Shreen Saroor Short Documentary

INTERNATIONAL: Women: Leaders of Peace

Shreen Abdul Saroor has experienced war and forced displacement. She grew up surrounded by violence in Sri Lanka, where Tamil militants expelled Muslims from the north in 1990, forcing her family to escape their Mannar Island home.

She understands the costs of war and, in particular, the vulnerability of women.

“The safety of women and girls has been one of the casualties of the long war in Sri Lanka,” she has said. “Soldiers and members of paramilitary groups rape women with impunity. Rape has been used as a tool to torture political detainees.”

Not one to sit by idly, Shreen formed two organizations to assist women affected by conflict — and, by extension, to help the population at large: Sri Lanka’s Mannar Women’s Development Federation, which provides microcredit and education to Muslim and Tamil women, and Mannar Women for Human Rights and Democracy. Shreen knows that there cannot be true, lasting peace without the participation of informed and civically engaged women.

On September 21, World Peace Day, we at Search for Common Ground saluted Shreen along with three other women — Indonesia’s Electronita Duan, Nepal’s Purna Shova Chitrakar and Timor-Leste’s Filomena Barros dos Reis — who are receiving this year’s inaugural N-Peace Awards. Search for Common Ground is working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement these N-Peacehonors — recognizing those who “Engage for Peace, Equality, Access, Community and Empowerment”– which were established to acknowledge that women are often in the frontlines of conflict, but rarely make the headlines. Their efforts toward building peace and creating cohesion in their communities are too many times overlooked.

Today, we want these women in the headlines.

Electronita has been involved in numerous programs to empower women in Indonesia and helped develop Politeknik Perdamaian Halamahera, an institute of higher education for those whose studies were interrupted by conflict. Electronita knew that normalcy could never return to conflict zones without a skilled and educated population.

Purna, among other activities, created the Ban Landmines Campaign Nepal (NCBL) in 1995 to promote an international ban on the use, production, transfer and stockpile of landmines. Purna worked to teach families, students and teachers about the risks of landmines in their communities, especially in rural areas. She often had to struggle to reduce mines in the face of opposition, continued conflict and arson. She worked tirelessly to outlaw these indiscriminate weapons of war and in June of this year Nepal was declared landmine free.

A human rights and justice activist, Filomena is a project coordinator for peace building development with the Asia Pacific Support Collective in Timor-Leste, a country that is continuing to rebuild and overcome its tragic history. Even before Timor-Leste secured its independence, she worked tirelessly to ensure a credible truth and reconciliation process for her country and to ensure that human rights are protected, sometimes dressing as a nun and carrying religious material to protect her true purpose in documenting horrific human rights violations.

Each of these women has helped her community get closer to peace, security and normalcy. Moreover, they have empowered more women to do the same.

At Search for Common Ground, we believe strongly in the positive roles that women can play in their communities and in compassionate leadership for the whole. SFCG recognizes that war has a disproportionate impact on women and girls, and their potential for sustaining peace often goes unrealized and untapped.

Working with governments, women’s organizations and individuals to expand women’s political participation throughout the world, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, we are training women politicians in leadership skills and use of media, and women mediators for peaceful settlement of election results. We are encouraging women to engage as local and national leaders through economic training, participatory theater, peace forums and dialogues. In addition, we convene women for conferences on empowerment, bolstering local, national and regional networks of women dedicated to conflict transformation.

Women, who tend to be more inclusive in their approach and represent slightly more than half the world’s population, are essential to lasting peace and secure communities. It is only by empowering women and giving them a place at the table that we can hope to find solutions to conflict that last.

Source: Huffington Post Date: September 26, 2011

Theme: Participation – General, Violence Against Women – General


Women and Media Collective Press Conference – 17th August 2011

The Women and Media Collective held a press conference to address the incidence of violence against women with respect to the ‘grease devil’ phenomenon. The Collective also stressed that the press conference would be an opportunity for a ‘clear dialogue’ to be formed about the issue.

