Tigresses in “My daughter the terrorist” — a film by Beate Arnestad
NOTE: these images 9and those below) serve to set the preceding context and are NOT aspects depicted in the documentary HAUNTED TIGRESSES. Michael Roberts
MY STEPS … Michael Roberts
STEP I: in May 2013 the anonymous collective known as the SOCIAL ARCHITECTS ( a collective whose work has featured before in Groundviews) carried out investigative research with video camera and ethnographic work and composed a documentary film with the title “Haunted Tigresses” which described the pressures and oppression encountered by a handful of former female fighters from the LTTE who were living in the Tamil areas of the north and/or east. See the results in https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nSSv9Kk3tkI
STEP II: I sent this documentary to several friends who had engaged in research and/or social service in the Tamil regions and asked them to pen their comments on the work. Five responded and their thoughts have been available on web since 9 October 2014 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nSSv9Kk3tkI
STEP III: In the same month I sent the web reference for the video-documentary as well as the set of comments to other friends, all of them Tamil-speakers, with experience in this terrain. This was HOW I set up the inquiry at this phase:
Reference the Haunted Tigress video and the set of Comments I have posted I would appreciate it if you absorb and study the VIDEO [prepared in 2013] at https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nSSv9Kk3tkI
THEN note the comments by several individuals with recent research experience in the north or east at http://thuppahis.com/2014/10/09/haunted-harrowing-tales-of-suffering-from-a-few-ex-tigresses-in-the-north-today/
THEN please send me
- Your own reading of the video
- Your thoughts on the FIVE set of comments
- … and specifically to use your knowledge of the Tamil language and its everyday vocabulary to comment on this statement by a non-Tamilian working with those Locals who know some English, with specific reference to the RED PART
“The most damning part is delivered by the woman wearing a turquoise coloured dress with a red trim holding a pink handkerchief. She is either a brilliant actress/voice over or a genuine story. From experience there are rogue members of the CID or military who can hound and harass ex-combatants, both male or female. 14:15: “when they come to my house and subject me to sexual abuse, I feel treated like a dog.” – what does she mean by ‘sexual abuse’? Is it rape or fondling or “pulling my hand”? Translation from Tamil to English is important here. I remember first hearing many stories of ‘torture’ only to find out that what Tamils term as ‘torture’ could be as minor as nagging, causing emotion discomfort, denying someone something, and totally different to its meaning in a western context.
STEP IV: Alas only two individuals responded and that two ways that encompassed only some dimensions of my pursuit. However both sets of comments are of profound import and are presented here for that reason in the hope that they will attract comments and maybe inspire others whom I approached to add their thoughts to the fare at hand.
THOUGHTS SIX: from a veteran Indian Tamil commentator, 14 October 2014
I saw the video. It sounds genuine and “balanced” in as much as the blame for their current plight is placed mostly, and very rightly, at the door of Jaffna or Northern Tamil society which has traditionally been intolerant of women and women’s rights. It is still a very conservative society which I find quite disgusting.It is unforgiving and has a tendency to find scapegoats for its plight. The Sri Lankan Tamil man feels defeated and demoralized and is looking for scapegoats.He would not, or dare not, blame the LTTE, but he has no qualms about blaming the women of the LTTE. This may be because the women cannot retaliate.But Gen.Sudantha Ranasinghe, Kilinochchi army commander, told some journalists recently that the men are scared of the female cadre as they are physically strong and could hit back. Hence the need to denigrate them and keep them subjugated or marginalized through social exclusion and malicious gossip. The video documentary has a lot on this technique of subjugation.
There are references to military surveillance, which we all know is pervasive and intrusive, especially in the Wanni where the army has a free run.The army top brass are not apologetic about it. Many Tamils say that the visiting troops are polite (most soldiers don’t enter houses without permission) but some do say that they could be naughty.However, most women I talked to said that if a girl or women keeps her distance, the troops also keep their distance. “Ultimately it is our behavior which invites trouble,” is a constant refrain in the North.
It is widely known that all ex-cadres are under constant surveillance, as the State fears that they might go back to their old ways or get re-recruited (as they have nothing else to do, being neither educated nor trained for any trade). It is said that some men are used as spies and do the dirty work for the forces .The cadres have no option but to go along.I am told that given a chance most ex-combatants would flee to a foreign country. But the women cadre cannot do that even. Their future is indeed bleak. I do not at all share your perception that the portrayal of their plight in the video smacks of a Sinhala teledrama. Some of the combatants have had a bad time while others have not. Some seem to be able to cope while some are unable to. The video has a fair cross section of the women. The Sri Lankan government, the Northern Provincial Council, and approved NGOs could help them settle and lead a normal life. But nobody would take up their cause.They are not a vote bank for the local politicians. The local society has no use for them as the war is over. And for the government and the the armed forces, they are still “terrorists” who need to be kept under watch and not allowed to disappear in society. The continuing distrust between the Sri Lankan Tamil and his government, will ensure that the problem will be in our midst for a generation at least.
Sea Tigresses load an attack craft A LTTE platoon == both Pics from book by Rohan Gunaratna …. see Roberts, Tamil Person and State for details]
THOUGHTS SEVEN: from a Jaffna Tamil researcher who has been living in Australia for some time, December 2014
Sorry for not getting back to you earlier on this one. I will give some of preliminary thoughts now, and get back to you later with a more in-depth response.
On the whole, I think I believe the stories. They are very similar to what I have heard and keep hearing. I don’t think it is just a few rogue elements in the army doing this. It is probably more a reflection of the culture of impunity that has has been fostered. There is also a perhaps a class element at play here. These are largely poor women — one of them mentions being low cast — though highly intelligent. The fact that they are in a weak position due to their earlier LTTE involvement, and the fact that they don’t have any establishment influence, means that people in the army and police think they can take advantage of them. They are very capable women who want to move on, but are unable to. Can sense the despair. One of them says they are unable to do even the things that they can do with ease like riding a moot bike, for fear of what people might think. Quite a pathetic state of affairs. I am not sure what the way out is. The only thing I can think of is that the govt should think of ways of utilising their skills. I said this to Adm Tissara Samarasinghe once, that these girls were once part of one of the most formidable armies in the world, sure there is someway their skills can be utilised. even of this meant moving them out of their villages. Moving them to an urban area might ease things a little. And of course, reducing the military presence would help.
With respect to the language. She uses the exact Tamil words for ‘sexual harassment’. She doesn’t describe it in any further detail. I don’t think she will either, given she says she is already an object of gossip in the village. All she says is that it happens constantly, almost everyday. Can sense the severity of the trauma in her voice. I think it would be unethical to reduce it further. Whatever is happening is traumatising her almost to the point of suicide…which should be the measure of the severity of the crime.
A female section of the makkal padai, the auxiliary force of civilians created circa 2006 by the LTTE – See Roberts, Tamil Person and State, Figs. 62 & 63 and clarification