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.

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18 Important Human Rights Developments in 2015

human rightsCan you believe 2015 is almost over (and that the last time we blogged was over a year ago)? We accomplished so much in the past year and half, but this post is going to focus on 2015. This year was a big year for human rights, with both major milestones and major setbacks. Here are 18 important human rights developments that have taken place, or will take place, in 2015:

January 9

Raif Badawi, a blogger and prisoner of conscience sentenced by Saudi Arabia to 10 years and 1,000 lashes is publicly flogged for the first time. While the immediate global outcry helps prevent additional floggings, he remains behind bars. Raif’s cruel and unjust sentence is upheld by the Saudi Arabian Supreme Court in June, casting a further stain on that country’s already bleak human rights record.

January 22

A young woman imprisoned after suffering a miscarriage is granted a pardon by El Salvador’s Parliamentary Assembly – giving hope to the other 15 women languishing in jail on similar charges.

Update: One of those 15 other women is Teodora del Carmen Vasquez, who suffered a still-birth in 2007 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “aggravated homicide.” She’s one of Amnesty International’s Write for Rights cases this year.

March 10

Amnesty calls on Mexican authorities to investigate and address torture after the United Nations releases a scathing report detailing how this sickening practice is widespread among the country’ police and security forces.

April 28

Amnesty calls on Paraguay to repeal its draconian anti-abortion law after a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after she was repeatedly raped, allegedly by her stepfather, is denied the option of an abortion.

Update: The girl, now 11, gave birth in August.

May 6

The Chicago City Council passes landmark legislation providing reparations for torture committed by former Chicago Police commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command. The reparations package marks the first time that survivors of ractially motivated police torture in the United States have been given the reparations they are entitled to under international law.

May 21

Legendary folk singer Joan Baez and world -renowned artist Ai WeiWei are awarded the 2015 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award, which recognizes those who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights through their life and work.

May 27

Nebraska becomes the 19th U.S. state to abolish the death penalty.

Update: Nebraska’s repeal is still in limbo. A petition drive to overturn the abolition succeeded in getting enough votes, so the state will vote on a statewide referendum in November 2016. It’s important to note that Gov. Pete Ricketts, whose veto of the death penalty was overturned by the unicameral legislature, spent $200,000 of his own money to fund the petition drive.

June 1

Amnesty declares the expiration of the USA Patriot Act a symbolic repudiation of the claim that “national security” justifies giving the government an indefinite license to commit systematic rights violations.

June 8

U.S. District Judge James Brady grants Louisiana prisoner Albert Woodfox unconditional release after he has languished in solitary confinement for more than four decades and had his conviction overturned three times. The State of Louisiana has appealed the ruling and Amnesty continues to advocate for Albert’s freedom.

June 26

The Supreme Court of the United States issues a historic ruling affirming the right of same-sex couples across the country to legally marry.

Amnesty marks International Day in Support of Victims of Torture with a global push for governments to respect the ban on torture and hold torturers accountable.

July 9

Amnesty calls on Chinese authorities to end their assault on human rights lawyers after more than 200 lawyers and activists were targeted by police in a nationwide crackdown.

August 7

Amnesty marks the one-year anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by shining the spotlight on the use of lethal force and racially discriminatory conduct by law enforcement officers and calling for reforms at the local, state and national levels.

August 11

An Amnesty investigation on sexual abuse by UN peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic sends shock waves globally, leading UN Sec. General Ban Ki-moon to remove the head of the Peacekeeping Operation and triggering a call for reform of accountability measures for UN peacekeeping troops around the world.

September 8

A Union of Protection: Amnesty International’s Agenda for Refugee Protection in Europe is released, setting out the urgently needed changes in Europe’s approach to the escalating refugee crisis.

September 15

Amnesty USA brings Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi, to Washington to lobby the U.S. government to do more to convince Saudi Arabia to free Raif and respect the rights of all people.

September 23

Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were pardoned by Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. In August, Amnesty International had said the guilty verdicts handed down against the two journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were an affront to justice that sounded the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt. Journalist colleague Peter Greste, who had left Egypt, had also been convicted in his absence.

September 25

The U.K. government announces that Shaker Aamer, held for over a decade without charge at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, will be transferred to the U.K., where his family resides.

December 4 – 18

Amnesty International holds Write for Rights, the world’s largest human rights event, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people to send letters on behalf of 12 cases of individuals at risk, including prisoners of conscience.

Update: Join Amnesty STL for their own Write for Rights event on Dec. 12! We’ll be at Schafly Bottleworks from 4 – 9 p.m. writing letters and having a good time. If you want to take action against human rights abuses and help those in need, then please stop by on Dec. 12 to write some letters! Even just one letter would make a huge difference!

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!

Write for Rights Starts Today

Ihar Tsikhanyuk

Ihar Tsikhanyuk

Your voice has power! Today is the first day of Write for Rights, the annual Amnesty International campaign that’s one of the largest human rights events in the world. From today until Dec 17, activists all over the world will be writing letters on behalf of 12 individual prisoners of conscience. It’s one last push to effect change and to let governments know that human rights abuses won’t be tolerated. The world is watching, and today’s case involves LGBTI rights and the need to respect those rights as valid human rights that are non-negotiable.

