Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 May 2019

UAE resident in Sri Lanka sees Easter turn to bloodshed

Nizreena Ismail, who lives in Abu Dhabi, is in Colombo to visit her sick father

A relative of a victim of the explosion at St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church, reacts at the police mortuary in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
A relative of a victim of the explosion at St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church, reacts at the police mortuary in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Only a few days ago, Nizreena Ismail saw prominent Colombo hotels decorated with Easter bunnies and eggs as the city bustled with happy tourists.

But now the UAE resident, who is originally from Sri Lanka and is in the country to visit her sick father, fears a return to the violence that the vast majority of residents hoped they had left in the past following the end of a devastating civil war.

She was with her father yesterday morning in Colombo when she heard the first reports of the horrific attacks across the country. WhatsApp messages then began circulating in Sri Lanka, showing images of the gruesome aftermath of the bomb blasts.

She rushed back to a property belonging to her husband, who had flown out of Sri Lanka on Saturday, to be with her children, aged six and seven. A Muslim, she then checked on their Christian neighbours.

“Fortunately they were not at one of the churches attacked,” the 36-year old told The National. “They said they went to church and half way through the Mass they stopped it and everyone was told to go home.

It is a beautiful country and the tourist season was just starting. Everyone I know is now saying ‘not again'

Nizreena Ismail

“I feel extremely sorry for those people who went to church after their 40 days lent. We were passing by the Hilton a few days ago – we saw a lot of tourists and Easter decorations, all the hotels decorated with Easter bunnies and Easter eggs. It was nice and we were happy to see that.

“Now I just feel extremely heartbroken for the injured and dead people.”

It was announced that Sri Lankan schools will be shut over the coming days and travellers were advised to leave extra time when arriving at airports.

A curfew across the country was later put in place and social media networks were temporarily blocked, the government announced.

Ms Ismail is planning to fly out from Sri Lanka later this week with her children.

She said there are widespread fears in Sri Lanka that the attacks could signal a return to the widespread violence that hit the country during its long civil war, which ended in 2009 after more than a quarter of a century.

There had already been a tense political situation in Sri Lanka, with anti-Muslim riots breaking out last year and fiercely contested presidential elections set to take place this year.

“We have gone through some really bad violence in Sri Lanka,” she said.

“It is a beautiful country and the tourist season was just starting. Everyone I know is now saying ‘not again’, we don’t want a return to the violence. Sri Lankans are just healing from the wounds of our civil war. We really hope this doesn’t stir up any communal violence.”

Updated: April 21, 2019 05:51 PM

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