Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School Amnesty Club members Max Kalmakoff (left), Becca VanderHorst and Liam Guimond led a letter writing campaign for human rights last week. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School Amnesty Club members Max Kalmakoff (left), Becca VanderHorst and Liam Guimond led a letter writing campaign for human rights last week. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Students advocate for human rights

The Amnesty Club have organized a Write for Rights Campaign this week

Members of Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School’s Amnesty Club have organized a Write for Rights Campaign to support victims of human rights abuses around the world.

Students last week were encouraged to write letters to governments known for human rights abuses, such as illegally detaining protesters or extrajudicial killings. The club focused on six specific cases cited by Amnesty International, student Max Kalmakoff said.

“Human rights are very important things that everyone should have but sadly some counties and people don’t honour them,” Kalmakoff said. “If we can spread as much awareness as possible maybe we can make a change. If we can’t directly make a change then maybe we can spark someone else to make that change.”

Kalmakoff chose to write a letter in support of Joanah Mamombe, Netasi Marova and Cecillia Chimbiri who led anti-government protests in Zimbabwe. On May 13, 2020, the women were arrested and taken 60 miles from the capital of Harare where they were beaten, sexually assaulted, forced to eat human excrement and left in the wilderness for two days.

The women said they recognized some of their attackers and were arrested again and charged with faking the incident. They are currently on trial, Kalmakoff said, while no police have been charged for their assault.

“It feels good to do this but it does make you a little bit depressed at the end of the day but you feel good because you’re trying to make a difference in the world,” he said.

Fellow club member Becca VanderHorst’s letter calls for the release of Vahid Afkari, who was tortured and jailed for protesting in Iran from 2016-2018. VanderHorst said Vahid was arrested along with his brothers Habib and Navid and forced to confess to crimes they did not commit. Vahid and Habib were sentenced to decades in prison while their brother Navid was executed without warning in 2020.

Public pressure and outrage led to Habib being released in March this year but Vahid remains behind bars in solitary confinement.

“It’s very important because they were fighting the government peacefully and being held in prison for that is just not right,” VanderHorst said.

Student Liam Guimond said the club tries to get the entire school involved in the letter-writing campaign. A full list of the Write for Rights campaign causes can be found at amnesty.ca/writeathon/write-for-rights-cases.

“We don’t tend to get many people who write unfortunately but we tend to get two to three letters per person,” he said.

The club also organized the school’s Gifts of Hope campaign this week. Each class is competing to raise the most money by getting people to pledge funds for specific gifts needed in developing countries. This could include goats, school supplies and sending a child to school in a third-world country.

Kalmakoff said their goal is to raise at least $1,000 collectively as a school. The class that raises the most money will be announced Monday, Dec. 19. The prize is a pizza lunch.



patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

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