The second of our Write for Rights this year took place today, Saturday 11 December in St Thomas’s Church in Salisbury starting at 10 am for 2 hours. As before the cases were be:
Mikita Zalatarou of Belarus. He is a teenager who has been sent to a penal colony following protests at the recent elections. Zhang Zhan of China. She is one of the journalists who tried to get the truth out about the Covid virus in Wuhan. She was sentenced to 4 years in prison. Ciham ali Ahmed of Eritrea. She was arrested on the Sudan border and nine years later her family do not know her whereabouts. Many prisoners are held in underground containers. Bernardo Caal Xol in Guatamala. He was caught up in the protests against the construction of hydroelectric dams which would have seriously harmed the indigenous peoples. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison with no evidence provided.
These of course are just a small selection of the thousands of people who are imprisoned for reasons of the beliefs they hold, opposition to the government or because they are human rights defenders, journalists or lawyers. If you can spare a moment or two to pop in we would be delighted to see you.
It would also be an opportunity to make yourself known if you wish to join the group.
A reminder that we will be holding our Write for Rights tomorrow in the Cathedral cloisters starting at 11am today and finishing at 1pm.
We shall be asking people to sign for the following:
Mikita Zalatarou of Belarus. He is a teenager who has been sent to a penal colony following protests at the recent elections.
Zhang Zhan of China. She is one of the journalists who tried to get the truth out about the Covid virus in Wuhan. She was sentenced to 4 years in prison.
Ciham ali Ahmed of Eritrea. She was arrested on the Sudan border and nine years later her family do not know her whereabouts. Many prisoners are held in underground containers.
Bernardo Caal Xol in Guatamala. He was caught up in the protests against the construction of hydroelectric dams which would have seriously harmed the indigenous peoples. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison with no evidence provided.
These are of course only four examples of the hundreds of thousands who are arrested, tortured, disappeared or imprisoned for speaking out against their regimes. We hope you can spare a few moments to sign a card at the Cathedral.
We shall be at St Thomas’s Church in Salisbury on Saturday11th starting at 10 am.
We shall be doing a Write for Rights this Sunday (5th December) in the Cathedral cloisters
For many years, we have done a signing at Christmas time, usually in the Market Square. We moved to the Cloisters the year before last and were more successful in getting people to sign. So we shall be there from 11:00 until 14:00 and anyone in Salisbury is welcome to come along and sign. It would also be a good opportunity for you to make yourself known to us if you were thinking of joining the group.
We shall be holding our Write for Rights signings in two locations this year: the first time we have done this. The first will be 5th December in the Cathedral Cloisters and the second on 11th in St Thomas’s. We do not have the times yet so keep an eye out on this site – or Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr – for more details once known. Almost certainly in the mornings. We hope you can come along and sign.
For people abroad, feel free to send us your desire to be listed and we will copy your name in.
Amnesty members around the world write millions of letters each year and it can sometimes feel a little dispiriting. They seldom get replies and the results (if any) are often difficult to discover. It can seem a fruitless exercise. True, every now and then, there is a success (which we have highlighted on this site where group members have been involved) but they are infrequent.
So the webinar held yesterday (2 December 2020) was particularly uplifting. It featured three speakers: Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty, Geraldine Chacón from Venezuela and the Sena Atici, the Individuals at Risk Coordinator at AIUK. Members of the South West group (pictured outside the cathedral in Exeter) will be familiar with Geraldine who came to speak to us in that city in March, just before lockdown.
Geraldine, a lawyer and human rights defender, was arrested in 2018 by the Venezuelan authorities as part of an exercise against all critics of the government. She was held in appalling conditions for 4 months and although eventually released, she was not permitted to leave the country. In common with a host of regimes nowadays, she was accused of being a ‘terrorist,’ a kind of go-to accusation for anyone a government doesn’t like.
She described how being arrested changed everything and how she felt isolated and forgotten. ‘Nothing was in your control’ she said. Thousands wrote letters which in fact, she never received. In prison, she was completely isolated. Her mother did however, and the government also received many thousands. ‘When you’re an activist, you’re not that sure that you are making a difference. Being on the other side, I saw how it had an impact and made a difference’ she added.
‘I know [the letters] make a difference – I am the living proof of that’
In her talk in Exeter, she said ‘[the police] want you to stop – without the support, I might have done.’
There were several questions from the public at the webinar presentation around effectiveness and risk. Can these
letters increase the risk to the prisoner? The answer was that the International Secretariat look carefully at this before someone is included in a Write for Rights campaign. If it is felt that there is risk, they are not included.
This was a most successful webinar. For all those who occasionally ask themselves ‘is it worth it?’ – is it worth the price of a stamp to a regime where it is unlikely to be read or to make a difference? the answer would be a resounding ‘yes’. As Geraldine’s case demonstrates, not only for her, but for family members as well, these letters show support and that the world is watching. For people who are arrested for no real reason and languish in prison, knowing that they are not forgotten is a powerful message.
We have been holding our card signing for many years now in the centre of Salisbury but the numbers willing to sign – even at Christmas – have dwindled. So this year we took up the offer by the Cathedral to hold it there which we did this afternoon (8 December 2019) with great success. Well over a hundred signed our cards and we were back to the days of a crowd of people signing.
Interestingly, and perhaps appositely, many were at the Cathedral to see the Magna Carta which of course is where the human rights story started just over 700 years ago.
Write for Rights display now on at the Methodist Church in Salisbury
We are pleased to say that the Methodist Church in Salisbury has agreed to host a display of four cases from our current ‘Write for Rights’ campaign and this display will be in place until 14th of January. Visitors to the church will be able to read the cases and if they wish, send a card which is available from the coffee shop. The church is open from 10 in the morning and often for much of the day. They serve coffee (which is very good value and can be recommended!).
A YouTube video about the programme can be seen here (2 mins).
The following piece was published in the Salisbury Journal (8 December 2016)
Each year thousands of people in the UK write letters or send cards in solidarity with those suffering humans rights abuses around the world pas part off Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign.
As a result, people have been freed after having been unfairly imprisoned, human rights defender who have been threatened and harassed by authorities have been able to live freely without intimidation and forced evictions have been halted.
Sending a message of support to those whose rights are being abused and also to the authorities on that person’s behalf is powerful. Imagine drowning in thousands of letters of encouragement and solidarity – in fact, imaging the officials who will see and deliver thousands of cards to the victims and their families. The effect on both is priceless. It shows the authorities that that individual is not alone and that all over the world thousands of people are standing up for them.
People featured this year include:
Fomoseh Ivo Feh a young man in Cameroon who faces 20 years in prison for forwarding a sarcastic text message
a photojournalist from Egypt, named Shawkan who was beaten, arrested and then held without trial following a demonstration in Cairo
airport as she was about to board a return flight to London with her 22 month old daughter.
Salisbury Methodist Church is hosting a Write for Rights event from January 4th to 15th and people are invited to see the exhibition and send a message of support. The church will be open from 10 am to noon.
We hope local readers will be able to support this initiative and come along at some time on those 2 days and sign something.