This week Eelam Tamils around the world mark thirty years from the horrors of the anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983.
Editorial - Thirty years backwards
This week marks the 30th anniversary of the anti-Tamil pogrom on the island of Sri Lanka, remembered as 'Black July'. The attacks saw Sinhala mobs roaming streets across the country, killing, burning, looting and raping their way through Tamil neighbourhoods. Tamils were singled out for attack purely on their ethnic identity - their facial appearance, their fledgling Sinhalese, their cultural symbols, and their names on electoral rolls. The pogrom was brutal - an inevitable outcome of decades of rising Sinhala nationalism and anti-Tamil sentiment. Black July was not a reactionary act of rioting. It was the persecution of one ethnicity by another, with the full endorsement of the state - an act of genocide.
30 years ago - Tamil prisoners massacred at Welikada
On the 25th July 1983 Sellarasa “Kuttimani” Yogachandiran, leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) and Ganeshanathan Jeganathan, a political writer, had their eyes gouged out in mockery before being killed by Sinhalese inmates at the high security Welikada prison in Colombo. A total of 37 Tamil prisoners were murdered the same day, and 18 more were killed two days later.
5th August 1983 – The Guardian
"It is the massacres in the Welikade gaol which are attracting the most attention. There is a particular interest in circumstances in which two alleged guerrilla leaders were killed.
The two men, Sellarasa “Kuttimani” Yogachandiran, leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO) and a political writer, and Ganeshanathan Jeganathan had been sentenced to death last year for the murder of a policeman.
In speeches from the dock, the two men had announced that they would donate their eyes in the hope that they would be grafted on to Tamils who would see the birth of Eelam, the independent state they were fighting for.
Second hand reports from Batticaloa gaol, where the survivors of the Welikada massacre are now being kept, say that the two men were forced to kneel and their eyes gouged out with iron bars before they were killed.
Then and now: 'Reliving Black July 1983'
We remember the events of that infamous month of 'Black July' via a collection of excerpts from international newspapers published at the time... As well as news stories from the last two years...
21 Jul 1983 - The Times:"The Government yesterday imposed local and foreign press censorship on all news about national security, law and order, essential supplies, and incitement to mutiny, riot or civil commotion."
Uthayan reporter attacked (10 Jul 2013)
Government lesson in patriotism for Sri Lankan media (03 May 2013)
Tamil newspaper office attacked in Kilinochchi (03 Apr 2013)
BBC suspends Sri Lanka broadcasts after 'interference' (26 Mar 2013)
Memories beneath the surface... #BlackJuly 1983
Although thirty years have passed since the anti-Tamil pogrom of 'Black July' 1983, stories of the thousands of Tamil victims are yet to be unraveled.
The thousands that fled, many not to return for years and decades to come, all too often buried their painful memories as they struggled to make a new life for themselves in new lands as refugees.
Silenced Voices by www.blackjuly1983.com is a noteworthy archive. Yet it is striking that thousands of individual stories, of the many ordinary Tamils, remain unheard.
Thirty years on, these stories are starting to trickle out - even then, not from the victims themselves, but from their friends and loved ones, and most of all, their children and grandchildren.
As the Tamil nation marks this poignant anniversary, we have endeavoured to collate the small snippets of the nation's memories, that have been shared with the world via social media sites.
Despite the time that has passed however, there is little doubt that the personal anguish remains. Whilst those that shared their families' memories were keen for the stories to be heard, many we approached asked that they remain anonymous, out of respect for the deep privacy of their parents and grandparents in relation to their own experiences of Black July.*Names changed on request, to protect victim's privacy.
Gajan* @Gajan98*, UK :My parents refuse to talk about the details. But someone warned them, and they fled. When they returned, there was nothing.. #BlackJuly
Selvan Ratnarajah*, Australia:"30 years ago this day my dad was dragged out of his car in the heart of Colombo whilst a government-incited mob baying for Tamil blood attempted to pour kerosene on him and set him alight. 3 months after the July 1983 pogrom which left up to 3000 Tamils dead and 150,000 homeless, the entire Rajasingham* / Ratnarajah* clan had left Sri Lanka forever and 3 years later I was born in Sydney – still very much a Tamil but an Australian. And that has made all the difference."
TNPF: Black July was designed to "ethnically cleanse Tamils from the Sinhala homeland"
Marking the 30 year anniversary of the Black July anti-Tamil pogrom, the Tamil National People's Front (TNPF), said that it "was not an 'anti-Tamil riot' but the most naked act of Genocide committed by the Sri Lankan state against the Tamil nation", intended "not merely to cause death to the Tamils, it was also designed to ethnically cleanse Tamils from the Sinhala homeland and at the same time structurally undermine the self-sustaining economy of the Tamil nation".
Black July remembered in the UK:
Over 200 British Tamils staged a demonstration outside Number 10 Downing Street today, in remembrance of 1983 Black July massacre .
Marking the 30th year since the deadly riots of 1983, Tamils from 3 generations yielded placards and banners that highlighted the on-going genocide of the Tamils in the North-East of Sri Lanka. Banners displayed to the public that the events of Black July were a small fragment of the unabated destruction faced by the Tamil nation on the island of Sri Lanka.
Black July remembered in Canada:
In statements published on Tuesday, thirty years on from the anti-Tamil pogrom of 'Black July' in 1983, Canadian MPs and politicians remembered the horrors of what took place along side Tamils in Canada.
Employment and Social Development Minister of the Federal Party, Jason Kenney said,
“Thirty years ago today in Sri Lanka, violent mobs of armed extremists began carrying out attacks against the country’s Tamil population. Hundreds of Tamils were killed and thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed in the ensuing riots."
“In the years since the Black July pogrom, July 23 has become a day of mourning and remembrance for members of Sri Lankan Tamil communities around the world, including the 200,000-strong Tamil community in Canada."
Sikh Activist Network marks Tamil genocide during Black July
The Sikh Activist Network, a North American based youth group, has released a statement expressing solidarity in remembrance of the 30th anniversary of Black July.
The statement, released as the Tamil nation worldwide remembers the pogrom, has been reproduced in full below.
"It is with a profound sense of solidarity that The Sikh Activist Network marks the 30th Anniversary of the Tamil Genocide during Black July."
Australian Greens mark Black July with pledge for investigation
The Australian Greens party released a statement earlier this week to mark Black July, expressing soldarity with the Tamil people, and stating they wll continue to work towards an independent investigation in Sri Lanka.
The full statement has been reproduced below.
"Today marks 30 years since the start of Sri Lanka's "Black July", when anti-Tamil riots broke out in Colombo and soon spread to other parts of the country. Many Tamils lost their lives, their loved ones and their homes. It is estimated that up to 3,000 Tamils lost their lives in those riots - and nearly 700,000 people were forced to flee the country."