Use Your Voice to Help a Village

Nabi Saleh villageThe Write for Rights letter writing marathon continues with three cases left, including today’s case. Today’s case is a little different because it’s on the behalf of a village, not an individual prisoner of conscience.

The Nabi Saleh village in Palestine has faced frequent harassment and repression from the Israeli army. Since 2009, Nabi Saleh’s 550 residents have held weekly protests against the Israeli military occupation and an Israeli settlement’s takeover of the village’s farmland. The army has responded to the protests with excessive force, killing two people and injuring hundreds more, including many women and children. The military also terrorizes the villagers, conducting night raids, arresting children, and firing tear gas into people’s homes. So far, no one in the Israeli army has been held accountable for these actions. We want to change this impunity once and for all.

Sample Letter

The Honorable [Insert Your Representative’s Name]
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative,

I am writing you on behalf of the residents of Nabi Saleh, a village in the Palestinian West Bank. As you know, this territory is under Israeli military occupation. As a supporter of Amnesty International and an individual concerned with the defense of human rights, I urge you to call on Israel to stop attacking the Palestinian residents of Nabi Saleh.

Since 2009, the villagers of Nabi Saleh have held weekly peaceful protests against Israel’s military occupation. Villagers also protest the nearby illegal Israeli settlement that has taken over most of their farmland.

The villagers of Nabi Saleh are exercising their human rights to freedom of expression and assembly, yet the Israeli army responds to the peaceful protests with violent attacks and the unnecessary use of force. These attacks have killed two people and injured hundreds, including women and children. Israeli soldiers have carried out night raids, arrested children, and fired tear gas into homes.

Please tell Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to stop the Israeli security forces’ attacks. Call on him to ensure that the security officers responsible for the killings of Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi and the injury of others in the village are brought to justice.

The U.S. Congress provides billions of dollars a year in military aid to Israel. That’s why I urge you to hold the Israeli military accountable for its attacks on Nabi Saleh villagers. Palestinians have a right to peacefully protest the Israeli occupation and the illegal settlements being built on their land.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Thank You!

Thank you so much for taking the time to work on these cases and to write letters. These people need our help, and we are only halfway toward Amnesty International’s goal of 75,000 letters. If you’re written a letter, or are planning to write a few letters before Dec. 17th, then please pledge your efforts with the Write for Rights Campaign.

Human Rights Day: Write a Letter on Behalf of Prisoners of Conscience

Azza Hilal Ahmad Suleiman

Azza Hilal Ahmad Suleiman

Today is Human Rights Day! This year’s theme is “20 Years Working for Your Rights”, and the Arab Spring is a perfect example of this. Even though the tipping point for the uprising was just a few years ago, the human rights issues that the protestors are addressing were 20 years in the making. Many people were working behind the scenes prior to the international headlines. There are also many people who haven’t made the headlines but should have. Azza Hilal Ahmad Suleiman is one of those people.

In December 2011, Suleiman was protesting with a friend in Tahrir Square when they saw a group of soldiers beating a young woman. Suleiman and her friend tried to carry the young woman to safety when the soldiers decided to turn on them instead, beating Suleiman until they knocked her unconscious. When she woke up in the hospital, her skull was fractured and her bed sheets were soaked with blood. Suleiman’s brother lodged a complain with the armed forces about the attack, but as of today, no one has been held accountable for the beating and Suleiman has not been compensated. Authorities say the investigation is still ongoing.

Sample Letter

His Excellency Adly Mahmoud Mansour
Office of the President
Al Ittihadia Palace
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt

Dear President,

Azza Hilal Ahmad Suleiman was attacked by Egyptian soldiers during a protest near Tahrir Square on Dec. 17, 2011. The soldiers brutally beat Azza Hilal Ahmad Suleiman, leaving her with a fractured skull and lasting memory problems. Nearly two years later she is still waiting for the culprits to be held accountable.

Please act now to bring Azza Hilal Ahmad Suleiman’s attackers to justice.

