The "eternal conflict" of Sri Lanka


With a society still shaken by the attacks that last Easter Sunday killed the lives of more than 300 people, Sri Lanka receives these days the visit of a ghost that believed buried. Last Sunday, in response to the massacre, a wave of attacks on mosques and businesses run by Muslims in a city near the capital, Colombo, left a mortal victim and prompted the government of the capital of Sri Lanka to decree the curfew among the Muslim community . An escalation of violence that, in a certain way and saving the enormous circumstantial differences that separate them, recalls a very recent episode still in the collective memory and of which just today marks a decade of its end: the bloody civil war that devastated the country for 26 years, between 1983 and May 18, 2009.

With an estimated balance around 100,000 dead, 800,000 displaced at its height and a host of outrages committed by the two warring sides, the Celestial conflict remains one of the longest in Southeast Asia – and also the most forgotten by the international community. For more than a quarter of a century, the government, belonging to the majority ethnic group, the Sinhalese -of Buddhist religion-, fought with all means at their disposal to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a guerrilla terrorist organization composed of by members of the Tamil ethnic minority, practitioner of Hinduism.

Born in 1976, the so-called "Tamil Tigers" took up arms to achieve the creation of an independent state of Sri Lanka called "Eelam" (Dear Earth). The Tamil minority, historically wary of the Sinhalese – largely because they had been favored by the British Crown during the colonization era – was dragging a deep sense of oppression dating back more than two decades.

After gaining independence in 1949, the new governments of Ceylon – the official name of the island then – began a period of discriminatory reforms that, over more than 20 years, managed to reduce the Tamils ​​to the minimum expression through projects of law "only for Sinhalese". Stripped of the right to vote and access to the university and public services, many members of the Tamil community came together around the idea of ​​a state of their own in the regions where they were the majority, in the north and east of the country.

War crimes
It was thus that the Tamil Tigers, after an escalation of hostilities with the army to each more angry, ended up officially facing the state of Ceylon in 1983 in response to a hurricane revolt known as "Black July" which left nearly 3,000 fatalities of origin Tamil The tortures and disappearances (by the Army); suicide bombings and use of human shields (by Tamils); indiscriminate massacres of civilians and atrocities in general were the usual tonic thereafter.

Full of truces and negotiations and mediations from foreign countries to achieve peace, the conflict became entrenched until, in 2006, the government, determined to solve it once and for all, launched a final offensive that was slowly cornered to the Tamil Tigers. Very weakened, the guerrilla was finally crushed on May 18, 2009 after a final action in which both its leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and the last remaining fighters were killed by the Army. 26 years and tens of thousands of deaths later, the war saw its end finally. Since then, the economy had improved substantially, tourism had been revived, the country was rebuilding and coexistence was returning, despite the wounds. Until last April 21.

Is history repeating itself?
At first glance, the parallels and similarities between the war and the development of the wave of violence experienced in the last month may seem obvious. Two religions faced (Buddhist and Hindu in their day, Muslims and Christians now) in an escalation of confrontations whose vicissitudes, although today is not conceived that reach the same level of virulence, no one knows for sure what they can come to derive .

Mario Esteban, a researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute specializing in the Asia-Pacific region, is widely "optimistic" and does not believe that the palpable tensions will go any further. "Unlike what happened during the conflict, the Government is trying on this occasion to maintain peace and order and has not undertaken reprisals against the Islamic community, as it did in its day with the Tamils," he says. However, Esteban admits that the fact that a part of the Islamic community has embraced Salafism through "external currents from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the self-proclaimed Islamic State, in whose ranks have been fought by Sri Lankans", has inevitably exacerbated the religious radicalism.

At the other extreme, Florentino Rodao, a professor of International Relations at the Complutense University of Madrid, sees it feasible that, in the short or medium term, Sinhalese and Tamils ​​will be able to join forces and, as a result, intercommunal violence will re-emerge. "It is not clear to what extent it can happen, but it is a possibility that must be kept in mind," he says. . (tagsToTranslate) lanka (t) anniversary (t) war


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