Jazz event to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27)

There’s a cool virtual jazz opera being put on by our friends at the Holocaust Center for Humanity here in Seattle on Wednesday January 27 at 6pm. It’s to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Here are the details:

Dear Erich: A Jazz Opera by Ted Rosenthal – Commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Wednesday, January 27, 2021 | 6:00pm (PT) | Zoom

Join the Holocaust Center for Humanity for a special one of a kind virtual performance on Wednesday, January 27th at 6:00 pm PT to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Ted Rosenthal, composer and jazz pianist, will perform excerpts from his jazz opera, Dear Erich, with two Seattle area opera singers.

The event is free to attend. You can also support the Center by becoming a Patron with a $180 donation. Your donation will support virtual programming for students, teachers, and the community in 2021. Patrons will be recognized on the event page and during the program.

Click here to register and learn more

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Virtual Write for Rights (WA) event on December 10 from 6pm to 8pm

Although I still plan to write letters later today, our virtual Write for Rights event is finished. Fortunately, it went well. The number of people who attended doesn’t matter as much as the fact that people took time out of their day to write letters for others. Nevertheless, our attendance was respectable. Out of over fifty people who registered, over twenty were in attendance at the peak of the event. I’d like to thank Amnesty International groups in Bellingham (Jan Dietzgen and Mary Jean Van Almen from Group 270), Kentridge High School (Tuong Vy Nguyen), Skyline High School (Nathan Beh) and St Louis (Bob Linsey from Group 105) for their help in making this event happen and publicizing it.

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Virtual Write for Rights (WA) event on December 10 from 6pm to 8pm

Write a letter. Change a life.

Our virtual Write for Rights event is today! The registration page is here. Happy International Human Rights Day! During the past several days, I’ve been focusing on each of the seven Write for Rights cases. Today, I’ll focus on Teyonna Lofton, a rising star who experienced gun violence here in the United States.

On May 31 of this year, Teyonna Lofton’s friends, teachers and family drove by her home to celebrate her upcoming graduation from Perspectives Leadership Academy, a high school in Chicago, Illinois. As the National Honor Society vice president of her school, she was excited about her future and looking forward to attending Louisiana State University in the fall. However, when she visited a local gas station to get something to drink, a vehicle pulled up to the socially-distanced line that had formed outside the station; and shots were fired from the vehicle at those waiting in line. A bullet struck a major artery in Teyonna Lofton’s left arm; and the injuries she sustained required a number of surgeries. She’s now in therapy, relearning the use of her hand; and her plans for college have been deferred. Join us later today to write letters urging for Teyonna Lofton’s compensation under Illinois state law and for the arrest of those responsible for this shooting.

To learn more about Teyonna Lofton’s case, please click here or here. Go here to take action online urging for the capture of those responsible for the shooting, as well as for compensation for Teyonna Lofton. To learn more about gun violence and Amnesty International’s fight against it, click here.

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Virtual Write for Rights (WA) event on December 10 from 6pm to 8pm

Write a letter. Change a life.

Our virtual Write for Rights event is only a day away. The registration page is here. As we near December 10, International Human Rights Day, I’m focusing on each of the seven Write for Rights cases. Today, I’ll focus on those being held in ICE detention facilities here in the United States.

Detention centers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are breeding grounds for COVID-19. In fact, an August 2020 report by Amnesty International noted that COVID-19 cases within detention facilities at the time had increased more than 200-fold to 5,300 cases. The report cites the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security itself (of which ICE is a part) as acknowledging that social distancing within detention centers is almost impossible for detainees and personnel. Despite attempts to correct the situation, a study published in October 2020 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimated that the proportion of people in ICE detention centers infected with COVID-19 was approximately 13 times the national average. With cases surging nationwide, conditions for detainees could get even worse. Aside from the danger posed by COVID-19, there have also been disturbing reports of women in detention centers having surgeries performed on them against their will that rendered them sterile. It is difficult to fully convey how horrific this is. This is obviously not who we, as a country of immigrants, are or strive to be. It is its opposite. Please join us on Human Rights Day, December 10, as we write letters urging the release of people currently held in ICE detention centers.

