NGeorgia Tamils and their friends held a peace rally in front of the CNN Center on Saturday February 7th to protest the genocide of Tamils by the Sri Lanka government, and to draw the attention of public and press. Nearly 200 Tamil Americans, GATS (Greater Atlanta Tamil Sangam) and PEARL (People for Equality and Relief in Lanka) members gathered in front of CNN, rallying and holding placards, flags, and pictures, highlighting the scope of the ongoing genocide and demanding US action. Several banners were there read, "Yes, we can Stop War in Sri Lanka”, “Allow international media and monitoring missions to report freely about the humanitarian crisis in the conflict zones”, and “Allow international and local NGOs to the war affected areas to provide emergency assistance to internally displaced innocent civilians”.
The rally was held between 11 am and 1pm; rally representatives have collected signatures to send petition to congressmen and senators. The silence of the international community galvanized the Tamil Diaspora across the world to organize protests.
Since the Sri Lankan government withdrew from the Ceasefire Agreement this past January, there has been a sharp escalation in the conflict. The government launched a military offensive against area controlled by the rebels, using indiscriminate aerial bombings and artillery shelling against the entire civilian population. In September, the government ordered the evacuation of all international NGOs in the region, and proceeded with an intensive military campaign against Tamil areas in the north. According to Amnesty International, over 415,000 Tamil refugees have been forced to flee the military onslaught.
These 415,000 refugees are now experiencing a devastating humanitarian crisis, since the Sri Lankan government refuses to allow aid into the region. No food convoys have been allowed into the region since January 16, and the WFP (World Food Programme) reports that the entire region is experiencing a food crisis. The Sri Lankan government established 85-sq mile “safe zones” and distributed pamphlets asking Tamil civilians to seek shelter in this area, but then proceeded to bomb and shell this area continuously over the past few weeks. Attacks against these “Safe zones” were confirmed by ICRC and UN officials. Hundreds are dying daily. Local medical workers have reported people “bleeding to death in the streets” because there are insufficient blood and medical supplies to treat all those wounded in the government shelling. Since February 2nd, the one main hospital left in the region was shelled ten times, and was completely destroyed on February 7th, killing 61 patients inside.
Since foreign journalists are also forbidden from entering the region, international attention to the conditions of refugees caught in the conflict is minimal. The government publicly threatened to “chase out” the BBC and other international media if they reported too much on civilian casualties. The BBC World Service has stopped providing radio news to Sri Lanka's state broadcaster because of what it calls "deliberate interference”. The government expelled UN agencies and the International Red Cross, barred journalists, and conducts genocide on Tamil civilians without witnesses.
Unfortunately, the conditions for Tamil refugees who flee the conflict into government control areas are no better. A Member of Parliament relayed reports that refugees were separated by gender, with female refugees being systematically sexually assaulted and male refugees being beaten and tortured. Sri Lankan government is forcing refugees into what it calls “welfare camps” but which others call concentration camps. The British Guardian newspaper reports that Sri Lankan armed forces and associated paramilitary groups forcibly conscript young men and women from among the refugees. “Young men in the refugee camps can be taken at any time – not only by the army but by other groups too, paramilitary groups. They come at night and take them.” (Guardian Weekly, 02/04/09 at: http://www.guardianweekly.co.uk/?page=editorial&id=918&catID=6 )
Georgia Tamils requesting readers to write to their representatives and senators to
Urge US government to publicly condemn the atrocities perpetrated by the Sri Lanka government on Tamil civilians.
Ask US Gov. to bring sanctions and economic pressure to effect an immediate cease-fire.
Request US Gov. to demand to allow unfettered access for international humanitarian aid agencies, journalists and monitors into the conflict zone.
Once a ceasefire is in place, the US and the international community should help to find a political solution where the Tamil people living in Sri Lanka and exiled in other countries democratically determine the terms of coexistence with the Sinhalese state based on the universally accepted principle of self-determination.
For information please visit www.TamilsAgainstGenocide.org