“What greater grief than the loss of one's native land.” - Euripides
An introduction: Tibet was an independent nation, possessing its own rich culture, language and currency prior to the Chinese occupation which began in 1949. In 1959, after a decade of failed negotiations, Tenzin Gyato, the 14th Dalai Lama, and spiritual leader of Tibet, was forced into exile in India. Since then, Tibetans in the hundreds of thousands have either followed him over hazardous Himalayan passages into India, Nepal and Bhutan to begin uncertain lives as refugees, or have been born into exile.
Within Tibet today, non-violent protest and the pursuit of religious freedom routinely result in imprisonment and torture. Since 2009, over 140 Tibetans have publicly self-immolated protesting for freedom in Tibet and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, whose very name and image have been criminalized.
Yet, fleeing Tibet to escape oppression is also a difficult choice, resulting in a deep sense of alienation and ruptured family bonds, the impact of which can be felt for generations. Inspired by the Dalai Lama and strengthened by the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, many Tibetans in exile nonetheless suffer from refugee trauma, while Tibetans on both sides of the border struggle for the survival of their language and customs under the constant threat of cultural genocide.
These stories of resilience and compassion reflect the Tibetan refugee experience of everyday women and men.