Vetrichelvi is a female writer and poet – and a former Tamil Tiger. It’s her mission to tell the stories of the many women and girls who fought for this militant group in the Sri Lankan civil war. Have they sacrificed their health and lives for nothing?
As a minority in Sri Lanka, the Tamils have suffered decades of discrimination and repression. From 1983 until their defeat in 2009, the Tamil Tigers fought a civil war against the Sri Lankan government. Few people know that almost half the Tamil Tigers were women, mostly teenage girls. Among them was Vetrichelvi, now a writer and poet, who joined the Tamil Tigers when she was 17 and lost an eye and an arm in combat. ‘No one knows our war stories’, she says now. ‘If we die, the world will never know there were female fighters.’
That’s why Vetrichelvi is going on a search for the women who fought alongside her. This results in emotional and sometimes painful encounters with women who are all struggling to find their place and a meaning to their lives. All of them are scarred – emotionally and physically – and many feel abandoned. Like one woman says: ‘Even the people who admired us yesterday, hate us today.’ Moreover, not all the girls joined voluntarily. Many were forced, and Vetrichelvi has to face her own complicity in that.