Varatharajah Thurairajah

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Varatharajah Thurairajah
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Born (1975-03-03) March 3, 1975 (age 48)
NationalitySri Lankan
CitizenshipSri Lanka
Alma materUniversity of Jaffna
  • Physician
  • Human rights activist
  • Heroic Exemplar Award (2017)
  • Lifetime Service Award (2017)

Varatharajah Thurairajah (born March 3, 1975) is a Eelam Tamil physician and human rights activist well-known among Tamils. He is one of the official witnesses for the United Nations investigations on war crimes and human rights violations in Sri Lanka.[1][2][3][4] He is a first-hand witness of the events in the “No Fire Zone” in Mullivaikkal, Mullaitivu; and has revealed the truth to the world about the well planned genocide of Tamils in 2009.[5][6] The international community would not have known of the incidents if he had remained quiet about what had happened to Tamils during 2009 war in Sri Lanka.[7][6][1] He took initiative, travelled to many countries, and delivered speeches to bring awareness to the world and is seeking justice.[8][9][2]

Services at war zone

Services at Eechilampatru and Vakarai: June 2006 to February 2007

As of 2006, Varatharajah was the only doctor in the town of Vakarai. He went to Varakai as a refugee and decided to stay there with other refugees.[10] When Varakai was captured by Sri Lankan government forces in January 2007, Varatharajah was the last person to leave the town.[11]

Services at Mullivaikkal, Mullaitivu: February 2007 to May 2009

In January 2009, the Sri Lankan government announced that there were only 80,000 people in the LTTE controlled areas of Northern Province, but in reality, there were around 340,000 people.[12][13] Since there was no presence of foreign media in the war zone, Dr. Varatharajah was the only credible source for reporting humanitarian and human rights crisis to outside world. During that time, Sri Lankan government independently declared a ‘No Fire Zone’ in Suthanthirapuram without consulting any medical staff. Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital was not included in the “No Fire Zone”.[14] After the announcement of a “No Fire Zone'', people were forced to move to Suthanthirapuram where all civilians were crowded into a small area. Later in the record, it was mentioned that more people were killed in the ‘No Fire Zone’ area than other areas.[15] While Dr. Varatharajah stayed at Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital treating casualties from Suthanthirapuram, he was informing the situation to ICRC, INGOs and the government.[16] Dr. Sathiyamoorthy, the regional director of health services from Kilinochchi, and fellow staff moved to Mullaitivu and worked with Dr. Varatharajah.[17] Around 7 government doctors, including Dr. Varatharajah, with other medical staff and volunteers served nearly 340,000 people in the war zone.[18] After several weeks, Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital was also destroyed by government shelling and bombing.[19][20] Therefore, Dr. Varatharajah and other staff moved to Puthumaththalam and Mullivaikkal area and set-up a makeshift hospital at a school to treat the casualties.[21] He reported not only about the dead and injured in that area but also on the shortage of medical and food supplies.[16] He contacted the ICRC to transfer critically injured and ill people out from the war zone via boats. This way, around 10,000 injured people were saved while raising the awareness of the humanitarian and human right crisis to the world.[22][23]

Detention and media appearance

During the last days of the war, he was in the “No-Fire Zone” attending patients at the Mullivaikkal hospital. Following a severe injury in his shoulder and abdomen due to non-stop shelling, he was arrested by the army on 15th May 2009 and detained for about 100 days after the end of the war.[24][25][26] He was kept at an unknown location and denied medical treatment for his paralyzed arm and lung filled with blood which led to septic fever due to war injuries.[2][17][27]

On 23rd May 2009, he was taken to the fourth floor of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).[25][28] On 8th July 2009, doctors, who had stayed in the war zone including Dr. Varatharajah was paraded in front of media and forced to deny their reporting from the war zone.[24][29][30][31] Suresh Sallay has been identified as the military intelligence officer responsible for coercing Dr. Varatharajah to give false testimony.[24] His surgery for paralyzed arm was purposely postponed for three months as he is from a minor ethnic group. After being released from prison, Dr. Varatharajah contacted UN and other human right groups explaining what happened to them and the situation forcing them to lie in front of government paraded media conference in Colombo. He also requested the UN and other human rights groups to record the truth.[24][30]

