Sunday, November 27, 2011

Amnesty: why the pen is mightier than the sword

November 27, 2011

It has never been easier to support Amnesty International's campaigns. From sending tweets to signing petitions online, or even attending public rallies, people can demand action in a range of ways. So why does the pioneering human-rights organisation want us to return to old-fashioned letter-writing for its Write for Rights campaign? "It still works. It's still very important," says Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK. "In our 50th year, we are showing that our original founding idea, of writing either to authorities that are abusing human rights or to people who are on the receiving end of that, can still be massively powerful.

"If you're in prison, you're not going to get tweets and emails. But you may well get those letters and cards. And if you're not getting them, your family might be getting them.

"I can't remember how many times I have been told by a prisoner of conscience or an organisation like Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise that our cards and letters bring real hope. They are a link to the outside world and give them knowledge that they're not struggling on their own."

Amnesty International has chosen 10 cases for its Write for Rights campaign, each championed by high-profile Amnesty supporters such as Ian Hislop and Saffron Burrows. It hopes that sending letters to those who can stop abuses will make a difference.

Here we profile four cases in the Write for Rights campaign, along with the names and addresses of the people you need to write to.