Jamyang Kyi (‘jam dbyangs skyid) was detained by the Public Security Bureau in Xining on 1st April 2008. She was accused of sending text messages to 17 of her friends, including Woeser, the Tibetan blogger based in Beijing. The Chinese secret services intercepted text messages between them and found that Jamyang Kyi had sent details of the unrest and the killing of Tibetans in Ngaba (Amdo). Jamyang Kyi was released with a huge fine. Since her release she has been posting accounts of her experiences during her incarceration on her blog. We have translated one of her posts which was originally written in Tibetan titled “They” (Kho tshos) as well as comments from readers.
Jamyang Kyi is one of the most well known figures that were detained in the aftermath of protests that swept across the Tibetan plateau in March 2008. She was born in 1965 in Jador Radza County in Amdo (Qinghai Province). Jamyang worked for 22 years as a news presenter and journalist at the Tibetan language section of Qinghai Provincial Television Station. She was a familiar face amongst the people in Amdo. Since 1990s, Jamyang Kyi devoted more time to her true passion that is music. She became a popular singer and has produced a CD titled Prayer and two VCDs, Distant Lover, Karma and her latest VCD, Fortunate Events (photo below). Even during her incarceration one of the interrogators confessed to liking her music.
Jamyang Kyi other passion is writing. She has published two books, an anthology of poems and while in detention her book title “Mixture of Snow and Rain, Joy and Sorrow of Women”, (za mo’i skyid sdug gangs ma char) was published (photo below). A lengthy review of the book in Tibetan by Trisem (Khri sems) can be found here. The book was published with a support of her friend Norzin Wangmo (Nor ‘dzin dbang mo), who was also arrested in April 2008. Last week Jamyang Kyi posted on her blog that Norzin Wangmo had been sentenced to five years imprisonment on 3rd November.
The book is the first feminist’s critique of Tibetan society and her writing is widely influenced by Western feminist writers. The book is filled with her observations of treatment of women in Tibetan society, where wives are treated no better than servants, who attend only to household chores. She questions why it is that while a monk enters a house, automatically a higher seat is offered but when a man enters a room even a nun has to give her seat for the man. She asks Tibetan women to question if they were just born to be “only housewives”. Jamyang Kyi’s concerns for the plight of Tibetan women and desire to fight injustice within a patriarchal Tibetan society lead her to write an expose of the trafficking of girls in Amdo (Qinghai Province) for the Tibetan language version of Qinghai Daily (30 November 2005). Her staunch feminist stance made her unpopular with conservative sections of Tibetan society. Jamgyang Kyi argues how can the Tibetans fight to justice when injustice is perpetrated in our own community in the name of tradition.
In January 2008 a blog by Tsering Kyi, former Miss Tibet and accomplished writer who wrote a blog post in Tibetan hosted by mchod me (The Lamp) was shut down by the host because readers complained that pictures posted by Tsering Kyi showed her wearing “revealing western dress”. On January 7th, Jamyang Kyi’s blogpost defended Tsering Kyi and saw the erasing of her blog as the silencing of women’s voice. Jamyang Kyi wrote: “the truth is that our culture fosters the physical and mental abuse of women. Women are expected to be obedient housewives. Women are expected to remain silent and when they speak their mind, it is seen as a bad omen. Women spend their lives near the stove in a house that belongs to the brutal and egotistical man”. She wrote that women of Tibet needed to proclaim their voice in the society. Jamyang Kyi applauded Tsering Kyi for breaking the shackles of tradition.
In one of her recent blogposts she wrote critically about the failure of Tibetans to modernise and reform during the first half of the 20th century, which generated interesting comments from her readers. Through her blog, books and music, she has become an influential figure amongst a younger generation of Tibetans, particularly amongst college-educated women for whom she has given a voice to their concerns and struggles.
During her interrogations it became clear that one of the main charges against Jamyang Kyi was her friendship with Woeser and her husband Wang Lixiong (see photo below). Woeser and Jamyang Kyi are two of the most influential women in Tibet today and the friendship between the two women is based not only on their mutual intellectual curiosity but also on larger issues such as justice for the Tibetan people. In an account she has written of her incarceration, she writes how one of the Chinese female guards taunted her with racist and disparaging remarks about Tibetan people and the guard told her that her young child wants to see Tibetans killed. Jamyang Kyi recalls thinking, “You have the rights to speak of my people in these harsh words, where is my right to speak for my nationality?”.
