The Buddhist mother who burned herself to death for Tibet

June 7, 2013

(A Tibetan woman walks around a stone carving inscribed with Tibetan words as she prays in Barma township, where Kalkyi had lived set herself on fire in protest against Chinese rule, May 16, 2013.
REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

In March, a young Tibetan woman named Kalkyi began making frequent visits to a monastery in Barma, a township in China’s Sichuan Province.

The slim, rosy-cheeked mother of four was a devout Tibetan Buddhist, a close relative says. But her visits to the Dzamthang Jonang monastery this spring were out of character. So too were the spiritual mantras Kalkyi had begun to chant several times a day, and the way she had taken to prostrating herself in the monastery at least twice a day.

On the chilly afternoon of March 24, Kalkyi – who like some Tibetans went by just one name – stood outside the monastery gates with about 200 to 300 other worshippers. She doused herself with gasoline and lit a match. Flames instantly engulfed her, and as they did, she shouted words that no one could make out.

Witnesses say it took less than 15 minutes for the blaze to kill Kalkyi. She was 30 years old.

It was the ninth time in just over a year that a Tibetan mother had set herself on fire, an especially startling statistic to emerge from a grisly campaign of suicidal political defiance that shows no sign of ending.

Since 2009, at least 117 Tibetans have committed acts of self-immolation in China in protest against Beijing’s policies in Tibet and nearby regions with large Tibetan populations.

Read the full story by Sui-Lee Wee here.

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