UK: Amnesty launches its annual 'Message of Hope' greetings card campaign

The annual campaign asks people in the UK to send cards to those under threat around the world – those imprisoned solely for their beliefs, those under sentence of death, those held without charge or due process and others at risk of human rights abuse.

Running until 31 January 2006, the campaign is expected to generate thousands of messages of hope for the 29 cases included.

People featured in the campaign range from those like Sumi Khan in Bangladesh, an investigative journalist who has been attacked and has received death threats to prisoners of conscience, like Helen Berhane – a Christian gospel singer from Eritrea who was arrested for refusing to renounce her faith and is believed to be imprisoned in a metal shipping container.

Previous greetings card campaigns have been extremely successful.

Of the 32 cases featured in last year’s campaign, twelve individuals have been released and six have seen their circumstances improve, and many others have also reported being deeply appreciative of the support they were shown.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Sending these cards is a simple yet effective way of offering a great sense of hope and solidarity to many people at risk around the world.”

“During a season when so many of us are sending messages of goodwill to friends and family, we’re asking people to add an extra card to their list and really make a difference for people under threat.”

Samuel Morales, a Colombian trade union activist featured in this year’s campaign said: “Knowing that the international community is watching over us is one of the few things that dissuades them from attacking us. It protects us.”

Speaking of the campaign, Terry Waite, CBE, the former hostage in Lebanon said: “Help change despair to hope and send an Amnesty card. You can make a difference.”

This year the campaign is focusing on 29 cases, including:

  • Sanjiv Kumar Karna, a 24-year-old student in Nepal, who has not been heard from following his arrest in October 2003 by the army and police. Sanjiv’s arrest is believed to be linked to his involvement in student politics.
  • Bilqis Yakoob Rasool, a human rights defender from India who survived the massacre of her family in which her daughter was killed and she was gang raped. Bilqis’ brave fight for justice has since encouraged other Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights to come forward.
  • The family of Florentín Gudiel in Guatemala: well known in his community for carrying out strong human rights work, Florentín Gudiel was murdered in December 2004. Following his death, Florentín Gudiel’s family has received numerous death threats.
  • The grassroots activist group Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights of Zimbabwe Arise, who have been repeatedly arrested for engaging in peaceful demonstrations against the worsening economic, social and human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

Good news from last year’s campaign includes:

  • The Bashirs, a Palestinian family from Gaza, who had been living for several years with their house occupied by Israeli soldiers, received more than 15,000 cards and letters last year.

    They believe that this helped protect their family. Following the Gaza disengagement plan – the removal of Israeli settlements and troops from the Gaza strip – the Bashir family has now regained full possession of their home.

  • Ignatius Mahendra Kusuma Wardhana, a student leader and Yoyok Eko Widodo, a musician’s union member, were serving prison sentences for “insulting the President or Vice-president.”

    They received hundreds of cards as a result of last year’s greeting card campaign. In 2005 both Mahendra and Yoyok were released from prison.

  • Over 11,500 cards were sent to the families of eight men from the UK detained at Guantánamo Bay. Four of these - British nationals Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Richard Belmar and Martin Mubanga – have since been released.

    At least six UK residents – Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil al-Banna, Jamal Abdullah, Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, Omar Deghayes and Benyam Mohamed al Habashi – are among the more than 500 men of around 35 nationalities who remain held at Guantánamo Bay and Amnesty International continues to campaign for fair trials or release.

More about our Greetings Card Campaign 2005

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