Write for Rights 2022: your voice has made a difference
Another year, another five million signs of solidarity
Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights campaign shines a light in the darkness for people facing persecution and injustice. This year, our words and actions have brought hope to people in prison and encouraged those who are bravely standing up for human rights. From running marathons in Zimbabwe to music concerts in Mongolia, over five million actions were taken around the world to support the people featured in the 2022 campaign. Here are some of the ways in which you have made a difference to those people so far.
Confidence for Bangladeshi climate justice campaigner
One of the people featured in this year’s campaign was a climate justice campaigner in Bangladesh called . He is facing 10 years in prison for speaking out on Facebook against a new coal plant in his neighbourhood. The plant was heralded as a turning point in the region’s development, but Shahnewaz was scared about the environmental destruction it could bring to a low-lying coastal area already vulnerable to the impact of climate change.
In 2021, the area was hit by a devastating storm. Heavy rainfall and strong winds pounded the village and several homes were destroyed. Worried about the impact of environmentally damaging projects like the new power plant, Shahnewaz took to Facebook to raise his concerns. The next day, the power plant company filed a case against Shahnewaz, and on 28 May 2021, he was arrested by the police under Bangladesh’s oppressive Digital Security Act. He was detained in inhumane conditions for 80 days without trial until finally granted bail in August. If he’s convicted, he faces many years in jail.
As part of the 2022 Write for Rights campaign, people around the world sent letters to the Bangladeshi government, calling for the charges against Shahnewaz to be dropped. Shahnewaz has told Amnesty International that he believes that these letters are extremely valuable, as they have put enormous pressure on authorities to ensure that justice is served. Over 500,000 actions were taken to support him and demand his freedom, and his story was picked up by news outlets around the world, from Canada to South Korea. This support means Shahnewaz is bravely continuing his work on climate justice. He said he is immensely grateful for all the letters and cards he has received.
Read more about the impact of the 2022 Write for Rights campaign in Amnesty International’s global report.
Camaraderie for South American trans rights activists
Like most of us, want time to enjoy the things they love in life, but instead they are busy fighting the legally ingrained discrimination against trans people in Paraquay.
Trans people in Paraguay cannot legally change their names or obtain identifying documents that match their gender identity. This means trans students cannot get school certificates in their chosen names, which makes it difficult to find a job when they leave school. Together with other deeply disadvantaging laws and practices, this inequality has motivated Yren and Mariana to become human rights activists, despite the threats that they face from wider society. Protests by trans groups are often banned in their country, and in some cases, peaceful demonstrations have been attacked.
Thanks to the support of the Amnesty movement, Mariana embarked on an international Write for Rights Tour, raising awareness of their struggle and meeting with other activists around the world. The campaign has had a significant impact on Yren and Mariana's daily lives, as well as on trans and LGBTQIA+ organisations. The pair say they have never felt so much love and encouragement from so many people, and that they have grown significantly as leaders and activists thanks to this support.
Importantly, the “avalanche of letters” received by the Paraguay authorities has had a direct impact on Mariana’s legal case to change her name. After four years of stagnation, the case was finally unblocked and passed to the national level.
"The tour awakened my abilities that were dormant, now I can speak in public without fear to continue demanding my rights."Mariana Sepúlveda
“I really have to say that the love that I once did not feel, today is something very strong and that is why I always say that there is no time for more hate, we only have time to love."Yren Rotela
Learn more about how you can be an LBGTQIA+ ally with a new guide from Amnesty International Australia.
Courage for peaceful Hong Kong human rights activist
Chow Hang-Tung, a young human rights lawyer, in Hong Kong for holding vigils to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen square crackdown in China.
A brilliant student from a top university, Chow could have pursued any high-flying career. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to fearlessly protecting people’s rights as a human rights lawyer and activist.
Chow was the vice-chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance, which organised the world’s biggest candlelight vigil for victims of the Chinese Government’s crackdown on peaceful protestors in 1989.
In 2020 and 2021, the Hong Kong authorities banned the vigil, citing concerns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, Chow encouraged people to commemorate the crackdown on social media. She was arrested the same day for “advertising or publicizing unauthorized assembly”.
Chow is now serving at least four months in prison for allegedly endangering national security through her entirely peaceful actions. While some of her charges have been dropped, she is facing serious penalties for supposedly breaching the draconian Hong Kong National Security Law.
In the face of all this, Chow has expressed her gratitude for the letters of solidarity she received from supporters during the 2022 Write for Rights campaign. Wherever possible, she wrote personal replies to thank the people who reached out to her with letters and postcards, and she is so grateful to everyone who has shown their support.
Keep up the great work
We know that some wins for human rights take time and perseverance. We know that hope makes all the difference when it seems like progress is too slow. Let’s remember the that have been changed by Write for Rights over more than 20 years of campaigning. And let’s remember that together, we can be the change we want to see in the world.