More than 100 human rights advocates rallied on the steps of Widener Library Tuesday, participating in the College's second annual write-a-thon in support of Soviet dissidents not allowed to emigrate from that country.
During the 12-hour event, more than 1700 people signed letters of protest to Soviet officials about urgent cases of Russian "refuseniks" and political prisoners, said Melissa B. Milgrem '88, chairman of Harvard Students for Soviet Jewry, which organized the event.
Sixteen hundred writers also signed petitions asking President Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail S. Gorbachev to place Soviet emigration restrictions on the agenda of the upcoming summit in Iceland, Milgren said. She added that some students also wrote personal letters of support to Soviet families who have asked to leave that country, Milgrem said.
Tuesday's event was scheduled "to voice protest and indignation, and also to heighten awareness" about the Soviet emigration problem, said co-organizer Shoshana M. Robinson '86.
At 6 p.m. the letter writing effort was joined by a panel of speakers who addressed the rally at Widener. The first to speak was Mariam Ozernoy, a Russian emigree, who spoke on herrecent release from the Soviet Union. Her speechwas followed by a talk on Christian dissent in theUSSR by Nikita Moravsky, former attache to theAmerican Embassy in Moscow.
Other speakers included: State Sen. GeorgeBachrach (D-Watertown), Professor of Law Alan M.Dershowitz, Thomas Professor of Divinity Harvey G.Cox, Mark Levin of the National Conference forSoviet Jewry in Washington, and Lynn Davidson ofthe Helsinki Commission.
After the speeches, the write-a-thon moved tothe Hillel on Mt. Auburn St. for a small receptionopen to the public. The reception was followed byanother letter-writing session which lasted untilmidnight.
Although sponsored by Students for SovietJewry, organizers said the write-a-thon had alarger cause. "There is the issue of Soviet Jewry,but there is also the much larger issue of thegeneral group who would like to be intellectuallyor religiously free," Milgrem said.
The recent arrest and release of Americanjournalist Nicholas S. Daniloff '56 has sparkedincreased American interest in the Soviet Union'sretention of Soviet dissidents, organizers said.
"Being at Harvard, we can make a difference,"Robinson said. "Western opinion matters in theSoviet Union, and they recognize establishedinstitutions.