Azza Hilal Ahmad Suleiman’s case is emblematic of the abuses and injuries that protestors – particularly women – have suffered at the hands of Egyptian security forces. I call on you to open an independent, impartial and public investigation into the attack on Azza Suleiman and into all other cases where the security forces are reported to have used excessive force. All who have suffered deserve justice, including compensation, restitution, rehabilitation and public apologies.

It is critical that women and girls are able to express their views on the future of Egypt and to protest without being detained, harassed, assaulted, tortured, or subjected to degrading and discriminatory treatment. Please ensure that security forces do not target women peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]

Holiday Card Meeting Tonight!

It’s the last time we’re meeting for the entire year! If you miss this meeting, then you won’t see any of the wonderful people of our chapter until January. It’s also Human Rights Day, so what better way to spend the evening then with human rights activists helping those who need our help? Below are the details.

Who: Our Amnesty International chapter and those interested in human rights

What: To send holiday cards to prisoners of conscience and their families. Also to spend some time with each other before the holidays and the end of the year.

When: 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company on the corner of Roger and Hartford, one block off of Arsenal

Why: Because people need our help and we can make a difference.

How: We’ll provide the paper, pens, and pertinent information on each of the cases. For this meeting, if you can bring holiday cards (cards that don’t have written references to a specific holiday or religion), then that would be great.

3 Things You Can Do about Syria Right Now

syria chemical weaponsAs Congress contemplates going to war with Syria (and as a majority of the American public opposes any sort of opposition or military action), it might seem like there’s not a lot we can do about the situation or to change the mind of our government. However, that notion is false, and there are three things that you can do right now about Syria and about the decision our representatives make regarding the U.S response. Here’s what you can do about Syria right now:

Call Congressman Lacy Clay (if you’re in St. Louis)

Congressman Lacy Clay is taking a poll on how people feel about the bombing of Syria. His vote will reflect those who call in and their opinion (for or against the bombing). You can reach his office by dialing 314-669-9393. Congress reconvenes from their August recess on September 9, so you have at least a week to tell Congressman Clay what you think. We don’t know exactly when a vote will take place, but we presume it will be on the 9th or very soon afterward, considering the enormity of the situation.

If you aren’t located in St. Louis, then use this Congressional directory to find your representatives and to give them a call. Let them know what you think and that you care about the action the U.S takes on this issue.

Sign the Petition at WhiteHouse.gov

Amnesty International doesn’t have any actions specific to the U.S response to Syria, but if you want the White House to know your opinion (especially if that opinion is opposition to a response or intervention), then you can sign the petition at WhiteHouse.gov. This petition says no to war because there are no American interests being threatened in Syria, the country hasn’t attacked the United States or American citizens, and Syria hasn’t attacked U.S armed forces personnel.

You do have to create an account with WhiteHouse.gov to sign this petition. So, if you don’t want to create an account, then here’s an alternative Syria petition you can sign. You don’t have to create an account to sign it.

Keep Up with the Latest News

The alleged chemical attack may be over, but the strife in Syria isn’t. The situation could easily change from day to day, changing the factors involved in the ultimate decision to be made by Congress and by President Obama. Part of forming and voicing our own opinions is knowing what’s going on and what’s at stake for the parties involved. To help with that, here are a few of the latest news articles covering what’s happening in Syria:

U.N Chief says Only Security Council Can Order Airstrikes on Syria – Los Angeles Times

Syria Crisis: Vladimir Putin Under Growing Pressure – The Guardian

The 11 Questions Congress Faces on Syria – Washington Post

Susan Rice Says Administration ‘Quite Confident’ Congress will OK Syria Action – NBC News

Flow of Refugees Out of Syria Passes Two Million – New York Times

Related Links:

Syria: UN Must Get Full Access to Investigate ‘Chemical Weapons’ Claim

The President & Human Rights

Syria One of the Worst Countries for Journalists

Updates in Syria, and Other Human Rights News

SyriaThe biggest human rights story of the past few days is the chemical attack in Syria, and this month’s human rights news roundup includes a few recent developments. However, it’s not the only thing from the past month, and we have those issues covered as well. Here is our roundup of the most important human rights news stories:

Two Protests Against US Intervention in Syria

This isn’t human rights news from the past month, but news of an upcoming event. If you are in the St. Louis area, and are against a U.S invasion into Syria, then Tuesday is the chance to voice your opinion. There will be a protest on Tuesday fro 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in front of Claire McCaskill’s office on 5850 Delmar. This is a protest against U.S military intervention and it is hosted by the St. Louis Instead of War Coalition. Make it out there if you can!