(l-r, Wang Lixiong, Jamyang Kyi, Woeser, Lhamo Kyab
Photo taken in July 2007 in Xining)
The friendship between Jamyang Kyi and Woeser is marked by deep admiration for each other’s works. A few years ago, Jamyang Kyi posted this poem dedicated to Woeser:
“Woeser, the Mother’s Daughter”
by Jamyang Kyi
In the beautiful rays of your thought
I see a lamp to clear the darkness of the Snowland.
By your warm flowing blood of love for our people
I am reminded of the compassionate mothers of the Plateau.
With the living words spread forth from your heart
I see the footprint of our ancestors in the mountains of the Plateau.
Oh, Woeser, the mother’s daughter,
You scattered the first seed of pride of Mother Snowland.
You fulfilled the wishes of the mothers of the Plateau.
Here is the translation of Jamyang Kyi’s blogpost:
“They” by Jamyang Kyi
They constantly tried to use various methods to make me betray others. During that time, one scene from “The Lives of Others” occurred to me from time to time. The woman in the film, after endlessly suffering unimaginable degrees of intimidation and atrocity, loses herself and turns her back on her beloved man. When the man stares at her with a sense of disbelief, unable to bear her feelings, she runs onto the road in front of an oncoming vehicle. There, she ends her blooming beauty and precious life. Though it has been over two years since I saw the film, I cannot forget the depth of frustration in the man’s stare and the aggrieved look on the woman’s face. Today, these images from the film appear even more real in my mind.
My heart cracked like a dried out riverbank with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, frustration and anger. And I longed for the moisture of light rain. One evening when I was tied to that chair again, I heard the sound of religious songs of a melancholic nature. I realized that this was the first time I was hearing the sound of a living being. This was soothing medicine for my bleeding heart. Since then, I began paying attention to this prayer-tune and awaiting it with hope each day. At that mosque, the devout practitioner prayed 4 to 5 times every day. Normally that prayer-tune could have been perceived as being unpleasant but during those days, it became the best medicine to revive my spirit. For that, I’m deeply grateful to the Mosque and practitioner. If ever a day comes for me to get out, I swore to myself that I would pay a visit to the mosque. Even today, that wish hasn’t disappeared from my heart.
In a magazine there is an oil painting of a landscape that I have looked at countless times. In the painting there is a lone cottage of European style that stands by the lake. That was the only home in the wide hilly grassland. It affforded me a sense of tranquility and peace. Imagining that house to be my own family home, I began to visualize my two daughters playing chase in the grassy meadow near the house; my husband cutting grass beside the lake and I myself, busily cooking dinner awaiting the return of the cattle. That, too, became a means to console and revive my shattered spirit.
One day, as soon as the protests first began, my husband said with a sigh, “Those who have died are already gone. But those who have been arrested are certain to be cast into the eighteen realms of hell and bound to suffer immeasurably.” On the other hand, empathizing with those who had died and their bereaved and loved ones, I was deeply touched and moved to endless tears of sympathy. And at the time, I could not fully comprehend the implications of the incident in which three Tibetans had leapt to their death from a house top.
Each interrogation session aroused a different kind of fear in me. One day in the middle of an interrogation, I thought instead of enduring this, it would be better to be killed by a single bullet. My family and relatives would grieve but as for me, I would have to suffer the pain only once. One day when I was in the washroom, out of nowhere, I found myself thinking about the means or methods of taking my own life. Those days I remembered the small knife that was confiscated at Zhihu Hotel. They hadn’t seen another small knife that was in my handbag during the search. When the chief interrogator asked why I kept a small knife, I replied that it was for eating fruit. But on the other hand there is a small story about this small knife.
Ever since the Chinese-Tibetan conflict had flared up, and as result of the government’s deliberate propaganda, the Chinese would stare at Tibetans with hatred, whether it be in a bus, the market place or on any public road. Once, when I was walking down the road with my daughter who was wearing the traditional chuba that my friend Walza Norzin Wangmo had bought her as a gift, a Chinese kid of about six or seven years old came yelling in front of my daughter and stood blocking her way. This kind of Chinese attitude wasn’t an isolated incident that we experienced but rather the common experience of other Tibetans too. So, for self-defence I had bought another small knife. Later, on reflection, I felt relief that I hadn’t had the chance to get hold of those two knives. Otherwise, during an interrogation session, under unbearable torture, I frantically searched my pouch and then stared at the blue veins of my left wrist. Were I to get hold of the knife then, I would surely have cut the veins of my wrist.
During those days, Wang Lixong’s essay on the stages of suicide came to mind from time to time. And it was a completely different feeling from when I had first read it. I realized for the first time how difficult and harsh it is to betray and deceive someone. I felt that I could understand him now that I could understand it myself.
