The power of words and old-fashioned letter writing combine to help victims of human rights abuses

The power of words and old-fashioned letter writing combine to help victims of human rights abuses

LatinaLista-- Norma Cruz believes women in her native Guatemala should not be used as punching bags or be targets of violence. Not everyone agrees with her. Because of her work with her organization Fundacion Sobrevivientes (Survivors' Foundation), a women's rights group, Norma's life is constantly threatened.

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Unfortunately, in Guatemala, death threats against human rights defenders, among other social activists, is a common occurrence. What makes the situation distinctly disturbing though is the failure of authorities to investigate the threats or provide any kind of protection to the victims.

In Mexico, the threat against women is equally as bad.

In 2006, 45 women of San Salvador Atenco, Mexico were arrested without explanation by police who were responding to a protest by a local peasant organization. The women were physically, sexually and psychologically abused.

The Mexican authorities conducted an investigation that identified 34 officers who were suspected of being responsible. However, in the four years since the attack, no action has been taken against the officers named or any official held accountable.

For these women, and other men and women around the world, who must endure these kinds of threats to their lives, whether it comes from local or national authorities, there is little help for them in their own countries.

It takes a global effort to pressure authorities to do something.

As a way to mark this year's International Human Rights Day (Dec. 10), Amnesty International is sponsoring the campaign "Write for Rights."

From Dec. 4-12, organizers are asking people to take the time to write letters on behalf of 12 people who are suffering from human rights abuses in their native countries. Norma Cruz and the women of San Salvador Atenco, Mexico are two of the cases highlighted in this year's write-a-thon.

From South America to Asia to even the USA, victims of flawed justice systems need the collective voice of the world to help them. On each case page, visitors are briefed on the situation and supplied with an address and contact person to whom they can direct their letters. Sample letters are provided to help jumpstart the process.

Organizers' goal is to get 350,000 letters written by the end of the campaign.

Also on the website are inspirational videos by former victims who were helped by the Write for Rights campaign. In their own words, they explain their feelings and how powerful words really are -- especially when the whole world speaks out.


Your letters made a difference in my life from Amnesty International on Vimeo.


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