Watch the video here 

Two Years On: No War but No Peace for Women still facing the Consequences of the War – CMTPC


Women in the north and the east of Sri Lanka have undergone severe hardships during the war, including the loss of loved ones, family’s support structures, livelihoods, houses and also a loss of life and dignity. While there have been numerous changes announced by the Government the situation for women on ground, however, has continued to be challenging. It is sad since the end of the brutal war women’s lives have not seen a dramatic transformation over the last two years and they have continued to face the basic challenges of safety, shelter and basic facilities. It in this light that we wish to put forward a few issues that these women have been facing within the broader context of life in the north and east for the communities living there.   We have chosen to highlight these issues because of their gravity, the State’s involvement in the same and the inability of women to seek justice in such cases owing to the lack of an effective civilian administration, security threats and the lack of a concrete remedy within the local legal system.  While we write of the issues relating to women, they raise broader concerns impacting the families and communities. The incidents and the report cover only the Northern and Eastern Province of Sri Lanka.


Resettlement – Even though there has been publicity about resettlement, the manner and the speed in which it has been done harmed the women.  Muslims returning to Jaffna have a long drawn process and have to spend about Rs.1500 to government officers to register themselves. They also need to cover their travel and food costs to and from Jaffna. They forgo the cost of food rations, have no shelter in this intermediate stage and are forced to shuttle between Puttalam and Jaffna. Granting of land permits has also been stopped. In other areas people have been able to go back to their villages but their house has been occupied by the army. There are fears that some areas will be barred for access either due to national security or development reasons.


The government has been taking over land that people earlier inhabited and in some cases owned title deeds either to set up military camps or for developmental projects. In the North and the East several public and private lands have been taken over by the military to set up camps or check points.[1] The people from Sampur still await return but the Government claims it needs their land for military and development purposes, including a coal power station built by an Indian Company.


The Sri Lankan government needs to provide a systematic and speedy resettlement process for the people in the North and ensure that the aid promised by donors and the government are in fact distributed to those who are being resettled. Equal treatment in the process of distribution across the sexes has to be assured by the responsible government officials.


The government’s new rule stopping the grant of land permits need to be re-looked at as this new policy ensures that families with no land are left destitute and with no possibility of resettlement or aid, particularly of housing. The GoSL however has been continuing its land grant under the Mahaweli scheme in the Central Province. Likewise, either it must treat the Northern citizens the same by providing them permits in the North or ensure that they can apply for land in the Central Province.[2]


Missing Persons, Detainees and Political Prisoners – A critical issue faced by a number of  families in the north, particularly women in the north and the east, is that of the missing – of husbands, sons, daughters and other family members. The Government has failed to provide these families any system of recourse to help them trace their family members. While currently much of the focus is about what happened in the last months of the war, the victims from the last two decades are waiting for some help to know what has happened to their loved ones. Also a number of the detainees who were subsequently released have undergone torture during the period of detention.[3] There is also a systemic harassment of women who have been detained and subsequently released in the new resettlement areas. They are constantly monitored and cannot lead normal lives. But more importantly there is a culture of harassment that comes with this form of monitoring. For women there are additional issues. When female ex- cadres and women arrested ‘under suspicion’ under the emergency law, which has been extended again this month[4], and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, report to military camps, which they are constantly asked to do, certain military personal make sexual advances and the women have been threatened for non-compliance. Increased military presence and the constant surveillance of these women released are at great risk within the community and also with the military. A few women are still in detention even though they have been sent for rehabilitation and their said period of rehabilitation has been completed.[5]


There are several cases[6] where women have been arrested and detained for long periods of time without a charge sheet and released subsequent to the filing of a Fundamental Rights petition. These women have faced torture and inhuman treatment in the prison on mere suspicion. The GoSL of Sri Lanka must ensure that arrests and detention are not used by the State to control people and harass them but are done in the proper manner where the detainees safety is assured at all times. It should be a system through which wrong doers are apprehended. Hiring legal counsel is expensive in Sri Lanka and many women do not have the finances or the knowledge that they have a right to legal aid. Therefore many women languish in prison. Therefore the GoSL must take steps to release those who have no charge sheet against them with immediate effect.


