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‘Stopped believing in anything’

November 8, 2017
A man known as Witness 197 during an interview in London, Thursday, July 20, 2017. Despite the shame he feels, he says he wants the world to know that Sri Lanka is not the palm-fringed paradise tourists believe it be. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A man known as Witness 197 during an interview in London, Thursday, July 20, 2017. Despite the shame he feels, he says he wants the world to know that Sri Lanka is not the palm-fringed paradise tourists believe it be. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

More than 50 Tamil men seeking political asylum in Europe have come forward to say they were raped, branded and beaten repeatedly by Sri Lanka’s current security forces.

The strangers say they were accused of trying to revive the Tamil Tiger rebel group, which the government fought in a bloody 26-year civil war that ended in 2009. They said the abuse occurred from early 2016 to mid-2017.

Sri Lanka has denied the allegations.

The men allowed The Associated Press to have their extensive scars on their legs, faces, chests and groins photographed in July and August. Here are some of their stories: 

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The 36-year-old man known as Witness #197 lived most of his life in India, far from the war. In 2012, he thought he was given his big break when he was granted a student visa to study accounting in England. He returned to Sri Lanka last year to see his grandmother.

It was then he said he was abducted.

During his detention, he said his captors burned him with cigarettes, kicked his chest, tried to suffocate him with a bag filled with petrol and raped him. Two men forced him to perform oral sex on them. He was raped by another man after they left.

“I don’t go to (pray) anymore. I’ve pretty much stopped believing in anything. Everyone thinks of Sri Lanka as such a beautiful place but now, my head is just filled with negativity. I want to make sure that nothing like this happens to anyone else,” he said.

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