Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One Tibetan Woman's Tragic Path to Self-Immolation

As a young girl, Tsering Kyi's favourite days of the year were the eve of her village's annual move to their summer pastures and the eve of their return. The lives of the 30 nomadic households of Tethok, in China's Gansu province, followed the rhythm of the seasons. In the spring they would load their household on to yaks and ride up into the high valleys and hills where their herds would find grass and the children would play with frogs in the lakes and streams. As the winter approached, they would return to lower grazing.

A day before they moved all the heavy items would be packed and sent ahead. The women and children would remain behind, sleeping under the stars, to follow the next day. This was Kyi's favourite time.

"I remember how she was always excited. She loved to sleep outside with her sister and brothers and all the cousins," said a close relative interviewed by the Guardian last week. "Even when she went to school and was a teenager she still came with the family to the pastures in the summer. She didn't like the town so much."
Tsering Kyi
Three weeks ago, in the late afternoon, Kyi, now a 20-year-old student, set herself alight in a vegetable market in the centre of Machu town. Her last acts were to enter a public toilet, take off her traditional Tibetan overdress, wrap a blanket around her waist, fasten it with heat-resistant steel wire and douse herself in five litres of petrol. She then walked out into the market, ignited the fuel and became the 23rd Tibetan to self-immolate in just under a year.

Every few days in recent weeks there has been a report of another such burning. Since Kyi died seven more have followed suit – including a 27-year-old man who set himself on fire in New Delhi before a visit by China's president, Hu Jintao. The streets of Dharamsala, the Indian hill town where the Tibetan community in exile is based, are full of posters of these "martyrs", as they are known locally. The most recent poster shows a 44-year-old farmer. Few doubt there will be many more.
 Read the rest of this March 26 article by Jason Burke that traces some of Tsering Kyi's path to self-immolation here.

Comment: May Tsering Kyi rest in peace and be remembered long after Tibet is free from Chinese rule.



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