This weekend marked the 39th birthday of Isaipriya, a famed Tamil newsreader that was executed by the Sri Lankan military in 2009.
Shoba, better known by her nom de plume Isaipriya, was just 27 years old when she was killed.
A regular figure as a newsreader and telecaster, she was a well known and much loved across the Tamil homeland and the large Tamil diaspora. She presented the news on TTN and featured in the LTTE’s Oliveechchu videos that were distributed around the world.
Reportedly born in Neduntheevu, Isaipriya studied at the Vembadi Girls’ High School in Jaffna until 1996. Her family were later displaced to Vanni as the armed conflict escalated.
In 2009, Isaipriya, alongside hundreds of thousands of other Tamils, was further displaced by a Sri Lankan military offensive. During the final stages of the armed conflict, her 6-month-old baby girl, named Akal, was killed.
Isaipriya was amongst the tens of thousands of Tamils killed in that offensive twelve years ago. Video footage taken on mobile phones by Sri Lankan soldiers, show her being dragged up from a ditch, half-naked and being led away. Photos of her dead body, bearing visible signs of torture and sexual abuse, were unearthed in 2010.
The Sri Lankan army initially boasted of its killing, displaying Isaipriya’s name on an official military website alongside other LTTE cadres. The military stated they had been “killed on 18 May 2009 by 53 Division troops”.
A UN investigation found:
“Reasonable grounds to believe that security forces captured Isaipriya alive and then killed her with gunshots to the head execution style. Further, based on the images of Isaipriya’s dead body and those of many other women, the OISL believes that Isaipriya’s dead body was desecrated.”
The head of the 53 Division is now Sri Lanka’s defence secretary Kamal Gunaratne. No one was ever held accountable for the crime.
Isaipriya's mother and two sisters fled to the UK, where they sought asylum. Her mother told Channel 4 that she had always thought that Isaipriya had died a victim of shelling, and only found out about her execution after the videos had emerged.
Photograph: Courtesy of Pugazhenthi
“My daughter Shoba was a media personality,” her mother said in a later interview. “She worked for TTN as a newsreader and cultural show host.”
“Tamil people should always remember her in that way and keep her in their hearts.”