flower sellers. Dozens of these women were subjected to physical,
psychological and sexual violence by the police officers who arrested them.
More than three years later, the women are still awaiting justice.

"I want [the human rights violators] to
know they have failed because we have [Amnesty] at our side, bringing us
back to life," said Claudia Hernandez, one of the Women of Atenco. "[W]hen
I am sad and tired, all I have to do is open one of your letters to realize
that we are not alone and that we can't back down, because you are all
there, pushing us ever forward."

Along with the Women of Atenco, 9 other cases
are featured in this year's Write-a-thon. These cases include:

Myanmar, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and democratic leader Aung San Suu
Kyi has been unjustly held in some form of detention for 14 of the last
20 years.

Uzbekistan, Azam Farmonov and Alisher Karamatov were detained while defending
the rights of local farmers, subjected to an unfair trial and sentenced
to nine years imprisonment.

Iran, a trade union activist, Mansour Ossanlu, has been incarcerated multiple
times and has experienced a long history of persecution by the authorities
for his legitimate trade union activities.

Nepal, women's rights defender Rita Mahato has received threats of violence,
rape, kidnapping and death from objectors to her work. The police have
failed to provide her with any form of protection or to investigate the

China, journalist Shi Tao used his Yahoo! email account to send a message
to a U.S.-based pro-democracy website summarizing a government order to
downplay the country's 15th anniversary. He was arrested, charged
with "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities," and
sentenced to 10 years in prison.

For more information or to sign up for a
Global Write-a-thon event, visit

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.

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