Date of Award

12-1-2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Mullins, Christopher

Abstract

Researchers have given considerable attention to war crimes across nations. Numerous anthropologists, political scientists, and economists have conducted research on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka; however, there is scant literature exploring violations of international law as experienced by the minorities (i.e., Tamils) from sociological and criminological perspectives. The purpose of this study is to offer an insight into how masculinity and war crimes by the military and the paramilitary forces affected the Tamils from the Northern and the Eastern provinces in Sri Lanka. I explored victimization experienced by the Tamil Diaspora populations, the construction of victimization avoidance strategies, the social forces that motivated them to leave Sri Lanka, the short and the long-term effects of victimization (i.e., sexual, economic, physical, mental), the process the refugees adopted to assimilate themselves into new space, and the resources available from Sri Lanka and place of new residence to meet their needs. Finally, I explored within gender differences and similarities of victimization as experienced by the refugees. I employed qualitative methods to collect the data, where I gathered a sample of Tamils Diaspora population from Canada and the United States of America by way of snowball sampling via advocates who worked with refugees. I used open-ended questionnaires during the face-to-face interviews. I audio-taped most of the interviews and I manually transcribed them. I took written notes of a couple of the interviews when the participants did not permit audio recording. Finally, I analyzed the collected data and present the findings. This approach informs the scientific community of how people understand and give meanings to their life experiences (Orbuch, 1997; Mishler, 1986). The findings indicate that several types of social forces contributed to how families operated during the war. For instance, the war impacted the quality of available education, the quality of available shelter, and the social and family pressures for expected roles within the community. I specifically looked at victimization experiences, the social forces that motivated them to leave Sri Lanka, the short and long-term effects of war related victimization, the process of assimilation, resources available in Sri Lanka and their new place of residence, and gender differences or similarities of war crime victimization as experienced by the refugees. The research question I explored revealed that many faced financial/economic strain, secondary victimization, sexual abuse, mental/ emotional abuse, and physical abuse. When I explored victimization avoidance strategies, the data revealed that some participants submitted while others’ social bonds allowed them to evade victimization. Next, I explored the coping strategies employed by the participants during and post-civil war. The themes that emerged to explain their coping strategies were medical/counseling assistance, deference to God, and gendered roles. I also explored the social forces that drove the participants out of the country. The data revealed that it was the impact of the internal conflict on various infrastructures that stimulated the participants’ exodus from the country. I also explored the assistance the participants received in Sri Lanka and their new place of residence. The data revealed that many of the participants received most of their help from the paramilitary. All of the participants indicated they received aid from their new place of residence. Finally, I conclude by providing theoretical discussions of the findings, limitations of the study, future recommendations, and implications. This study unveils how the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees experienced and gave meaning to their lived experiences due to the war.

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