Sri Lanka Kolo
Sri Lanka Kolo Conflict Resolution; Krishanti's Appeal
Categorized in these topics: Female Social Justice Immigration Kolo Trauma Format
Posted Sunday, November 18, 2007, 04:01 AM
It really began many years ago when I had a dream of a tropical classroom with no windows and seeing a young dark brown skinned woman turn her face up to the sun. Another dream of blazing white round huts in a steamy landscape followed. I ended up meeting the exact replica of my dreams in Sri Lanka in 2003.
Sri Lanka, once known as Ceylon for their fragrant teas, does not hold the same 2500 year long tradition of non-violence. In the mid- 1980s, the Singhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted into violence that is still going on today some twenty three years later.
When I came to Sri Lanka in 2003, I felt the rivers of blood still running through the humid tropical landscape. With my Kolo format in my luggage, I was unsure of how the Kolo conflict resolution curriculum would be ingested by the Sri Lankans, the Bosnian and Sri Lankan cultures being so different. I did not need to be concerned: their connection would be that universal link, the defilement of women.
Implemented and developed in Bosnia, the Kolo (Bosnian-Serbo-Croatian for circle or dance) format has been nurtured into a self-sustaining and peaceful way of living for Bosnian Muslim invisible women in the aftermath of yet another bloody war. Manifesting the kolo amongst traumatized Bosnian Muslim women inspired much hatred from dominating males and often other women who did not want to become another target for the ruling men.
It is easy to understand the lack of solidarity when Amnesty International noted that in Bosnia “Human rights groups have estimated that tens of thousands of women, mostly Muslims, were raped during the war.” (http://www.stopviolence.com/global.htm)
"What the evidence shows is that the rapes were used by members of the Bosnian Serb armed forces as an instrument of terror," said Presiding Judge Florence Mumba as she sentenced the men at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague. Finally, after hearing women’s first person stories of rape, enslavement and gynocide, rape was recognized as a war crime. I have often asked why women’s first person stories have not been heard until this point, I have realized that we do not listen to daughters, sisters, mothers or grandmothers.
The primary function and feature of the Kolo is women’s first person stories. Many do not want to hear these female stories of gynocide. So much hatred towards the female sex has been internalized and absorbed into our languages and our media that we forget to ask women for their stories, we forget to interview them except as victims. Sri Lanka is no different, and wanted to remain mum on their gynocidal practices toward the land and the women.
The Kolo conflict resolution program focused on helping those local Sri Lanka trained professionals already working in various humanitarian agencies. Over a hundred competed for 30 positions in the training program in initial interviews.
The potential for escalating violence is real in Sri Lanka and in Bosnia. I was faced with imminent disaster at one of the interviews with a Tamil Tiger soldier who came in demanding that his male entitlement be noticed and accepted without speaking a word, his military uniform thrust its crests and stripes angrily although it was pressed and starched. When he started to speak, he spoke from his murders and rapes in aggressive tones to my male elderly translator and would not look me in the eyes whatsoever. I was seeing first hand how all societies are universal in their violence against women.
After 30 seconds of his dialogue my elder male interpreter refused to translate any further. When I noticed the translator’s silence I noticed how in the span of a minute he had soiled his pants. I terminated the interview with the Tamil Tiger militant.
My understanding of how women heal their cultures and manifest community is incorporated into the Kolo program in order to move through the given standards of violence earth wide. The Kolo conflict resolution programs operate with women acting as the advisors due to the many restrictions and taboos against women in many faiths such as Islam or Buddhism. It is one of the few ways to reach out to a population whose very oppression makes them elusive.
Male domination and male violence is so pervasive that including males as Kolo advisors/facilitators would invoke fear in the women, overriding the purpose of the Kolo. Additionally, when men speak for women in that capacity, no matter how well-meaning they may be, the forgotten women are again made invisible to male policy makers and male representatives of governing entities and humanitarian agencies because the system does not listen to women.
