Writing a letter to a prisoner of conscience can draw attention to their case. Lots of letters, and that prisoner could be pushed into an international spotlight.
This helps to protect them: it boosts a prisoner’s morale, it puts pressure on the government incarcerating them to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it reminds that government the world is watching, waiting and ready to judge.
Take Raif Badwari. Following international attention his remaining 950 lashes, or, what many call a ‘slow death’, have been delayed. But news of a hunger strike reminds us why it is so important to keep campaigning for his freedom.
Cat Lucas from freedom of speech charity English PEN is adamant a card can make a difference to people like Raif, his lawyer Waleed Abulkhair and a third Saudi prisoner – Ashraf Fayadh.
So if you’ve been persuaded, here are a few political prisoners we think you should add to your christmas list this year.
1. Khadijah Ismayilova. The investigative journalist from Azerbaijan was arrested a year ago. She faces seven and a half years in prison after exposing corrupt dealings of the country’s president.
2. Rasul Jafarov. The Azerbaijani lawyer, reporter and human rights advocate is facing six and a half years on fabricated chargers after investigating other journalists’ charges.
3. Intigam Aliyev is another investigative journalist and human rights lawyer. Intigam was imprisoned in Azerbaijan’s 2014 crackdown after trying to take what he deemed to be unfair incarnations of fellow journalists to the European Court of Human Rights. He is one year into a seven and a half year sentence but his health is deteriorating.
4. Seymour Hezi is the fourth Azerbaijani journalist we think you should write to. He is a year into his five year sentence for ‘aggravated hooliganism’. Prior to arrest Seymour’s journalism pursued the Azerbaijani authoritarian regime.
5. Ashraf Fayadh is a Saudi poet facing execution for alleged apostasy.
6. Raif Badawi is a Saudi Arabian blogger facing ten years in prison and 1000 lashes for religious and political posts, a punishment so violent his wife says it will kill him.
7. Raif’s lawyer, Waleed Abulkhair faces 15 years in prison for peaceful protest.
8. Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace is an academic on hunger strike in Bahrain in protest at prison conditions. He faces life in prison for peaceful opposition.
9. Mohammed Al-Ajami is serving 15 years in prison in Qatar for a poem.
10. Mohammed Rasool is a Vice news journalist currently in pre-trial detention in Turkey.
Each letter counts. For more information email us: firstname.lastname@example.org