Dec. 10 is human rights day. It’s a day that’s marked all around the world to remind us and raise our awareness of the importance of basic fundamental human rights, which demand justice, dignity and equality to all human beings without distinction or discrimination. So we, the Tibetan Student Association of Madison, would like to use this upcoming significant day to take advantage of our basic human rights to raise awareness about Tibetans in Tibet who are fighting for these same basic fundamental human rights.

Ninety-two Tibetans have self-immolated since February of 2009 and, sadly, that number continues to increase day by day. Why are they resorting to such drastic acts you may ask? We can only seek to answer this crucial question by investigating their last demands before they passed away. Some of them have left letters while others have shouted their demands as their body was raging with immense heat and fell to the ground. Their common demands are the following: Freedom in Tibet, equalities among nationalities, right to preserve their own language, the right to practice their religion freely without any restrictions and the return of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama back to Tibet.

We can’t speak for all Tibetans, but the Tibetan Student Association of Madison would like the self-immolations to end and we would like the new Chinese Leadership to put the Tibet issue on top of their agenda. We would like to say to the Chinese leaders in Beijing that yes, in the past 50 years, Tibet has modernized and improved greatly. Roads, hospitals, airports, railroads and many other modern infrastructures have helped Tibet immensely, but then we ask: Why are Tibetans still protesting and self-immolating? Because physical comfort alone does not necessarily translate to happiness and harmonious society when concern for the delicate Tibetan environment is overshadowed by immense desire to profit from mining in Tibet, or when Mandarin is the medium of instruction in Tibetan schools and most of the employment opportunities are given to those who are Han Chinese and can speak fluent Mandarin, leaving many young Tibetans unemployed.

We are Americans as much as we are Tibetans. We love this country as much as we love Tibet, a land we’ve never been to, but will never forget. We want more than just words and rhetoric from President Barack Obama, the Senate and the House of Representatives of their strong support for human rights throughout the world because too often the human rights issue is brushed aside for economic gain. We do understand that economic interest is important, but we believe that human rights are equally if not more important. We want action and we want serious effort towards resolving the human rights issues, not only in Tibet, but also in other parts of the world where many face the same common foe – inequality and injustice – regrettably still in the 21st century.

Tenzin Dechen ([email protected]) is the co-chair of the Tibetan Student Association of Madison.