While the Kolo is a feminine engendered program, Sri Lanka did not have many females in positions from which to select participants. I was facing male domination and gender stereotyping and I made do with what was there. However, after the selection of the 30 participants with over half being male, I had a great concern with the males about domination or violence. I paired each male with a female as often as I could, a choice that was controversial for the Sri Lankans.
The humidity in Sri Lanka is physically invisible to the eye and is made known through the body which drips with sweat from the slightest of movements. To see the rhythmic gaits of the Sri Lankans and colorful saris decorating the fertile green land is grace intended only for the Goddess/Devi Durga herself. Driving past rivers and huge water tanks, I witnessed the Sri Lankans pouring water from their pots over their bodies to achieve a state of purification from the unceasing civil war that had already lasted over twenty years.
Centered in Anuradhapura, the once holy city of Buddhism in the 10th-14th centuries, the Kolo conflict resolution training was centrally located to the camps of internally displaced people and the border to the north. K. Krishanthi, who lived in Vavunja an hour and half car ride away, is in her early 30’s and has one son. She was selected as one of the Kolo conflict resolution training participants.
She started as one of the translators for the program. Having three languages from which to interpret reduced the need for manmade language and allowed the archetypes and symbols found throughout the Kolo format to take precedent in a regal way.
K. Krishanthi became intrigued and, being Hindu, was already immersed in archetypal thought and symbology. The women in the Kolo conflict resolution program had an immensely easier time understanding the material and the Kolo work than the men.
Fighting feminist thought in the kolo training had K. Krishanthi defending the males in the training program. With each one of my confrontations, she was given the opportunity to look at her unconscious behavior that did not allow male accountability.
She was unable to close her heart and shut off her hearing after being presented with the numerous statistics from UNIFEM reporting that 80% of displaced peoples in Sri Lanka were women and rape amongst the two opposing forces (the Singhala army (which speak an entirely different language) and the Tamil Tigers army ) is rampant but not talked about due to shame placed upon the rape victim.
“Women have alleged that Sri Lankan soldiers have said whilst raping them, "You will give birth to a Sinhala lion not a Tamil Tiger". Rape as a weapon of war is intended to convey terror and horror to further intimidate men and women alike. In March, the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances stated that Sri Lanka has the second highest number of disappearances in the world. The strictly imposed curfew also brings immense difficulties. There are women who have died due to the imposed curfew, not reaching hospital during labor,“ reported Deirdre McConnell Manchester UK, Human rights activist and advocate. (http://www.tamilcanadian.com/eelam/conference/deidre.html)
K. Krishanthi came out of long lived denial from living in a patricidal society and realized her life as a female in Sri Lanka was a lived statistic. Something shifted within her and as the kolo conflict resolution moved through the program, she gained energy to channel her rage and move out of her victimhood.
Although, the program was to have me return later that year, due to mismanagement by Movimondo, I could not continue the kolo conflict resolution program. When the certified kolo participants discovered that I was unable to attend, K. Krishanthi protested and had signed petitions asking for my return. Told by Movimondo manager, Daniela Prandi that I “was bad,” K. Krishanthi and her group went on with the kolo program without Movimondo and UNICEF.
Accustomed to the graft and lying politics in humanitarian agencies, governing entities, schools, and religions, K. Krishanthi understood the kolo conflict resolution program as being ‘good’ and rhyming with her female sense of truth. K. Krishanthi informed me that she was so moved by the kolo and what she witnessed during her experience.
She exclaimed to me in a phone call about how her amazement that I had seen the rarely spotted wild elephants three times when in Sri Lanka, how I sensed immediate impending peril when a whirling fan in the classroom fell less than an inch from me, along with my chanting utterances of truth. She felt she had to move past the violence and carve out another life by continuing the kolo conflict resolution program without Movimondo and UNICEF.
This is a woman who stands alone in her truth. This is a woman who is brave, courageous and living her truth. This is a woman who in reality was my teacher.
Something miraculous happened. K. Krishanthi had reached 3,600 Sri Lankan women alone with the kolo conflict resolution program I had taught her in January 2003. Most of these Sri Lankan women were from the militant armies some were the black shirts, all female suicide squads in the Tamil Tiger army.
