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Huge Wins on Bahrain F1,

War on Drugs, and more!!

Just days ago, two things were different – questioning the global “war on drugs” was a huge taboo in government circles, and Formula 1 was set to hold their Grand Prix in Bahrain despite a brutal government crackdown on peaceful democracy protesters.

Then our community got involved.

Within 72 hours, more than 1 million of us joined these two campaigns, and we won! Formula 1 has, under intense pressure, reversed its decision to race in Bahrain and the UN Secretary-General has agreed to establish a new task force on drugs, with world leaders beginning an historic new debate on regulation and decrimalisation.

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People power works, and we are seeing it more and more all over the world. Here are two stories of how …

Victory in Brutal Bahrain!

Bahrain's brutal regime uses shotguns on peaceful protesters, and locks up the nurses and doctors that treat them, but wants the world to believe all is normal. They worked hard to get the prestigious Formula 1 Grand Prix to return to the country. Then, with 48 hours until the Formula 1 decision, Bahrain reached out to the U.S. for help and Avaaz kicked into gear!

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In two days, nearly 500,000 Avaaz members joined the campaign and, together, we left over 20,000 messages on the Facebook and Twitter pages of the F1 teams . The Avaaz team spoke to legendary driver Damon Hill, who added his voice to the effort. And media attention mounted.

But the F1 bigwigs decided to go ahead with the race. The Avaaz campaign was cited in thousands of articles worldwide ( NYT , AFP , Reuters , ESPN ) and our spokespeople were interviewed on CNN (pictured at right), BBC and many major networks.

Then, Avaaz obtained a leaked internal F1 report which shockingly concludes that Bahrain has "no human rights violations" -- turns out F1 only spoke to the government and visited a supermarket! We released our reaction, igniting a media firestorm, and finally ... the F1 teams unanimously objected to the race date in Bahrain , forcing F1 to cancel the Bahrain race for 2011!
CNN interview
Click to watch Avaaz's Ricken Patel interviewed on CNN

Victory Against the War on Drugs!

The war on drugs has cost billions in tax money, funneled trillions of dollars into organized crime, cost countless lives, and achieved zero results.

Yet, for decades, any debate around ending the war on drugs has been quashed. In official circles, it's "taboo" to talk the about regulation or decriminalisation -- some even lose their jobs for doing so.

Then a group of former presidents formed The Global Commission on Drugs to boldly speak out for reform. They faced one problem -- politicians claimed they couldn't act because there was no public support for change! So Avaaz joined the fight.

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We launched the campaign, and in one week, our community proved the politicians wrong, with over 600,000 Avaazers calling for an end to the war on drugs . The ex-presidents and billionaire Richard Branson called a press conference, presented their expert report proposing reform, received the Avaaz petition -- and the response was incredible! Over 2000 media articles were written (AP, IPS, The Guardian), virtually all of them positive!! The taboo was broken...

In a strategy meeting that afternoon, the ex-presidents repeatedly looked to our community to help take the campaign forward, stressing that only grass roots pressure can create the political will for action.

The next day, the Global Commission and Avaaz met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In 30 minutes of discussion, the Avaaz petition was presented and repeatedly cited as evidence of public demand for an end to the war. Ban took an important step and decided to create a task force to look at new solutions to the problem of drugs! A real and desperately needed debate has finally begun ...

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A Huge Thanks to Everyone

These two stories happened at the same time, and are just two among many, many more. See the Avaaz April reportback here . And in the same two week period that these campaigns took place, Avaaz also played a crucial role in breaking the blackout on international coverage of Syrian repression. Our network of brave citizen journalists in Syria, funded by Avaaz donations, is one of the only sources of information for the world's media on the nightmare unfolding there.

All of this is only possible because so many of us join Avaaz campaigns with such hope, energy, and vision - signing, telling friends, donating, making phone calls or posting messages. An enormous thank you and congratulations to everyone who's pitched in!!

When Avaaz started out, we were thousands, and we won sometimes. Now we're almost 10 million, and we're winning much of the time! If we keep believing in each other and in change, it feels like anything is possible...

Click here to check out an animated version of the Bahrain victory!