If you can’t make this one on Tuesday, then there is a Syria intervention march starting at 11 a.m. on Art Hill (if you can’t make it that early, then you can meet everyone at 2 p.m. at Kiener Plaza). August 31 is the chosen day for global rallies against war in Syria, so this one is projected to be the bigger of the two events and is part of an international movement. This one’s hosted by Veterans for Peace. Keep in mind that this one is a six mile march through St. Louis, while the first one is just a rally/protest. If marching six miles isn’t your style, then try and make it to the one on Tuesday.

Obama Administration Refused to Provide Gas Masks to Syrian Opposition

It turns out that there wasn’t just one request, and it was just requests before this most recent attack near Damascus. The Syrian opposition has been requesting gas masks and other chemical-weapons gear for over a year, with no reply from the Obama Administration or the State Department. On top of that, chemical weapons were actually used in an attack earlier this year, an attack that was not only projected to happen but one that Syrian rebels suspected would include chemical weapons. The administration has yet to answer for this problem and this lack of U.S assistance.

Today is International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

An enforced disappearance is detention by state authorities for no apparent reason, with no knowledge of the person’s status and/or whereabouts. In 2012, enforced disappearances were documented in 30 countries, 11 of them in sub-Saharan Africa: Angola, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and South Sudan. In Sri Lanka, it’s suspected that over 30,000 people have been forcibly disappeared since 1994.

Things are Getting More Draconian for the 2014 Winter Olympics

As most of us are well aware, the anti-gay sentiment is controversial as Russia’s “gay propaganda” law has become a cause for concern. Wentworth Miller, the star of Prison Break, came out while declining an invitation to the St Petersburg international film festival, saying he could not “participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.” International athletes have done what they could to protest the laws, but have been scolded by the International Olympic Committee for making political gestures. Most recently, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has signed a decree banning all meetings, protests, demonstrations, and free assembly during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Related Links:

8 Current Urgent Actions You Should Do Right Now

Syria: UN Must Get Full Access to Investigate ‘Chemical Weapons’ Claim

14 MORE Human Rights Violations Happening Right Now

Syria: UN Must Get Full Access to Investigate ‘Chemical Weapons’ Claim

syria chemical weaponsThis press release is reposted from the Amnesty International website.

In response to the publication of a series of videos apparently showing that chemical weapons have killed scores of civilians, including many children, on the outskirts of Syria’s capital Damascus, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“The allegations of use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, which Amnesty International has not been able to verify independently, underscore the urgent need for the United Nations team currently in Syria to have a full mandate and unimpeded access to all locations to investigate these and any other incidents of alleged use of chemical weapons.”

“What would be the point of having a UN team of experts in the country if they are not allowed to access the sites of the alleged attacks, collect samples and investigate?.”

“The Syrian authorities who claim no responsibility should immediately facilitate the visit of the UN team to Eastern Ghouta and other locations”.

“If the latest allegations are corroborated, the attacks would amount to war crimes. The only way to deal with the endless catalog of abuses we have witnessed in Syria is for the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court, as Amnesty International has been urging since 2011.”

“It is a violation of international law to manufacture, stockpile, transfer or use chemical weapons, which cannot distinguish between civilians and combatants.”

Amnesty International has also sent the videos to medical and other experts to verify their authenticity and to establish if the symptoms shown by those affected are congruent with the use of chemical weapons. In addition, the organization is in contact with individuals and organizations in Syria to try and gather further information about the current medical condition of people in the area.

Related Links:

8 Current Urgent Actions You Should Do Right Now

Syria One of the Worst Countries for Journalists

15 Human Rights Violations Happening Right Now

Take Action Against Syria at Tomorrow’s Letter Writing Meeting

amnesty international letter writingAs the Syrian government agrees to let the United Nations into the country to investigate the possibility of a chemical weapons attack, we must remember that there are other human rights violations happening within the country and around the world. It’s great that Syria is taking this step, but we must urge them to take additional steps to protect and to investigate human rights violations. You can urge Syria to take those steps at tomorrow’s letter writing meeting.

