Another year has passed and another successful Write for Rights campaign has been fulfilled by our friends at Amnesty International. And quite a campaign it has proven to be.
Write for Rights, a project organized by Amnesty International, is an annual campaign based on the concept that when massive amounts of attention are focused on real-word problems that real-world solutions will be realized. In effect, Write for Rights is a worldwide letter writing campaign focused on demanding the release of — and improved conditions of confinement for — political prisoners and other prisoners of conscience.
The success of Write for Rights is simple, even if its orchestration is anything but that. Prison administrators and politicians can ignore a single letter, email, text message, or phone call. These can be easily swept under the rug and hid from the light of day. But can they ignore 10, 50, 100 letters, or how about two million? Obviously, as the number grows larger, the harder it becomes to ignore the demands and public scrutiny. And in 2013, 1.9 million communications were made to prison officials worldwide as part of Amnesty International’s Write for Rights 2012.
Write for Rights 2013 was even more successful, with 2.3 million communications sent from hundreds of thousands of project supporters worldwide. In fact, the campaign was so successful that it resulted in the release of two political prisoners: Yorm Bopha, a noted Cambodian housing rights activist, and Vladimir Akimenkov, a peaceful Russian protester.
According to Amnesty International, their Write for Rights campaign focuses on political prisoners in Tunisia, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Russia, and Myanmar; “individuals victimized by the state” in Belarus, Mexico, Cambodia, and Turkey; and communities in Honduras, Palestine, and Nigeria.
Outside of letter writing campaigns, Amnesty International supporters have organized demonstrations, debates, flash-mobs, sit-ins, petitions, concerts, and workshops in locales such as Canada, Nepal, Guinea, Morocco, Katanga, and Portugal. Even “creative light projections” were orchestrated in Istanbul and Paris last year. The light projection in Istanbul, boldly enough, was directed at the Caolayan courthouse and Galata Tower, both symbols of oppression.
The concept of peaceful, passive resistance techniques like letter writing has often been discounted by those in the prisoners’ rights community. In American prisons (particularly at the higher security levels), political discussions can often be heard about demanding change or taking control through force or intimidation. While passive and active resistance are both, by definition, resistance methodologies, the idea of a peaceful intervention is surprisingly refreshing. And the successes of Amnesty International’s Write for Rights 2013 is certain to embolden both their supporters, and the other groups that learn of this relatively safer and more socially acceptable method of demanding change. Perhaps this is something we in the prison education field should consider.
For more information about Amnesty International and their annual Write for Rights campaign, visit www.amnestyinternational.org.