On the night of July 24th 1983, the Sri Lankan state sponsored, organized and orchestrated a vicious attack against Tamils. The attack was pre-meditated, deliberate and brutal. The July 1983 attacks was not a spontaneous act of retaliation but a well-coordinated and orchestrated systematic attack on Tamils by the Sri Lankan state. In the attacks over 3,000 Tamils were brutally murdered and thousands more were injured in the violence. The government provided voter registration lists to Sinhala mobs so they could identify Tamils and attack them, their residences, and their businesses. The violence lasted for over one week and destroyed 5000 Tamil shops and 8000 Tamil homes, displacing more than 150,000 Tamils. The Sinhala mobs also raped hundreds of Tamil women and even burned some Tamils alive, including by throwing children into burning cauldrons of tar. The violence against Tamils was supported and encouraged by the Sri Lankan police and military, who stood by as spectators while Sinhala mobs terrorized the Tamils. This tragedy became known as “Black July” and is an important historical event in Tamil history and a significant event in the timeline of genocide of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
According to the Montreal Gazette, which reported testimonial from a Norwegian tourist:
A Norwegian tourist reported seeing a Sinhalese mob pour gasoline on a minibus full of about 20 Tamils in Colombo and set it on fire. From Oslo, Eli Skarstein was quoted as saying, "Colombo was burning when we left. Women, children and old people were slaughtered. Police and soldiers did nothing to stopthis genocide." – July 29th 1983, Montreal Gazette
Statements from the Sri Lankan president captured the popular opinion and sentiment of the Sri Lankan stateleading up to Black July:
"I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people now. Now we cannot think of them. Not about their lives or of their opinion about us. The more you put pressure in the North, the happier the Sinhala people will be here. Really, if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy." – from an interview with J.R. Jeyawardene by Ian Ward. London Daily Telegraph, 11 July 1983.
The genocide of “Black July” prompted the first large exodus of Tamils from Sri Lanka. Black July also marked a turning point of the Tamil armed resistance movement.