• Give a Gift
  • Customer Service
  • Promotions
  • Videos
  • Blogs
  • Win
  • Games

January 16, 2008

When the Suicide Bomber Is a Woman

Special Offer

For seven months, the LTTE training camp was Menake’s home, with its tents for sleeping and cement-block classrooms, surrounded by dense jungle. She lived with 150 other conscripts, all females in their teens and 20s. She was given the Tamil Tiger green-and-yellow camouflage uniform to wear.

The training-camp rules were rigid: The LTTE prohibits alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. “Unlawful sex” — anything ranging from masturbation to romantic relationships — is banned. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the cultlike founder of the LTTE, executed two of his closest aides after they were caught having intercourse. Marriage was initially outlawed by Prabhakaran, now 53 — until he fell in love with a female prisoner, an agricultural student kidnapped by his guerrillas. The rules were subsequently altered to allow senior cadres to wed. More recently, the LTTE decreed that members may marry once women turn 35 and men turn 40.

For Menake, daily life in the camp was hard and monotonous, starting at 4 a.m. with an hour-long run. “At 5 a.m., we got tea and a bucket of water to wash with,” says Menake. “Then we did push-ups.” The raw recruits spent hours learning to dismantle, reassemble, and fire their guns. “They watch you closely. Some girls were so fast they won prizes — clothes, a watch. I was always in the middle. If you were slow, you were punished. Sometimes I’d get so tired, I’d fall asleep in class. Then I had to run 20 times around the camp perimeter [about 18 miles] or do jumping jacks until I thought I’d die. You’d be so exhausted, you could hardly move.” The rest of the day was divided into sessions of intense political indoctrination and sentry duty.

Listening to Menake talk, it’s hard not to sympathize. Her fingernails are bitten down and raw. Her face is streaked with tears and sweat. Her future will be at least as grim as her past has been. And yet, had she not been apprehended, her legacy would have been that of a mass murderer. I ask her how she learned to kill.

Connect with Marie Claire:
daily giveaway
Unlimited Brunch!

Unlimited Brunch!

enter now
You Know You Want More
More From World News on Women
This Act Could Put an End to Anti-Abortion Legislation

Women's right to choose is constantly at stake—but this might the solution.

Yet Another Blow to Birth Control Coverage

The Supreme Court's latest decision will limit a key benefit for women.

post a comment

Special Offer
Link Your Marie Claire Account to Facebook

Marie Claire already has an account with this email address. Link your account to use Facebook to sign in to Marie Claire. To insure we protect your account, please fill in your password below.

Forgot Password?

Thanks for Joining

Your information has been saved and an account has been created for you giving you full access to everything marieclaire.com and Hearst Digital Media Network have to offer. To change your username and/or password or complete your profile, click here.

Your accounts are now linked

You now have full access to everything Marie Claire and Hearst Digital Media Network have to offer. To change your settings or profile, click here.