Lend a Voice

“To stay quiet is as political an act as speaking out.”
Arundhati Roy, Author and Activist

The plight of the silenced can only be alleviated when enough are listening. Those suffering in Sri Lanka are stifled from speaking. Please lend them your voice.

This section contains addresses of key policy makers and news agencies along with sample letters and useful guides.

Interactive Timeline

This section contains a timeline depicting the historical background of the Sri Lankan conflict. Spanning from the pre-colonial era to present day events, the timeline allows the user to gain valuable insight into the causes of this conflict. (Launch Flash Timeline...)


In Pictures

Short documentary on Black July and links to other related videos. (view feature video...)

Related Videos:
Tamil Abductions: An SBS Dateline production on the recent abductions of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Sivaram: Violence against Journalists (Part 2, Part 3): Film about the silencing of free speech through death and intimidation.
Shadow War: The emergence of 'paramilitaries' and their impact on the cease fire.
Still Photographs
The Violence Continues

Articles on the recent acts of persecution against the Tamil minority. (complete list of articles...)

Related Links:
Touched by Tragedy: An Australian medical doctor teaching in the North East puts forth his first-hand view of the situation. pdf
I am not a Terrorist: The high price Tamils are forced to pay for basic human rights.
No Middle Way for Militant Monks: The role played by the Buddhist clergy in this conflict.
Black July in "Quotes"

A flash animation containing a series of observations depicting the events of July 1983 and its implications. Many of the quotes in this section are sourced from independent journalists and international witnesses.


A Few Last Words

There are several accounts of Tamils attributing their escape from death to their Sinhalese and Muslim neighbours. We are grateful to those who risked their own lives to allow Tamils to hide in their homes.

The 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom produced an exodus of Tamils who fled to all parts of the world. Our appreciation extends to countries, such as Australia, for welcoming them, and providing a safe home to live in.

We appreciate your thoughts, suggestions and queries. Please send us your feedback.

Your Story

Stories from witnesses and victims from around the Globe (TBA).

Did you or someone you know get affected by Black July or any other incident? Tell us your story.



Sri Lankan artists address anti-Tamil riots
By Ravi Nessman
AP correspondent in Colombo
Published: 2008/07/24 (view source)

Anoma Rajakaruna has warm memories of her childhood in the diverse suburb of Panadura, where she went to the market and the pharmacy with her mother and chatted with neighbors in a mixture of English, Sinhalese and Tamil.

Then bloody riots targeting minority Tamils exploded across the Sri Lankan capital. The Tamil neighbors she once greeted disappeared. And her country was plunged into a civil war that continues to consume it.

As Sri Lanka marks the 25th anniversary of the riots Wednesday, two exhibits by artists from the Sinhalese majority seek to prod their countrymen into acknowledging a quarter century of suffering, in the hopes of offering a path out of the violence.

"We need to take a minute after 25 years to think," said Rajakaruna, 43, a photographer and documentary filmmaker. "People haven't dealt with this as they should."

Her exhibit, "July: Life After 25 Years," is a series of photographs of Tamil victims of the riots and the ensuing war. The images are stark and each portrait shows a different facet of the tremendous suffering.

One shows the lined and nearly expressionless face of a woman, almost 70, who lost all seven of her sons in the violence.

Another examines a Hindu Tamil writer, who lost all his works in the flames and now sculpts Buddha statues for the temples of poor Sinhalese Buddhists.

Yet another zeros in on the key tied around the neck of a woman, who was driven from homes 16 times because of the violence.

Many in the Sinhalese community see themselves as victims of the separatists' bombs and suicide attacks and have never taken time to see that the Tamils are suffering as well, Rajakaruna said.

"I wanted (the Sinhalese) to look at it and realize what we are going through and what they are going through," she said.

What has come to be known as "Black July" began after Tamil rebels killed 13 government soldiers in an ambush in northern Sri Lanka on July 23, 1983. Enraged Sinhalese mobs rampaged through Colombo for a week in a spasm of violence that human rights groups say killed more than 2,000 Tamils.

After the riots, many Tamils fled to the north. Some joined the Tamil Tiger rebels, who were fighting for an independent state for the minority community after decades of marginalization by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. The war has killed more than 70,000 people.

Chandraguptha Thenuwara, then 23, was heading to work at the start of the riots when thugs boarded his bus looking for Tamils.

Later that day, as he walked through a city gone mad, he saw people being abducted, buildings set ablaze and Tamil-owned shops being looted at the direction of Buddhist monks.

As he began his career as a radical, anti-war artist, Thenuwara often thought of that scene.

"It was inside of me," he said.

His country has lost its way and forgotten the meaning of its Buddhist roots, he said. Even many Buddhist clerics have become ultra-nationalist, prodding the government to push on with the war and try to crush the rebels, he said.

His exhibit, "The Dhammapada and other works," seeks to remind Sri Lankans of the Buddha's teachings of peace and tolerance, he said.

In one yellow painting, flanked by two other yellow-flecked paintings, Thenuwara has written, then partially obscured, the words of the Buddha: "In this world hatred never ceases by hatred; it ceases by love alone. This is an eternal law."

He camouflaged the phrase, because so few seem to be able to follow it, he said. He chose yellow to mirror the yellow security barriers along so many of the nation's roads.

Nearby is another three painting set, this one tinted black for fear and death, with another saying from the Buddha: "All fear punishment; all fear death. Comparing oneself with others, one should neither kill nor cause to kill."

The third set, in green for life, hides the Buddha's saying that "to all, life is dear."

Thenuwara blames the country's leaders for manipulating the public into supporting the war. But he also blames Sri Lankans, for being passive and simply watching as the war rages on.

"Politicians are not listening, people are not listening," he said.

The fighting has since pushed many Tamils out of the northern war zone and back into Colombo, where the burned buildings and other scars of the riots are long gone. Some poor areas of the capital are unofficially divided by ethnic group, though middle class and wealthier neighborhoods are more mixed.

Though the fighting has spanned a generation, both Rajakaruna and Thenuwara said few artists have tackled the subject that has so badly scarred their nation.

Many are afraid of being ostracized by a community dealing with conflicting emotions of anger, pain and guilt, Rajakaruna said.

Last year, she tried to make a documentary about the riots, but with a new flare-up in fighting that continues to escalate, no one would cooperate.

"We don't want to talk about what happened, even now," she said.