Tamil refugee: `Why I fled to Australia'

Aran Mylvaganam's story.

By Sue Bolton, Melbourne

Green Left Weekly -- This year is the 15th anniversary of the Nargar Kovil school massacre in Tamil Eelam, the Tamil area of Sri Lanka. On September 22, 1995, the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) bombed Nargar Kovil Maha Vidyalayam schoolyard, which was crammed with 750 children on their lunch break. Reports of the number of children killed vary from 26 to 70.

Twelve of the children killed were six or seven years old. One hundred and fifty were injured, including 40 seriously. Twenty-two children had their limbs amputated. Ten of the amputees were under 12.

The bombing was part of a carpet-bombing campaign carried out by the Sri Lankan military at the time. Just three months before, the SLAF bombed a church at Navaly, killing 147 Tamil men, women and children seeking refuge from the military offensive.

Aran Mylvaganam, a survivor of the Nargar Kovil school massacre who became a refugee in Australia, organised a commemoration in Melbourne on October 10, 2010. Mylvaganam was a student at the school, aged 11, when the bombing occurred. His brother was killed in the bombing.

A year later, Mylvaganam came to Australia to seek asylum. He was locked up in Sydney’s Villawood detention centre as an unaccompanied minor.

Mylvaganam organised the event with a new group he has started, Free Tamil Eelam. Several survivors of the massacre attended.

As well as commemorating the school massacre, speakers represented other struggles for national self-determination. Sharon Firebrace spoke about the Indigenous struggle in Australia. She was joined by Alex Whisson from Australians for Palestine, and Hidayet Ceylan, who spoke about the Kurdish struggle in Turkey.

Mylvaganam said it was important to develop solidarity between national self-determination struggles.

Whisson said Israel armed the Sri Lankan military for its war against the Tamils, and described the takeover of Palestinian land — a process similar to what is happening to Tamils today.

Ceylan’s description of the forced assimilation of Kurds in Turkey had strong parallels with the forced assimilation of Indigenous Australians.