Inside Camps, Outside Battlefields

Security and Survival for Tamil Women

St Antony's International Reviewby Nimmi Gowrinathan, St Antony’s International Review, 9, no. 1 (2013): 11-32, Oxford, UK

Gowrinathan Inside Camps Outside Battlefields 2013

In May of 2009, images of displaced Tamil people trapped behind the barbed wireof internment camps flashed across the world. “Everybody wanted to get out of those camps, but they were too scared to discuss their rights”, one priest recalls.  TheGovernment of Sri Lanka had just declared a military victory over the LiberationTigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), an insurgent group that waged a thirty-year war fora separate state for ethnic Tamils living among other minorities and the Sinhalesemajority on the island. On the front lines of this resistance movement, Tamil women were in constant motion. Displaced, resettled, and recruited, these women are partof a growing number of female combatants in rebel groups whose experiences,motivations, and politics continue to complicate our understandings of warfare.
This study pulls experiences with displacement and gender based violence out from ambiguous categorizations of trauma or contextual pressures, locating them as indirect and direct forms of state repression. Looking at the case of Sri Lanka, this paper examines the distinct impact of both on the formation of Tamil women’s political identities. These identities can then be mobilized through violent and nonviolent forms of organizing.

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