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Remembering Rajani


Rajani Thiranagama Commemoration, 20-21 September 2014 in Jaffna

Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, a prominent human rights activist and author, a medical doctor, and head of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Jaffna, was assassinated near her home in 1989 at the age of thirty-five. Her death was an immense tragedy for the community and was symbolic of a climate of terror and human disregard that ultimately left hundreds of thousands dead throughout the country.  Rajani’s death represented a moral crisis within the community, and a crisis of governance and education that continues to mar our future. 


A Tamil from northern Sri Lanka, she married a Sinhala political activist from the south, and despite being aware of the dangerous consequences of speaking out, chose to remain in the north with her people. She was one of the founding members of the renowned human rights group UTHR-J (University Teachers for Human Rights Jaffna) and the co-author of their book The Broken Palmyrah, which exposed the atrocities committed by all parties to the conflict, including the Sri Lankan armed forces, the Indian Peace keeping Force and armed groups such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and other militant movements. Rajani was also at the forefront of establishing Poorani, a home for women in Jaffna, who were rendered destitute by the threatening and constraining conditions of war in the north of Sri Lanka. As a feminist and social activist, Rajani strove hard to create spaces for women’s collective action. After Rajani’s assassination, two of her co-authors, Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingam Sritharan, and fellow members of the UTHR-J, have continued to report on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, inspired by Rajani’s memory and determination. Forced to remain underground since Rajani’s death, UTHR-J are one of the few non-partisan voices in Sri Lanka. In 2007 they were awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Human Rights Award.


Democratic societies, democratic practices, an equal and just world!

Rajani remains an inspiration and symbol of hope to many in Sri Lanka who desire a just peace with democracy and dignity for all. We hope to explore spaces for a democratic practice in which people are able to participate. The post- war period offers us space to focus on the needs, aspirations and self-expression of people who have been dispossessed during the long period of war and in the current context of development and post-war reconstruction. We wish to honour Rajani’s memory with a series of events on the 20th and 21st of September. We earnestly request your presence at these events as both a show of solidarity with the people of Jaffna and all those gathered in the name of democracy at this crucial juncture of our shared history.

Solidarity for peace, democracy and the marginalized!

Support political and social practices for a new society!



Rajani Thiranagama Memorial Committee

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