18 October, 2019

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Frances Harrison’s ‘Still Counting the Dead’: “If You Tell Anyone, We Will Kill You And Your Husband”

By Women for refugee women

Frances Harrison, author of Still Counting the Dead, explains how Sri Lankan refugee women are living in fear.

All I had was an address in East London. The interview was set up by a series of lawyers and priests and I still don’t know the woman’s real name. We sat in a tiny back room of a terraced house and she told me, a complete stranger, the story that she’d never told her mother or husband. Then, understandably, she never wanted to see me again.

Manimolly, as I’ve called her, is a Sri Lankan Tamil who has sought asylum in Britain. Growing up in the capital Colombo, the civil war between the Tamil Tiger rebels and the predominantly Sinhalese army was just a distant backdrop to her early life. Her family was  from the Tamil minority, but she didn’t come from the conflict areas and she was about as apolitical as it’s possible to be in such a situation.

Yet her entire life crashed one day in May 2010, a year after the guns had gone silent and Sri Lanka was supposed to be at peace.  Policemen came to Manimolly’s house, looking for her husband who was travelling for his work. He came from a family connected to the Tamil Tiger rebels and the police wanted to question him. They dragged Manimolly screaming into the waiting van, leaving her sixteen month old baby with her mother. They beat her and interrogated her, but Manimolly didn’t mind that as much as what happened after midnight. She was taken to a residential house to identify some suspects and then locked in a room. Next door she could hear the policemen getting increasingly drunk and singing in Sinhala.

Two police officers raped Manimolly, handcuffing her to a chair. They didn’t know she was forty days pregnant at the time and she started bleeding heavily. “If you say anything or tell anyone we will kill your husband and kill you. Nothing happened here. Do you understand?’ the men warned as they drove her back to the police station. There the Sinhala police women just brought sanitary towels to mop up all the blood, unsurprised by Manimolly’s condition. Two young girls sharing the same cell had clearly been through the same treatment.

Manimolly was released when her husband surrendered himself to the police. They then tortured him, instead. Manimolly tried to kill herself  – twice. She stopped looking after her baby. Her family guessed what had happened to her. The stigma in Tamil society against rape is so intense that, shockingly, suicide is often considered the only honourable way out for a woman. This shame creates a second form of abuse for survivors. Manimolly was extremely fearful that someone in the Tamil community in London might find out she’d been raped because then, she said, they’d all gossip about her. She only agreed to see me if I was alone  – there were strict instructions not to bring a translator, even a female one.

As we spoke, Manimolly’s husband tactfully took their toddler out of the house to buy sweets. He knew what we were discussing and supported her decision to speak out, but she has never spoken even to him about it.  Manimolly says she is still frightened of every man she sees, and still doesn’t want her own husband to touch her.

Manimolly and her husband sold everything they had to come to London on student visas. Once here they claimed asylum. Back home the Sri Lankan police have continued to visit their house and even detained Manimolly’s elderly father-in-law for three months when they couldn’t find her husband.

The Sri Lankan government and their supporters argue that it’s safe in Sri Lanka since the war ended in 2009, and that only those who have a background of political activity or armed struggle are at risk. Manimolly’s case unfortunately shows how the wider violence against Tamils has not stopped.

At the end of the war, horrifying photographs and videos appeared online of dead, half naked, bound Tamil women, their breasts exposed. They were female rebels and the comments on the videos by the soldiers strongly suggested sexual violence. But it’s not only the defeated rebels who’ve encountered rape. It’s housewives like Manimolly, grandmothers, female aid workers, wives of humanitarian workers – women who are gradually finding their way abroad in the hope of safety and anonymity.

Unfortunately, safety is hard to find even if they make their way to the UK. They may be refused asylum even if they have evidence of persecution. Recent research by the Refugee Council found that a third of the women accessing one of their  projects were Sri Lankan, that nearly all had been tortured and raped, but that nearly half had been refused asylum in the UK. Freedom from Torture and Human Rights Watch have documented that failed asylum seekers who are removed to Sri Lanka may be tortured on arrival.

These women therefore live with uncertainty, fearing they could be deported  back to Sri Lanka. They recount their traumatic experiences to lawyers and immigration officials, but keep them secret from their extended families and friends. Some women even fear going to counseling organisations lest they meet other Tamils who will automatically know why they’re there. It’s a very lonely life.

Frances Harrison is a former BBC foreign correspondent. Her book of survivors’ stories from the end of the Sri Lankan war,Still Counting the Dead, is published by Portobello Books on 4 October.  

Courtesy https://womenforrefugeewomen.wordpress.com/

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Latest comments

  • 0
    1

    Thanks Frances, it is important to report any testimony of what happens. Every single story sheds a light on the brutal conditions of the Tamils even after the conflict.

