Gyaltsen Dolkar is a 33-year-old nun from Garu Nunnery. On August 22, 1990 she took part in a peaceful demonstration with 12 other nuns from Garu. She was arrested and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. In October 1993, while at Drapchi prison, she and 13 other nuns, recorded songs about their love for their homeland and for that she was tortured and her 4-year sentence was increased to 12 years.
Gyaltsen Dolkar escaped from Tibet with a group of Tibetans, walking non-stop for 8 days and reached Nepal on October 22, 2004. They entered Nepal through Solukhumbu. The long treacherous journey from Lhasa was physically demanding for Gyaltsen Dolkar. After an injury to her ankle en route, she insisted that the group advance with their journey and leave her behind. For two days she struggled alone until the group doubled back to find a boy who had gone missing in the snow and consequently met with Gyaltsen Dolkar again.
Gyaltsen Dolkar achieved her release from Drapchi prison in March 2002, 5 months before completing her sentence. The many years in prison had weakened her considerably. She was in great need of medical assistance at the time of her release but was denied any help. Chinese officials watched her closely in her hometown and restricted her movements. Because of these conditions, she decided to escape to Lhasa. It was there that she met her former Drapchi prison inmate, Ngawang Sangdrol. Sangrol remembers meeting with Gyaltsen Dolkar. She recalls Dolkar as weakened and remembers she did not even have enough money to pay for her medical treatment.
Namdrol Lhamo, a 39-year old Tibetan nun From Tashi Choeling Nunnery in Shigatse Prefecture and the second to the last member of the 14 “singing nuns” to be released from Drapchi prison, has also escaped into freedom. Phuntsok Nyidron was the final nun from that group to be released and remains under close surveillance in Tibet.
Namdrol Lhamo was arrested on May 12, 1992 along with two other nuns. The Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Namdrol to six years’ imprisonment term. While in Drapchi Prison, Namdrol’s original sentence was extended to 12 years’ imprisonment term when she recorded songs of freedom along with 13 nun-prisoner inmates in 1993. Namdrol Lhamo was released on September 21, 2003 after the completion of her term.
“I am happy that my friends have finally managed to escape Chinese brutality,” Sangdrol said, “but now they must try to find a new home in exile.” The challenges for Gyaltsen Dolkar and Namdrol Lhamo are not over. Hopefully, outside of Tibet and Chinese control, they will have the opportunity to explore the boundaries of freedom.