May 24, 2024

An Update from HCCC’s chapter of Amnesty International: Success Stories

“I want to thank you all on behalf of the Istanbul 10 for your efforts for our release. I am deeply, deeply grateful. If it wasn’t for your efforts, we wouldn’t be here today. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” -Idil Eser, Write for Rights 2017

Idil Eser, the Director of Amnesty International Turkey, and 9 other activists–known as the Istanbul 10, were a case in the 2017 Write for Rights. They were arrested in Turkey on July 5th, 2017 while Amnesty International Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kılıç, was arrested a month earlier. They are all now free.

“It’s not just freedom for myself and my family. It will be for all Vietnamese.”     On October 17th, 2018 Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) was released from prison in Vietnam. Her case was in this year’s Write for Rights! Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known by her blogging pseudonym, Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) was arrested on 10 October 2016 and held incommunicado until 20 June 2017. On 29 June 2017, she was handed a ten-year prison sentence, having been convicted of “conducting propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of Viet Nam’s Penal Code.

“To everyone who sent me countless letters from around the world I want to express my deep gratitude. While in prison, these actions lifted my spirit.” – Taner Kılıç, Write for Rights 2017

Taner Kılıç is the chair of Amnesty International Turkey and was arrested in Turkey in 2017. He spent over a year in prison for his peaceful human rights activism. He is now free and reunited with his family.

“International support is the most powerful tool that women like me can get. Every single signature for the petition to get me free, made a difference. Now I’m free. I’m no fairy tale, I am a true story.” -Teodora Vasquez, Write for Rights 2016

Teodora Vasquez hugs her family and friends shortly after being released from the women’s Readaptation Center, in Ilopango, El Salvador on February 15, 2018, where she was serving a sentence since 2008, handed down under draconian anti-abortion laws after suffering a miscarriage.

“I am very honored to be among the cases that you have selected for your Write for Rights campaign. I am honored to know people like you who denounce the injustices committed by the authorities and governments. You have brought joy into my heart. Thank you.” – Mahadine, Write for Rights 2017

Mahadine, an online activist in Chad, was released on April 5th, 2018 after spending more than 18 months in prison on fabricated charges. He had been facing a life sentence for a Facebook post critical of the government.

“Receiving your letters really comforted me when I was in prison. Thank you!” – Muhammad Bekzhanov, Write for Rights 2015

Muhammad Bekzhanov, a journalist in Uzbekistan, languished in jail for 17 long years until his release in 2017. His prison sentence was handed down after an unfair trial and severe torture, and arbitrarily extended by the authorities for Bekzhanov’s political activism. At the time of his release, Bekzhanov was one of the world’s longest prison-held journalists.

“Thank you very much each and every one of you. Not just for campaigning for my release, and the release of other prisoners, but for helping to keep our hope and our beliefs alive.” -Phyoe Phyoe Aung, Write for Rights 2015

Phyoe Phyoe Aung is a human rights defender and Secretary General of one of Myanmar’s largest student unions. On March 10, 2015, she and 50 other students were arrested by police for their peaceful demonstrations against an education law they believe limits freedom of education. Phyoe Phyoe Aung faced up to nine years’ imprisonment and was a prisoner of conscience. She was freed on April 8, 2016.

“I am happy to finally be free after more than 17 months of imprisonment. I thank Amnesty International and all those who fought in one way or another for my release. I look forward to seeing my family and friends to continue the fight for democracy and freedom in my country.” -Fred Bauma, Write for Rights 2015

Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala are human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They were imprisoned for their peaceful human rights activism and were considered prisoners of conscience. They were freed on August 30, 2016

“I feel joy, and so much emotion. To everyone who has stood by me, I give my heartfelt thanks. Without this support, my freedom would have been almost impossible. I want to thank you and to urge you to continue your efforts, don’t stop the beautiful work you are doing for the human rights of others. Sometimes justice is delayed, but it comes.” -Yecenia Armenta Graciano, Write for Rights 2015

In July 2012, Yecenia Armenta was taken into police custody in Mexico and brutally tortured. The police beat her for hours, raped her and threatened to kill her children. In spite of independent medical evidence that torture took place, the ‘confession’ was used to charge Yecenia with no proof at all. She was released in 2016.

“I’d like to thank our friends at Amnesty International and Amnesty USA for their remarkable support these last years, culminating just recently in the Write for Rights Campaign.” – Albert Woodfox, Write for Rights 2015

On his 69th birthday, February 19, 2016, he walked free – 44 years after he was first put into solitary confinement in Louisiana. He was the USA’s longest serving prisoner held in isolation. Nearly every day for more than half of his life, Albert Woodfox woke up in a cell the size of a parking space, surrounded by concrete and steel.For the first time in more than four decades, Albert Woodfox is now able to walk outside and look up into the sky.

“I am alive today, after 33 arrests (it’s now far more), because members of Amnesty International spoke out for me.” -Jenni Williams, Write for Rights 2011

Activist Jenni Williams, is a founder of the social justice movement Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), who has endured dozens of arrests and beatings for leading peaceful protests. In 2003, Williams co-founded WOZA with the late Sheba Dube to demand social and political reforms in Zimbabwe under the brutal rule of Robert Mugabe. WOZA has inspired tens of thousands of women and men to stand up for their rights to free speech and assembly and the fulfillment of basic needs like food and education. WOZA is both the protest group’s acronym and a word in the Ndebele language that means “come forward.”

“I am overwhelmed. I thank Amnesty International and their activist for the great support that made me a conqueror in this situation. Amnesty International members and activist are my Heroes.” -Moses Akatugba, Write for Rights 2014

Moses Akatugba was sixteen years old when he was arrested under suspicion of armed robbery in 2005. Moses spent more than three months in police detention, where he says that police officers repeatedly beat him with machetes and batons.Moses was forced to sign two pre-written confessions, and was sentenced to death in 2013. He was released in 2015.

“Thank you to Amnesty International’s supporters! Your campaign has been successful, as my release shows. But my case is not over yet. Please keep supporting me, my community and others in Cambodia. We can achieve the most success when we all work together.” -Yorm Bopha, Write for Rights 2013

Yorm Bopha is a Cambodian housing rights activist, previously imprisoned for defending her community’s rights at the former Boeung Kak Lake in the capital Phnom Penh, where thousands of people had been forcibly evicted since 2007. Yorm Bopha’s case was featured in Write for Rights 2013, and she was released the same year.