Today’s Case: Ihar Tsikhanyuk

Ihar Tsikhanyuk is an openly gay man in Belarus who, in February 2013, was at the hospital being treated for an ulcer. While there, two police officers came and asked him to go with him. Tsikhanyuk complied, where we was verbally abused and physically beaten by several officers at the police station. They taunted him for being gay and threatened more violence. When they returned him to the hospital, he asked staff to document the injuries and hospital staff refused. This event took place one month after he tried to register the Human Rights Center Lambda, a non-governmental organization that supports the rights of LGBTI people in Belarus

Tsikhanyuk and other LGBTI individuals have been abused by police in Belarus, as well as founding members of the Human Rights Center Lambda. Those who beat Tsikhanyuk have never been held accountable, while other LGBTI individuals and affiliates with the Human Rights Center Lambda remain at risk for violence. We can help change this with a letter to the Belarussian government.

Sample Letter

Generalnyi Prokuror
Alyaksandr Koniuk
Generalnaya Prokuratura
ul. Internatsionalnaya 22
220030 Minsk
Belarus
Dear General Prosecutor:
I write to you out of deep concern for Ihar Tsikhanyuk, a human rights activist from Hrodna who advocates for equal rights and dignity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. In February 2013 police questioned, beat, verbally abused, and threatened Ihar Tsikhanyuk, one month after he attempted to register Human Rights Center Lambda, an LGBTI non-governmental organization (NGO).
I am disturbed that, nearly a year later, no progress has been made in holding the officers responsible for abusing and threatening Ihar Tsikhanyuk accountable. In this environment of impunity, he and other activists connected to Human Rights Center Lambda remain at risk of further threats and abuses due to their sexual orientation or gender identity and their continued LGBTI rights activism.
I urge you to initiate a thorough, independent, and impartial investigation into the ill-treatment and threats that he suffered at the hands of police officers in the October District police station in Hrodna. I call on you to ensure that those responsible are subjected to disciplinary and criminal proceedings as appropriate and to see to it that Ihar Tsikhanyuk is protected from further ill-treatment and humiliation.
As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Belarus has undertaken a legally binding obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all those on its territory without discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. I thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Sincerely,
[Your Name]

We Have Our Own Write for Rights Event

If you’re not going to have much time throughout the holidays to write letters, then please just take an hour out of your day to join the chapter at its own Write-a-Thon event. From 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Dec. 7, we will be at the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood writing letters in person as well as providing sample letters for patrons to sign on their way to eating in the restaurant. If you don’t want to sit and write letters with us, then you can also come and sign the sample letters while also having a glass of beer. Help us reach our goal of 200 letters! Below is additional information regarding the event:

Who: Our Amnesty International chapter and anyone else who wants to do something good for someone else this holiday season.

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

When: Saturday, Dec. 7 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Schlafly Bottleworks – 7260
Southwest Ave.@ Manchester. Maplewood, MO 63143

Why: Because people need our help and we can make a difference, and because it’s fun

How: Just show up and enjoy great company, food, and beer (food and beer not free). We’ll provide the paper, pens, and pertinent information on each of the cases.

Last Letter Writing Meeting for 2013

letter writing ThanksgivingWe understand that is the week of Thanksgiving and that everyone is busy, but if you could spare some time tomorrow, that would be great. Tomorrow is our last letter writing meeting of the year. We typically don’t have a meeting during the last week of the year, instead participating in Amnesty International’s annual Write-a-Thon (details can be found below).

Details for Tomorrow’s Meeting

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. Be thankful that you are able to do something for others, and not be in a position where you need activists like us writing letters on your behalf!

Letter Writing Topics

  • Families left homeless in Brazil
  • Human rights organization attacked in San Salvador
  • Shi’a community at risk of forced eviction in Indonesia
  • Political activist detained in Yemen

Write-a-Thon Event Details

Our goal this year is 200 letters! So please join us to write for rights at our Annual St. Louis Write-a-Thon! Please RSVP on Facebook (by clicking the link) if you are attending or thinking about attending. Even if you don’t want to sit with us and write letters, you are welcome to come to the brewery, have a meal, and sign a few of our petitions.

Who: Our Amnesty International chapter and anyone else who wants to do something good for someone else this holiday season.

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

When: Saturday, Dec. 7 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Schlafly Bottleworks – 7260
Southwest Ave. @ Manchester. Maplewood, MO 63143

Why: Because people need our help and we can make a difference, and because it’s fun

How: Just show up and enjoy great company, food, and beer (food and beer not free). We’ll provide the paper, pens, and pertinent information on each of the cases.

If you can’t attend the Write-a-thon, then please subscribe to this blog for updates! We will be posting the focus cases for this year’s event, so you can follow along and write letters on your own time. We’ll give you all the information you need to write the letter and to send it to the appropriate person. If you’re going to write letters on your own or attend our event, then please pledge your commitment on the Amnesty website. Our goal is 200 letters, but Amnesty’s goal is to have 75,000 people writing letters. Please join the event in any way you can! Your voice has power, and many people around the world need it.

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