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Remembering Sri Lanka’s anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983

Mischa Wilmers
July 20, 2013

Decades of civil war between ethnic Tamil and Sinhalese Sri Lankans can trace some key roots back to the Black July of 1983. DW spoke to a Tamil resident of the city of Colombo, a young man of 20 at the time, about his experiences.


It has been three decades since Black July, the name for a wave of violence against Sri Lanka’s Tamil population in which up to 3,000 people were killed.

The riots were rooted in ethnic tensions between Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil populations. Those tensions can be traced back to the policies of British colonial rule, which ended in 1948.

The week that began on July 23, 1983, was marked by stabbings, shootings, burnings, bashings and looting across Sri Lanka - centered on the capital, Colombo. It fed into a civil war that lasted 26 years, finally ending in 2009 with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers (The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or the Tamil rebel movement) by Sri Lanka’s military.

In the decades since, Black July has become a day of remembrance for Tamil communities around the world.

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