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From 1 November until 31 January every year, the human-rights organisation Amnesty International runs a special campaign. They encourage members and anyone else who is interested to send a greetings card to one of a number of specially selected prisoners of conscience across the world.
The first campaign took place in 1961 and cards were sent to 12 prisoners of conscience, who included a clergyman, journalist, bishop and a housewife.
Who Are The Prisoners?
These people may be politicians, activists, lawyers, students or just about anyone. They may be imprisoned as a result of their political or religious beliefs, their sexual orientation, or even just for being related to someone viewed as undesirable. They are selected to cover a range of countries and issues and the organisation checks that it is safe for them to receive cards. Sometimes cards are sent to groups which defend human rights, often at some risk to themselves1, or to the families of prisoners when the imprisoned person cannot be reached.
Writing A Card
Amnesty International gives specific guidance for different cases. For example, when writing to some prisoners it is ok to give your name and address – you may even receive a reply – but in other cases it is not recommended. As a general rule, they advise campaigners to send non-religious cards and not to mention Amnesty International in them. It is thought that they have greater effect if they are seen as coming from individuals. The message should be a simple one of solidarity and support.
Aim Of The Campaign
The idea is that receiving greetings cards from complete strangers shows the prisoners that they are not forgotten, that people from many countries care about what happens to them. It also has the effect of demonstrating to authorities and prison guards that if anything befalls these prisoners, the world will know.
It is not uncommon for prisoners chosen as the recipient of greetings cards to be released within the following year. Some prisoners, while not released, enjoy improved conditions as a result.
Dmitri Kraiukin, of the Russian organisation One Europe2 told Amnesty International after receiving cards from the 2004 campaign:
'We felt so much warmth, kindness and support, we were sent so many good wishes, that we became convinced once again that we are carrying out very important work. A whole wall of our office is covered with postcards and letters. We call the wall our 'wall of good'.'
While, as the name rather gives away, Amnesty International is a world-wide organisation, each country has its own country-wide administration - for example, Amnesty International UK and Amnesty International Canada are run separately but are both a part of the organisation. Each country uses the same prisoners for the greetings card campaign. To take action, simply go to your country's Amnesty International website (you can find it on the organisation's central website) and find the pages about the campaign.