Eyewitness accounts of first generation Tibetan exiles made public
Phayul[Tuesday, August 04, 2009 12:04]
Tsering Wangmo
Tsering Wangmo
Dharamsala, August 4 - Following the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to document personal stories of Tibetan elders the Tibet Oral History Project (TOHP) has posted 25 oral records of the last generation Tibetans to live in a free, unoccupied Tibet on its website.

A statement issued by the TOHP said the oral records of the Tibetan elders “preserve for future generations their memories of their homeland, including: cultural traditions, the invasion of the Chinese army and its devastating effects, eye-witness accounts of Chinese brutality and forced labor, efforts of Tibetan resistance fighters, and the escape into exile.”

With an aim to preserve the true history of the Tibetan people, TOHP videotaped Tibetan elders in Bylakupee Tibetan settlement in India and United States, finished translation and transcription of 67 of these interviews. The participants ranged in age from 60 to 95 and originated from the three traditional provinces of Tibet: Dotoe, Domed and Utsang.

In addition to the interview transcripts, portraits of each interviewee and a short film entitled, "Tibet Remembered: Eyewitness Accounts of Tibet's Elders" with clips from several interviews, can also be viewed on the website.

One of the interviewees told TOHP, "I am one of the older persons of the Tibetan community. If I had education, I should put my story in writing. However, I can neither write nor speak well, so it could not be done. Today you have given me a great opportunity to tell my life experiences and I am very grateful to you. I feel I have received a golden opportunity."

"I have been waiting my whole life to tell what happened in Tibet," says another Tibetan refugee aged 82.

"Tibetan seniors living in exile, like me, are now almost all gone. It would be very sad to lose our history when our generation passes. That is why the Tibet Oral History Project is so important. Through this project even when all of our seniors are gone, our stories will be passed to the next generation of Tibetans and beyond," said Cho Lhamo, one of the Tibetan elders interviewed.

“This oral history collection is invaluable,” said the TOHP. “The current goal of TOHP is to make the entire text of the interviews available on the Internet for future Tibetan generations, the Chinese people, historians, journalists and those who cherish the Tibetan people.”

TOHP plans to provide copies of the interviews and printed transcripts to the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and other libraries around the world, including the U.S. Library of Congress and translate the oral histories into Mandarin and Cantonese in order for the younger Chinese generations to better understand what really happened in Tibet.

Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has urged Tibetans in Tibet and around the world to record their experiences of suffering over the past 50 years. "It is vitally important, especially as a testament to those Tibetans no longer here, that we record our personal experiences of suffering. We should do this, not to fuel resentments but to help the Chinese people understand our true history and to know that we are justified in our hopes for a future Tibet."

Lodi Gyari asked Tibetan youth in particular to learn about their family experiences from their parents and relatives. "This is a part of the legacy our Tibetan children have inherited, and it is the moral responsibility of every Tibetan family to know their history and to collect evidence of the events that have shaped their lives."

Five Tibetan elders interviewed by TOHP have passed away in the last year: Tashi Nyima, Dorji Phuntsok, Khenrab Dakpa, Wangla, and Tsering Kyipa. This sad news underscores the urgency of our efforts, TOHP laments.