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Write for Rights: how Christmas turns into a life-saving marathon

For twenty years now, Amnesty International has been pursuing its most important and significant global collective action, Write for Rights. Ten stories, millions of letters and appeals in defense of those rights too often violated that constitute the foundation of Amnesty and its mission. But what does the initiative consist of? Let’s find out.

What is Amnesty and what is Write for Rights

“Your words can change lives”. This is the slogan of Write for Rights, a global collective action carried out by Amnesty International throughout the month of December which aims to shift attention to some important human rights violations in the world.

For Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization that has been committed to the defense of human rights since 1961, any form of threat to freedom is a violation of it. Prisons, deprivation of speech by governments and institutions, discrimination on a religious, sexual or identity basis, forced extraditions and irregular trials are some of the most important battles against which Amnesty struggles on a daily basis, through appeals, demonstrations and collective actions.

Source. Website of Amnesty International

The initiative Write for Rights was born in 2001 in Poland, when a group of activists held a marathon of letters for twenty-four consecutive hours on behalf of those whose rights had been endangered or harmed. Since then, Amnesty is committed to pursuing this initiative, which is also an opportunity to bring together the huge network of activists who support and make up the organization worldwide.

But what does the campaign actually consist of? Every year, Amnesty identifies urgent cases of human rights violations around the world that need immediate or swift action. Subsequently, it mobilizes through its activists a concentration of appeals, letters, emails and social actions such as tweets and posts in order to seek protection, justice or freedom for people who are in danger because of their commitment to the defense of human rights.

The impact of Write for Rights

The value and importance of Amnesty International on a global scale enabled the campaign to reach significant numbers: in 2001 Polish pioneers wrote 2326 letters. In 2020 there are about 4.5 million letters, tweets and signatures of appeals and petitions. But talking about numbers is reductive when we have testimonies of people who, thanks to Write for Rights, have obtained justice and freedom.

  • Phyoe Phyoe Aung, 2015: Young Burmese activist and Secretary General of one of the most important student associations in Myanmar, she was arrested on March 2015 along with fifty other students for a peaceful demonstration against an education law. She was accused of several crimes, including participating in an illegal gathering and inciting to commit crimes against the state. Thanks to Write for Rights, she was released on April 8, 2016 at the expense of the nine-year schedule.

  • Birtukan Mideksa, 2009: imprisoned in Ethiopia for about two years for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of thought and association, was released in 2010 thanks to thousands of petitions signed during the marathon.

  • Dr Tun Aung, 2013: leader of a Muslim community, doctor and activist, was imprisoned in 2012 after trying to calm the crowd during a riot in Myanmar and sentenced to 17 years in prison with several charges against him. Thanks to Write for Rights he was released in 2015.

Write for Rights 2021

This year Write for Rights, in Italy, will be dedicated to the courage of women who defend human rights. This is why five stories of activists and women in danger have been selected.

  • Janna Jihad: at the age of 13, Janna became known as one of the world’s youngest journalists for documenting the oppression and violence against Palestinians by the Israeli army in the West Bank. Her militant journalism has made her subject to harassment and death threats.

  • Zhang Zhan: in february 2020 Zhang traveled to Wuhan to report on the arrests of independent journalists and the harassment of the families of sick patients in Covid-19 by Chinese government officials. For her work she was sentenced to four years in prison.

  • Wendy Galarza: Mexican activist against gender violence, Wendy was captured and brutally beaten by police, who also shot her twice, for participating in an organized march to seek justice for the femicide of a woman named Alexis.

  • Ciham Ali: taken by the Eritrean authorities at the age of fifteen while trying to leave the country, she has been detained for about nine years in an unknown place. Her family has no news of her, and although Ciham has dual Eritrean and American citizenship, the United States government has not intervened in her case.

  • Anna Sharyhina e Vira Chernygina: they created the Ong Sphere to provide a safe space for the LGBT community in Ukraine, managing to organize the first Pride event in Kharkiv in 2019. Over the years the NGO has suffered several homophobic attacks (since 2017 almost 30 times), and despite complaints, the authorities have never protected it, indeed sometimes they have joined the attacks.

Therefore, Write for Rights is certainly an opportunity to shed light on human rights violations that occur daily, but above all, it is an opportunity to emphasize the importance of activism and the voice of the individual that can help save a life, for a more conscious and sustainable Christmas.

If you want to know and sign appeals for other Write for Rights cases, you can consult:


Sito interno Amnesty International

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