Burning for freedom
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For months, millions have idolized The Hunger Games lead character Katniss Everdeen for her heroism as “the girl on fire,” leading a revolt against a tyrannical government.
But across the globe, the scenario is more real than any fictional work could portray.
At a demonstration in India last month, a 27-year-old activist became a literal man on fire after setting himself ablaze in protest against Chinese rule over the Tibetan region.
Sadly, Jamphel Yeshi, who died after sustaining burns to more than 90 percent of his body, is not the first to express his frustrations in such a display. He is just one of almost 30 Tibetans to light themselves on fire in the past year alone.
In fact, self-immolation is a common form of expression against oppression among Tibetan monks. However, it is beginning to cross the borders of position and social class, becoming prevalent among those who believe that China’s rule is taking away their freedoms.
If more and more Tibetans are turning to martyrdom to make a statement, why is nobody listening?
When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010, it not only resulted in a Tunisian uprising, but became a catalyst for the Arab Spring, which led to governments changing and politics shifting all over parts of the Middle East.
It only took one martyr, and the world took notice.
The oppression in Tibet has been ongoing for decades since China invaded the region in 1949. According to freetibet.org, which aims at releasing the area from Chinese control, Chinese occupation has resulted in more than one million deaths of Tibetans, including the destruction of monasteries, nunneries and temples. Imprisonment and torture is rampant as well.
The Chinese government restricts access to informations as well as monitors private interaction among many Tibetans with the outside world.
It also places limitations on religious practice as an attempt to force Tibetans into assimilating with the Chinese culture and even tortures them when they don’t comply.
Already in 2012, numerous deaths have resulted from self-immolation because of such strict government control, continuing the increase over the past year, and leading many to ask if this is the beginning of the Tibet Spring.
While things in the Middle East are still far from perfect, the revolutions have given hope that change is possible — hope that is desperately needed in Tibet.
Though many have called for freedom for the region for years, obviously, there is still a long way to go.
It seems as though many more may have to die a martyr’s death before Tibetans gain the freedom they so desperately are trying to get from the Chinese.