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Lives of Tibetans Are on the Verge of Extinction

121 Tibetans -- 102 men and 19 women -- are known to have doused themselves in kerosene and blazed into ashes since February 27, 2009. Why? Is it because of life depression and psychiatric disorders? Are the self-immolators terrorists, anti-Buddhists and irrational creators of social chaos?

Their indomitable actions are presented as “extreme” and their purposeful action for the cause of their people is alleged as a “pointless manner” by China Daily News. Their selflessness and non-violence are claimed to be “brutal terrorist behavior” and radical actions that “disturb and undermine social harmony” by the Beijing Review Forum. Their spontaneous actions are said to be “manipulated by religious leaders” and “copy-cat suicides” by Xihua, the official state news agency.

Do not accuse people of manipulation or incitation for servicing prayers, lighting butter lamps and gathering to hold ritual ceremonies for immolators. That is the way we Tibetans pay condolences and mourn for death.

Self-immolation in Tibet has not become headline news. Is this because it’s happening in Tibet but not anywhere else? Self-immolation in Tibet has not been sharply discussed in the public sphere. Is this because it is not considered as effective as “Kony 2012” pulling a larger democratic audience? Self-immolation in Tibet has not been hyped in television news shows, chat rooms, and commentaries to bring about revolution. Is this because it is not seen as catalyst to kindle the Arab Spring, as a vendor in Tunisia did? It seems that 121 Tibetan immolators could not even give a nudge to the world to pay some attention. Is this because their burning bodies were not captured in a photograph by Malcolm Browne to become a worldwide sensational trigger, as it was with a Vietnamese monk who set himself on fire to protest the Diem Regime in 1963?

As a young Tibetan woman, I have seen, heard and smelled my people burning and vanishing into ashes every other day. It feels smothering and disastrous when the world seems to be apathetic to what is happening. The air in my home smells of burning flesh and surroundings are cracked by the sobs of people.

I should make it clear that I do not mean self-immolation has not at all been the subject of international discussion in the global media. In fact, The New York Times, The Guardian and the BBC all have reported the immolations. However, so far what I have seen in The New York Times, regarded as an “American newspaper of record;” The Guardian, known as “the world’s leading liberal voice;” and the BBC, described as British “impartial public service broadcasting,” are barely surface reports.

In those reports, the issue is simply presented in repeated synopses a few lines long in international news briefs. Moreover, even the tone of those published reports sounds as reluctant, indifferent and impersonal as a report on regular weather. Most importantly, all the reports lack leading discussion on the bottom-line cause of Tibetans burning themselves. Immolations are mostly framed as “protest against China’s policy in Tibet.” What a vague and ambiguous conclusion.

As a matter of fact, the common slogan that most immolators called for was “the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet,” which could be interpreted as vital issue of religious freedom that could be secured if the Chinese government accepted negotiations.

The columnists seem to have been stuck with some other serious issues to report and are oblivious to the issue of self-immolations in Tibet.

Maybe the issue of self-immolations in Tibet could appear in Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed in The New York Times. The issue could even come up at President Obama and Chairman Xi Jinping’s dinner table when having “informal talk,” if Obama was too intimidated to mention it when they are in a serious business discussion or a “relationship-building meeting.”

I have a great deal of respect for the courage, tenacity and indomitable spirit of immolators to sacrifice their precious lives for the cause of their people. I am too deeply saddened with the idea of self-immolation because life is invaluable and cannot be equated to anything else. It is especially sorrowful when hundreds of precious lost lives still do not seem to be serious enough to get the world’s attention.

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2043123,00.html
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/indepth/2013-02/02/c_132147044.htm
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2011-11/25/content_14159552.htm
http://www.ibtimes.com/self-immolation-tibetan-monks-chinese-editor-call...
http://www.savetibet.org/resources/fact-sheets/self-immolations-by-tibet...

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital empowerment and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Mukut's picture

I completely understand Jampa

Yes, Jampa it saddens me to read about the immolation. Even the Indian media has not effectively covered this issue though I believe, it has definitely debated over this couple of times. I understand Tibet and China 's stand off and being an Indian, I understand it more, but as you say these immolation are not just "protests against China's policy in Tibet". There are so many layers to it and if we go on to debate who is right or wrong, it will take ages to reach a conclusion.

I hope through your op-ed, self immolation in Tibet get more attention and people act. I feel sad to read that 121 Tibetans had to end their life for this.

A thought provoking article indeed.

Love,

Mukut Ray

jampa's picture

you are always there Dear Mukut

Bow you with a great gratitude. There are few people really try to make sense of the issue of immolation in Tibet and this issue does not get deserved support and action, so understanding Tibetan's situation, i am so grateful to you dear Mukut.
Yeah, i know India is trying to touch the issue but not that effectively covering it. But i, as a Tibetan, am always grateful to India for having lots of Tibetan refugees and exiles there and Tibetans in India, they would say that India is their second home and i have very close feeling to India for that.
Thank you dear,
Love,
Jampa

Mukut's picture

Love you Dear Jampa!

