Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

In 1994 the Jesuit Refugee Service asked that I come to Rwanda to photograph, but quickly diverted me
to Sri Lanka at the height of the genocide, saying, “There are enough photographers, go to the next hot spot in the world, Sri Lanka”. There the Tamils, about 10% of the population, were rebelling against the Sinhalese government. 

The Tamil “Tigers” carried a cyanide tablet in case they were captured, developed the first suicide vests, and used women as carriers and soldiers. The Sri Lanka government gradually defeated the Tamils in 2009. 

A twenty-five year civil war in Sri Lanka came to a close in May 2009. The war was an insurgency against the Sri Lankan government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers), a separatist militant organization.

During that time, more than 70,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were left internally displaced. Thousands of civilians fled the country. The economy suffered from the dual impact of the civil war and the subsequent cut in aid from foreign donors in their efforts to pressure the Sri Lankan government to address the
humanitarian crisis. 

The government and LTTE both have been accused of human rights violations including abduction, conscription and use of child soldiers, indiscriminate shelling of civilian villages, the use of human shields, torture, and gender-based violence.

With the end of the war, the government of Sri Lanka called for redevelopment of the nation. The final stages of the war left at least 300,000 people displaced. By May 2010, nearly 215,000 Internally Displaced Persons had returned to their places of origin.