Tamil Solidarity Mullivaikal exhibition. Photo: Lawanya
Tamil Solidarity Mullivaikal exhibition. Photo: Lawanya

Adam Powell-Davies, South West London Socialist Party

On 11-12 May in South London an exhibition was held to commemorate 15 years since the Mullivaikal genocide and the global protests it unleashed.

In just a few days in May 2009, Sri Lankan government forces killed over 100,000 defenceless Tamil people who had been forced to flee to a small beach in the north of the island.

The exhibition displayed harrowing scenes from these final days of a decades-long war, as well as moving testimonies from those who lived through it.

At the centre of the exhibition was a section separated by a black curtain with a sign reading ‘No Fire Zone’, which is what the Sri Lankan government had designated the beach at Mullivaikal. Beyond the curtain, this ‘official’ designation was turned on its head by images and descriptions of the actual atrocities that took place on each day of May 2009.

The exhibition was not only a remembrance of a massacre, however. It was also a celebration of the global wave of protests that erupted in response to the suffering at Mullivaikal, and a reminder of the need to continue fighting today for the rights of all humans to a safe and fulfilling life free of war, persecution and poverty.

International protests

Surrounding the horrors of war depicted in the centre of the exhibition, pictures of defiant protesters from the Tamil diaspora lined each edge of the room, grouped by country to give a sense of the international breadth of the protests that erupted in 2009.

In some cases, these protests were able to completely shut down parts of cities. In London, thousands upon thousands flocked to Parliament Square, blocking it off completely for ten days straight. A guided tour explained how protesters would rotate in shifts, to ensure that there was always a critical mass of people occupying the square.

The message of the exhibition was: “Remember the dead, fight for the living”. 15 years on, it is hard not to draw parallels between the bombardment of a thin strip of land in Sri Lanka in 2009, and the onslaught being waged on Palestinian people in Gaza right now. In this sense, the exhibition helped to generalise the suffering of all oppressed people under capitalism.

Over 300 people attended the Mullivaikal exhibition over both days. Most came on the Sunday, with many attending, hearing of it by word of mouth. Clearly those who came on the Saturday thought the exhibition was something to tell friends and family about, and understandably so. It was an excellent event, which hammered home the need to fight for a socialist world free from war and oppression.

The organisations hosting the exhibition, Tamil Solidarity and Young Revolutionaries in Solidarity (YRS), decided to make it a free event to ensure as many people as possible learn more about the Tamil genocide. They have asked for donations to help cover the costs of putting on the exhibition, which you can give at: gofund.me/7b128979