Narrating Crisis in Sri Lanka

Nimmi Gowrinathan in Guernica:

Sri-Lanka_600Jeya’s daughter is nine days old, unnamed, when I meet her in Sri Lanka. Miniscule compared to my chunky little boy, born only a few months earlier, she squirms beneath pink netting as I gingerly reach in to hold her hand. I don’t need to see her, Jeya says, turning away. That day, I was a human rights researcher, and I wondered what fresh trauma I would cause in the pursuit of documenting her story. Jeya’s daughter was born of rape. Half Singhalese, half Tamil. Half soldier, half civilian. She entered her world when a vicious cycle of violence had come full circle. They say the war is over now, the country is at peace. Discreetly positioned inside a church, sitting across from Jeya, I’m restless, intimately familiar with the pangs of guilt that interrupt my work and jar my sense of self. The last time I was here, I was a humanitarian worker. Then, at least, I could have carefully placed a tiny Band-Aid over the details of her damaged life. Now, I am intervening into local lives with only the promise of social justice in hand. I am an ill-equipped spy, sent to retrieve the most repressed memories from a repressed people. The stories will, at worst, incite a directionless moral outrage on behalf of the people, and at best, brand their government an international pariah. I am relieved Jeya will talk to me, as I have come looking for Victims of rape (Survivors, in aid parlance), but so far had only encountered Witnesses and Rumors. From inside the electrified fence of her internment, Jeya didn’t know which day the war ended. They never told us. Or maybe they did. None of us understood Singhalese.

It is a war the West knows little about, though its fighters became infamous around the globe.

More here.