1987 Photo Contest, General News, 3rd prize

James Nachtwey

Time / Geo

01 January, 1986

Tamil guerrillas wear masks to prevent identification at a public protest meeting. In May 1986, the civil war in Sri Lanka escalated with several bomb attacks on civilian targets. These attacks were blamed on the Tamil Tigers, guerrillas of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the most radical of the insurgent factions fighting for an independent Tamil state in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. The Tamil rebels, who are mainly Hindu, believed that the government intended to increase the number of mainly Buddhist Sinhalese, the major ethnic group in Sri Lanka, in areas that are predominantly Tamil. Established as a tightly organised insurgent group in the 1970s, the Tamil Tigers were in control of most of the Jaffna peninsula in northern Sri Lanka by 1985. In the early 1980s, large-scale violence had erupted between the Sinhalese government and the Tamil guerrillas. Fighting continued on and off until February 2002, when the government and the Tamil Tigers signed a permanent cease-fire agreement, which was soon violated by both sides. After a military campaign of 26 years, the Tamil Tigers were defeated in May 2009 by the government troops, which brought the civil war to an end.

About the photographer

James Nachtwey

Photographs of the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights movement inspired him to become a photographer. While teaching himself photography, he worked as truck driver and as ...

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