On Saturday 5 December, Horsham Amnesty members are taking to the streets as part of the annual Write for Rights campaign.
At this time of year, around International Human Rights Day on Thursday December 10, we join hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of the world to write a card to someone we have never met: a prisoner wrongly detained, a torture survivor fighting for justice, families waiting for relatives who have ‘disappeared’.
This year we want to give Horsham families and friends who are out shopping in the centre of the town a chance to add a signature or message to a card for Waleed.
Waleed Abu al-Khair is a prominent human rights lawyer in Saudi Arabia. He has represented many victims of human rights violations in his country including his brother-in-law, Raif Badawi. Many of you will have read how Raif was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for blogging about free speech. As a result of international pressure the flogging has been halted temporarily, however the authorities have now turned their attention to Waleed. After being harassed and interrogated on numerous occasions he has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. His crime? ‘Insulting the judiciary’ and ‘harming the reputation of the Kingdom’.
As we walk through Horsham you will be invited to sign a card for Waleed to let him know that we admire his courage and that we are thinking of him at this difficult time. Our cards will join those of hundreds and thousands of others arriving at the prison and making the authorities very aware of the strength of international support for Raif’s lawyer.
Stop us and ask us about the case, sign the card and add a message if you wish. We will begin our walk from the Friends Meeting House at 11am Saturday December 5. If you would like to join us drop in there beforehand and sign the card before we leave.
We know these cards and messages can be very successful. Last year we sent cards to Raif and his family. His wife, Ensaf told Amnesty: “I can’t thank you enough for every word, every tweet and every letter that was sent to us. Because of you Raif and my family have felt supported at a time when no one cared about our suffering.”
Letter writing is at the heart of Amnesty’ work and the group in Horsham have been using the ‘power of the pen’ to persuade the Ethiopian authorities to release Eskinder Nega, their adopted prisoner of conscience. Write for Rights was inspired by the work of Peter Benenson who 54 years ago wrote an article in the Observer calling for a network of letter writers to bombard government officials. He described “forgotten prisoners” detained purely for peacefully expressing their beliefs or opinion and demanded that they be released. It was effective.
Waleed is one of twelve cases in this year’s Write for Rights campaign you can find all of them at www.amnesty.org.uk/write . Here you can read their stories and find out how to take more actions.
For more info about Horsham group have a look at our website:
You can also find Horsham Amnesty on Facebook or contact us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Report and picture contributed by Frank Smith.