It’s frustrating, trying…

It's frustrating, trying to research the Sri Lankan civil conflict. One of the most irritating aspects is how heavily propagandized are sites which on casual glance appear to be non-partisan histories. Aside from a few dry academic pieces, it's almost impossible to find a text which doesn't argue for one side or the other. It's remarkably difficult to find clarity in such a morass of loaded language. The bulk of the content I've found is propagandistic in tone, with very little in the way of actual facts or details. And even when you have apparent facts, every statistic becomes suspect, given that neither side appears able to agree on the numbers of those killed, those injured. I keep looking for personal accounts, individual stories, but if they're out there, they're getting buried in the mass of ideology.

Another part of me dreads those individual stories. Because at least the propaganda lets you maintain a certain critical distance, a detachment born of reasonable skepticism. There's no need to let your heart be broken by gross generalizations which are often wildly exaggerated at best, and outright lies at worst. But every once in a while you read something real, and it's shattering.

Nowadays, the women who join the LTTE [guerrilla fighters] are younger -- barely into their teens and plucked straight out of school and for this reason, not as educated....A young recruit in a letter to her brother, a member of a formerly militant group, now based in Colombo, describes her reasons for joining the ''struggle''.

''Dear brother, This letter may upset and anger you but my decision (to join the Tigers) was correct. And even though our parents and sister may not be able to understand this decision, I trust that you will.

''What have you achieved? Your own group and the other Tamil militant groups that laid down arms and joined hands with the Sri Lankan government are traitors to our cause. All that you have done in Colombo is to tend your stomachs and help a few Tamil leaders amass wealth.

''Even though you could have done something, you failed. But I want to do something. Staying at home and getting widowed at some stage or waiting to be sexually abused by Sinhalese soldiers is no life. I do not want any part of that kind of life."

....In her 'Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers', published in 1993 by the LTTE press and read by all recruits, Adele Ann wrote that the decision by a Tamil woman to join the LTTE ''tells society that they are not satisfied with the social status quo; it means they are young women capable of defying authority; it means they are women with independent thoughts ...''

It's chilling, the ways in which powerful rhetoric plays out in muddled teenage heads.

When I was fifteen and had a desperate desire to defy authority, to establish my individual identity, all I had to do was date white boys.

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