Write for Rights 2015 case updates

'These messages from beyond the prison walls have become an enormous source of strength for me as I continue my fight for freedom.'
Albert Woodfox, January 2016

2015 was one of our biggest Write for Rights campaigns to date, with tens of thousands of you sending emails, writing cards, posting on social media and holding letter-writing events.

Here are the people you wrote to in 2015 to let them know you stand beside them and know about their case, and wrote to the authorities and called for justice following their human rights abuses.

Albert Woodfox

43 years of solitary confinement and counting in the USA

Despite his conviction being overturned three times, Albert remains in solitary confinement in Louisiana. He was first sent to solitary in 1973.

There is some hope: Albert is due to be retried (for a fourth time!) again this year, and could be released from solitary. We’re still calling for his release now.

Albert sent this message to all those who wrote to him in prison, where he’s still being kept in solitary.

'I'd like to thank our friends at Amnesty International for their remarkable support these last years, culminating in the Write for Rights Campaign that occurred in December. As a result of this campaign, I have received thousands of letters from around the world pledging solidarity and support. These messages from beyond the prison walls have become an enormous source of strength for me as I continue my fight for freedom.'
Albert Woodfox, January 2016

Costas

Attacked for being gay in Greece 

Costas and his partner were badly beaten up by thugs in a homophobic and racist attack in central Athens in August 2014. No suspects were ever identified.

Costas was thankful for your messages of support, while he and his partner continue to search for justice:

‘All this mobilisation of the people from all over the world is very moving, after what happened to me. This is what I think the letters from all over the world stand for: that all love is equal, and it must be seen as nothing else under any circumstances. Your letters remind us we are not alone in this.

'It is our right to hold our beloved one’s hand regardless of their gender, skin colour, religion. Thank you for being virtuous. Thank you for daring.".
Costas, December 2015

Fred and Yves

Youth activists jailed in the DRC for promoting democracy

Yves Makwambala and Fred Bauma are detained and awaiting trial, after they were arrested in March 2015 at the launch of a new activist platform promoting democracy, a website called ‘Filimbi’.

Girls forced into marriage in Burkina Faso

One in three girls in Burkina Faso are married off before they turn 18. Some are as young as 11. They are expected to have as many children as their husbands want, regardless of their own wishes or the health risks brought about by early pregnancy.

We are continuing to campaign for an end to early forced marriage in Burkina Faso as part of our My Body My Rights campaign.

Israa Al-Taweel

Freed from Egyptian prison, after international campaign for her release

Great news: Israa is free!

The Egyptian student had been shot in the lower back at a protest in January 2015. In June, she was arrested for her presence at the January protest, and potential links with the now-banned political group, the Muslim Brotherhood. She was threatened by authorities questioning her, and was jailed for links to the Brotherhood.  Meanwhile, her back injury from the gunshot deteriorated in prison while she was not receiving medical treatment.

Israa was released from prison to house arrest on health grounds just before Christmas. At the start of February all security restrictions were lifted and Israa is officially free - in no small part thanks to an international campaign for her release.

Phyoe Phyoe Aung

Imprisoned for protesting in Burma

Phyoe Phyoe Aung was violently arrested during education protests, and has been imprisoned since March 2015. She’s the head of a student union in Burma, where such unions are forbidden. She and more than 100 others are jailed for speaking out against education reform.

Phyoe Phyoe Aung has been receiving your letters in prison. At a trial hearing in winter 2015, her parents gave us this note to Amnesty activists from Phyoe Phyoe:

'Receiving letters gives me real inspiration for what we are doing. I have begun to notice that the world is watching and cheering us – we are not alone.

I thank everyone very much for their support for me and our movement. Although we cannot see the results from the government yet, it can influence their mindset.

People have sent inspiring letters, supportive letters, letters about lovely animals, letters about their beautiful countries, letters about their beautiful and cute pets, and some lovely poems.

Your letters are not just letters, they are also big presents and great strength not only for the students but also for Burma’s future.'
Phyoe Phyoe Aung, December 2015

Rania Alabassi and her six children

Family abducted in Syria

In March 2013, Syrian government agents came to Rania's home and took away her husband. Two days later, they came for her and her children- Dima, Entisar, Najah, Alaa, Ahmad and Layan. None of them has been heard of since.

The Syrian authorities have refused to give Rania’s relatives any information about what happened, or where they are now. They are still missing.

Saman Naseem

Teenager tortured into TV confession and sentenced to death in Iraq

Saman Naseem was 17 when he was arrested for allegedly taking part in armed activities against the state. He says he was tortured and forced to make a ‘confession’ on state television.

Saman is still on death row.

Teodora del Carmen Vásquez

Imprisoned for suffering a stillbirth in El Slavador

Teodora is in prison, serving a 30-year sentence for ‘aggravated homicide’, after she suffered a stillbirth in 2008.

In El Salvador, women who suffer still-births are often suspected of having had an abortion, which is considered a crime, under any circumstance. We are continuing to campaign to change the law in El Salvador through our My Body My Rights work.

Waleed Abu al-Khair

Human rights lawyer imprisoned for speaking out in Saudi Arabia

From setting up one of the few human rights organisations in Saudi Arabia to representing blogger Raif Badawi in court, Waleed is one of the most outspoken critics of his government's human rights abuses. The authorities are trying to silence him by imprisoning him for 15 years for his human rights work.

Yecenia Armenta

Raped, tortured and imprisoned in Mexico

In July 2012 police arrested Yecenia and accused her of ordering the murder of her husband, who had died the week before. The officers put a plastic bag over her head, waterboarded her, stripped her and raped her. Yecenia admitted to the crime after 15 hours of torture.

Yecenia is still in prison but she is grateful for your letters. When we visited her in December she said:

'When I receive all these letters saying that I’m not alone, it makes me feel great. And I think, yes, it’s true, I’m not alone. They really are supporting me. It makes me happy. It’s exciting to think that there are people who still care about the rights of other people…and they don’t even know me.

'I am immensely grateful and I think they [the activists writing letters] are doing the nicest thing you can do, which is helping people who are facing such unjust situations. It fills me with pride and I truly feel that it’s a wonderful thing.'
Yecenia Armenta, December 2015

Zunar

On trial for tweeting in Malaysia

Political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque - aka ‘Zunar’ – is currently being tried for sedition in Malaysia for cartoons he tweeted on in February 2015.

Malaysia’s Sedition Act is colonial-era law often used to crack down on free speech in the guise of protecting national security and deterring racial or religious unrest.

Zunar has been targeted numerous times for his political cartoons; he holds the record for the highest number of sedition charges in Malaysia.

What is Write for Rights?

Write for Rights is our annual campaign to achieve justice through writing a message to people who have suffered human rights abuses. It runs every year in November and December, and Amnesty international sections in countries all over the world participate in this huge global campaign.

Whether it's by email, by post or on social media, we know that your messages have results - pressuring authorities to undo injustice, and supporting individuals in their search for justice.