The Ultimate Sacrifice: Tragedy in Tibet

Last week, in the highest form of nonviolent resistance, a 20 year old women, Tenzin Wangmo, set herself fire in a Tibetan town near China, imploring that the Chinese government grant religious freedom to Tibet and allow for the peaceful return of The Dalai Lama. While Tenzin Wangmo was the 9th Tibetan to self-immolate in protest of the Chinese policies against Tibet this year alone, she is the first woman in the Free Tibet movement to have take this action- ever.

Tragically, self-immolation is rather common amongst women in some parts of the world, particularly Afghanistan. However, more often than not in these cases, the most commonly sited cause for such action is an extreme reaction to violence against women. 'Women and girls appear to see this horrifying act as a means of both escaping from intolerable conditions and speaking out against abuse, since their actual voices do not bring about changes that would allow them to lead safe and secure lives.' Conversely, some view Tenzin Wangmo's act as the most extreme act of selflessness--some Buddhists believe that only through their own suffering can they bring Enlightenment to others.

Not surprisingly, reaction to her death has been mixed. “The Dalai Lama has said many times in the past that suicidal protests are not something he approves of or wants to encourage, but he can’t put himself in the position of criticizing people’s right to protest, and he certainly can’t put himself in the position of saying these people don’t experience intolerable pressure … It’s quite clear that they do.”