Colombo Telegraph

Sri Lanka: Slaughter In The No Fire Zone

By Callum Macrae –

The Sri Lankan government still denies responsibility for the killing of up to 70,000 Tamil civilians at the end of the civil war in 2009. So why has it been chosen to host a Commonwealth summit asks Callum Macrae, director of a harrowing film about the massacre

Callum Macrae

I have spent the best part of the last three years looking at some of the most terrible images I could have imagined. I’ve covered wars and seen some awful things, but few that could prepare me for the hours of video and mobile footage that emerged from the last 138 days of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war between the government and the Tamil Tiger secessionists; a war that ended four years ago – and whose bloody denouement is the subject of my film No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka.

The film records what happened when the government of Sri Lanka told some 400,000 civilians to gather in what they described as “no fire zones” – and then subjected them to merciless, sustained shelling. We humans are good at reducing terrible massacres to statistics. We instinctively distance ourselves from the lost humanity represented by heaps of corpses or rows of dead bodies. But it is more difficult to avoid the anguish of those who survive.

For example, the two young girls, crying hysterically in a fragile bunker of sandbags in the immediate aftermath of a shelling. They want to rush from their shelter to help the injured, but a woman is holding them back – because one shell is almost inevitably followed by another. The girls are weeping as they look at the carnage in front of them. And then, in a chilling moment, one of them recognises someone, and her hysterical cries turn to anguished screams: “Mama!”

Read the full article in the Guardian

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