During those days when I was thrown in front of the six gates of hell, the person I thought of most was my kind and dear mother. Although it has been nearly three years since she passed away, she is very much alive in my heart. What is comforting is the realization that my dear mother has already left me. Otherwise, if she were alive and to witness my incarceration in prison, I know she would go insane.
At the height of unbearable torture, usually I invoked the name of my mother and Goddess Tara for protection. One afternoon when I was tied to a stool, everyone left for lunch except for one female secret police officer. For many days, I had suppressed my tears of suffering silently. But at that moment of weakness, I could not bear it any longer and cried out “Mother, Mother”. The longing for my mother grew more intense and the suffering worsened, and I sobbed. As I was sobbing with pain, all my limbs went numb. At that time the fat man came and said, “You’re crying intentionally because you know I’m here.” Pressing his finger to my forehead, he warned, “If you continue to wail, I will stop this interrogation.”
Shouting in a loud voice, “Are you this stubborn because you think we are making a false accusations?” he left the room. Although it was not something that I was doing, being aware of his presence there, I still couldn’t stop crying. At the time, the nerves in both my hands turned stiff and I could unclench my fist when I tried to force them open. A long time passed sobbing, with my entire body drenched in sweat…
Sad once, sad twice
Even the birds in the sky are sad
Ah. For me
This year is so sad
Good, well done
As soon as I read your essay, my whole mind was filled with sadness and left me speechless
If an opportunity comes where I can listen to these stories from you, I will never forget the story and sound from my ears. You are one of few brave Tibetan women. The courage, suffering, and endless intimidation you have endured cannot be forgotten by history and Tibet in general. You are the leader of Tibetan women. You are an angel of this age and an answer to embarrassing, useless Tibetan men who are drunk with arrogance. Your words of hardship and courage to stand in the face of fear is a song that is spreading in every corner of land of the snow and in the heart of every Tibetan.
Someone called Adon on the blog talks at length about Tibetan women’s rights and so forth. I think, Adon is not a woman at all. The reason is that her thinking is not only strongly connected with religion. It is only in the enlightened realm where someone like Adon would live. Discussion about freedom and equality takes place among real people. And when he brings issues of god and religion into the conversation, [this] makes me think he is a monk.
I am going to relate to you a dream.
The dream comes from the experience of suffering and happiness.
The dream comes from the tears and sadness.
In the sleep of peaceful night.
The dream comes from the beauty of light and moon.
And it comes from karma and the lord of death.
Dear friend. I have read your thoughts. All the best.
Respect, Jamyang Kyi la.
The film “The Lives of Others”, on my blog I have titled it “Sneaking Storm”. Everyone, please search for it.
A bag that is made of my fragile heart
Tattered with suffering and sadness
Wind karma of my prayer flag
It had to tatter with the years.
The flame in the storm
Even if you give life to the wind.
The ash in the wind
life is revived.
Your friend sadly remembers her son in the beloved land
Through the kindness of an official, I managed to phone my beloved son
I wouldn’t be able to return home for few years
It is unclear if [i will] be released early.
[Let me] rest my head on your lap one day,
It is possible that even I can reach the shrine of freedom.
These feelings and this pain are the remains of accumulation of past karma. Yet the struggle of [our] nationality and the truth is realised through tears and blood from each one of us. Oh Sister, with droplets from your pen, take us steadily forward.
Sister Jamyang Kyi. My respect to you. I bow to you from the depth of my life.
You are our pride, you are our courage. May your life be free from hindrance forever.
Jamyang Kyi, I hope you are well. During your absence, all we could do was pray. You became someone that captured our thoughts this year. And became a witness to history. Pray that may your life be free of hindrances.
May your life be free from hindrance.
What you wrote is really excellent and I thank you for that.
Sister. Thank you for your courageous composition.
I always wanted to have conversation with you in person. And I deeply respect you.
The reality is, that they are they and we are we. I believe that one day we will live under our own sky of freedom. This is evident from their conduct. There is no place for dictatorship in this world.
Sister Jamyang Kyi. Your courage and honour will remain in our hearts.
Whatever they do, we can trust that they cannot diminish our courage. An external physical pain will give birth to countless courage. Your pain has planted seeds of courage in the hearts of students. We believe that it will remain for hundreds of years.
I am a female student at Tibet Agricultrual University and I am studying environment sciences. Although this land is called Tibet, there is not much value to Tibetan language. Therefore we have found Tungkar Cultural Centre in order to preserve and allow the Tibetan language to flourish. I hope we will get your support and hope to keep in touch.
You suffered for the people of Tibet, how important it is to speak out the truth.