Write for Rights event comes to U of M

Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights event will be held on Dec. 10, the day recognized as Human Rights Day. The University of Manitoba Amnesty International group met on Nov. 26 and 27 at the fireside lounge in University Centre to write letters for the event.

World leaders adopted a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” on Dec. 10, 1948 to recognize the basic rights of people around the world. It is now celebrated as Human Rights Day and educates, promotes, and mobilizes human rights.

Write for Rights draws participants from 30 countries who write letters that call for justice to global human rights violations.

Amnesty International is a global movement involving over three million people from over 150 countries. Their goal is to raise awareness about human rights and global violations. They use research to create the best possible action and claim to have provided reliable and accurate information for over 50 years. As an independent organization they do not accept funding from any government, political ideology, economic interest, or religious bodies.

This year participants have the opportunity to write for 12 cases. The countries include Iran, South Africa, Canada, Greece, Nigeria, Libya, Taiwan, the U.S.A., Sudan, and Romania, with two more cases pending.

Alberta Johnson, coordinator for the Write for Rights event at the U of M, told the Manitoban that the event is part of a two-week campaign students are holding against gender violence. The Write for Rights event kicked off the campaign, which includes movies and a vigil in honour of the victims of the École Polytechnique Massacre, the 1989 shooting that resulted in the death of 14 women.

“Each year we pick a different focus, so last year it was women and the year before that it was children. This year we’re working on the human violation rights in Canada [that] Amnesty is focusing on. We’re particularly pushing Stolen Sisters,” said Johnson.

Stolen Sisters is an Amnesty initiative to confront discrimination and violence towards Indigenous women in Canada.

Others included in the theme of gender violence are cases in Iran and South Africa. The Write for Rights U of M Amnesty Group pushed these events as well.

Narges Mohammadi, from Iran, is proclaimed to be a women’s right activist, engineer, journalist, mountain climber, and avid Iranian music fan. According to Amnesty, the Iranian authorities closed the Centre for the Defenders of Human Rights in Tehran, where she was the executive chairperson. Members were allegedly harassed, arrested, and sentenced to prison.

According to Amnesty, Mohammadi is currently serving a six-year prison sentence, reduced from 11 years after appeal, for crimes against national security and spreading propaganda against the system. She was unable to deliver a speech for the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Amnesty claims, on the “Role of Women and Democracy in Iran,” due to a ban on travelling abroad. Mohammadi is actively trying to create solutions for laws discriminating against Iranian women.

Noxolo Nogwaza, an activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights from South Africa, was stabbed, raped, and beaten on her way home from a night out with her friends. Among many LGBT individuals, Amnesty claims she faced violence and threats every day. Her murder was assigned to the Tsakane police but they failed to investigate or look further into her death. According to Amnesty, the LGBT community often does not get the help or attention it deserves in South Africa.

The U of M Amnesty Group is also dealing with a more local cause that involves Stolen Sisters. According to Amnesty, it has been estimated that Indigenous women are five to seven times more likely to die as a result of violence. There have been over 580 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the last 30 years. While it has received recent media attention, Amnesty claims that it has been a struggle to catch the Canadian government’s attention.

Johnson encouraged all students to participate in the Write for Rights event.