Behind The Barbs

(Germany, 1943)

Dead bodies piled into mounds, thrown into trenches, wreaking of decay and death; emaciated bodies filing into chambers that will soon fill with clouds of gas.  An automatic image is formulated upon hearing these accounts.  We all know what it spoken of.  We all shudder.  The Holocaust, existing during the second world war; the Holocaust, an event that is so horrific it seems fictional.  Condemned to a fate perhaps worse than death, entire families were split apart and shuffled off to work down to their mere bones.  Justifications for these astonishing actions were understood by few, and the deviants were at anomalies.

Never again; the world said never again to the mass internment of a populace.

The population of Sri Lanka is 21,324,791.
21,035,791 citizens live in their respective entities.
289,000 of Sri Lankans live behind barbed wire fences.

Interned men, women, and children are held in camps and detention centers scattered across the northern region of the Asian state, under shotty allegations, and shaky claims.  Conditions for the displaced are as expected, full of grime, lacking proper water, waste facilities, and people living upon people, living upon people.  International humanitarian groups, the UN, International Red Cross, etc are forbade from entering the country and having any sort of access to the camps.  Hm.  Fishy?  Yes, highly suspicious, if these camps merely exist for the reasons the government defends they do.  They cite two reasons why they have imprisoned their own citizens.  First, being newly war-free there are supposed mines that need to be deactivated, and it is unsafe for people to move to certain areas until they are de-mined, however the plucking and relocation became the fate of one neighbor, and not of the other. ??? Hm.  Seems hardly a legitimate reason for disallowing third parties, especially those parties weary and on the search of human rights violations.  Second reason, the Sri Lankan government is conducting screening to determine who is and who is not a Tamil Tiger.  But, no one knows who has already underwent this screening, how the process is conducted, and what is general this screening process encompasses.  These internment camps are not death camps, no, but isn’t the idea the same?  The heart of the issue is that forced relocation and confinement is an inherent human rights abuse.

I reaffirm my previous statement, in my opening post, regarding our world citizen status; these Sri Lankans — the men, their wives, and children — are living, breathing world citizens, does this not count for anything?  In retrospect we are appalled and ashamed Nazi Germany rose to such power and enabled the Holocaust to reach such heights as it did, and we regret the internment of the Japanese during World War II on our own soil.  Even from comfy suburbia, from our college campuses, from our desks, can we not at least push for this violation of international (and Sri Lankan) law to end?  Tigers or not, people are people and no one is fully human when held behind barbs like an animal.

(Sri Lanka, 2009)

International Crisis Group
2009
Full Article

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7 Responses to “Behind The Barbs”


  1. 1 Family Matters October 15, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    wow. i had no idea that anything like this was happening in Sri Lanka. It’s crazy for me to think that awful situations like this are still occurring and no one is doing anything about it. But like you said, how could we? How can they completely keep any humanitarian groups or the red cross out? Haven’t there been other times when we technically weren’t supposed to be there? I’m curious, have any types of groups or government forces tried to do anything about this?? I feel like it’s the Holocaust all over again, just not as brutal. I’m not an avid news watcher or paper reader, so maybe I should be aware that this is happening still, but I am just appalled that it is.

  2. 2 Rob October 29, 2009 at 1:59 am

    I like what you did with the topic that we are studying in class. Many people talk about the Holocaust and its horrors, read memoirs and say “I can’t believe the world let that happen”. But like you point out it is still happening. If Hitler would have just been satisfied with killing all of the Jews in Europe instead of also wanting to take over the world I’m not sure the world would have noticed or cared. This is the first time in at least a month that I have heard someone mention Sri Lanka and right now I am reading books on the Holocaust almost everyday. Even though Sri Lanka doesn’t get mentioned that doesn’t mean that genocide over there is not happening. Your blog makes good connections between the too situations. I also like how at the top of your blog you have a picture of people behind a barbed wire fence during the Holocaust and at the end of your blog you show people behind a barbed wire fence in Sri Lanka. I think the images really help put the whole picture into perspective for those who read your blog. Hopefully people who read your blog will start to think more about what is going on in the world today.

  3. 3 seaandrhythm October 29, 2009 at 3:57 am

    While what the Sri Lankan government has done to its people is absolutely unconscionable, I think it is also important to consider what the Tamil Tigers have done in the separatist war against the Sri Lankan Government. The Tamil Tigers are infamous for their use of suicide bombers–in the fact they pioneered the use of female suicide bombers–they have often recruited child soldiers in their fight, and they have continued a bloody civil war when peace could have been made.

    When considering a civil rights issue like the camps in Sri Lanka it is important to consider both sides, while I think it is absolutely horrible what is going on in the country, I don’t think that the Sri Lankan military’s imprisonment of these people can really be compared to the holocaust. While the human rights abuses in this instance are grave, they are not as horrific.

    • 4 niemanr October 29, 2009 at 5:36 am

      You’re totally right. I probably should not have made such a strong insinuation that the situation in Sri Lanka mirrors the Holocaust. Perhaps I poorly covered this post. My aim was focus on the notion of internment, but I might have done a bit of exaggerating.

  4. 5 bekofskc October 29, 2009 at 7:37 am

    I think this post definitely hits a strong argument. After every major atrocity, the world says never again. After the Holocaust, after Pol Pot, after Apartheid. Yet the fact I can make this list, and you can make this post on Sri Lanka, shows that the world doesn’t really learn, or maybe just doesn’t do anything regardless.

    Your descriptions of the camps fit the description of the camps of displaced people around the world. There are refugee camps throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle-East full of people whose lives have been torn apart by war and strife. As you say, we are appalled by the slaughter of the Holocaust, yet are blissfully ignorant of the events going on around us.


  1. 1 Comments « Love and Napalm Trackback on October 29, 2009 at 6:47 am
  2. 2 Comments. « Swanderc's Blog Trackback on November 5, 2009 at 2:59 pm

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