The case of Thirumakal Maxmillan[7] and Vasanthy Ragupathy:[8] they were arrested under suspicion of aiding in illegal activity. They have been in prison for the last 10 years, away from their young children and suffering mental trauma and illness. These women when arrested with their husbands were tortured and made to confess to crimes that they were not aware of. The GoSL should ensure that the case which has been dragging over a decade is tried and a verdict issued  so that these women can return to their young children who are currently in the care of relatives/orphanages


Violence against women and Rape by Military and Security Personnel – The civil administrative system has been replaced by the military system in the North in the ‘post war’ context. This started with the management of interim camps such as Menik farm in the last days of the brutal war that ended in May 2009. Militarization of the everyday lives of people in the north has caused significant problems to women’s security, such as increased insecurity and even rape. In many areas there are no police posts and people need to seek the assistance and permission of the military for their daily needs. This places women in a vulnerable position.


In the Vishvamadu rape case for example, four military men raped one returnee women and sexually abused another on 06th June 2010.[9] The raped victim and other two women were with their children in the resettlement areas clearing their plot of land and the military men who visited the site in the day, realizing that the women were without male companions and went back to the site on the same night and assaulted the women and children and went on to sexually abuse and rape the women. On 14th June the victims identified the four military men. On 19th November 2010 four accused military men were released on bail and one of the accused has been absconding the last two hearings.  To date the case has faced several postponements and there is a complete disregard by the State to ensure speedy justice.


On December 16, 2005 Ms. Vijekanthan Tharsini was raped and murdered in Punguduthivu. It is alleged that the crime was committed by the Sri Lankan Navy since a cap used by the forces was found near her dead body. A number too was found in the cap. No reference was made by anyone regarding this cap and no attention was given regarding this matter. Investigations were carried out. Subsequently it was found that  it belonged to an army personnel serving in Kayts who later served in Batticaloa. The case is still pending in the courts.


On March 19, 2001 two Tamil women, Mrs. Sivamani Sinnathamby and Mrs. Vijikala Nanadakumar, were arrested in Mannar by naval officers and taken into custody. While in custody both were raped and tortured by police officers.[10] At the time of the incident the case was very sensitive and drew the attention of the international community. The case was transferred to Anuradhapura where the women were humiliated during court proceedings and faced great threats as they had initiated legal proceedings. Both victims and their family members underwent continuous harassment at the hands of the military and repeatedly received death threats.  In 2008 the case was stopped on a stay order by the Court of Appeal. There are several such cases where women who were raped, tortured and even murdered by security personnel are unable to come forward, for if they do, they might have to face violence, being abducted and even killed.


Women lost their husbands and young male family members, as a result of forced recruitment by the LTTE or of  targeted arrests and detention of male members of the ethnic Tamil population by the government etc.  Therefore, many women have found themselves without any male ‘protection and support’ and outside their conventional and cultural concepts of family. Single women have been facing harassment, the threat of rape and also rape in many instances.  Rape given social taboo is a difficult issue for women to raise and rape by State actors more so given the risk not only to the women’s lives but also to their family members. Therefore even when women are raped they do not file a case against the perpetrators.


Under Sri Lankan law while rape is an offence against the State the victim per se receives no remedy. In many other jurisdictions women are provided compensation, especially in cases where State actors are perpetrators. However in Sri Lanka apart from rape being an offence which is very difficult to prove, once proven the accused is sentenced and the women is said to be served justice.


The Sri Lankan government needs to provide speedy justice for the victims of rape by the military and other State actors and provide compensation for the victims.  The Sri Lankan government must make a commitment to prosecute military personal and not hinder court proceedings as it has done in several cases. It must also put in place a local system of compensation for victims of rape, especially in the cases where where State actors have been perpetrators. Justice delayed is justice denied.


Cases of detention and rape from the North are constantly transferred to the Anuradhapura Courts where the language of the Court is Sinhala. This ensures that the victim is left in the dark about court proceedings and places the victims and family members of those detained in a new environment. Victims are also forced to travel for hearings which is a cost most times women cannot bear.


