Sri Lanka Education Call Blog Post
Not many know that just below the southern tip of India, exists a small, tear drop-shaped island. Perhaps a symbol of the sadness that has reigned in one of Asia’s longest and most brutal ethnic conflicts, from the time of its independence from Britain in 1948, Sri Lanka has silently, but violently, spiraled downward.
To understand the conflict, one must first understand that two culturally different people live together on the island. The Singhalese, the ethnic majority, speak Sinhala, are predominately Buddhist, and live in the south and west of the island. The Tamils, the largest ethnic minority, speak Tamil, are predominately Hindu with some small communities of Muslims and Christians, and primarily live in the country’s north and east.
Since Sri Lanka’s independence, successive Singhalese-controlled governments, fueled by the rise of Sinhala Buddhist ethno nationalism, have maintained power through increasingly discriminatory policies against Tamils.
For over 50 years, the Tamils have faced discrimination and ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Singhalese. Hundreds of Tamils were killed in anti-Tamil riots in 1956, 1958, 1961, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1981, and 1983. After the most severe anti-Tamil riots, which occurred in July of 1983, an armed Tamil separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers, emerged to defend Tamils and to fight for an independent state for Tamils, “Tamil Eelam”, in the north and east.
For the last 25 years, the Sri Lankan Army and the Tamil Tigers have fought a bloody war which has killed anywhere from 126,000 to 338,000 people; predominately Tamils, due to fighting taking place primarily in the north and east. Both sides of the conflict have committed major human rights abuses.
Wednesday’s education call on Sri Lanka will include a brief history of Sri Lanka and its ethnic conflict, recent and past human rights violations, and charges of genocide by American citizens/ green card holders currently working for the Government of Sri Lanka.
We will be joined by Bruce Fein-a constitutional scholar, former associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan, Chairman of the American Freedom Agenda, and representative for Tamils Against Genocide, and Arvind Suguness, communications director for People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL), an active member of the Tamil diaspora, and a student at Ohio State University currently applying to medical schools. Come join us on Wednesday night to learn more about Sri Lanka!