First Letter Writing Meeting of 2016!

 

Amnesty letter writing meeting

Every fourth Tuesday of the month, our local group meets to write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience around the world. Previously, we’ve written letters on cases in Saudi Arabia, Russia, Mexico, Bahrain, the U.S., Ethiopia, Tunisia, and many more. Writing letters may seem like a waste of time, but they work, and you can make an incredible difference in the lives of those imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.

Letter Writing Meeting Details

Writing a letter isn’t hard, and only takes about 10 minutes to complete. The toughest part is actually writing a letter on a piece of paper (how often do we write anything by hand nowadays?). Whether you want to write one letter or one million, please join us tomorrow for Amnesty’s first letter writing meeting of 2016!

  • Who: Amnesty International members and human rights activists
  • What: Write letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience around the world
  • When: Jan. 26, 2016 from 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Where: Hartford Coffee Company, 3974 Hartford St. 63116
  • Why: To help those who’ve had their human rights violated and who don’t have a voice of their own

At every meeting, we have anywhere from six to 12 cases for people to choose from. Therefore, you don’t have to write letters on every single case and you don’t have to write letters on issues, countries or cases you aren’t interested in. If you want to learn more about what we’ll be working on, then below is a list of some of the countries that will be offered at the meeting, along with a short summary of the case Each bullet point includes a link to background information so you can learn more about each of the various cases if you wish.

  • Iran: Urging the government to drop charges against a filmmaker for “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “illicit relations”
  • Turkey: Asking the authorities to stop arbitrary restrictions on the freedom of movement through 24-hour curfews in three towns
  • Thailand: Urging authorities to drop charges against activists who peacefully asked for an inquiry into corruption allegations
  • Jordan: Urging the government to allow 13,000 Syrian refugees into the country

All We Need is You!

If interested in attending, then please join us! You don’t have to bring anything to participate in the letter writing. We will provide pens, paper, envelopes, stamps and all the information needed to write an effective letter. You don’t have to have experience writing letters to foreign governments and there’s no obligation to contribute resources or materials.

March Letter Writing Meeting Tomorrow

letter writing meetingI’ve just finished my own spring break with a trip to Las Vegas, and many others have wrapped up their own spring breaks sometime this month as well. With just one full week left in March, there’s no better time than now to get back into the groove and to join us for tomorrow’s letter writing meeting.

Spring is a time for renewal, and lets renew our efforts to stop human rights abuses around the world and to build awareness for these issues. Below are the meeting details, which haven’t changed (the details for our business meetings have changed).

Meeting Details

Who: Amnesty International members and human rights advocates

What: A meeting to write letters to the US and foreign governments regarding specific human rights abuses.

When: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company, on the corner of Roger and Hartford, located in the Tower Grove area. We meet in the main sitting area.

Why: Because every person and every letter can make a difference! If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. Naysayers think these letters can’t make a difference, but criticizing the way others make a difference doesn’t enact change either.

Be part of the solution and join us tomorrow!

1st Letter Writing Meeting of 2014 Tomorrow!

amnesty business meetingAre you ready to be a human rights activist this year? Is your New Year’s Resolution to be more involved in the community or to do more to make a difference? If so, then tomorrow is your chance! Starting at 7 p.m. is the very first Amnesty International St. Louis chapter letter writing meeting of the year! At this meeting, we will be writing letters to international governments on behalf of prisoners of conscience. We’ve previously written on behalf of prisoners in Iran, Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Russia, and many more countries.

The meeting details haven’t changed from last year, but they are listed below in case you’ve forgotten or have yet to attend a meeting with our chapter. If you need to arrive late, or if you can’t stay for the whole meeting, then that’s okay. There’s no need to feel weird about it, as we understand that everyone has jobs and families that need attention also. Just arrive when you can and stay as long as you can. The more letters, the better! Even just one more letter can make a difference!

Meeting Details

Who: Amnesty International members and human rights advocates

What: A meeting to discuss upcoming events and current affairs.

When: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Hartford Coffee Company, on the corner of Roger and Hartford, located in the Tower Grove area. We meet in the very back past the patio.

Why: Because there’s much to talk about and much to be done!

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.