While the fighting may have stopped today, in the post war situation, women continue to face violence. In the last six months there have been 28 reported cases of death mostly among young women in Jaffna alone and many of these deaths are either murder or suicides as per Jaffna hospital officers. It is difficult to claim that these have been carried out by agents of the State or political groups, and the perpetrators could be members of the family or community. What is clear is that there continues to be a climate of insecurity and perpetrators are confident of being able to carry out such acts, while the victims are forced to submit to a culture of fear, shame and secrecy.


Trafficking – Since the end of the war there are increased reports of women and girls being trafficked. Recently a statement was made by the head of the National Child protection authority[11] warning parents of the North to be vigilant and protect their girl children as many were found as victims of trafficking.  There have been several cases where disabled women have also been trafficked. Given the current military presence and surveillance, it is indeed a matter of concern how traffickers are able to bypass several check points and take young girls and women across to other parts of the country.


In one incident a member from a political armed organisation was found to be taking young disabled women across to Colombo promising them work in the film industry. However no action has been taken as it would incur the wrath of this member of the political group. The police have also been inactive in this matter owing to this political influence.[12] The Sri Lankan government needs to take steps to apprehend the military and political personnel involved in this trafficking cartel and ensure women and girl children from the North and East have mobility free of harassment and abduction.


Presidential Task Force Rules – The civilian administration and local elected bodies continue to be circumvented by the central government that has established a Presidential Task Force that decides policy and provides approval for all projects in the North. No organization in the North or the east has been granted permission for psycho social intervention.  This denial of a basic health care service for people who have undergone severe trauma and faced violence as a result of the war is deplorable, unjust. The government has set up mental health units at the government hospitals. However, these are neither safe nor gender sensitive spaces for women to talk regarding the war, violence faced during the war, rape, detention or the disappearance of their loved ones. This denial is a denial of healing and mental wellbeing of a whole ethnic community that faced immense violence. The same need to be addressed immediately. Even the LLRC did not allow women to grieve and it was noticed by several witnesses[13] that there was impatience and a lack of sympathy from the commissioners themselves who berated the women for crying and moved on to other cases if the woman was unable to recompose herself. They also suggested that a few women should speak on behalf of the multitudes of women who had gathered there to report the abductions of their loves ones – sons, husbands, brothers and other loved ones.


The Sri Lankan government has reiterated its commitment to peace and reconciliation time after time in the last two years. However, the actions of the government fail to convince us of this commitment.  The Sri Lankan government must ensure that it addresses the continuing suffering of all communities, especially those from areas that faced the brunt of the war. It needs to restore civil administration in the North, hand over administration from the military to civil bodies and prosecute State actors who have engaged in gross human rights violations, and take steps to find solutions for the problems faced by women.


[1] Mullikulam in Mannar and Sampoor in Trincomalee are well known examples of the same.
[2] Currently only Sinhala people have been provided land under the Mahaweli scheme in the recent past. No Tamil or Muslim villagers are informed of the same through the State as it is done for the Sinhalese.
[3]  Interview with a woman in Jaffna who was arrested and detained, 2009-2010. interview with women in Mannar.
[5] Interview with Mother of detainee, Killinochchi.
[6] As per data gathered by a legal aid organization.
[7] Dehiwala Railway Station bomb blast case HC/9429/99
[8] Town Hall bomb blast HC/891/02
[10] MC/20265/01 — HCV/REV/131 — HCA/53/2006
[12] Information gathered from two sources working in the North who were faced with this issue and do not wished to be named.
[13] Witness account at the LLRC hearing.



Lanka News Web Editorial


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Kaviya = Nuba Mata Pahanak Mai=


Lanka-e-News Sinhala Articale : 28.04.2009


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Prabakaran exposed and threw away Oslo Federal agreement; LTTE’s defeat started from there – Karuna

LTTE’s morale was low right at the beginning of the unnecessary war
(Lanka-e-News, 18.April.2009, 12.30pm)

Lanka-e-News: Once you said that you possess arms; now you deny it. What position can we accept?

