The power of a letter and five minutes that could change a life

Has the last year been good to you? Perhaps you've had some great days out, kept up with friends? Moved up at work? Maybe it's been a dream year. Perhaps you've found love, had a baby, travelled the world...

So spare a thought for Gao Zisheng. He's spent 2012 in prison in China, simply because of his work as a human rights lawyer. Or for Azza Hilal Ahmad Suleiman, who's spent the year fighting for justice, after she was attacked by Egyptian soldiers.

Hakamada Iwao spent this last year - and 43 before that - not knowing if today would be the day that he's led to an execution chamber.  Not to be glib, but that's a lot of bad years.

Today we're launching our annual Write for Rights campaign, where we want to encourage as many people as possible to send messages of support to individuals and communities denied freedom and justice.

To help us launch the campaign we asked Jeremy Irons to think back and tell us what he's done for those last 44 years while Hakamada has sat on death row.

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The good news is that we know that we can make a difference. A simple card or letter can be all it takes to give hope and comfort to people the authorities want to be ignored and forgotten.

As part of last year's Write for Rights you sent over 1,000 cards to Patrick Okoroafor, who spent 17 years in prison in Nigeria after an unfair trial. Alongside letters to the authorities, your messages gave Patrick the strength to carry on, and told those in power that we would not let them push such an unjustice under the carpet.

'After reading some of the thousands of letters, cards and messages sent to me by Amnesty supporters, I began to hope that I would soon be free'
Patrick Okoroafor, May 2012, soon after his release

With just five minutes of your time, we can give hope to Gao Zisheng, Azza Suleiman, Ramze Ahmed, Hakamada, and many others.

Over the course of the month we'll be asking you to send voicemails to a young woman in America, send us texts to turn into postcards, send photos to Afghanistan, and of course write letters. And each time you could really change a life.

Today, start by giving five minutes to help us, and Hakamada - get your friends to watch Jeremy Irons' video, and then send a message to the Japanese authorities.

See all of this year's Write for Rights cases

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About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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