25 April 2007

on tibet, nepal, and human rights education...

i found this letter from sonam dolker, a sophomore at international high school at laguardia, queens, ny quite interesting -- i hope that you do to, and check out amnesty international's human rights education page when you're done...

peace out <3

I am a third generation refugee from Tibet. My grandparents from my dad's side came to Nepal to seek refuge and gave birth to my dad and uncles in Solukhumbu, Nepal. My grandmother from my mom's side came to Nepal because her parents had arranged a marriage for her with a Nepalese trader from Taplejung, Nepal. However, they all came to Nepal to get away from the human rights atrocities in Tibet that were being committed by the Chinese government. Such human rights atrocities included the targeting of monks, nuns, freedom fighters and of anyone else who would hang a picture of H.H., the Dalai Lama on their wall. Even those who celebrated Lhosar, the Tibetan new year and the most important festival of the year were eligible for arbitrary arrests, severe torture and even mass murder by the authorities. Tibetans were being oppressed by the communist government of China who had annexed Tibet in the late 1950s with the world hardly even noticing. Many Tibetans sought refuge and became citizens of neighbouring countries such as Nepal, India, Bhutan and many more. Those who were lucky enough to escape unscathed, opened up various businesses such as carpet businesses in their new host countries. My mother and father resettled here in the United States for opportunities that Nepal couldn't offer. I followed to America 7 years later.

I have to admit that in all those years I spent happily in Nepal, never did I once think of Tibet. I couldn't care the least about Tibet. I thought of Tibet as my grandparent's country and of Nepal as my parents and my country. This notion that I had was the same notion that all my Tibetan and Nepalese peers had. I was born in Nepal, so Nepal is my country. I didn't think much of Tibet and didn't know or explore about the human rights side to what had happened to my people. I didn't know about the religious rights side to it either. Among all the countries that host Tibetans, Nepal has probably been the most unwilling. It doesn't allow any free Tibet activities and even the display of H.H. the Dalai Lama's picture in public is offensive to the government. All this 'hush hush' in Nepal about Tibet is because of its poor economy and its dependence on China for much financial backing. In private schools, they teach us the Tibetan language and history of Tibet from centuries ago but not the current situation in Tibet or about the struggle for freedom that is occurring today. This lack of activism regarding Tibet, the lack of awareness in the Tibetan population of Nepal, takes away the potential next generation of activists and change makers.

It was only after I came here to the United States, that I learned much about the country where 75% of me is from. I had learned all about the 25% of me that is Nepalese in Nepal. I could write scores of pages about Nepal but not a single page on the history of Tibet. Perhaps it sounded boring to me at that time, especially because of the lack of good teachers of Tibetan history and language. After I came here, my knowledge of Tibet didn't get any worse than it already was, instead I did have a stronger stance on the issue of Tibet than I did in Nepal. I learned all the things that I know about Tibet from my teachers here and from all of the activism that I see here on March 10th of every year. I had never heard of 'Students For a Free Tibet' (SFT) or about the 'Tibetan Youth Congress'. I never knew who was prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile.

This is why I think human rights education is so important. If I hadn't learned about the above mentioned issues from my teachers and from my Global Kids (a human rights education group) leaders, then I wouldn't have been inspired to be the leader that I am today and I would be another youth gone to waste. Today I'm a sophomore at International High School at LaGuardia, and an intern at Amnesty International, learning about things going on around the world and how I can be a part of a movement to make positive change in the world. Most importantly, I am learning how to educate others and creating awareness about human rights. I hope that this will inspire a domino effect with whoever this article may reach.

Sonam Dolker
Sophomore, International High School
LaGuardia, Queens, NY

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