Today on March 12th 2013, we, the Tibetan Women’s Association, commemorate the 54th anniversary of National Tibetan Women’s Uprising Day. March 12, 1959 is a significant day in the history of Tibetan women, a date on which Tibetan women rose against the brutal crackdown of the Chinese government in the capital city of Lhasa.The Tibetan Women’s Association is an organization of Tibetan women from all three provinces of Tibet that constantly work together to mobilize and support for the Tibetan political struggle. It is also a non-govermental organization approved by the Central Tibetan Administration in Exile.
Today is the day on which thousands of Tibetan women peacefully resisted the Chinese forces in Lhasa. They delivered petitions to the embassies of India, Bhutan, Nepal, and to representatives of Muslim committees to notify them about the critical situation of Tibet, and to urge them to intervene in this serious matter. During this uprising, hundreds of Tibetan women lost their lives in the brutal crackdown, and many of them were arrested. We also cannot neglect to remember the massacre of the leaders of the arrested women. In 1966, at the time of the Cultural Revolution, these women were taken east of Sera Monastery and killed. A few of them were taken to places in Lhasa, and to Poo lingka, Nyimo and Shigatse to be murdered at the hands of Chinese authorities.
We remember and honor the great sacrifices that all these martyrs have made to preserve our culture, identity, and freedom. In their name, we vow that these hardships will not be had in vain. We continue to stand resolutely united in a firm commitment of utmost service to the cause of Tibet.
The Chinese occupation of Tibet began in 1949. As the situation became more tense, both religious leaders and the lay public requested His Holiness the Dalai Lama to take on the responsibility of becoming the temporal and spiritual leader of Tibet. He then was only sixteen years old, but agreed to take on this role.
In 1950, His Holiness the Dalai Lama released all prisoners in Tibet, and announced his vision of changing the system of the Tibetan government into a democracy. In accordance with his proposal, in 1954 he established a committee to reform the tax collection system by giving concessions to destitute people in debt. He intended to reform the tax collection system further, but the Chinese government hindered the process in many ways. That same year China requested that His Holiness the Dalai Lama travel to China for discussion. After his return, the Chinese government continued to create problems for the Dalai Lama’s reforms, and the political situation became more and more heated. Finally, in 1959, he chose to flee into exile to India with thousands of Tibetans, preventing him from completing his planned revision of the Tibetan government.
The prosperity of the Tibetan exile community today testifies to the strong base His Holiness created. In exile, he immediately established schools for Tibetan children, and then built monasteries and settlements for all the Tibetan refugees. In 1960, he further improved the status of the exile government by creating a parliament of elected representatives. To assure there were women in this parliament, in 1963 His Holiness reserved two seats for female representatives. That same year he also made efforts to further preserve Tibetan identity and culture, and to continue the Tibetan struggle into the future. He promoted and adopted the constitution of the Tibetan administration in exile drafted by the Constitution Redrafting Committee. This constitution was adopted by the exile parliament in 1991.
The exile government established a judiciary in 1992, and the three pillars of democracy were formed. In 2001, after the election of Kalon Tripa, he announced his retirement from political leadership. The Tibetan people, unable to see the future of Tibet without His Holiness’s guidance, appealed to him to continue his leadership. His Holiness nevertheless refused, and enlightened the Tibetan people about the importance of democracy and having an elected head for the wellbeing of Tibet. In 2011, he fully retired from his position as temporal head and handed over power to the elected leader of the Tibetan people.
This establishment of a strong democratic system in the Central Tibetan Administration in Exile is one of His Holiness’s greatest achievements in the history of Tibet. The Tibetan Women’s Association would to like express our deepest and heartfelt gratitude to His Holiness, who took on the responsibility of guiding the whole of Tibet from the age of sixteen and has worked tirelessly for the cause of Tibet. Tibetans in exile are able to experience freedom and refuge under his grace and guidance. It is the commitment of all Tibetan women that we will continue to work in unified force and give our utmost service to the cause of Tibet.
Since 1949, Tibetans have suffered oppression under the brutal occupation by China. Repressive policies that lack morality, truth, and furthermore, human sensibility, have been in operation for more than sixty years. Such inhuman policy has continued to deteriorate Tibetan people’s fundamental rights, including freedom of religion, language and culture. It has strained the patience of Tibetans and incited greater resistance to act against this oppression.
Since 2009, this heart breaking self-immolation movement has comprised of Tibetans from all walks of life: monks and nuns, students, farmers, and nomads have sacrificed their precious human lives. Through this movement, Tibetans declare that freedom is an undeniable human right, and are also able to send strong messages to the Chinese government that Tibetans have never accepted the division of Tibet into various provinces.
Since 2009 to 25 February 2013, one hundred and seven people have self-immolated to protest against the occupation of China. Out of this number, fourteen are female: four nuns, two students, and eight mothers. Twelve of these women died in the protest and two are hospitalized. Ninety three men have self-immolated: seventy six were succumbed to death, and sadly, seventeen of them have fallen into the hands of Chinese authorities. In India and Nepal, six exiled Tibetans have set themselves on fire. Three of them lost their lives: Martyr Thupten Ngodup, Martyr Jamphel Yeshi, and Martyr Druptse.