Letter Writing Meeting Topics

  • Two urgent actions regarding forced disappearances in Syria
  • Imminent executions in India
  • Possible execution of a mentally impaired man in the United States
  • Torture risk in Uzbekistan
  • Forced disappearance in Mexico

Letter Writing Meeting Details

Who: Our Amnesty International chapter and those interested in human rights

What: To write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience worldwide

When: 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company on the corner of Roger and Hartford, one block off of Arsenal

Why: Because people need our help and we can make a difference

How: Just show up to the meeting! We’ll provide the paper, pens, and pertinent information on each of the cases.

8 Current Urgent Actions You Should Do Right Now

urgent action letterAmnesty International may not be entirely about writing letters, but it’s still a big component of our mission and our activism. Although we only spend one day a month writing letters, there’s always the chance to write a letter the rest of the time. Here are eight current urgent actions that you can do right now. Each one of these actions comes with a downloadable PDF (the headline is clickable and initiates the download), which provides all the information you need to do the urgent action (address of government official, case information, talking points etc.).

Venezuela: Activist in danger from son’s killers

Venezuelan human rights defender Víctor Martínez is in danger, as the two men
on trial for the murder of his son are free: one has escaped and the other was given parole. Urge the authorities to protect Martinez and to continue investigations regarding forced disappearances in the western state of Lara.

Albania: Roma Families Forcibly Evicted

Roma families were evicted on 7 August and are now homeless. Neither the Tirana municipal authorities nor the government have done anything to assist them or provide them with alternative housing. Write to ensure that these Roma families are assisted and given alternative housing, and that this becomes standard for all those forcibly evicted in Albania.

Mexico: Marines abduct adult and two children

Three people, two of them children, were detained by Mexican marines in the northern city of Nuevo Laredo in late July and have not been seen since. The military authorities have denied arresting them. They may have been subjected to enforced disappearance. Call on the Mexican authorities to conduct an investigation into their disappearance and to protect the families and eyewitnesses of this case.

Egypt: Egypt means to deport refugees, children

The Egyptian authorities are preparing to deport 13 Syrians to Turkey and 28 Palestinians from Syria to the Gaza Strip. The group, which includes at least 13 children and 10 women, had sought refuge in Egypt after fleeing the armed conflict in Syria. Under international law, Egypt has a responsibility to protect people fleeing the conflict. Urge the Egyptian authorities not to deport them and to grant them access to the resources they need to seek refuge.

Bahrain: Bahraini activist arrested and charged

Bahraini banker Mohammad Sanad al-Makina was arrested on 9 August at Bahrain International Airport when leaving for a holiday with members of his family. He faces several charges including “inciting hatred against the regime”. He is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for expressing his freedom of expression peacefully. Pressure the Bahraini authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally and to protect him from torture and other ill-treatment.

Colombia: Paramilitaries Threaten Trade Unionists

Paramilitaries have threatened scores of trade unionists, many of whom are in labor negotiations, as well as human rights defenders and other organizations in Colombia. Express concern for the trade unionists at risk while demanding that the authorities provide protection and conduct an investigation into the threats.

Palestinian Authority: Hamas threaten post-Eid festival executions

The Hamas authorities in Gaza are threatening to carry out several executions following the end of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr. This may include a man known as “H.M.A.”, who was aged under 18 years at the time of one of his alleged crimes and was allegedly tortured or otherwise ill-treated during interrogation. Write to the Palestinian authorities to show concern that H.M.A. is facing execution after a trial in which he was sentenced to death for a crime committed when he was a minor and which relied upon a “confession” made when he was allegedly subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

Myanmar: Activist Arbitrarily Detained

Human rights defender Kyaw Hla Aung, 74, has been arbitrarily detained in Myanmar since 15 July. He is in poor health and may not be receiving the medical treatment he requires. He is on trial, facing charges related to his peaceful activities. Urge the authorities to release him immediate and unconditionally, dropping all charges against him.