I bow to you with gratitude too ! You are a loving and strong voice. Keep shining !

Love,

Mukut Ray

olutosin's picture

Questioning

Hey Jampa,

In Transformation, questioning is the first step to transformation. Keep on asking please, soon you will arrive at the answer session. Thereafter, you come up with doable solutions.

All my love, as I watch you grow into the LIBERATOR OF THE TIBETANS!!!!!

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

jampa's picture

Yes Yes,,,,

Dear Olutosin,
Thank you as always for stopping by and read this journal. The most importantly, thank you so much for your encourage and believing in my voice for Tibetans. Let's hope for the best and prepare for the challenges.

Love,
Jampa

Greengirl's picture

Revealing!

You did well Jampa too speak out on the much overlooked issue of 'self immolation'. I believe that any cause that leads anyone to set himself/herself ablaze deserves serious attention.

Your opinion on the matter is revealing and I hope it receives the attention it deserves.

Hugs,
Greengirl

jampa's picture

Lots of Gratitude Dear Greengirl

Yeah, you are right dear Greengirl. I also hope that through this piece, more people will be aware of this issue of self-immolation in Tibet and together come up with the best solution which will cause no more death.
Always thank you for the precious comments!!
Love & Hugss,,,,
Jampa

EllenWingard's picture

Your Voice for Tibetan Justice

My Dear Jampa,

Your deeply thought provoking piece raises so many critical issues that need to be amplified to the world as it turns a blind eye to Tibet's suffering. I was struck by how your article educates the reader and also challenges mainstream media to address this deeply understandable yet devastating practice as the ultimate sacrificial act of social action. It was very powerful to have you point out the power of images in Tunisia, Vietnam, what will make it happen for Tibetans not be extinguished?? I, too, wish Kristof would write about it...and that Obama should be addressing the causation with Chinese leaders. However, I do believe you and your voice will speak first and be heard first beyond theirs. I am left wanting to hear so much more. With a deep bow of gratitude,
Ellen

jampa's picture

Dear Ellen

Thank you so much for your encouragement dear Ellen. I too believe that me and my "voice will speak first and be heard first beyond theirs." Thank you so much for your believing in me and my voice. Encouragement, Support and Love at World Pulse, I always feel empowered to speak up and get my voice amplified for those unheard issues.
I am very excited because because we can talk tonight,
Love,
Jampa

Tash's picture

Sad piece great writing! i

Sad piece great writing! i believe you did great work on this! I cant even imagine my pinky finger on fire! i hope measures are being put in place to talk to people and that they are being encouraged to see some one if they wanna talk! What a sad way to look at one self! what a sad way to die!

Kind Regards,
Patsy.

jampa's picture

Yes Pasty

Dear, you are exactly right that "I cant even imagine my pinky finger on fire." I have the same feeling, we cannot even bear of slight cut on our fingers let alone on setting whole body on fire. Therefore, when we imagine ourselves in their shoes, we could feel how the situation must be forcing themselves, or else who else would take his or her own precious life in such a way. That prompts us to want seeing more about WHAT EXACT situation makes them so desperate and unbearable. Hopefully, the WORLD is trying to figure out the reason for the cause and trying to solve it on global table.
Thank you,
Love, Jampa

bitani's picture

It's sad to hear about this.

It's sad to hear about this. It's even worse that not too much is being done to solve it.

Thank you for enlightening us on this topic.

jampa's picture

Hey Bitani

Thank you so much for stopping by and read my post. Thank you for being here to support me for bringing about this ISSUE.
I loved your compelling post about Muslim Women too, so driving and powerful voice you have.
Warm Regards,
Jampa

JaniceW's picture

Thank you for your voice

Jampa, I am so grateful that you have the courage to keep this issue in front of us and for speaking out on behalf of many whose voices are extinguished.

I would love to hear why you believe this means of protest is chosen over others. Is it the extreme nature of the act that leads them to believe that it will grab the world's attention? In a recent interview published in The Telegraph, the Dalai Lama stated that the recent spate of Tibetan self-immolations in protest against Chinese rule was having little effect on Beijing's policies, while urging China to look harder at the reasons behind the incidents. Given China's inclination to ignore or quickly quell any form of protest in Tibet, I wonder what could be a more effective solution? China's dominance and influence over the world leads countries like the US to tread lightly – perhaps economics is prevailing over human rights in this instance.

