Ganeshwary Santhanam, 31, is one of thousands of women who joined the now defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought for an independent Tamil homeland for more than 25 years.
She joined the movement - branded a terrorist group by many - and left during the ceasefire, got married to another fighter and gave birth to a son, before being pressured to rejoin the LTTE in 2006. Like thousands of Sri Lankans returning to their homes today, she hopes to build a new future.
“I joined the LTTE almost 10 years ago to fight for the freedom of the Tamils. My parents were not happy about my decision. I dropped out of school due to the war. My childhood dream had always been to become a Bharathanatya dancer, but my dream was never fulfilled.
“After serving in the movement for nearly 10 years, I left the LTTE during the ceasefire time in 2002. I got married to an LTTE cadre, and gave birth to a son. We were a happily married couple.
“But in 2006, that life of normality was to change when I was pressured to join up yet again. During that time, I was given rigorous training along with other women in the village and proved myself a better fighter than most.
“At the same time, it was very difficult because I was worried about my family. I always thought if I die who will look after my family? Memories of my family were always in my mind when I was on the battlefield. On the other hand, I did not have a choice to decide this on my own and I continued to fight. I prayed to God to save me and let me live for my husband and son. Later, my family and I would become displaced from our village. I gave birth to another son and am currently jobless, as is my husband.
“The war was terrible – so much suffering and loss. I want to educate my children and make them better citizens. I want to forget the bitter past and forgive others and lead a peaceful life.
“I have fought in the battlefield, but I managed to survive without any injury, while many of my fellow fighters died on the spot. It’s a miracle of God. I am blessed to be alive.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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