Croydon Amnesty Group calls on shoppers to ‘write for rights’ this winter


By - Friday 21st November, 2014

On Saturday 29th November members of Croydon Amnesty will be inviting shoppers in the Whitgift Centre to send a greetings card to someone imprisoned or tortured, often without trial.


Release begins: Look out for members of Croydon Amnesty Group in the Whitgift Shopping Centre on Saturday 29th November. They will be inviting you to take a few moments out from your Christmas shopping to send a greetings card with a message of hope to someone imprisoned and tortured, often without trial.

The Write for Rights campaign, which runs throughout November and December, is organised by Amnesty International and asks the UK public to send personal messages of support and solidarity to people behind bars, or whose lives are in serious danger, simply for exercising their human rights such as the right to free speech.

They are people like Saudi Arabian prisoner of conscience, Raif Badawi, imprisoned and sentenced to 1000 lashes for founding an online forum for political debate; Chelsea Manning, the American soldier who leaked classified government information to the website Wikileaks, currently serving a 35year sentence in military prison, and Mohammed al-Roken, a human rights lawyer serving a ten year sentence in the United Arab Emirates for criticising his government.

Rachel Lindley of Croydon Amnesty Group said:

‘Croydon Amnesty Group members – all volunteers – love taking part in the Write for Rights campaign each year. It’s such a simple thing, asking shoppers to send a card with a message of hope to a prisoner or victim of abuse, but we know it makes a real difference. It reminds them they are not alone, and by showing the authorities that the world knows what’s going on, it can help to secure a prisoner’s release, stop the harassment or change an unjust law. There are cases of prisoners having cards delivered by the sackload because so many concerned citizens from all over the world take part in this campaign.”

This year Croydon Amnesty Group has been taking part in Amnesty’s Stop Torture campaign and so the Group has chosen 4 Write for Rights cases involving victims of torture.

Liu Ping, a human rights activist in China, says she was tortured after being arrested simply for her links to the New Citizen’s Movement, a peaceful network of pro-democracy campaigners.

Ali Aarrass of Morocco was held incommunicado in secret detention where he was beaten on the soles of his feet, given electric shocks to his testicles and suspended from his wrists. He was convicted of supporting a terrorist group solely on the evidence of ‘confessions’ extracted under torture and is now serving a 12-year sentence. The UN has called for his immediate release.

Alfreda Disbarro was accosted by police in her hometown of Manila in the Philippines. They accused her of drug-dealing, took her to the police station and repeatedly punched her in the face and stomach, hit her with a club, poked their fingers in her eyes, forced a mop into her mouth and banged her head against the wall. They also beat her with a wooden stick and a metal bar. She was forced to sign a blank sheet of paper, presumably as a ‘confession.’ She later complained to the Philippine Commission on Human Rights but her case has never been investigated by the authorities.

Moses Akatugba of Nigeria was 16 years old when he was arrested by the Nigerian army, shot in the hand, beaten and charged with stealing mobile phones. He was then handed over to the police who beat him with machetes and batons, tied him up and hung him for several hours in interrogation rooms, using pliers to pull out his finger and toe nails to force him to sign ‘confessions.’ He was sentenced to death by hanging and is still on death row.

These cases make for depressing reading but the message of Amnesty is that we can all do something about it. Take a moment to send a card with a message of hope to Liu Ping, Ali, Alfreda or Moses, and let them know you are thinking of them. If you have time, find out more about the cases and further action you can take on Amnesty’s website too: www.amnesty.org.uk/write

Here’s what some of the people featured in last year’s Write for Right’s campaign, said:

‘‘Thank you for supporting me, even though you don’t know me. It’s incredible that there is so much support from different countries and cultures, and that people who don’t even know me feel solidarity with me and support my struggle. I truly thank you all.’ Mexican torture survivor Miriam Lopez.

‘When I received the letters the first day I was debating with the delivery person “No these could not be mine, I could never receive so many letters!” I was elated. It was beyond my expectation. I received five huge packages of letters. There were far too many to count. This is a huge resource of encouragement for me and for Eskinder.’ Serkalem Fasil; her journalist husband Eskinder is serving 18 years in jail for criticising the government in Ethiopia.

‘When I feel I am left with no hope, I’ll get a letter out and it will inspire me. The light of hope appears again, and confidence in myself and my ability to change things returns!’ Ihar Tsikhanyuk, beaten by police in Belarus for being gay, speaking about the support he received from Write for Rights 2013.

Beverley Foulkes-Jones, long-standing member of Croydon Amnesty Group (read her article about the Group here) said: ‘It would be fantastic if as many people in Croydon as possible could put pen to paper or log into their social network accounts and get writing. Together we are powerful and can make a real difference.”

For more information about Write for Rights, including details of the cases and how to send a message of solidarity, visit www.amnesty.org.uk/write. And don’t forget to look out for Croydon Amnesty Group’s Write for Rights stall in Allders Square, the Whitgift Centre, on Saturday 29th November, 11am – 4pm.

Release ends.

Release provider: Croydon Amnesty.

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