Why You Should Join Amnesty International’s Urgent Action Network

write for rightsYes, Amnesty International is much more than writing letters. But, letter writing is an effective way to make a difference regarding human rights, and it isn’t as time-consuming as attending meetings, hosting events, and other forms of activism. If letter writing is the way that you want to stop human rights abuses and to raise awareness for these issues, then you need to join Amnesty’s updated Urgent Action Network today. Here’s why you should join the Urgent Action Network and write for rights today:

Write Letters on the Issues You Care About

One of the best updates in the Urgent Action Network is that when you sign up, you can customize the actions that you want to receive. If you only want to write to certain regions, or on specific issues, then you can sign up and ensure that you only receive actions for those regions or issues. However, you can’t specify more than that. For example, you can opt-in for urgent actions on torture and from the Middle East, but you can’t just receive actions on torture from the Middle East.

But, you can specify how many actions you want to receive each month. You can choose to receive every applicable urgent action, or you can choose to receive one, two, four, eight, or 12 in your inbox each month. If you want something as specific as torture in the Middle East, then opting for a smaller number can increase your chances.

The Hard Work is Done For You

The great thing about letter writing as a form of activism is that Amnesty International does most of the heavy lifting for you. Each action comes with a set of appeal points that you can include in your letter. This way, you don’t have to waste time thinking about what to write or what arguments to present. That’s already done for you and all you have to do is rewrite those appeal points into your own words.

Each action also comes with multiple targets including names, email addresses, phone numbers, postal addresses, and other important contact information, so you don’t have to do the research to figure out where to send your letter. These targets have already been chosen because they have the most influence to change the circumstances of your issues and/or prisoner of conscience, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not your letter will have any impact. You can send one letter to one person, or you can write multiple letters to several people. It’s also okay if you write one letter, and then send copies of that letter to the other targets. All you need to do is change the names in the letter before you put it in an envelope.

You Can Take the Time to Understand the Issue

One aspect of activism that many people are concerned about is that they don’t know the whole picture. They often have to go on what the petitioner is telling them, or what they hear at an event, or what they read about the other day. Without knowing the whole picture, some may be hesitant take action, unsure if that action is the best thing to do. That’s understandable, and that’s one of nice things about the Urgent Action Network. Not only does each action come with additional information about the broader issue (i.e. a brief history of the issue in the country, or of Amnesty’s stance on the issue, or that person’s case etc.), but each action has a one-month window for writing your letter. So, if you want to take some time to do more research on your own, then you have that time. You don’t have to rely on the action as your only source of information.

Related Links:

Sample Prisoner of Conscience Letter

Why Amnesty International is More than Writing Letters

The 3 Pillars of Letter Writing Meeting Success

The 3 Pillars of Letter Writing Meeting Success

letter writing meeting successTomorrow is our monthly letter writing meeting, one of many that we’ve had since the beginning of our chapter. We wouldn’t do these unless the letters actually helped and unless the meetings were successful. Below are the three pillars of letter writing meeting success. If these pillars of success interest you at all, then below are also the details regarding our own meeting tomorrow and the cases that we’ll be working on. We hope to see you tomorrow.

3 Pillars of Letter Writing Meeting Success

  1. Writing Many Letters – The key to letter writing meeting success, and achieving success in these cases, it to write a lot letters. This can be a lot of letters on one case, or writing many letters overall on many cases. Part of what makes this method of activism work is that the more letters, the better, as they represent pressure and concern from all over the world.
  2. Sending Those Letters Individually – Since it’s the number of letters that matters, part of making an impact is sending those letters individually and placing each letter in its own envelope. With my old college chapter, we always sent our letters in one envelope, which isn’t the best. Sending the letters individually also means that if there’s a reply from the government, you’ll be able to receive it because they can address it to someone.
  3. Making a Difference with Your Letters – It’s easy to say that letter writing doesn’t help with releasing someone from prison or improving conditions. After all, results don’t happen right away, if they ever happen at all, but that doesn’t mean that commitment and persistence won’t mean anything. Our own chapter has released prisoners of conscience, and many other Amnesty International chapters can say the same when it comes to the work they’ve invested in their cases.

Letter Writing Meeting Topics

  • Pregnant woman held without charge in Bahrain
  • Flogging risk in Sudan
  • Cancer prisoner needing compassionate release in the United States
  • Prisoner of conscience rearrested in Saudi Arabia
  • Human rights activist stabbed 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.

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

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.

What You Missed at Last Night’s Letter Writing Meeting

letter writing meetingLast night, we held a successful letter writing meetings, writing 14 letters to various governments around the world on behalf of prisoners of conscience. If you missed this meeting, then you still have a chance to write a letter if you want. You do have to send it yourself, but below is all the information you need to advocate for human rights.

Reggie Clemons Update

There isn’t much to say on the Reggie Clemons case, except that Justice Michael Manners is starting a new position with a law firm on August 1. He needs to make a decision by then, and our chapter predicts that he will announce the decision on July 31, on the last possible day that he can make/announce the decision.

