Current Affairs

Write for Rights: Oxford students join Amnesty International campaign

Oxford University Amnesty International Society (OUAIS) has this week joined the world’s biggest letter-writing campaign, writing letters in support of people around the world facing human rights abuses.

The flagship annual Write for Rights campaign aims to changed the lives of young people around the world who are facing jail, harassment and attacks for fighting for human rights, liberties, environmental and other causes.

Oxford students have been encouraged to send a letter, email or tweet of support to ten individuals or groups of people from across the globe whose freedoms are being denied. Letters can also be written to those in power in the countries in which these abuses are taking place.

The campaign, organised by Amnesty International each year, will involve millions of people from all over the world during November and December, and has had a significant influence in past years.

The Write for Rights campaign helped to put pressure on the Peruvian government to drop charges against the environmental campaigner, Máxima Acuña, who was attacked by the police for standing up to miners who evicted her family and others from their land.

OUAIS President, Paddy Lee, said: “The 10 people in our Write for Rights campaign are among many who have used their voice to do good, but now they are facing jail sentences and even torture for standing up for what they, and many others, believe in.”

“At Amnesty, we know that the simple act of writing a letter can make a huge difference to a person’s life. For someone suffering in jail or being persecuted by the authorities, receiving messages of support can make a huge difference. And when letters pile up at the doors of those in power, they will often feel pressured to act against the abuses being committed. Although sometimes change is not seen immediately, voicing your support is never inconsequential.”

She added, “We hope that many Oxford residents will get involved in this simple yet powerful act of solidarity. Write for Rights serves as a hopeful reminder and that your words have power and this power, in in an age where it is too often misused and abused, can be used for good.”

Among the ten groups of people who are the focus of this year’s campaign are:

  • Jani Silva, an environmental defender who, despite threats to her life, continues to fight for the conservation of the Amazon ecosystem and for the rights of hundreds of peasants (campesinos) in Colombia.
  • Paing Phyo Min, who is serving six years in prison after performing satirical poetry criticizing the military in Myanmar. Amnesty is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
  • Germain Rukuki, a campaigner who for years has fought against torture in Burundi, but who is now serving a 32-year prison sentence on charges of “participation in an insurrectional movement.”

OUAIS invites interested students to visit their Facebook and Instagram pages, adding that as well as taking part in campaigning work, the group holds free events such as a speech from Suzanne Nossel, the former Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, and chief operating officer at Human Rights Watch.  

For more information on the Write for Rights campaign, visit https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/write-for-rights/

Max Spokes

Max (he/him) is Environment News Editor at The Oxford Blue for Michaelmas 2020. He is in his second year studying History and Politics at Balliol.