Tassos Coulaloglou

Tassos Coulaloglou (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Tassos was born and raised in New Jersey. He attended the University of Wisconsin (UW) and graduated with his BS in Political Science in 2001. Tassos spent one year studying abroad at Utrecht University in Holland while in his final year at UW, After graduation, Tassos moved to Lithuania to become a freelance journalist and teach high-school history and English as a second language. In 2004, he returned to the States to work as a team leader with the League of Conservation's Envirovictory political campaign in Milwaukee. He returned to Eastern Europe the following year and resumed writing before starting graduate school. At the time of his fellowship, Tassos was studying for a Master's degree in International Relations and Diplomacy offered jointly by Leiden University and the Clingendael in Holland. After his fellowship, Tassos wrote: “...now in class, I try to break the Euro/America-centric positions that seem to dominate and ask what the Nepali view would be…this fellowship pushed me to understand a people, to think in their terms."

Me and my Dai

21 Jun

After only the first day he called me his bhai. This means younger brother in Nepali. When I cut my finger the other day, he was quick to see if I was ok.

“What hurts bhai, hurts dai (older bro),” he said with a smile.

If you hadn’t guessed already, Yogendra, the COCAP focal point coordinator in Baglung and who features prominently in many posts, is my dai. He’s quite an interesting character. He’s only a year older, but married and has three great kids. Regardless of age, that already makes him my dai.

Me and my dai (big brother). During the second People’s Movement last year, Yogendra was injured while protesting for democracy in Nepal. He is one of only 1000 Nepalis to have the distinction of “Wounded in the Revolution”. His reward for such an honor: a 33 percent transportation discount.

On only the second day, when I was asking him about his work, I caught a glimpse of his mettle. We were talking about his previous work with a rural development organization and how he would be harassed during the civil war by both sides, Maoists and government. But he didn’t give specifics, so I prodded.

I expected a story about getting threatened verbally (which happened) or perhaps slapped around. But what I got was a story of his abduction that lasted 11 days.

On route to a remote village near his home, Yogendra and a colleague were stopped by Maoist forces. The soldiers knew who Yogendra was, but they suspected his colleague of being a government spy. Therefore, Yogendra was a collaborator.

They were taken to the village and given shelter with a local family who were ordered to only give them food twice daily (the family snuck them scraps of food during the day because as anyone knows, Nepalis MUST eat at least 4 or 5 times a day).

“Everyday, Sita [his colleague] would cry. We were afraid we’d be killed like so many others who had disappeared,” he said.

“So did you cry?” I asked.

“No, I’m a man. Men can’t cry. We must be strong,” he replied.

What was I going to do? Argue with him?

On the 11th day, a local Maoist came to their hut. Yogendra convinced him to take them to the Maoist commander. After a series of talks they were released on condition that they never return to the village.

That’s an easy condition to agree to. But, of course, Yogendra would be back. He had a job to do.

One week later he met with the district level Maoist leader and after a few weeks received a letter of recommendation. This would allow him to travel safely to the village and complete his work. Two months later he returned, finished his work, and thanked the villagers who helped him.

“But you must understand, while I was safe from the Maoists, if the government forces had found those letters, I would have been shot,” Yogendra explained.

So he kept them in his underwear. Another colleague of his would fold the paper, wrap it in plastic and hide it in his mouth. He obviously didn’t do the talking.

“It was very dangerous to work during the civil war,” he said with a giant smile.

Yes, dai, dangerous indeed.

Posted By Tassos Coulaloglou

Posted Jun 21st, 2007


  • Sinisa

    June 25, 2007


    Hey man,

    I could have given you that MAO shirt I had, so you can camouflage yourself. Just in case, you never know. Hahah

    Just kidding,
    keep up the good work

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