    • 1
      0

      Ha ha ha. They sold everything, came to Britain, sought assylum.They had all the problems but had no problem in coming to Colombo, to the airport and flying to London. What a shocker! Now the assylum application needs documentary support, and who they find, the very woman whose got spots of a tiger on her body and a tail wagging between her bum cheeks, Frances Harrison. She will now sell the book to Sunday BBC, and the asylum for the seekers is sorted. A job nicely done Frances. But better eating what dogs leave behind when you take them for a walk than trying to live on fantacies.

      • 0
        1

        You call this fantasy. You are a fool,vanderkoon.From what is happening now to the sinhalese by their fellow sinhalese,you can imagine what they would have done to the tamils.With the culture of impunity spreading more and more it can only get worse.And you will now say that the white van abductions,the beatings and killings of media personnel,the gang rape of a russian woman and the killing of her boyfriend,and the countless child abuse cases are all fantasies.It shows our culture is degenerating and a once great culture is being polluted by some of the “aapu minissu”from the deep south.That is why the upcountry sinhalese say that they won’t even allow a cat into their house from the deep south.Not only a cat,now they have allowed the whole clan to take over the country and the culture is changing fast.

        • 0
          1

          SHANKAR. Well said you hit the nail on the head. I cannot just
          understand why some of the bigoted sinhalese cannot really accept what is happening when it is reported.

  • 0
    1

    ‘Rape’ as punishment for daring to ‘hope/protest’ has existed and been documented.
    http://tamilnation.co/indictment/rape/index.htm
    Even today,even in the south,women dare not visit any police station alone in the night.Ask any villager.
    Rape trials are rare as no woman likes to confess to having been a victim – it is the ultimate indignity & is remembered for generations.

  • 1
    0

    Frances Harrison is too going for Dollars whatever be the subject.No doubt innocent Tamils had to suffer a lot. Who is going to inquire into the brutal massacre of Sinhalese and Muslims. Did any of those foreign ladies speak of that side. For these ladies they are not people for they never pay in Dollars whereas diaspora channels billions in their account to maintain an image of a ethnic conflict otherwise no survivals at all in these countries. One should look into such issues rather than making chaos in peaceful land.

  • 1
    0

    These one sided stories of the ethnic war, started by the Tamils in Sir Lanka is all about which side has the money to get these into print. No one really cares about the massacres and other atrocities committed by the LTTE / the Tamil Tigers against the Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils who opposed them for nearly 30 years. Why do these so called writers expose only one side of the conflict? Of course its monetary gain. Why not do a complete study of the conflict and visit the places in Sri Lanka , to find out as to what really took place on both sides of the conflict? The Tamil diaspora is well known for their propaganda abroad and the funds they have collected over the years. Now that they do not have to spend that on weapons, they spend on propaganda. Why is it that immediately these so called refugees get a travel document, they come straight to Sri Lanka to visit relatives. Check all the flights that come to Colombo from Europe and Canada to see the number of these so called refugees making a bee line to Colombo as soon as they get their permanent resident status in these Countries. I take this story with a pinch of salt. Sensationalism sells books, the truth rarely does.

    • 1
      0

      Faqi,

      “The Tamil diaspora is well known for their propaganda abroad and the funds they have collected over the years. Now that they do not have to spend that on weapons, they spend on propaganda”

      There is also a Sinhala diaspora outside Sri lanka.
      Why don’t they counter the allegations by the Tamil diaspora, in addition to the PR firms (such as Bell Potiger) paid by SL Govt.
      and propaganda from every SL embassy.

      The answer is obvious.
      The Tamils were really affected by SL Govt. atrocities from the time of independence. Also there are decent Sinhalese among the diaspora
      who are aware of the truth.

      Of course there are supporters (sycophants!) of the Govt. like you who sing for their supper.

  • 0
    1

    Four points:
    1. Frances Harrison- Respond on the dollar allegation. We have heard the same allegation made against many Sri Lankan NGO leaders, which had not been responded effectively making people to believe the government allegation as correct.
    2. Independent international investigation is asked for crimes committed by the government and terrorists both. Those who have not committed crimes need not worry or shun inquiry. If FH has written on alleged government crimes alone she should be considered a biased writer.
    3. I have not got a copy of the book by FH to see whether she is convincing or not. If convincing it is a great attempt. If not, she has to face severe criticism and even punishment.
    4. FH’s cases can be used against Sri Lanka at various forums like in the UNHRC and therefore the government must be ready to answer.

  • 1
    0

    Great place to plug her book. Many fellow travelers here.

  • 1
    0

    According Frances, almost every woman in Sri Lanka has been raped.

    ‘it’s not only the defeated rebels who’ve encountered rape. It’s housewives like Manimolly, grandmothers, female aid workers, wives of humanitarian workers..”

