When we hear of a self-immolation taking place, it is difficult to resist the very primitive urge to see visual proof. How did it happen? Was it over in a matter of seconds, or did it take forever?
To those who might think it inappropriate for us to introduce something so difficult to watch in their daily info drone, we’d argue that footage of Tsewang Norbu’s self-immolation, the second incidence in 2011 after Phunstog of Kirti Monastery did so in March, is necessary to ensure the story of Tibet’s political repression doesn’t get lost in the global news cycle.
A Zhengzhou woman in her eighties self-immolated this week to protest the seizure of her property, and without visual evidence, her story is easily passed over.
Difficult videos of an individual dying a politically charged death, like the martyred Neda Agha-Soltan, who rallied reform-minded Iranians after footage of her dying was uploaded on Youtube during the 2009 Iranian election protests, should not be mandatory viewing for every concerned global citizen. But to deny access to such images is unconscionable.
There have been a total of 11 Tibetan self-immolations this year, with the most recent case being a nun who self-immolated two weeks ago.