Karuna Amman: It is wrong information. We had threats from LTTE when we split from it and formed TMVP. We held arms then to face LTTE threats. Later I quitted from TMVP and those who broke away with me did not keep arms. The weapons are with the TMVP and not with us.

Lanka-e-News: Why did you join Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)?

Karuna Amman: Almost all Tamil political parties are against the LTTE. But they are diverse regarding what should be done. There is a multiplicity of small groups like sports clubs. Such groups cannot provide solutions for the problems of the Tamil people. That is why I joined a bigger party like SLFP.

After that, 1000 of our cadres were recruited to Army. Around 300 of them are on duty in Thoppigala area now. Further 1500 cadres are to join the Army. Of them 1200 are now being processed. Another group is to be attached to police.

All our offices in the Eastern Province have been turned to SLFP offices. There are 80 such offices. Police guards them. After 25 years, Minister Maithripala Sirisena opened a SLFP office in Batticaloa. TMVP has only a couple of cadres now.

Lanka-e-News: What service have you rendered through your cabinet portfolio so far?

Karuna Amman: I like this portfolio of national integration and restructuring. There was no understanding among the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities for 25 years. Now we can build it.

The major barrier is the language. Tamils should learn Sinhala and the Sinhalese also should learn Tamil. Foreign organizations like US AID help us to do this. The teaching is conducted through my ministry. We have made aware the President on this and hope to move a cabinet paper to take it forward though the Ministry of Education.

We are teaching Tamil to Army personnel. People like them. But the problem is the language.

The Ministry is planning to launch a counseling and rehabilitation service for the LTTE cadres that have left the organization. There are around 6000 such cadres in the Eastern Province alone. There are more in Northern Province. We are now collecting their information.

Lanka-e-news: What is the turning point of the LTTE’s defeat in the fourth and the last Ealam war?

Karuna Amman: First point is my breakaway. It was a massive loss to Prabakaran.

Number two is missing the opportunity for a better federal set up. Balasingham signed an agreement at Oslo expressing willingness to consider a federal solution. He initially hesitated, but I encouraged him. I told him to sign the statement and to talk with Prabakaran later. Prabakaran crumpled the document and named us as traitors. People know that there was a path for a federal solution. They don’t want to be in a war forever.

The morale of the LTTE was low right at the beginning of the fourth Ealam war since it was unnecessary.

The third point is the new war tactics of the Army. They did not tag the operations such as ‘Jaya Sikurui’ and advanced strategically and slowly capturing area by area.

Lanka-e-news: What path the struggle to win the rights of the Tamils will take in future?

Karuna Amman: In the post-conflict context, Provincial Councils will be set up. We should not make unnecessary demands like police powers. If so, the two communities will suspect each other again paving way for conflicts. It is unnecessary. Tamils need freedom and development at this juncture. Developments are already underway. Only time is needed to avoid conflicts and to establish peace.

For instance, when LTTE came to the Eastern Province, there was no problem there. No one was arrested on political reasons. Following 1983 incident of the killing of 13 soldiers, ethnic riots spread and the displaced people came to Batticaloa. LTTE manipulated them to spread racism. Then fifteen of us first joined the LTTE. Same thing happened in Jaffna as well. Thus, the gap between the two communities widened. It can be remedied.

Lanka-e-news: What will be the LTTE’s future?

Karuna Amman: LTTE cannot resurge. The small guerrilla teams hiding in the jungle will launch attacks. But the movement cannot be reorganized. People have already rejected it. That is what happened in east and in Jaffna. Jaffna people first rejected the LTTE and they never joined it again.

LTTE lacks human resources. The source of human resources for LTTE was the Eastern Province. 8500 cadres from east fell in Vanni battle fronts. LTTE’s economic base is Jaffna. LTTE has lost both bases now. Vanni people are also tired of the LTTE and they will never support them in future.

Army needs only time. Only one and half years passed after the Eastern Province (was liberated). Now, there are minor incidents only. Time will heal.

