This story was reported with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
One day near the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War, while riding a bicycle to teachers college with her friends, Tharshini Kirusanthan saw the corpse of a young man. “The boy was nearly 21 years old, I think,” she says. “A dead body in front of our Hindu kovil.” She believes he’d been shot five or ten minutes before she spotted the body. “When we returned, the place was very normal. We were forced to forget everything.” In Jaffna, Sri Lanka, people are used to living without the freedom to remember, she says, to mourn.
When Tharshini speaks of the situation in Sri Lanka, she has wide eyes and a hard-set mouth. She smiles easily when she glances at her husband, Kirusanthan Sabaratnam. They sit beside one another as they speak of their families’ various displacements and the things they saw as children during the war, which lasted from 1983 to 2009. Traveling was difficult. Passes had to be sought both from the Sri Lankan army and the powerful Tamil separatist group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE.
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