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February 12, 2009

Sri Lankan human rights activist to speak

Sri Lankan human rights activist and feminist Nirmala Rajasingam will speak at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20 in 120 Kane. Rajasingam, who attended university in the United States and returned to Sri Lanka radicalized, was jailed by the Sri Lankan government for her association with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The Tigers subsequently broke her out of prison, but she soon became disillusioned with their disregard for democracy and human rights, left the organization and relocated to London.


Rajasingam’s sister, Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, stayed in Sri Lanka to document human rights abuses there, and was assassinated in 1989. Both of their stories are recounted in the moving Helen Klodawsky documentary No More Tears Sister (National Film Board of Canada).


Nirmala continues her life of activism through work as a legal defender for refugees in Britain as well as acting as a leading member of several London-based human rights and democracy organizations, including the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum and the South Asia Solidarity Group. Her lecture will discuss the appeal and danger held by armed struggle and nationalist movements, the ways that gender shaped her experience of violent conflict, and the problems of protecting minority rights in post-colonial majoritarian democracies.


The lecture is part of the “Veterans of Intercommunal Violence” series sponsored by the Clowes Center for Conflict and Dialogue Studies and the Comparative History of Ideas Program. It is free and open to the public.