In any case, your voice and those of others are increasingly important to raising awareness and keeping this issue alive. Thank you for your courage and determination. It is through people such as yourself that change will happen.

jampa's picture

Thank you very much dear Janice

I am so grateful to you for your thoughtful & elaborated comment on this issue. Thank you for your question about to what extend their action could bring about change and shape the Chinese policy in Tibet. And you are absolutely right that "economics is prevailing over human rights in this instance" and Chinese economic development attract the world like US and trap it into the fantasy land where HUMANITY is secondary and human dignity is edged side, which is so heartbreaking to look at. You are also right to bring up Dalai Lama's interview about "how little effect on Beijing's policy" from 121 self-immolations; in contrast, it urges China to take things even more serious and oppressive in Tibet by stationing trucks of trucks of armed soldiers and silence people in THEIR own way.
So, voices like ours can together wake the WORLD for a better change so that there is no more DEATH.
Thank you once again,
Love,
Jampa

JaniceW's picture

Economic interests

There is a saying here that a man is more concerned about his sore thumb than about all of the suffering around the world. This is to say that people tend to look at issues firstly by how it directly affects them. A garment factory fire in Bangladesh where US-branded products are made becomes front page news in the NY Times yet 121 self-immolations is not mentioned. It is so tragic to see this which is why World Pulse as a forum for women to speak out on is so important.

Through you, we learn the truths and can each spread the word in our own way. As you say, together we can wake the WORLD for a better change. Much love,
Janice

You are absolutely right dear Janice, it is indeed tragic to see that "a man is more concerned about his sore thumb than about all of the suffering around the world." Your words touch the very bottom of my heart. Thank you so much!
Love & Hugs,
Jampa

pelamutunzi's picture

admire you

I am glad you are part of this life changing training. The voices of all those Tibetan people are now being heard. And you did a good job in bringing out the truth about self immolation. Be the voice for the people never again will someone die and their death not count because of you.your passion for your country is admirable.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

jampa's picture

Because of your support

Thank you dear Pela. Because of all of you wonderful people's support, i am encouraged to speak for Tibetans and bring their voice heard. Thank you very much for your support and encouragement as always!
Love,
Jampa

Iryna's picture

That's a strong piece, Jampa.

That's a strong piece, Jampa. You are right speaking for these people. For some reason suicide is considered to be an easy solution and people who kill themselves are thought to be weak and cowards. In real it is incredibly hard to give the most precious what you have - your life. When people make public suicide it becomes obvious how desperate they are! It's cruel to speak about them that they just were extremists.
You are making a great work speaking in the memory of these people and appealing to solve the problems for which they sacrified their lives.
Warm greetings,
Iryna

jampa's picture

You are A SOUL reader

Thank you so much for your comment dear lryna. I really appreciate it. Absolutely, you are right when you say " When people make public suicide it becomes obvious how desperate they are! It's cruel to speak about them that they just were extremist." Your eyes can see more than what's happening, your ears can hear more than it appears to be. Thank you very much.
Love,
Jampa

Karoline's picture

Passionate!

Courageous of you to tell this story!

jampa's picture

Thank you dear

Dear Karoline,
I am so grateful to you for your comment. Thank you so much for stopping by to read my post.
Love,
Jampa

delphine criscenzo's picture

WHat will it take?

Dear Jampa,

Just like you I am often left wondering, why the international community does not intervene in the favor of Tibetan independence from China. When I hear of an immolation I ask myself: What would it take for me to burn myself? And I know that I will never have the answer because I live such a privilege life, but I know that this is not a decision anyone would make easily and that there has to be horrible repression and suffering before someone takes this route.
I am ashamed of the response from the international community and honored to have in my life Tibetans who, despite the fact that they live in exile, have such a strong love and respect for their COUNTRY, Tibet!
Only one thing to say: FREE TIBET NOW!
In solidarity,

Delphine Criscenzo
Online Training Coordinator
World Pulse
www.worldpulse.com

jampa's picture

Solidarity...

Dear Delphine,
Thank you so much for your supportive and encouraging words. You are always there to support Tibet and Its freedom. That means a lot and precious. Yeah, hope from the bottom of heart that the International community to humanely respond to immolations in Tibet.
Love,
Jampa

mrudberg99's picture

Powerful

"As a young Tibetan woman, I have seen, heard and smelled my people burning and vanishing into ashes every other day. It feels smothering and disastrous when the world seems to be apathetic to what is happening. The air in my home smells of burning flesh and surroundings are cracked by the sobs of people."

Jampa, powerful, powerful storytelling. Thank you for sharing these words and your story. I hope you continue to push forward on this subject as I believe these are words that need to be heard loud and clear past these online pages! I would encourage you to delve deeper in to one or two specific stories of a man and/or woman who made this choice and reveal (through your own words) the deeper specifics - the why, how, when, etc. - these specific stories will provide even more color to your already powerful story above. Which will inspire us even more to take action!

I am hungry to learn more about these 102 men and 19 women... please, please... tell me more!

With love, light and hugs,

Molly

Molly Rudberg-Leshnock
Curator of Leadership
Brand Storyteller
mrudberg@mrlpro.com

Zoepiliafas's picture

My goodness, I long for the

My goodness, I long for the international media to DO ITS JOB and focus on this issue. Together we will begin the transformation and lift your voice. Your plea will not follow upon deaf ears. We are listening. We will not stop listening and we will work to get more people to hear you!

What do you believe the Dali Lama could do more of or differently to raise this issue?

Lovingly,

Zoe

Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager
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