    She must’ve copied this tactic from our dear friend Donald Gnanakone who claimed (without ever providing any proof) that “80,000 war widows”” have been raped.

    As a book promotion campaign, this is really disgusting. Mind you, I’d expect nothing else from a hysterical ex-BBC hack and Amnesty staffer.

    • 0
      0

      MAN GOO;

      MAY BE YOU ALSO SINGING FOR SOMEBODY AND PANHANDLING.

      WHEN /IF YOU ARE IN THE SAME BOAT, YOU WILL UNDERSTAND HOW THE SUFFERING INNOCENT’S
      BUT PEOPLE LIKE YOU,ONE DAY WILL REALLY, REALLY SUFFER.
      THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND.
      YOU JUST CHECK HOW MANY SUICIDES, KILLINGS, FAMILY DISPUTES,DIVORCES, DRUG ABUSES, ROBBERIES AND LOOTING AMONG THOSE WHO DID, DO THESE CRIMES.
      MOST CANNOT SLEEP AND BECOME INSANE, BECAUSE OF THEIR PAST CRIMES.

  • 0
    0

    Francis, I know you are ………

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/

  • 1
    0

    Read about this woman and her agenda by Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha , then everyone would know who she is. Her mad rantings against Sri Lanka, are nothing new. This book too is fit for the garbage dump:, Remember the Canadian Tamil organization gave a Amnesty International $50,000. This woman is connected to AI. So this garbage is expected of her, in support of the LTTE .
    http://rajivawijesinha.wordpress.com/tag/frances-harrison/

  • 0
    1

    Dear Ms. Frances Harrison,

    Congratulations for having the moral courage and determination and the intellectual commitment to make some accounting of the dead and the unimaginable suffering caused to the Tamil people due to the war. The sheer terrorist savagery with which the Lankan State decimated the two Sinahala youth insurgencies in the South provides a basis to understand the class nature of this State, and makes your claims most plausible. There is no question that war crimes and atrocities, including bombing hospitals and civilians in no-fire zones, mass massacres, summary executions, gang rapes and wholesale abductiions and enforced disappearances were committed by the armed forces. These cannot be put on par with the terrorist crimes of the LTTE, which nonetheless should be condemned, and which have no place in the politics of human liberation.The State mobilised all combined political, diplomatic, ideological and military resources to decimate the LTTE, including hi-tec weapons of mass destruction. Some 250,000 troops were let loose on an insurgent liberation force that, at best, had around five to ten thousand active combatants.The State had the active support of the so-called ‘international community of terrorist states, including the US, India, China and Pakistan in carrying out this genocide.The bourgeois deviations entrapped within a narrow nationalist ideology, and the politics of terror practiced by the LTTE is a product of the bourgeois class character of the LTTE. However, the politics of separatism, and of terrorism, owes its origin to the rabid chauvinism, systemic violence, terrorist suppression and pitiless oppression of the Tamil people by the State.

    The souls of the Tamil people are still bleeding from all the cruel injustices, all the crimes and atrocities carried out with pitiless impunity.The Tamil nation is under military occupation and political subjugation and being forced to eke out a sub-human existence, at the mercy of the Generals and the Regime.

    Upholding the right of national self-determination of the oppressed Tamil people is the most central, fundamental and supreme of all democratic rights of the Tamil people. Generations have suffered and sacrificed for this cause, because they believe that only this right will deliver them from the discrimination, oppression, degradation, repression and violent subjugation of the State. It is a matter of dignity that they have the right and enjoy the freedom to live and grow as a nation, without any external domination or control.

    Your contributions serve in highlighting the gruesome and barbaric nature of the crimes committed against the Tamil people and communicates the depth of grief, agony and despair of those who live to tell the tale. Truth must be asserted and Justice must prevail, if we are to be free.

    Surendra,
    Secretary,
    Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)

  • 1
    0

    ?Why are they running to UK and not their home land in Tamil Nadu without British welfare benefits

    • 0
      0

      Janaka

      “Why are they running to UK and not their home land in Tamil Nadu without British welfare benefits

      Why are they running to UK and not their home land in Tamil Nadu without British welfare benefits.”

      This is a good question I am unable to find the answer.

      Perhaps they are running to UK for the same reasons as the Sinhalese are running to Italy, UK and Australia.

      More Sinhalese are running to Middle East irrespective of how these countries treat them. The Sinhalese women suffer in these countries more than their men folks back in their villages yet they are willing to put up with all kinds of abuses abroad. Why? Perhaps they suffer less in these countries than back at home in the hands of their men folks. The Sinhalese women think they are better off living away from their men folks. While the Sinhalese women are away, their men folks are raping their own daughters.

      I suggest you spend some time looking into these matters.

