Monday, August 8, 2011

Day 220

Another week of traveling, another few days of volunteering virtually, and another few days of Jiten covering for me :)

Tonight I went back to Amnesty International to write some letters. I started with a letter to support funding that protects Indigenous women from rape and sexual violence. Native American and Alaskan Native women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than other women in the US. It is estimated that one in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime, with nearly 86% of rapes perpetrated by non-Native men.

The next was to stop Kenya from deporting Eritreans facing torture. Seven Eritrean refugees are currently being held at the Nairobi airport. They are seeking asylum in Kenya, but are not being granted asylee status. Instead, Kenyan officials are threatening to deport them. If returned to Eritrea, they are likely to be tortured, held incommunicado, and otherwise mistreated. Eritrean asylum seekers who are deported to their home country often face serious human rights abuses.

Another letter was for the release of internationally renowned HIV and AIDS researcher Arash Alaei. In June 2011, he was awarded the prestigious Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights. Amnesty International is concerned the charges against Arash Alaei are based solely on vaguely-worded national security laws. He is a prisoner of conscience, targeted solely for his medical research and advocacy efforts and for his peaceful collaboration with non-governmental organizations in other countries.

The last was for a human rights lawyer who disappeared in China. Gao Zhisheng represented human rights defenders, Falun Gong practitioners and individuals facing the death penalty. He received a three-year prison sentence, suspended for five years, in December 2006, for "inciting subversion." In April 2007, Gao Zhisheng told other activists he was tortured during pre-trial detention. In September 2007, his open letter to the US Congress about the deterioration of human rights in China was published in a US-based newspaper. About a week after the publication, plainclothes police went into his home, stripped off his clothes and beat him unconscious. In February 2009, he was taken away from home by security agents. His whereabouts remain unknown since then.

Amnesty International has many success stories because we keep writing our letters. Get involved and make a difference!

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