Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Black July Commemoration

by Canadian Tamil Congress, May 8, 2008

With 2008 being the 25th anniversary of the Black July, the Canadian Tamil Congress would like to observe the occasion in a way that will begin to bring solace and public understanding.  The Congress will collect materials on the events in July 1983 – stories, pictures, reports, testimonials, etc. – in an archive that will be made permanent and publicly accessible. 

For Immediate Release 

May 8, 2008 

Commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of Black July

The events of July 1983 are poignant for the entire Tamil population around the world, including the 300,000 of them who call Canada home.  The riots that occurred in Sri Lanka during July 24-26, 1983 systematically targeted Tamils and Tamils businesses throughout the entire island.  Nearly every Tamil person, if not a victim or a survivor of the anti-Tamil pogrom, has friends and family who were.

However, to refer to these events as riots would belie the true nature in which the tragedy unfolded.  In the capital, all traffic was searched, and any Tamils found were killed, maimed, or burned alive by large, drunken mobs.  These mobs were also led by people with voter registration lists in hand to torch Tamil homes and loot and destroy Tamil businesses.  The many policemen who were deployed throughout the city after the outset tacitly stood and watched.  In other parts of the island, Tamil political prisoners in high security prisons were killed by the inmates as the prison guards passively did nothing.  In the North East, predominantly Tamil areas, scores of Tamils were shot dead by the Sri Lankan police and National Guard.  In total, the deaths of 3,000 Tamils and billions of dollars in damage were the numerical result of this pogrom.

Black July instantly became an unforgettable part of the collective Tamil consciousness.  Reparations and remorse were bypassed for escalatory war and bloodshed.  The lucky ones were those who left their relatives, their possessions, and their memories behind to take refuge in countries such as Canada.  The agony and trauma still linger.  The media blackout on international media in Sri Lanka that coincided with the carnage ensured that many stories went unreported.

With 2008 being the 25th anniversary of the Black July, the Canadian Tamil Congress would like to observe the occasion in a way that will begin to bring solace and public understanding.  The Congress will collect materials on the events in July 1983 – stories, pictures, reports, testimonials, etc. – in an archive that will be made permanent and publicly accessible.  This will be the first time that such a large-scale effort to document this history is undertaken, and the Congress requests that all of the survivors and the affected step forward to contribute their part of history.  Throughout the month of July, a vigil and other events related to Black July will take place.  The Congress would like to invite Canadians and Tamils of all walks to take part in this process of remembrance and education.

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For more information contact:

Canadian Tamil Congress

416-240-0078

info@canadiantamilcongress.ca