Human right activities and humanitarian efforts

In December 2011, award winning and a well-known journalist, Callum Macrae from Channel 4 media interviewed Dr. Varatharajah in New York about Sri Lanka’s human rights violations and war crimes.[30]

In 2013, he participated and provided his testimony as a witness to the Permanent People’s Tribunal in Bremen, Germany in front of a list of panelists from former UN representatives.[32]

In 2014, he went to UN at Geneva and provided a speech at a human rights session and participated at a side event as well.[33] As a Human Rights Watch sponsored member, he spoke at the UN General Assembly too. Channel 4 UK interviewed him and broadcasted it to raise awareness for justice for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during 2009.[30][34][35]

In May 2015, Dr. Varatharajah participated in the 6th anniversary of the Tamil genocide in 2009 and provided a public speech in London, UK. Following that he met several parliamentarians in London and discussed about human rights violation and crimes against humanity and advocated for justice for the victims in 2009.[36][37]

In September 2015, he attended a meeting which was arranged by the executive director of the foundation for human rights in South Africa, Yasmin Sooka, about a political solution for Tamils based on South African experience in Durban, South Africa.[28] He shared his war zone experiences and delivered a speech on the need for a political solution.

In November 2015, he participated as one of the three panelists in Resilience and Resistance for demanding justice and accountability for war crimes in Johannesburg, South Africa.[9]

In April 2016, he delivered a speech about human right violation by Sri Lankan government and the final days of the war in a symposium organized by the Boston Amnesty International in New York.[38]

In May 2019, he was invited to the Canadian parliament as a guest speaker at the screening of Callum Macrae’s documentary "No Fire Zone" on the tenth year of Mullivaikal and Tamil genocide Remembrance Day and shared his war zone experiences.[8][39][40][41]

Awards and recognition

Ilankai Tamil Sangam USA on behalf of the Tamil American Community awarded their highest recognition award of “Lifetime Service Award” in 2017 for his courageous service to humanity and for his acts of valor in the face of oppression, intimidation, and violence.[42]

Heroic Exemplar Award was presented by National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT), Canada in 2017.[43]

His memoir titled, “A Note from The No Fire Zone”, by an award-winning author Kass Ghayouri was published in May 2019. The major themes of the book are cultural cleansing and genocide including loss of innocence, fear, and human right violations.[44]

The movie “ The Lamp of Truth” ( was produced based on Dr Varatharajah’s war zone experiences and he played his own role in the movie. White Conch Studios, Ambuli Media, and TransImage jointly worked together to deliver this movie which was released in 2020.[45]

He gave several media interviews, most notably for Channel 4, BBC, IBC London, Aljazeera, Lankasri, Canadian media such as CTR, EyeTamil Montreal, Parai, India’s Ananda Vikatan, Tamilguardian, Samakalam, Tamilnet, Tamilwin, TamilCNN, Ilakku, Urimai, SKY news and Sri Lankan local news media on the plight of the refugees and war-affected people of Sri Lanka.[22]

He earned a nomination for the globally renowned and prestigious Nobel Peace Prize by Tamils for Obama, USA and Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize (UNESCO) by UN in 2009 for having worked in tough war-torn conditions in Sri Lanka during the final and bloodiest phase of the Sri Lankan Civil War 2009.[7][46] Currently he has been nominated for Sydney peace prize 2020 for the same cause.