Multiply her efforts times the thirty participants, the kolo peaceful arts sweeps the war ravaged tropical land. K. Krishanthi transformed into a full fledged activist through her desire to make her country a country without violence. This transformation brought her the constant berating of the males in humanitarian agencies, governing entities, families and the Tamil Tiger army itself.
It seems K. Krishanthi’s outreach for Sri Lankan women decimated the ranks of the Tamil Tiger army, causing a backlash of terror. Her car and home were taken away from her and her son was threatened with death. With the help of family members and friends, K. Krishanthi and her son left Sri Lanka and went to France.
Her letter was handwritten and very polite. In the letter addressed to me, she stated her embarrassment about her situation and asked if I could write a letter to the French authorities on her behalf in regards to her need for asylum.
Of course I wrote the letter with heart and truth. However, I grappled with the outcome of the kolo conflict resolution training. At first, I was elated that the outreach had appealed to the Sri Lankans despite the cultural differences and acted as a bridge to peaceful efforts. It was sobering to realize that the very act of empowerment also became a source of escalating violence.
Having experienced the same problem with my kolo trauma treatment and feminist training in Bosnia, I began to preface my programs with the Bosnian women, What I am teaching could kill you. If I teach you your female human rights, your right to say no, you may be killed.
An elder woman in the kolo muttered, As if you call this a life.
The reality is that feminist approaches in trauma treatment, psychology, and female human rights birth reforms in female social justice. With Amnesty International’s recent campaign to at least stem the riotous tidal wave of violence towards women, peace for women appears to be at least looked at.
However, during the lag time between researching the facts and gathering the preponderance of evidence to take action, many females earthwide are long dead or have been raped not once but many times. For instance, how many females were raped before the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal decided to make it a war crime? And why did it take the rape and slaughter of white women, Bosnian women for that to happen anyway?
With crime statistics always portraying the catastrophic violence towards women, we have culturally absorbed that violence as the norm. As with K. Krishanthi and her fellow kolo conflict resolution partners, many sat in denial when I spoke of current Sri Lankan statistics. K. Krishanthi, as with most Sri Lankan women after having survived 22 years of civil war, thought it was normal and a part of her culture to die a thousand deaths in the rapes, tortures and war assaults.
And with the normalizing of this violence, it has become a part of the culture where women assume the victim role and play it out in a deadly denial and silence. We, as women, must ask ourselves what the difference is between culture and violence. K. Krishanthi did just that and faced a deathly backlash towards her rising feminist consciousness that wanted peaceful dimensions for all women. Yet, the 3,600 women that she recruited from the ranks of military insurgents showed a deep hunger from females to subsume their female identities and begin to thrive.
Julie Mertus’s book, “War’s Offensive on Women,” points out the “misapplied respect for culture. States use ‘culture’ as an excuse to justify violations of women’s human rights.”
As we cover our ears and shutdown our hearts to these violations (some of which are perpetuated in the tiniest of details, small acts or simple rules, such as being told where to sit on the bus or being forced to wear a veil), we women become what Robin Morgan states as the men we marry and wanna be males. I do not blame women for denying their femininity and masking it with maleness with statistics of rising catastrophic violence towards women.
I saw how K. Krishanthi survived 22 years of civil war and rampant sexism in Sri Lanka. Despite Sri Lanka having a female president, she is seen by the Sri Lankan women as being as bad as one of the males or indistinguishable from past ruling governments.
K. Krishanthi’s survival of the war and the subsequent backlash against feminism is what females are experiencing earthwide. In surviving, we cannot discern between what culture is and what violence is. Unable to determine our being while surviving our lives totally in a role assigned to us by males, women have lost their voices, their identities and have become objects of desire, slavery and hate. Females know how to survive but have forgotten how to thrive.
With K. Krishanthi, her first person story is told and now it is up to you to decide to move from denial and steely silence. Or you can contact her at:
Porte No- 193, 1 Alle Car Peauh, 93800 Epinap Surseine, France. She is in financial hardship and she is our sister. Your small act can move the world.
Discuss / Raspravljati