We, the Tibetan Women’s Association, pay homage and respect to all the martyrs who sacrificed their precious lives for the cause of Tibet and its people. We pray for their rebirth again in this kingdom of religion with precious human life, and gather together to celebrate the victory of the Buddha of Compassion. We understand the grave loss the family members of the self-immolators must feel, and would like to them to know that we express our consolation and share in their grief.
Killings and torture, the separation of the Tibetan people from its spiritual and ethnic head by forbidding them to keep photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (as well as to express their reverence and faith in him), the denial of the freedom of religion, the deterioration of the Tibetan environment by mining, diverging the rivers, deforestation, force resettlement of nomads – all these repressive policies are the core cause of Tibetan self-immolations.
Since the causes of Tibetan suffering are policies initiated by the Chinese government, the United Nations and International committees must stand for the truth, and pressure Chinese leaders to stop these blatant human rights abuses. Today, China fails to have the strength to accept this truth, and instead blames His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration. This is an absolute invalid accusation that refuses to acknowledge the failure of their own policies.
The families and neighbors of self-immolators face imprisonment and detention. TWA continuously fights against unfair imprisonment by Chinese authorities, and distributes the reports of detention of innocent Tibetans across the globe. TWA would like to convey to a message to the Chinese government: the more Chinese authorities’ crackdown on Tibetans, the more resistance they will have to challenge. The ultimate power of the truth cannot be diminished or extinguished.
TWA strongly urges the General Secretary of United Nations and the United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights to operate a committee to do intensive research on the actual causes of self-Immolation. While urging all the Tibet Support groups, parliaments and all the governmental and non-governmental organizations to intensify their voices for the cause of Tibet, we also would like to note our heartfelt gratitude for their undying support and help.
The re-establishment of TWA is meant to fulfill the struggle for Tibet as initiated by the great heroines who lost their lives in resistance. It is also to raise the voices of Tibetan women and to assert our presence on various international platforms, including conferences on human rights and women’s rights. We also join together to speak up on Tibet’s environmental issues. TWA seizes every opportunity to appeal to and urge international bodies to intervene in our struggle, and to make the truth known to the world.
TWA will present a concrete report on the Status of Tibetan Women inside Tibet to the upcoming Universal Periodical Review in March. The report concentrates on the suffering of Tibetan women under the China’s birth control policies in Tibet. TWA has also written letters of appeal and petitions consisting of four significant points to the United Nations, the European Union, North Atlantic Treaty organization, and parliaments of various nations on the dire reasons behind the self-immolation cases.
On 12 March 2013, we are going to release a newly edited report on self-immolation, as well as four Tibetan books about the life stories and achievements of Tibetan women who have achieved milestones in history through their hard work and dedication. It is not that we do not have great women in Tibetan history, but it is very rare that we actually have written information about them. With the help of scholar Tashi Tsering from Amnye Machen Institute, TWA is publishing records of these important women. TashiTsering has done extensive research and translation of texts from Tibetan into Chinese and English, and TWA thanks him for many years of hard work.
Through our past experiences and observation, we have found that is very important to have scholars, especially female students, who have done specialized studies.Thus from 2010 to 2012, TWA issued scholarships to five young women. This year, on the 54th anniversary of the Tibetan Women’s Uprising Day, in honor of those female self-immolators, we issue scholarships to female students who plan to do work either on gynecology or pediatric studies. If anyone who wants to know about this scholarship program, please see the TWA website. In our work to empower Tibetan women to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts in society, we hosted the Third Tibetan Women’s Advanced Leadership Training in December 2012.
As His Holiness clearly emphasized the importance of democracy and people’s voice in the government in his statements on 10 March in 1994 and 1995, TWA also organized a panel discussion and seminar to educate the masses on these issues, and we invited various scholars to discuss these topics.
During the 4th general meeting in March 1997, they debated and argued on a referendum proposed by His Holiness. TWA accepted the results of a public opinion poll of all four points: Independence, Middle path, Self-determination and Satyagraha. However, the final result was delayed. We finally decided to follow and support the strategy suggested by His Holiness, as his suggestion is a Middle Way that takes into account the situation of China, Tibet, and the whole world. This “fifth point” that was adopted during the 4th general meeting was accepted by the Tibetan Parliament on 19 March 1997. From this date on, TWA decided to follow the fifth point, and to support whatever policy His Holiness adopts.
Since in exile Tibetans are scattered all around the world, it is quite a challenge to preserve our culture and traditions. In fact we often fail to give attention to these important matters. People inside Tibet struggle to preserve the culture – even under the duress of occupation, they work harder than us to preserve our identity. It is the request of TWA to the older generation, and especially women, to educate children about the values that exist in our culture and promote the values of human compassion and the spirit of harmony cultures. We should emphasize speaking Tibetan, and learning the Tibetan language. We should learn from other nations about modernization, but remain true to our traditions.
TWA’s expansion is now represented by 56 regional chapters and 16,000 members across the globe, which stands for TWA’s commitment to “Advocacy for Home and Action in Exile.” Today, Tibetan women around the world pray for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We commemorate this day with the deepest of hopes for human rights, peace, and freedom in Tibet and the other regions of the world where peace is held hostage by brutal regimes.
With affirmation of our full faith in the leadership of His Holiness! Long Live His Holiness and May the Tibetan people be soon united in a Free Tibet!