By Chelsea Miya
The last time third-year information technology management student Kemaa Rajah spoke to her relatives in Sri Lanka she could hear screaming in the background.
“We heard voices on the phone,” said Rajah. “People are running around screaming, ‘They’re dead! They’re dead!’ That’s all we could hear.”
This week her aunt and uncle were killed in a bombing attack by the Sri Lankan government, their bodies too mangled to be returned to their families. On Friday, she joined over 40,000 Tamil protestors from across the GTA in a plea for the world’s help. They formed a human chain stretching five kilometres from Yonge and Dundas Square to Union Station and back up University Avenue.
There are 200,000 Tamils in Toronto, the largest population outside of Sri Lanka.
For 25 years, the country has been the battleground for a bloody civil war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the LTTE or Tamil Tigers Overall, the conflict has claimed 70,000 lives.
Many of Friday’s protestors claimed the Canadian government is turning a blind eye to the Tamil ‘genocide’ because they believe all Tamils to be terrorists, associated with the LTTE.
“We really need outside help right now,” said Tharshiga Ratnam, a second- year nursing student. They’re viewing our whole race as a terrorist race. But it’s just that one rebel country. The rest of us are just civilians.”
In 2006, Canada declared the Tamil Tigers a terrorist organization. Both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government have been accused of widespread human rights abuses by the United Nations, including the use of child soldiers. First-year computer engineering student Ryan Nesharatnam’s parents fled Sri Lanka after the Black July riots of 1983. Tamil civilians were killed in the riot in response to an LTTE ambush.
“Death, they saw death,” said Nesharatnam about his parents. “Women were raped. Houses were burned to the ground. My mother told me that I’ve just now started to take notice and shout for change, but they’ve been shouting for 30 years.
“They’ve said before that getting rid of the LTTE and ending the civil war is justification for killing a few civillians,” he said. “But it’s not just a few, it’s hundreds of people. And how do we know they’re going to stop once the LTTE are gone?”