      Your question:

      “not their home land in Tamil Nadu”

      You have asked the right question. However just as the Sinhalese are not running to their homeland Sinhapura in Bengal Tamils too don’t want to live in Tamilnadu.

      As far as my people are concerned we don’t care where you end up as long as both stupid peoples vacate my ancestral land. How soon can you leave? When you go take your remaining Tamil brethren with you. Please drop them in Tamilnadu and proceed to your final destination Sinhapura.

      Thanks.

      • 0
        0

        But those Sinhalese who are running away to the west are economic migrants, no? Tamil “refugees” have enough trouble already with deportations and detention centre beatings, don’t need you adding to them by letting the cat out of the bag about their true motivations. Or is it your intention to pull the ladder up after you’ve already climbed it, as it were.

  • 0
    1

    Merrill Fernando

    wonders:

    “I cannot just understand why some of the bigoted sinhalese cannot really accept what is happening when it is reported”.

    Because all of them are stupid just like their Tamil brethren.

    You cannot understand them because you are either a Sinhalese or Tamil.

  • 0
    0

    Unbiased article:
    Judging Sri Lanka through Western lenses
    by H. L. D. Mahindapala

  • 0
    0

    Yet anther sane article : Use of human shields:
    LTTE violated int’l humanitarian laws
    by Shenali WADUGE

  • 1
    0

    Keep counting frances untill your bank balance baloons and burst.

    Why don’t you write a book on BBC paedeophile who mollested childred in the BBC Office over a decade and who died last year.
    BBC is initiating inquiries this year after horse has bolted.

    You vultures prey on third world carcasses.
    Clean up your back yard first.

    • 1
      0

      Now here’s an interesting item reported on the Tamil Sydney website. The person to whom I think you’re referring, the UK and BBC celebrity Jimmy Savile, spoke in support at a conference called the “World Tamils Forum” in London on 26th March 2009. Lots of other important people in the UK also attended.

      See: http://www.tamilsydney.com/content/view/2030/37/

      The thing about Jimmy Savile is that over several decades he did all sorts of “jobs” for various British governments at the same time as raising millions of pounds for charity. It was because of these “jobs” and the money he raised for charity and the important people he mixed with that some people claim a blind eye was turned to him sexually molesting adolescent girls over many years.

      But what was his interest in the Tamil issue in the UK?

      • 1
        0

        Sir Jimmy Saville (suspected child abuser and serial paedophile) must’ve attended the WTF (WTF?? – great acronym:) having learnt of the LTTE’s Child Brigades. Perhaps he was hoping to pick up a few kids from LTTE-run orphanages.

        Jim definitely “fixed it” for Eelam! ha ha ha…

      • 1
        0

        It’s also noticeable that WTF conference was held in London UK on 26 March 2009. That was just weeks before the final demise of the Tamil Tigers when they were still deeply embedded amongst tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. Not a single one of the people at that conference is quoted as critizing the Tigers’ murderous tactic of using their own civilans to hide behind and the report quotes no one there as demanding that the Tamil Tigers move out of the no-fire zone and separate themselves from the civilians.

        All the demands are put on the Sri Lankan government and nothing of substance is demanded of the Tamil Tigers. A blinkered and biased approach which has the effect of absolving the Tigers of any legal or moral responsibility for what happened to the civilians.

  • 0
    1

    It is important to raise awareness of real issues-like one of the terrible conflicts of which is not that heard. This book does that, however, if Frances’ endeavour is to catalyze change, in this case giving asylum to women in the UK or anywhere in the world based on what the book has to say on the subject, this cannot make the case strong. Why not to invest energy into a serious research and advocacy and not by publishing a literary book that is followed by further factual explanations? This would not make a case credible nor likely to have impact on policies.

    • 0
      0

      Could you please re-phrase that in undestandable, easy-to-follow, English? What on earth are you on about?

  • 0
    0

    If there is truly credible evidence it would have come by now and the perpetrators are done for. Yet still what we see is alleged stories and hearsay with people saying that they have seen this and that and forces with vested interests giving them publicity with a touch of exaggeration.The war crime allegations have not yest found solid proof to show that war crimes have taken place even after so many years. It is because there have not been any PURPOSELY meted out blood spilling by the government forces.The deaths were inevitable as there were many trapped in the crossfire between the forces that were fighting a internationally banned terrorist outfit (with only the use of light weapons) that have abused a no fire zone and using heavy artillery from within( to which the so called human right activists are numb silent to ). The book here can be regarded as a sentimental fiction that is done with ulterior motives of finding a fast buck from the pro ltte lobbyists.I strongly advice to have this woman’s bank ACCOUNTS AUDITED FOR THE PAST 10 YEARS AND SHE HELD ACCOUNTABLE TO HOW SHE HAS GOT THAT MONEY.

  • 0
    0

    Is the Colombo Telegraph available in Sri Lanka?

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