By Claire Joanson
Whether it be sexism, racism or any other form of discrimination, suppression of human rights is an unfortunate global reality. After hearing about these tragic events, Americans often feel powerless in their ability to reduce the suffering endured by those who live halfway across the globe. Last month, students at the College proved that this doesn’t have to be the case.
The College’s chapter of Amnesty International hosted a “Write for Rights” campaign in the Brower Student Center on Feb. 19 to raise awareness and take an active approach in addressing human rights violations.
At the event, students were encouraged to sign over 1,000 printed letters provided by the organization, which would be sent to government agencies across the world. The letters advocated for 10 specific people who were chosen by Amnesty International and have been the target of blatant injustice, such as Yasaman Aryani, who was sentenced to a 16-year prison sentence after she went out in public with her hair uncovered in Iran.
Amnesty International is headquartered in London and hosts a variety of “Write for Rights” each year. The international campaign started in 2002 and focuses on helping unique cases every year. This year, the focus was young adults who “stepped in where adults failed to lead, and are facing terrible danger as a result,” according to the organization’s website.
“Getting to do events like this and knowing that I can make a difference from home without having to visit these countries individually is so rewarding,” said Rebecca Kosty, a sophomore urban elementary education and history dual major who is also the secretary of the College’s Amnesty International. “Something so simple as writing a letter means a lot to me.”
Kosty was a major proponent in making the “Write for Rights” event happen on a larger scale at the College. Although the club had been participating in the campaign for the past few years, this semester was the first time they hosted an event that allowed other students to partake with ease.
By writing these letters, supporters of Amnesty International seek justice for those who have been unjustly treated by their governments.
“Our goal is to write as many letters as possible,” said Shad Yasin, a senior biology major and president of the club.
“Write for Rights” has a collection of success stories in which the letters exerted so much pressure on governmental leaders that it led to change. Such was the case for Moses Akatugba of Nigeria, who was falsely accused of theft and sentenced to death at 16 years old. The campaigns led by Amnesty International were instrumental in securing his release, according to the organization’s website.
The club hopes not only to inform the campus of these global issues, but to take action in changing the circumstances surrounding international intolerance.
“College students especially can feel like they can’t do much about things going on halfway across the world,” Yasin said. “With these little actions, we can make a big difference.”