Date of Award
Undergraduate Honors Thesis
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
In the 1990s, videos emerged from the war-torn Northern peninsula of Sri Lanka of young, female LTTE1 cadres graduating from basic military training. Donning tiger-striped attire, groups of young girls and women were garlanded for their accomplishments by a woman standing out in stark contrast to the Tamil2fighters. Known endearingly as “Aunty” amongst the Tigers, Adele Ann Wilby came to be known internationally as the “White Tiger.” Here she was, the Australian-born former nurse, in the epicenter of an island’s civil war, garlanding female volunteers during a ceremony where they received their cyanide capsules. Adele herself wore a capsule hanging around her neck and spoke proudly of the young girls:
“They are very good fighters, they fought the Sri Lankan Army and did very well. They are fully-trained – they had to learn all that the men had to… We are talking through the political dimensions of the women; we are talking about enlightened feminism. Tamil society is particularly oppressive for women. Their roles are strictly separated from the men, and the evil of arranged marriages and dowries still exists.”
The reporter then turned his attention to a young platoon commander named Jaya. When she was asked what her plans were since the ceasefire had allowed peace to prevail tentatively, Jaya responded, “It is not up to me to decide what is best. It’s up to the party to decide.” When questioned about her personal goals, she responded, “I am devoting myself to the movement, I will serve in whatever way is decided.” One would have expected a response similar to that of Adele’s enlightened feminism, but Jaya digressed. Proud as a motherly figure would be, Adele smiled and said, “These girls are great – write a nice piece about them."3
Makshood, Akeela, "The Ideal of Liberation: Women in Sri Lanka’s Civil War" (2017). History Honors Program. 4.