In the media



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Tamil war zone hospital hit again". 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Ottawa Tamil Association, Tamil Heritage Month - Post Event Press Release" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. "OHCHR | HRC OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  4. "Urgency of international investigation discussed at HRC event on Sri Lanka | Tamil Guardian". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  5. "Redefining the 'war without witness': My Experiences working inside a war". Tamil Diplomat. 2016-05-18. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  6. 6.0 6.1 NIDAHASA. ""Sri Lanka Army Shell" Hits Hospital: At Least 64 Killed". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Gwinnett Medical Center". Gwinnett Medical Center. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Canadian politicians mark tenth anniversary of Mullivaikkal genocide | Tamil Guardian". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  9. 9.0 9.1 MENAFN. "Resilience and Resistance as War Crime Victims Seek Justice". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  10. "Sri Lanka conflict traps thousands". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  11. "". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  12. "Report of the secretary-general's panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka" (PDF). Security Council Report.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. "Sri Lanka's hidden genocide". 2013-11-04. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  14. User, Super. "More skeletal remains surface in Sri Lanka's former war zone". Retrieved 2020-07-13. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  15. "Tamil civilians slaughtered as army shells 'no-fire zone'". the Guardian. 2009-04-18. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Doctoring the evidence". Himal Southasian. 2016-04-03. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Sri Lanka: Three doctors who helped BBC now missing". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  18. Macrae, Callum. "The Uncorrupted Truth" (PDF). Channel4.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. "Sri Lanka: Vanni hospital evacuated - parties must do utmost to protect medical services and the wounded and sick - ICRC". 2009-02-04. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  20. "Sri Lanka: Vanni hospital shelled - ICRC". 2009-02-01. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  21. "Hospital evacuated in Sri Lanka fighting". The New York Times. 2009-02-04. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Pathirana, Saroj (2014-03-20). "Tamil doctor 'pressed to recant'". BBC News. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  23. "Sri Lanka: thousands of civilians still trapped - ICRC". 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 Sooka, Yasmin (1 June 2020). "Press Release: Sri Lanka - yet more problematic military promotions" (PDF). ITJPSL.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. 25.0 25.1 Sooka, Yasmin. "The case against Sisira Mendis" (PDF). ITJPSL.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. "Doctors who braved bombs in Sri Lanka imprisoned". The Independent. 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  27. "Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka: Oral Statement to the 11th Special Session of the Human Rights Council / May 27, 2009 / Events / Human rights defenders / OMCT". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld | RSF urges UN committee to question Sri Lanka's intelligence chief". Refworld. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  29. Wickremasinghe, Nanda. "Sri Lankan government coerces detained doctors to recant war casualty figures". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 "'I cried every day': inside Sri Lanka's 'No Fire Zones'". Channel 4 News. 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  31. "twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  32. "Press release:The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal on Sri Lanka – Session II 7th – 10th December 2013 Bremen, Germany". Permanent Peoples' Tribunal | Tribunale permanente dei popoli (in italiano). 2013-11-19. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  33. "Moment of truth | Foreign Office Blogs". 2014-03-25. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  34. "Sri Lankan Medical Officer testifies at HRC event on Sri Lanka | Eye Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  35. "Urgency of international investigation discussed at HRC event on Sri Lanka | Tamil Guardian". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  36. "British Tamils remember Mullivaikal massacre in London and Glasgow | Tamil Guardian". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  37. Dr T. Varatharajah RDHS Mullaitivu District, retrieved 2020-07-13
  38. "Without treating my wounds, I was compelled to tell lies, says Doctor Varatharajah in New York Symposium". Tamil Diplomat. 2016-04-13. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  39. "Francesco Sorbara". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  40. Dr. Varatharajah's speech at the Canadian Parliament at all party's search for justice event, retrieved 2020-07-13
  41. "Lipad - May 13, 2019 - Browse the Canadian House of Commons".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  42. "Ilankai Tamil Sangam USA Announces Lifetime Service Awards to Medical Team who Served the Civilians in the Last Phase of Civil War in Sri Lanka – Ilankai Tamil Sangam". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  43. "Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  44. "No Fire Zone – A note from the no fire zone". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  45. "White Conch Studios". Retrieved 2020-07-13.
  46. "Doctors who braved bombs in Sri Lanka imprisoned". The Independent. 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2020-07-13.

External links

This article "Varatharajah Thurairajah" is from Wikipedia. The list of its authors can be seen in its historical. Articles taken from Draft Namespace on Wikipedia could be accessed on Wikipedia's Draft Namespace.