To learn more about the COVID-19 crisis in these facilities, click here. You can sign an online petition urging the release of those held in ICE detention facilities here.

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Virtual Write for Rights (WA) event on December 10 from 6pm to 8pm

Write a letter. Change a life.

Our virtual Write for Rights event is only two days away. The registration page is here. As we near December 10, International Human Rights Day, I’m focusing on each of the seven Write for Rights cases. Today, I’ll focus on Özgür Gür, Melike Balkan and 17 other human rights activists in Turkey known collectively as the METU Pride Defenders.

The METU Pride Defenders were arrested on May 10, 2019 for taking part in a march for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI+) rights at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey. Although the march had taken place peacefully each year since 2011 and an administrative court in Ankara in February 2019 had lifted an emergency measure forbidding LGBTI+ events, the administration of METU banned the march. In light of the February court ruling, event organizers proceeded as planned. University administrators then contacted Ankara’s security forces to intervene. Many students and other activists were peacefully sitting on a lawn when tear-gas, pepper spray and plastic bullets were used on them to break up the event. 19 activists were subsequently arrested who now face up to three years in prison. In June 2020, another administrative court in Ankara affirmed the right to peacefully assemble and hold demonstrations. Despite this, Melike Balkan, Özgür Gür and 17 other human rights defenders still face prison sentences of up to three years for exercising these very rights. Join us this Human Rights Day, December 10, as we write letters urging their acquittal.

For more information about the events surrounding this march, please click here. You can sign an online petition urging the acquittal of the METU Pride Defenders here.

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Virtual Write for Rights (WA) event on December 10 from 6pm to 8pm

Write a letter. Change a life.

Our virtual Write for Rights event is just a couple of days away. The registration page is here. As we near December 10, International Human Rights Day, I’m focusing on each of the seven Write for Rights cases. Today, I’ll focus on Nassima al-Sada, a human rights defender in Saudi Arabia.

Nassima al-Sada has spent years defending human rights (and particularly women’s rights) as a columnist and human rights advocate in Saudi Arabia. She took part in efforts to combat violence against women, to end the male guardianship requirement and to grant women the right to drive. However, despite its avowed interest in promoting women’s rights, the Saudi government cracked down on women’s rights activists from 2018 to 2019, and detained Nassima al-Sada sometime in late July or early August 2018 because of her advocacy. She has been unjustly imprisoned ever since. This has included a year spent in solitary confinement. Conditions can be brutal for detained female activists. News outlets have reported cases of torture and at least one instance of sexual assault.

Ironically, a number of the injustices Nassima al-Sada fought against have since been at least partially addressed. Women now have the right to drive in Saudi Arabia; and there’s been a partial lifting of the male guardianship requirement for women over the age of 21. However, her continued imprisonment symbolizes the remaining divide between the Saudi government’s stated intentions for a more just society and its actual practices. Join us on December 10, Human Rights Day, as we write letters urging the Saudi government to follow through on its commitment to women’s rights by immediately and unconditionally releasing Nassima al-Sada and all other unjustly detained women human rights defenders.

More information regarding Nassima al-Sada’s case can be found here. You can take action online by demanding her release here.

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Virtual Write for Rights (WA) event on December 10 from 6pm to 8pm

Write a letter. Change a life.

Our virtual Write for Rights event is just days away. The registration page is here. As we near December 10, International Human Rights Day, I’m focusing on one of the seven Write for Rights cases each day. Today, I’ll focus on Idris Khattak, a human rights defender in Pakistan.

