The Sri Lankan Civil War lasted for over 25 years as an armed conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE), who fought in an attempt to create an independent Tamil state. With estimates of 80,000 to over 100,000 killed throughout the course of the war, civilians are still reeling over the hardships and human rights abuses and violations imposed upon them.
Journalist E. Rimaila and I traveled to Sri Lanka to interview Tamil women with the intention of giving voice to their perspective and experiences resulting from the conflict. With the loss and disappearance of their children and family members, and a continual threat of violence from the military, women described their daily lives as in a state of fear and trepidation.
Mary's 14 year old daughter disappeared in 2007 after being captured by the Sri Lankan army. Mary has not seen her daughter since.
"I'm tired of telling my story. I'm not the only one who's going through this, not knowing where our loved ones are. I just want my child back. She would be 22 years old now."
Iruthayarani's husband was shot and killed in an open field while she was pregnant with their first child. She and her infant son lived in Cheddikulam displacement camp until they left the camp in 2012 to live on a small plot of jungle land allocated by the government.
Iruthayarani fears the presence of the Sri Lankan army, and recounts experiences of soldiers following her in daylight and threatening her and her son.
There are tens of thousands of women who have been widowed by the war, making them more vulnerable to abuse from the military.
Mary has three sons, all of whom have been imprisoned or held within the LTTE army camps. She recounts her own time spent in a displacement camp after being taken by the army.
"I remember the mango trees. We were the first ones the army captured there. The food was just thrown to people and sometimes we couldn't get anything to eat."
"The government needs to bring some sort of change and we need to be able to stand on our own feet and live in our own houses, but the situation is getting worse all the time. There is no security.
We are all widows and the army guys come around to play games with us. They throw stones and sing mocking songs. Sometimes it's scary."
Mariaselvi's two brothers were allegedly detained by the Sri Lankan army in 1995 and 1998. She has not seen either of them since. She keeps her brother Robert's passport with her, in case he is found.
"He had just gotten himself one to leave the country. He was supposed to travel to France to seek asylum, but the army caught him first."
Mariaselvi's mother has been told that her sons are alive, and will come back one day.
"I don't know if I believe that. So many years have passed. I'm sure if they were alive, they would have at least written us one letter to let us know they're fine. I'd just like to know...and if they're alive somewhere, I'd wish them to come help us at home. There are so many problems now."
Upon her 19 year old son being ordered to attend a hearing for suspicion of his involvement in LTTE, Anton accompanied him. It was the last time she saw her son. He is currently in Colombo prison.
Immaculata's oldest son was killed in the war in 2006. A year later, the army came to her home and took her younger son upon suspicion that he was involved in the LTTE. He spent several years imprisoned until he falsely confessed in 2014 in order to be released. Since his release from prison, she has been caring for him.
"He's home with me but he's very ill. He can't sit or sleep properly and he's got psychological problems. He's afraid someone might come and take him to prison again. He's just scared."
Sujitha's husband was arrested by the army in 2007, and has been in prison since. They have an 11 year old daughter.
"I'm waiting for him to come home after all these years, but I don't expect much. Before, when I had my husband, we were farming land and doing well. Now I don't know what will happen."