12 bright moments for human rights

As we continue to fight the good fight in 2019 Amnesty Campaigner Belinda Lowe remembers a cheery moment for human rights for every month of 2018.

January

The councils of Flinders Island, Fremantle, Yarra, Darebin and Moreland showed respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by holding Australia Day events on a date other than 26 January. 26 January marks the invasion of Australia and signifies mourning and survival for Indigenous people, not a date to party. Triple J also moved the date of its Hottest 100, and tens of thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people attended rallies and protests in solidarity.

People gather to protest for Indigenous rights. Someone holds a sign that says: 'We stand together'.
An Indigenous rights protest © Amnesty International

February

Teodora del Carmen Vasquez was finally freed from jail in El Salvador, when a court reduced her outrageous 30-year sentence. She had already spent a decade behind bars after having a stillbirth, which led to her being accused and convicted for having an abortion – an illegal act in El Salvador.

A woman sits at a table on which there are hundreds of letters of support for her.
Teodora del Carmen Vásquez with some of her letters from W4R

March

A man pretends to resuscitate a person dressed up in a Twitter bird costume.
Toxic Twitter © Amnesty International

Australians joined people from 100+ countries, from Afghanistan to Venezuela, to send over 34,000 tweets to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. We demanded he do more to stop women and girls receiving rape and death threats, racist and homophobic insults on his platform, which bullies them into silence and restricts their freedom of speech.

In December, Twitter shares plummeted following an Amnesty report finding widespread abuse of women on the platform.

April

In Myanmar, 8,000 people were released in a prisoner amnesty. Two of those were pastors Dumdaw Nawng Lat and Langjaw Gam Seng, who were political prisoners, detained for 16 months only for helping to organise a visit by journalists to Shan State, to show the destruction allegedly caused by Myanmar Army airstrikes.

A group of people stand on the lawns at Parliament House in Canberra with a banner that says 'Myanmar stop ethnic cleansing'.
Rohingya Rights campaign launch in Canberra © Amnesty International

May

The amazing result of the Irish referendum, which overturned the constitutional ban on abortions, marked a massive victory for women’s rights. The result was testament to people power, with thousands of men and women travelling back to Ireland from overseas to vote and make their voices heard.

A woman stands in front of the Irish Taoiseach's offices in Dublin holding a suitcase with a boarding sticker with 'She is not a criminal' printed on it. Behind her stand a group of activists holding a banner that says the same thing.
She is not a criminal-ICM action Ireland © Mark Maxwell / Amnesty International

June

The US-led Coalition finally announced its re-evaluation of previously closed cases regarding accusations of civilian casualties in Syria. The coalition had initially denied and condemned Amnesty’s findings on the civilian casualties in Raqqa, before further new evidence from Amnesty investigations came to light.

Farmers in Syria unloading vegetables from a flatbed truck.
Farming activities re-starting amidst destruction in Raqqa, Syria © Amnesty International

July

Artist Liu Xia was allowed to leave China for Germany in July, after almost eight years of illegal house arrest, where she’d been held ever since her husband Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. During that time, she was closely monitored by state security agents and could only be reached by phone in limited circumstances.

A woman with a big smile on her face and her arms stretched wide to hug someone off camera. She is in an airport.
Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel dissident Liu Xiaobo © JUSSI NUKARI/AFP/Getty Images

August

After 735 days behind bars for carrying out peaceful protests, prominent land and human rights activist Tep Vanny was finally released. She was part of a large group of human rights activists and protesters in Cambodia to receive a royal pardon, six months before the end of her sentence.

Tep Vanny, wearing brightly coloured clothes, smiles at someone off-camera.
Tep Vanny following her release from prison © Amnesty International

September

In a huge win for the LGBTQI community, India’s Supreme Court decriminalised consensual same-sex relations between adults. The court said that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of fundamental rights, guaranteed by India’s Constitution.

A group of people smiling and waving their arms and rainbow flags.
India’s annual Pride March in Mumbai

October

A Malaysian man holds a sign towards the camera. The sign reads: 'Help Malaysia #AbolishDeathPenalty
Amnesty International Malaysia Campaigner Gwen Lee at demonstration outside Sungai Buloh prison

On World Day Against the Death Penalty, the new Malaysian government announced its plans to fully abolish the death penalty, and halt the executions of the more than 1,000 people on death row. In the days that followed, the death penalty was also found to be unconstitutional in the state of Washington, making it the 20th abolitionist State in the US.

November

In South Africa a court ruled the government could not issue a license for proposed titanium mining on Indigenous ancestral land in Xolobeni without the consent of Indigenous communities. “We live in a peaceful, beautiful area where we share everything – food, land and love. The elites have discovered what we have and want to take it away from us,” said Nonhle Mbuthuma, a human rights activist from the Amadiba community. “Some of my colleagues have been killed, and I know I could be too. But I am not scared.”

A woman wearing a purple coat smiles towards the camera.
Nonhle Mbuthuma © Amnesty International

December

The City of Kingston in Victoria became the 23rd local government in Australia to support the My New Neighbour campaign, calling for a fairer and more accessible refugee community sponsorship program. Community sponsorship is a model where ordinary members of the community sponsor visas for refugees, so they can begin rebuilding their lives in safety in Australia.

A group of people holding Amnesty banners
Amnesty activists supporting refugee sponsorship
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Belinda Lowe, Activism Growth and Development Coordinator at Amnesty International
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