Write for Rights
Help People in Need
December is the time of year when we remember the past and look towards the future. We donate to charities during the holidays to spread seasonal joy and hope to those in need. Resolutions are made to make our lives better as we ring in the new year.
This December, a little more effort could have a huge impact on someone who needs the voices of the world to help them. Amnesty International is holding Write for Rights December 5-13.
Fairness does not reign supreme in much of the world. Equality is not recognized. Laws can be vague so that governments can use them as necessary.
Here are just three examples:
Arrested for sending an email
Officials in China arrested journalist Shi Tao for sending an email to a U.S.-based pro-democracy website in 2004.
The email simply summarized a government order for the press to downplay the 15th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre which occurred when tanks were ordered to clear Tienanmen Square on June 4, 1989. Estimates placed the deaths at 400-800. Following the massacre the government arrested protesters and supporters and several officials who were sympathizers were put under house arrest. Foreign press was banned from the country.
Tao was charged with “illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities.” Yahoo! Provided email account information in April 2005. He was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Tao is currently held in Deshan Prison in Changde City, Hunan Province. He was forced to labor under harsh conditions at Chishan Prison when he was first sentenced.
Tao's family claims it has faced harassment and monitoring by officials. His wife, who had been undergoing daily questioning, divorced him citing persistent pressure from her employer.
Abused by Police Officers
A local peasant organization in San Salvador Atenco had been conducting protests. In response, police arrested more than 45 women without explanation in early May, 2006.
Many of the women were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual violence by the officers who arrested them.
Officers pulled the hair of one woman, beat her and forced her into a state police vehicle with her shirt pulled over her head. It didn't stop there. She was forced to lie on top of other detainees and while en route to prison, officers sexually assaulted her repeatedly.
Her name is Bárbara Italia Méndez (pictured middle).
Prison doctors at Santiaguito prison near Toluca, Mexico State, did not document the physical injuries the women sustained nor did they gather evidence of the sexual abuse.
Federal authorities conducted an investigation and named 34 police officers who were suspected of perpetrating the attacks, however, they recently concluded that the prosecutions should be handled at the state level.
Death Threats; No Protection
Rita Hahato works with women in Nepal who have suffered acts of violence. As a result of her efforts, she has been threatened with death, rape and kidnapping.
Mahato is a health adviser at the Women's Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) and men from the village object to the center's work. Police will neither provide Mahato protection nor will they investigate the threats.
Cases of violence against women are documented by Mahata through her WOREC work in Bastipur Village Development Committee – a village in Siraha district. Although police are reluctant to officially register the incidents, Mahato ensures it is done.
About 70 men threatened Mahata and other staff members with rape and death and demanded they leave within five days. In addition to the threats, around 20 people threw bricks at the WOREC office and at staff members who went outside to confront them. The police took no action.
Mahato has been told that a woman who is not educated should not be doing a man's job and that men can force a woman to go back to where she belongs.
Despite the threats and discrimination, Mahato continues her work.
It is important that people world-wide gather as one voice and tell these countries to honor and support human rights. As a result of the Internet, our world is smaller than ever. We must help our brothers and sisters who are still denied rights, protection and justice.
The Walt Disney song says it best: There is just one moon and one golden sun and a smile means friendship to everyone. Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it's a small, small world.
Sample letters, addresses, and more case sheets can be found at Amnesty International.