Protest remembers Black July

Despite the heavy rain, more than 100 people participated in a rally through Sydney's CBD on July 25, protesting the ongoing discrimination, abuse and killing of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan state.

Twenty-five years ago, Sri Lanka experienced Black July, a government-backed anti-Tamil pogrom in which human rights groups claim over 3000 Tamils were killed and over 150,000 were left homeless.

Fifty years ago, also in July, hundreds of Tamils were attacked and killed in the 1958 anti-Tamil riots, the first of many such riots to follow.

Today, the Sri Lankan government has withdrawn from a ceasefire agreement with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and entered into war, thousands of Tamils have "disappeared" over the last few years and Tamil journalists, aid workers, human rights activists and politicians have been assassinated. Human rights groups and media watchdogs point the finger at security forces, but to date no-one has been brought to justice.

The rally started with a testimony from a member of the Tamil community who shared her devastating story of Black July. She witnessed rioters, supported by the government, throw burning tyres onto her father and brother, burning them alive. She was 17 years old at the time.

Three young Tamils addressed the crowd, speaking about what Black July meant to them. "If the international community can acknowledge that minorities will not be treated with equality in East Timor and Kosovo, and help create an independent state for them, then surely the same applies to the Tamils living on the island of Sri Lanka", said one of the young speakers.

Members of the Tamil Australian community joined others in remembering the incident that made so many of their families homeless and destitute overnight. The rally marched from Martin Place Station to Town Hall Station.

"History keeps repeating itself in Sri Lanka. Tamils are being killed and abducted on a daily basis, but the news just doesn't get as much publicity as Zimbabwe or Darfur. So we decided to beat some drums and make some noise about it!" said Raj Jega, a member of a Tamil youth group.

For information about Black July other human rights abuses against Tamils in Sri Lanka, visit http://www.blackjuly.info

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