Lanka-e-News: What is your opinion about Tamil Diaspora?

Karuna Amman: They are unaware of the real situation here. They are misled by the LTTE’s massive propaganda campaign. But the Tamils in south cannot be misled like them. The Diaspora needs to save Prabakaran and not the Tamil people. Prabakaran is the beginning of all these woes. He is not a leader. A leader never uses his people as pawns. The civilians could be let go before the war was started. Prabakaran attempted to hide among people instead of freeing them. Tamils would have been grateful to him if he had allowed them to go.

The Diaspora will never come back to Sri Lanka. They need chaos is Sri Lanka to stay there. For that, the Vanni people have to suffer. The story that 100,000 Tamils demonstrated in London is a lie. There were only 20,000 people.

Lanka-e-News: There are diverse calculations of the number of civilians trapped in the no-fire zone. How much is your calculation?

Karuna Amman: Tamil National Alliance’s 300,000 calculation is false. There were 180,000 people in LTTE-held Mullaithivu, Kilinochchi and Mannar districts. With the start of war, around 90,000 of them moved out of the war zone. Of the rest 90,000 civilians, 65,000 have crossed into the state-controlled areas now. According to my estimations, there are less than 30,000 people in the no-fire zone.

Lanka-e-News: Do you think that a ceasefire is necessary?

Karuna Amman: Not at this moment. Prabakaran will never agree a ceasefire with a pure mind.

Lanka-e-News: Where is Prabakaran now?

Karuna Amman: He is not in the no-fire zone. He may have fled back to jungle. Prabakaran has not fled to a foreign country. He can never flee to India. He can escape to a country like Indonesia but cannot hide there. But he can seek asylum in Norway. He will definitely have to die.

Many of his second level commanders have died. The likes of Banu and Swarnam have been injured. Banu and Pottu Amman ordered the Muslims to evacuate within 24 hours. I opposed it then. But they did not care it.

Lanka-e-News: Around 400 Tamil youths have disappeared in south? What is your comment on it?

Karuna Amman: Those calculations provided by TNA and Mano Ganeshan are lies. Most of the reports are false. I have discussed the issue with the Defense Secretary several times.

Lanka-e-News: Your group is accused for links with these disappearances?

Karuna Amman: It is totally wrong. TMVP cadres are connected with the incidents of ransom taking. They are so bad. You know how they killed a girl in Trincomalee. The President has granted full powers to the police to stop dirty tricks of the TMVP.

Lanka-e-News: Now you are a member of the SLFP that made the Sinhala language the only national language creating the ethnic problem. How do you see it today?

Karuna Amman: Many politicians committed errors in the past. Both Sinhala and Tamil politicians spread racism. Today, the people are not like that. They are better understood. Once when 13 soldiers were killed in Jaffna, ethnic riots spread in south. But now the Sinhalese do not touch Tamils despite how many suicide attacks are launched by the LTTE in south. LTTE killed a Sinhala student of Eastern University. But no Tamil student was hurt in other universities. One of the best Sinhala doctors in the Eastern province was killed by the LTTE. But no Tamil doctor was hurt. People are better aware now. They are not racists. SLFP is not a racist party. How many votes have they achieved from north in the past? Amidst conflict too, Chandrika gained a massive number of votes in the Presidential Election from Batti.
Lanka-e-News: How is your relationship with India?

Karuna Amman: Very good. I met the Indian High Commissioner recently. He offered assistance to develop the Eastern University.

Lanka-e-News: How is your relationship with Tamil Nadu?

karuna Amman: Not so much. But I know many journalists in Tamil Nadu.

Lanka-e-News: Did you receive arms training in Tamil Nadu?

Karuna Amman: Yes, Indian Army trained us then.

Lanka-e-News: Finally comment on your personal life. You are married?

karuna Amman: Yes, I have three kids. My wife has not obstructed my work both when I was in LTTE and in present times as well. She helped me. I live happily now.

Interviewed by -Sandaruwan Senadheerkaruna2a

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