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Write one line to help women


Amnesty international, writing campaign,Please help: send a message of hope to someone suffering human rights abuses.

Every year during November and December Amnesty International (AI) asks people to join their Write for Rights campaign.

They ask you to write a letter to send a message of hope to someone suffering human rights abuses. Just one line will do, and they even suggest what you can say.

They also ask you to write to Presidents, police chiefs and prison governors, as these people do take note when they receive hundreds of appeals to release a prisoner, stop the harassment of an activist or change an unjust law. And they have set up a template for you to base your letter on.

This year AI has focussed on thirteen cases, and six of these are women or women’s groups.

1. Fifteen years ago Mary Akrami and a group of pioneering women’s rights activists set up the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre (AWSDC) to tackle violence and inequality and bring about positive change for women in Afghanistan.

AWSDC provides training for police officers to sensitise them to working with female survivors of violence, works with traditional and religious groups to raise awareness about women’s rights issues in communities, and runs several shelters.

In a country where violence against women is endemic and those responsible rarely face justice, shelters like those run by AWSDC play a critical role in providing survivors with protection and support to help them rebuild their lives. But AWSDC staff carry out this important work at great personal risk and face threats, intimidation and attacks.

To download their casesheet and address labels, click here.

2. Kalpana Chakma was the organising secretary of the Hill Women’s Federation, which campaigns for the rights of indigenous peoples in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, in Bangladesh.

In the early hours of 12 June 1996, Kalpana and two of her brothers were abducted from their home by plain-clothed security officers.

Her brothers managed to escape and identified the three assailants. However, the police did not take note of the names of the assailants, and they were not investigated or added to the case files.

Kalpana, 23 at the time of the incident, has never been found. It is believed that her abduction may have been linked to her support for a political candidate representing the interests of indigenous peoples.

A Bangladeshi court recently demanded a new investigation report into the case with vital information such as the names of the accused assailants included. However, the deadline has passed and no new report has been submitted.

To download this casesheet and address labels, click here.

3. Laísa Santos Sampaio, a member of a group that promotes sustainable development in Nova Ipixuna municipality in Pará state, in Brazil, has been the target of persistent death threats since 2011.

In May 2011 her sister and brother-in-law, both prominent environmental campaigners, were shot dead by contract killers. Two men were convicted in April 2013, but a third man who allegedly ordered the killings was acquitted and lives in the same community as Laísa. Other individuals closely associated with the three are also present in the community, and Laísa believes they are responsible for the threats she received.

Laísa is one of the most high-profile critics of illegal logging and charcoal burning in her region, but receives little or no protection from the authorities. She currently remains outside her community for safety reasons.

To download her casesheet and address labels, click here.

4. In February 2011, moments after dropping off her children at school, Miriam Isaura López Vargas was grabbed by two men wearing balaclavas. She was tied up, blindfolded and driven to a military barracks in the Mexican city of Tijuana.

For the following week she was raped repeatedly by soldiers, who tortured her until she signed a statement falsely implicating herself in drug offences. She was sent to prison to await trial, but was released without charge seven months later.

Although Miriam has identified some of the perpetrators and their accomplices, no-one has been brought to justice for the torture and sexual violence she suffered.

To download her casesheet and address labels, click here.

5. Yorm Bopha, a passionate campaigner for her community at Boeung Kak Lake in Phnom Penh, has been imprisoned since September 2012 following an unfair trial.

Yorm and other local women had led a peaceful protest to mark the anniversary of a forced eviction in their community in which houses were destroyed. She was subsequently accused of planning an assault on two men and, despite the lack of any credible evidence, given a three-year sentence.

We consider her a prisoner of conscience, jailed on fabricated charges because of her peaceful activism defending the right to housing and freedom of expression.

With her husband unable to work because of ill health, Yorm’s family has financial problems and can no longer afford to send their son to school.

To download her casesheet and address labels, click here.

6. Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) was formed in 2003 to provide women with a united voice against the social, economic and human rights conditions in Zimbabwe.

Since then WOZA members have been arrested, harassed and severely beaten by the police on many occasions simply for exercising their right to peaceful protest.

Pregnant women and mothers with babies and young children have been among those detained.

Jenni Williams, WOZA’s founder and national coordinator, has been arrested over 50 times.

Despite the risks, WOZA members continue to stand up for human rights. Every Valentine’s Day they hand out roses with a message that sums up their ethos: ‘The power of love can conquer the love of power’.

To download their casesheet and address labels, click here.

And then there is Nabi Saleh.

The 550 people living in Nabi Saleh village face frequent violent repression from the Israeli army.

Since 2009 the villagers have held weekly peaceful protests against Israel’s military occupation and the illegal settlement of Halamish, which has taken over most of their farmland.

Despite court orders, the settlers have also turned the village water spring into a tourist attraction, which the Nabi Saleh residents are prevented from using.

The Israeli army responds to the villagers’ peaceful protests with excessive and unnecessary force. They have killed two protesters and injured hundreds, including women and children, by firing live ammunition, stun grenades and tear gas canisters. The Israeli security forces regularly raid the village, searching houses and arresting people, including children, late at night.

To download their casesheet and address labels, click here.

Thank you.

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