Amnesty International Taiwan launches Write for Rights

Amnesty International gears up for its annual letter-writing campaign in Taiwan with conferences in Taipiei, Taichung, Kaohsiung

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(Amnesty International photo)

(Amnesty International photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Amnesty International Taiwan is gearing up for Write for Rights, during which flurries of letters will be sent across the world through the end of January.

The NGO's flagship campaign, Write for Rights (W4R), has seen thousands of people each year write to bring comfort to the oppressed and put pressure on government officials to safeguard human rights.

In the 2018 W4R, letters were written on behalf of women activists being persecuted for challenging the status quo. This year, the focus is on youth who have "stepped in where adults have failed to lead, and are facing terrible danger as a result," according to Amnesty.

Amnesty International Taiwan's keynote event, the Writeathon, will be held at the Center for Innovation Taipei Nov. 30 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., which will feature not only letter-writing but also lectures by human rights advocates and musical performances. The event will be open to the public, but attendees are asked to register online.

For those whose Chinese leaves something to be desired, an English-language group meets monthly in the basement of Oh Cha Cha, a vegetarian restaurant on Heping East Road, a short walk from the Technology building MRT station. The group will hold its next meeting on November 27 from 7-9 p.m., which will focus on a writing marathon in support of the 10 young people selected this year.

In addition, the NGO has organized three seminars for the benefit of Taiwanese teachers, who can then return to their schools and lead students in their own letter-writing sprees. The Taipei seminar took place on Friday (Nov. 15), with the Kaohsiung and Taichung conferences slated for Nov. 23 and 24, respectively.

An Amnesty International Taiwan employee named Ethan told Taiwan News that even the simple act of writing letters can affect tangible change, adding that "Words have power." She cited the cases of past W4R recipients Carmen Vásquez, who was released last year after serving 10 years for the death of her stillborn child, and the Egyptian photojournalist known as Shawkan, who was released after five years of imprisonment on a bogus, politically motivated murder charge.

Nearly six million letters, postcards, and tweets were written over the course of the 2018 W4R event.

Some of these stories have yielded success, including Iranian activist Atena Daemi, who was imprisoned for campaigning against the death penalty and denied treatment despite being suspected of suffering from multiple sclerosis. In the end, Daemi received the medical care she required after some 700,000 people made their voices heard.

Amnesty International was founded in 1961 by British human rights activist Peter Benenson, who was spurred into action after learning of the arrest of two Portuguese students simply for expressing their freedom of speech. Over five decades later, the movement counts among its ranks more than five million activists and over two million supporters, according to AI's official website.

To order a W4R writing kit, click here (Chinese). For more information about the English-language group, visit its Facebook page.