TIBET: A TURBULENT HISTORY
Since the Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1949, as many as 1.2 million Tibetans have
died through executions, torture and starvation, while more than 6,000 of Tibet’s temples
and monasteries have been defaced or destroyed.
When tensions peaked and violence broke out in 1959, the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, fled his homeland along with 80,000 refugees. The following year, as more
Tibetan refugees arrived in India, the Indian Government granted political asylum to the
Dalai Lama and exiled Tibetans, enabling them to set up an administration in the Himalayan
hill town of Dharamsala. The town is now the centre of the Tibetan exile world,
within a global diaspora of more than 150,000 refugees in about 30 countries.
In recent years, the situation has deteriorated in Tibet. Between 1987 and 1989 and
again in 2008, peaceful demonstrations by Tibetans within Tibet were met with unprecedented brutality and continued repression.
Unarmed peaceful protesters were shot dead and more than 347 known Tibetans were
killed. Thousands have been arbitrarily detained for their suspected involvement in protests
while more than 1,000 Tibetans remain missing.
There have been sweeping new measures to purge monasteries and ban worship in the
wake of the protests, and intensification of “patriotic re-education” and “anti-Dalai Lama
campaigns” – causing despair and an increased incidence of suicide.
147 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet and China since February 27, 2009 till now.
120 men, 27 women
118 of the 147 are known to have died following their protest
25 of the Tibetans who self-immolated were 18 or under
45 of the 147 are from Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province
13 of the 147 were monks at Kirti monastery in Ngaba
11 of the 147 are former monks at Kirti monastery in Ngaba (It is currently not known who of the nine chose to disrobe, or were expelled from the monastery by government authorities)
Two of the 147 were nuns from Mame Dechen Chokorling nunnery in Ngaba
146 of the self-immolations have occurred since March 16, 2011
Eight self-immolations by Tibetans have occurred in exile,
THE REALITIES OF EXILE
Tibetans in exile experience many social problems as a result of the following:
• loneliness due to separation from family and friends
• disconnection and alienation in the new, foreign culture
• lack of community support structures
• a widespread lack of unemployment
• alcoholism and drug abuse, and
• an uphill struggle to gain language skills, work skills and money.
“Tibet is a human rights issue as well as a civil and political rights issue. But there’s something else too – Tibet has a precious culture based on principles of wisdom and compassion. This culture addresses what we lack in the world today; a very real sense of inter-connectedness. We need to protect it for the Tibetan people, but also for ourselves and our children.”
– Richard Gere, Chair of the Board of the International Campaign for Tibet