Last Night’s Urgent Action

One of the more popular urgent actions from the meeting was an action about anti-LGBTI violence in Macedonia. Specifically, a series of homophobic attacks in June and July has led to grave concerns for the safety of LGBTI people and organizations. In June, during Pride Week in the capital Skopje, the LGBTI center was attacked by around 30 people and on July 5, unidentified suspects attempted to set fire to the center.

If you’re interested in writing a letter, then here’s a good action for you. You have until August 23 to send your letter, but the sooner the better. Don’t worry about the language. It’s more important that the government officials receive a large quantity of letters and realize that people care deeply about the issue and would like action. Please send the letter to:

Gordana Jankulovska

Dimce Mircev BB

1000 Skopje, Macedonia

Please touch upon the following information when writing your letter. You can either copy these verbatim, or put them in your own words:

  • Urge the Minister of Interior to end the climate of impunity for homophobic attacks by acknowledging and condemning publicly these crimes, and ensure that impartial, thorough and prompt investigations are conducted into the June and July attacks, and into all previous attacks on the lives or property of LGBT people or organizations, with those found responsible brought to justice;.
  • Urge the Prime Minister and other ministers to introduce amendments to the anti-discrimination legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity as specific grounds for discrimination;
  • Urge all ministers without delay and in consultation with LGBTI organizations, to introduce legislation prohibiting hate crime, specifically including hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as ethnicity, race, gender and other grounds for discrimination recognized in international standards.

Amnesty International Petitions Going on Right Now

amnesty international petitionsBelieve it or not, petitions are a great way to build awareness for human rights issues and to put pressure on powerful people to do something. Petitions do not threaten your identity or put you on a government list. It’s merely about having your say. Want to take action online, or perhaps find a petition for a petition drive your hosting? Try one of these Amnesty International petitions, all of which are going on right now:

Petitions to Print

Individuals at Risk – There are plenty of those across the world, and individuals at risk was the very first mission of Amnesty International. There’s a wide array of petitions to choose from, but below are some cases that our chapter has personally worked on. These particular cases are ones that our chapter, and the larger organization, have worked on for a very long time:

Death Penalty Petitions – If this is an issue for your chapter, then Amnesty has three petitions for your to consider: Reggie Clemons, Scott Panetti, and Romell Broom. Clemons is a St. Louis case, so we are partial to that one. However, all three need our help as the face the injustices of capital punishment.

Maternal Health – Although there isn’t specific legislation or people with this petition, Amnesty does have one to urge members of Congress to support mothers and to do something to stop maternal mortality both home and abroad. This is a good one to use if you need a petition that’s a bit more general and could garner broader support, or if you and/or your chapter are focusing on women’s rights and maternal health.

Online Petitions

Take Action to Prevent Unlawful Drone Killings – Drones are a hot button issue right now, so don’t miss your chance to sign this petition and to share it with others. By signing this petition, you let members of your government know that you don’t like these “targeted killings” and that they violate the right to life under international law. Even if you don’t like them for other reasons, if you want these drone killings to stop, then this is the petition for you.

Make Maryland the Next State to End the Death Penalty – We are so close on this one! The legislation to abolish the death penalty in the state has passed the State House and Senate, and just needs to be signed by the governor. We want Maryland to become the 18th state to do this! Signing this petition will encourage the governor to take swift action on this issue, to keep the pressure on both for death penalty abolition and for funding for victims’ families.

Justice for Indigenous Women Ines Fernandez Ortega & Valentina Rosendo – This is the only current online petition that’s focused on a foreign country, but it deserves our attention nonetheless. Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú, both Me’phaa Indigenous women, were raped by Mexican soldiers in 2002. Both women were brave enough to report their attacks, despite the economic and social barriers that often deter Indigenous women from seeking redress through the courts. Still, no one has been brought to justice. In August 2010 the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Mexican state to investigate the human rights violations against Inés and Valentina, bring those responsible to justice, provide reparations and take steps to ensure that similar violations are not repeated in the future. This petition is to pressure the Mexican Government to fully carry out this ruling.

Keep Weapons Out of the Hands of Human Rights Abusers – This is one of the most crucial online petitions going on right now. From March 18 – 28, world leaders will convene to negotiate the first ever treaty that will help prevent keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers, such as armed groups and government forces that put children into combat. We want to urge President Obama to support a robust Arms Trade Treaty, and not to listen to the lies of the NRA and others who claim such a treaty will restrict the second amendment rights of U.S citizens. That’s simply not true, unless they plan to commit human rights abuses with those weapons.