Last week Dave Matthews took to twitter to raise awareness of the humanitarian crises in Sri Lanka. "Let's see if Sri Lanka will end combat operations," he Tweeted. "What a nightmare. If y'all don't know what's happening in Sri Lanka look it up."
We took Dave up on his call and put together a brief summation of the situation, with links to respected news sources and human rights groups. We encourage everyone in the DMB and HeadCount community to learn what they can and take action.
Sri Lanka is a small island situated off of India's southeastern coast. It has been involved in a civil war with a separatist group known as the Tamil Tigers since 1983. Many believe that the war is in its final days and as the conflict moves closer to a conclusion, the situation on the ground has intensified. Throughout the years of on and off fighting, the Tamil Tigers have built a reputation for brutality, however, both sides have been accused of engaging in abduction and the use of child soldiers. Most recently, government forces have taken actions that have been alarmingly severe.
Right now, government forces have the Tamil Tigers pinned to the north eastern corner of the island and it is estimated that over the course of the last few months, as many as 250,000 civilians have been held hostage and used as human shields. Shortages of food, water and medicine are exasperating the situation and tens of thousands of civilians may perish. More recently, as many as 115,000 civilians have fled the Tamil strongholds, as documented in this BBC video. Government forces appear poised to fight until they can obtain an unconditional surrender from the Tamil Tigers.
The Government of Sri Lanka has resisted calls from the United Nations and others to allow humanitarian assessment teams onto the island, making it extremely difficult for anyone to have a full understanding of the consequences borne from recent fighting. Here in the U.S., many American's including members of Congress, are largely unaware of the recent human rights atrocities that have been taking place. One thing that you can do is contact your elected officials through the advocacy organization People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (Pearl).