Idris Khattak investigated government-sanctioned abductions for human rights groups, including Amnesty International. These state-sanctioned kidnappings are also called enforced disappearances or forced disappearances. He himself was abducted on November 13, 2019 as he traveled in a rented car from Islamabad to his home in Peshawar. The Pakistani government has since acknowledged that it has imprisoned him under the Official Secrets Act even though this law only applies to state officials, not civilians. Also, he is set to be tried in the Pakistani military court system, which is known for its disregard of due process and lack of transparency. To this day, no information has been released regarding the specifics of the charges against him. He also suffers from diabetes; and it’s uncertain whether he’s consistently getting the medical care he needs. Pakistan’s current prime minister, Imran Khan, is on the record as stating that forced disappearances are unacceptable; and there have been recent breakthroughs in Idris Khattak’s case, including his being allowed a brief visit by his daughter, Talia Khattak. Nevertheless, his current whereabouts and condition remain unknown. Join us this Human Rights Day as we write letters urging a fair trial in a civilian court for Idris Khattak, or his immediate and unconditional release in lieu of any credible and admissible evidence against him.

If you’d like to learn more about Idris Khattak’s case, please click here. You can sign an online petition on his behalf here.

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Virtual Write for Rights (WA) event on December 10 from 6pm to 8pm

Write a letter. Change a life.

Our virtual Write for Rights event is only a few days away. The registration page for the event is here. As we approach December 10, International Human Rights Day, I’d like to focus on one of the seven Write for Rights cases each day. Today, I’ll focus on Jani Silva, an environmental activist and community advocate in Colombia.

Jani Silva has worked to defend the Amazon ecosystem in Colombia and the rights of local communities for decades. This includes projects geared towards conservation, reforestation and community empowerment. However, with its rich supplies of natural resources such as oil, Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for environmental activists; and many are killed. On April 17 and then again on April 22 of this year, guns were fired less than 60 yards away from Jani Silva’s home. Weeks earlier, information concerning plans to kill her was provided to the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission, a human rights organization in Colombia. Amnesty International has since urged the Colombian Ministry of the Interior to provide protection for her. Please join us on December 10 in writing letters urging protection for Jani Silva and her colleagues as they continue their work to protect the Amazon rainforest and to stand up for the rights of local communities.

More information regarding Jani Silva can be found here. Also, you can sign an online petition created by Amnesty International here.

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Virtual Write for Rights (WA) event on December 10 from 6pm to 8pm

Write a letter. Change a life.

Our virtual Write for Rights event is less than a week away. I’d like to welcome Amnesty International St Louis (Group 105), which has recently joined us to host the event. The registration page for the event is here. As we approach December 10, International Human Rights Day, I’d like to focus on one of the seven Write for Rights cases each day. I’ll start with Germain Rukuki.

Germain Rukuki is a human rights defender in Burundi. He was arrested in 2017 by security forces there then sentenced to 32 years in prison. His imprisonment apparently stemmed from his work for the Association of Christians Against Torture (ACAT), which had organized mass protests in 2015 against then-President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, which was widely considered unconstitutional. The protests were violently dispersed by government security forces and the ruling party. Human rights advocates like Germain Rukuki were then targeted by the government.

Since these troubling events, a new government has taken power in Burundi; and its current president, President Evariste Ndayishimiye, has voiced strong support for human rights. With this promising change in affairs, now is the time to urge the release of Germain Rukuki from his unjust imprisonment. With a letter, you can change Germain Rukuki’s life for the better. Join us to help make this happen.

If you’d like to learn more about Germain Rukuki’s case, you can find additional information here. An online petition urging the release of Germain Rukuki can be found here.

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Virtual Write for Rights 2020 (WA)

Write a letter. Change a life.

Amnesty International local groups in Seattle and Bellingham, along with student groups from Kentridge High School and Skyline High School, will be hosting a virtual Write for Rights event on December 10th from 6pm to 8pm. Please join us. The registration page for the event is here.

We have seven cases this year. However, sending just a single letter supporting a victim of human rights abuse or urging a policymaker to remedy what’s been done makes a difference. We provide sample letters that you can print out, sign and mail from the comfort of your own home. Or you can write a letter yourself. For the cost of paper, an envelope and postage, you can change someone’s life for the better this International Human Rights Day. We hope you can join us.

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