For thirty years, Sri Lanka was caught up in a brutal civil war. The Tamil Tiger militants were opposed to the government, and as a result, they bred an entire generation of suicide cadres. The cadres were given a cyanide pill and sent to the frontline where they were told they would die as heroes. Over a hundred thousand were killed and millions lived in constant fear. At least 10,000 of those who lost their lives during the war were child soldiers.
This film takes you on a journey into Sir Lanka’s No Fire Zone to listen to the stories of some former child soldiers.
In 1987, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) decided to start recruiting child soldiers to fight against the Indian Peacekeeping Forces. Over 40% of the children that were conscripted were girls.
The children were originally sent to a training camp in a coastal city where training began as early at 3:00 am and usually lasted until almost midnight. Those who rebelled were tied to trees and beaten brutally or forced to eat foods that were prohibited by their Hindu religion.
Many of them were first drawn to the brigade in the hopes of escaping poverty. The organization gave them money and the status of heroes. Others joined because of a desire to get revenge over the death of a family member, and others simply wanted to experience the thrill of holding a gun. But a huge percentage were seized and forced to become soldiers.
The children who joined the rebels were as young as ten years old. Most of them received training in hand grenades and the use of AK-47s— the global weapon of choice for child soldiers because it’s lightweight and easy to use.
The recruiters used many methods to enlist children. They visited schools, village fairs, and festivals, claiming to be fighting to liberate Tamil people from Singhalese rule. Still, the majority of parents resisted handing over their children. And so they resorted to abducting children in broad daylight.
In order to save their own children from abduction, some people became insensitive and reported any of the children that escaped. Other parents buried their children alive— they dug holes inside their homes and placed them in there for years. Others sent their children into the jungle and there were a few who put their children in big suitcases and carried them around on their heads.
This film is a beautiful tribute to those who died before their voices were heard and to those who were brave enough to share their stories. Watch it now.