Young Tibetan woman killed in Toronto bus attack

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, July 7: In a horrific incident of brutality, a young Tibetan woman in her twenties is believed to have succumbed to her injuries after fighting for her life in hospital for weeks. She was set on fire on a moving bus by a 33-year-old Tibetan named Tenzin Norbu on June 17 at around 12:30 p.m. at Kipling Station in Toronto, Canada. Police called the blatant attack “motivated by hate” as they claim the perpetrator and victim had “no direct connection”.

“The man then allegedly poured some kind of liquid substance or accelerant on this woman and then ignited this substance, causing a fire and burning the victim,” Toronto police officer Alex Li said earlier. There is still speculation as to what might have been the motive for the violence, but police have repeatedly said the victim and suspect were unrelated. However, this has sparked outrage and confusion, especially among young Tibetans in Canada.

An article from Toronto “Made in Exile” Theater troupe director Rinchen Dolma has called for the community to be held accountable for its silence on the deadly attack. “When we don’t seek help for our men, when they don’t ask for it themselves, when we undermine the value of our women’s lives, when we let the sanity that torments us go unchecked and without thankfully, when we remain silent when our men rape and hurt our women, when our women coddle them and make excuses for them, we fail in those moments. We are all accomplices“, she wrote on Tuesday, the same day of the death of the young woman.

Another Tibetan who also lives in the same neighborhood told Phayul that a deafening silence fell over the community when reports said the attacker was a Tibetan. “Initially there was a lot of anger when the news of this horrible incident came, and everyone was furious that one of our people had been injured by a random man. There were rumors that the perpetrator was a black man, or that it was a hate crime, but when the evidence showed that it was a Tibetan, everyone shut up,” remarked the source, though admitting that not much is known about the overall incident at this time.

“It doesn’t matter where we are; this idea in our heads that being in the West is somehow going to be more progressive, or that such gender-based violence rarely happens, is wrong,” executive director of Drokmo, said Tenzin Kalsang to Phayul. The founder of the grassroots feminist collective said she was furious at how the exile community is currently shrouded in silence. “Incidents of sexual and gender-based violence are occurring and widespread; it’s just that we don’t want to talk about those things. It is also a reflection of the larger issue of unresolved generational trauma that we all carry, which is a greater threat underlying the fabric of our community,” Kalsang added.

The eerie silence in the exile community is nothing new, as another violent incident took place last year in October when a Tibetan refugee shot dead a Tibetan woman in Switzerland. No Tibetan leader condemned this egregious case of domestic violence. The suspect in this case, sources say, confessed to the crime to the police after the murder. “There is an absolute delusion about our own progressiveness which blinds us to the fact that one of our own sisters was abused by a Tibetan,” Kalsang said, adding that it is the powerful men in the upper management who are also responsible. for such a tragic event, when they argue in parliament whether the budget for gender awareness is needed or not.

The family of the Tibetan woman who died in Toronto has requested confidentiality following her untimely death on the gofundme page which initially aimed to cover his hospitalization costs to treat “suffering from full-thickness burns”. “We will use the donations for future funeral expenses and health costs to date. At this time, we kindly ask everyone to respect our privacy,” her sister Dawa wrote. The victim was a professional caregiver on her way to work when the attack occurred; she was a young woman who had just arrived in Canada from a refugee settlement in India. Due to a court publication ban, the name of the deceased and other details have yet to be released.