A History of Letter Writing
Every year around Human Rights Day on December 10, hundreds of thousands of people around the world send a message to someone they’ve never met. Letter writing has always been at the heart of Amnesty International’s work and 53 years of human rights activism shows us that words really do have the power to change lives.
Last year, hundreds of thousands of people in 143 countries around the world took a record-breaking 2,373,422 actions. Three of the Prisoners of Conscience featured in Write for Rights 2013 – Yorm Bopha, Vladimir Akimenkov, and Mikhail Kosenko – were released, and nearly all of the Individuals whose cases were featured told us that the burst of activism generated by the campaign helped to inspire and encourage them as they continue to struggle for justice.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS
- Amnesty looks at its global portfolio of cases, including Prisoners of Conscience, human rights defenders, torture survivors and communities at risk to decide who will be featured in each year’s campaign.
- They identify 10 cases where global activism can have a huge impact, right now, and share them with Amnesty activists.
- Amnesty grassroots leaders sign up to organize events and actions – or write on their own – on behalf of the 10 cases from December 1-17.
- Letters, tweets, emails, faxes, text messages and petitions start arriving at government offices, in prison cells and to families all over the world.
- Change happens. Hope Grows. As messages flood mailboxes, prisoners get better conditions or are released. Human rights defenders are better protected. Torture survivors finally get the reparations that they need to heal. People know that others, worldwide, are taking their injustice personally.
- Amnesty receives updates about the kinds of actions people are taking and the ways in which it is making a difference. Every year, they better understand how Write for Rights changes lives.
Write for Rights – also known as the Writeathon – is the world’s largest human rights event, but it has humble origins. Twelve years ago, a young man named Witek met a young woman named Joanna at a festival in Warsaw, Poland. Joanna had just returned from traveling through Africa, where she’d seen activists organizing 24-hour events to write protest letters to governments.
Witek invited Joanna to join a meeting of his local Amnesty group. Together, they decided to write Urgent Action appeals for 24 hours, beginning at noon on Saturday. When they emailed their idea to all the other Polish groups, it turned into something much bigger, bringing together activists across the country. Then, their idea went viral.
They emailed their idea to all the other Polish groups, and it turned into something much bigger, bringing together activists across the country,” explains Grzegorz Zukowski, from Amnesty Poland. Then, their idea went viral.