Wednesday May 22, 2013
Daughter of EelamBrami Jegan Special to Salem-News.com
10 years on: because you died, we continue to live.
(MELBOURNE) - The war in Sri Lanka and the suffering of the Tamils is a sadness that no longer defines me, but one deeply rooted in my identity.
I live a privileged life in Australia. My family care about social justice and believe in living with integrity and compassion. My friends are interesting, intelligent and know how to have fun. My colleagues are brave and inspiring and want to make this world a better place. My puppy gives me endless joy.
I have nothing to complain about. And I am not complaining.
So when I say the past years have been the hardest, I say this with complete awareness that the challenges I have faced are nothing compared to the cruel, unforgiving and brutal injustices that rip apart countless communities, families and individuals all over the world. But our perception of experience is a by-product of our surroundings and so feelings of sadness, anxiety and confusion exist even in relative privilege.
My story starts in August 2002 when I went with my father back to the land in which I was born – Sri Lanka.
The Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers, also known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE, had signed a ceasefire agreement a few months earlier. My father and many others were hopeful that this time there would be no return to war.
At the time my understanding of the Tamil struggle for freedom, dignity and a homeland was limited and clouded in ignorance. I had found growing up in the West with very traditional Tamil parents difficult and confusing. I wanted to be just like my ‘white’ friends who I felt had endless freedom, while my parents did everything they could to ensure their daughter learnt and practiced the conservative culture and traditions of their community in Northern Sri Lanka. I reacted by rejecting anything related to the identity enforced upon me.
My decision to accompany my father on that trip was my peace offering to him.
The three weeks I spent in the Vanni region, the area administered by the LTTE prior to their defeat in 2009, completely changed my life.
The human suffering that I saw in the community devastated by 19 years of war was heartbreaking. I met children who were blind, deaf and dumb because their mothers had been malnourished. I carried babies that had been abandoned under trees. I cried with parents who shared stories of how their sons and daughters had died fighting. I heard of the rapes, torture and cold blooded executions committed by the Sri Lankan armed forces. I still remember everything as if it was yesterday.
In the years that followed, I went back to the Vanni four times. I asked endless questions of everyone I met, young and old, about the Tamil struggle and survival. My understanding of the sacrifices my people have had to make and the horrors they have had to endure continued to grow. I developed a very strong attachment to the land in which I was born and a deep respect for the courage of the people fighting for their dignity.
One thought that kept haunting me was that if I had not been fortunate enough to grow up in the West, the horror stories I was hearing would have been my own. This created a sense of guilt that externalized through my actions.
How was I to reconcile my two worlds? One a world of endless opportunities and freedom in a country which is now my home, and the other of tremendous suffering and violence inflicted upon the community into which I was born and had to flee.
March 2006 was my last trip to Sri Lanka. The rumblings of war had started by then. My friends in the Vanni said it would be the ‘final war’. Some joked that they would not be there when I returned. I didn’t believe them. I never said a proper goodbye. I never said a proper thank you for sharing their lives, their dreams, their homes, food and laughter with me. I never said a proper thank you for the sacrifices they made for my freedom.
In 2009, when the Sri Lankan Government unleashed a massacre on the Tamils in the Vanni, my father was one of the 400 000 or so people in the war zone. He miraculously survived. More than 100 000 Tamils did not.
Three years on from the end of the war and ten years on from my trip back home, the shock, grief and guilt has subsided enough so that I am no longer overwhelmed by it. But the pain of the Tamils in Sri Lanka that I grew to love and admire, the murder of many loved ones, the near loss of my father and his continuing trauma has left very deep scars.
I am not an apologist for the felonies of the Tamil Tigers, however there is no ‘nice’ way to resist a government that indiscriminately shells hospitals, schools, churches and markets and that commits rape, torture and murder with the intention of genocide and support of the international community.
The resilience of the Tamils, their 28 year long resistance and the 64 years of ongoing ethnic persecution and brutality at the hands of the Government of Sri Lanka has become my inner core.
At a time when Tamils in Sri Lanka have been reduced to slavery and survival, and when geopolitics continues to take precedence over justice and freedom, the one thing that can’t be touched is my identity.
My name is that of an ancient Tamil script. The Tamil language will never be forgotten. The flag of Eelam (homeland) which I proudly stand under will always represent the sacrifices and courage of my people. My sadness will forever remind me of the responsibilities that I now carry in post war Sri Lanka to remember that there are people in this world that are oppressed, brutalised and forsaken. It is my privilege to be their voice.
And I will do this proudly as a daughter of Eelam and a sister to the Tamil resistance.
em>‘In the realm of warfare…you are morally bound as a journalist to show eloquent compassion to the victims, to be unafraid to name the murderers and you are allowed to be angry’ – Robert Fisk, 2005
While the world around me burns, I will take advice from the little hummingbird that tried to put out the fire destroying his forest, in how I live my life.<
Articles for August 29, 2012 | Articles for August 30, 2012 | Articles for August 31, 2012
|Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | Copyright © 2013 Salem-News.com | news tips & press releases: email@example.com.|