Tag Archive: derechos humanos


Six months after the collapse of the New Order regime in May 1998, students and civil society groups took to the streets to protest against the Special Session of the People’s Consultative Assembly, calling it unconstitutional and  a way to preserve the status quo. The protests soon turned into what will later be called the “Semanggi Tragedy”, named after the four-leaf clover junction near the epicenter of the event, when authorities began shooting at the protesters.  At the nearby Atmajaya University, several protesters were shot dead, including one of its students Bernadus Realino Norma Irmawan or Wawan.

The death of Wawan and his fellow protesters caused a deep grief to their families, but it has also ignited perhaps the longest-running campaign for justice for victims of human rights abuses in Indonesia.  Since January 18, 2007, families of those killed in the shooting has gathered every Thursday in front of the Presidential Palace to remind people of the severe human rights violations that took place then, and to urge fair trial and punishment for those responsible for these events.

Maria Katarina Sumarsih, 65, remembers the moment that changed her life forever like it was yesterday. On the evening of November 13, 1998, a Friday, Sumarsih, her husband, her sibling, and her in-laws rushed to Rumah Sakit Jakarta, the hospital nearest the site of the shooting, after receiving a call informing her that Wawan had been shot. Upon arriving, they were told to look for him in the basement, where the morgue is usually located. There they found some caskets lined up, and in one of them was Wawan’s body.

In her grief, she wanted desperately to bring her son’s remains home, but Chief Investigator at Jakarta Military Police Wempi Hapan asked that the body be autopsied at the state-owned Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital (RSCM). Though Sumarsih was hesitant at first, she eventually agreed after being told that an autopsy was akin to a small procedure.

With the protests and the shooting still ongoing, the trip to RSCM was rough. “The ambulance driver repeatedly shouted, ‘Get your head down! Get your head down! They’re shooting  at us’,” she recalled.

Later the forensic doctor concluded that Wawan was shot with a sharp bullet that is the standard ammunition of the Indonesia National Armed Forces (TNI). The rest was history.

It took awhile before Sumarsih could overcome her grief. For several days she could not eat. She took three months off from work at the Secretariat of the House of Representatives. Until today, she still hasn’t regained her appetite for rice. But one habit that she continues to do these days is laying out a plate, fork, spoon and glass at the dining table, as if her son Wawan would join them for meal.

Since that day, Sumarsih has been trying to seek justice. In early January 2007, she and other family members of human rights abuse victims in a group called  Solidarity of Victims for Justice Network (JSKK) agreed to hold a “silent protest” every Thursday at 4-5 p.m. This later became known as “Thursday Movement” (Aksi Kamisan or just Kamisan).

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Pictures of Wawan

Kamisan was inspired by a similar movement of Argentinian mothers who used to stage rallies at Plaza De Mayo, the main square at Buenos Aires across the Presidential Palace. The women were demanding investigations into the disappearance of their children and husbands under the military dictatorship regime of Jorge Videla.

In the last nine years the Thursday Movement has provided a place to channel the voice of families of victims of other human rights abuses perpetrated by the State, from forced evictions, persecuted religious minorities, to LGBT community. Every week, the movement is participated by about 70 people, each carrying a black umbrella calling for justice for the different cases.

“Umbrella symbolizes protection,” she said, adding that the Presidential Palace was chosen as a venue because it represents power.

“If we cannot get protection from the country in this world, we’ll get it from God. If we cannot have justice in this world, we’ll have it from God.”

Black represents her undying love for Wawan: “I love him though he had passed away. My love for him is the same as my love for other victims. Our grief has been transformed into courage to uphold the law and human rights.”

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Sumarsih (standing in the middle) in Kamisan

Kamisan has received the attentions of many people, with some providing helps to them. One civil society organization routinely gave transportation fund for families of the victims. Others express their sympathies by donating food and drinks.

There are the occasional critics, however.

“A reporter once asked us why we let the victims of the 1965 events join us,” Sumarsih recalled, citing the year when the violent purge of communist sympathizers by the State that led to the death of hundreds of thousands in Indonesia began.

“I told the reporter that this movement has nothing to do with ideology. It’s purely about humanity.”

Sumarsih’s family is very supportive of the movement. Her husband Arief Priyadi is a scholar at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and before the Kamisan started, he was also involved in the advocacy for the shooting victims, though currently his work schedule prevented him from active involvement.

Since it started, Kamisan has only been accepted by one president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in 2008. In fact, since November last year, the movement has started to feel the squeeze, with police forcing them to disperse. A couple of times the activists were allowed to stay after they negotiated with the police.

She recalled what happened at a recent Kamisan in early January: “Right after we opened our umbrellas, the police began coming at us from right, left, and back. They were instructed to take us, though that didn’t happen.”

She would’ve liked to be taken to the police station, she said. At least there the group would have the police’s ear with the hope that what they demanded would eventually reach the President. The police have a reason to disperse them, she said. Article 9, Law No. 9, 1998 about Freedom of Expression in Public rules that a public protest must be conducted at a minimum of 100 meters distance from the fence of the presidential palace. But this law was never really enforced before.

“Yes, I break the rule that says protests must be at least 100 meters away from the fence, but the government broke the law by killing my son,” she would tell the police.

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Despite the challenges and obstacles, Sumarsih doesn’t let them discourage her.

“Sometimes I feel pessimistic about our fight, because it is exhausting to keep on going. But I place my hope in Jokowi, because he has committed to resolving human rights abuse cases and ending impunity,” she said, referring to President Joko Widodo by his popular moniker.

“In his speech on December 10, 2015, the President said that taking steps of reconciliation as well as taking judicial and non-judicial measures requires courage, breakthrough and improvement for the better. This gives me hopes,” she added.

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Ninth Years of Kamisan

This story has been published in magdalene.co ,  you can see the original version in Indonesian here . All pictures are mine, except the last picture.

 

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Last November, I had chance to cover life of Hazara refugees in Indonesia. I have been interested in refugees related issues for the last two years, since following news about Syrian conflict. Refugees has become the center of global media spotlight. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that the number of Syrian refugees exceed 4 millions for the first time.

In general, refugee crisis isn’t only about Syria. Hazara refugees story are tragic as others. Hazara people have lived hundred years as minority in Afghanistan . To make the matter worse, they experience double discrimination because, for many people, the religion they practice is different from the one most people practice. Most of them are Shiite Muslims in the Sunni Muslims majority nation. Besides, the way the look is also different from the way most people look. The Hazara people have Asiatic look and almost appear to look Chinese or Mongol.

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Some of many Hazara refugees who attend futsal friendly game

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Some other refugees who also attend futsal friendly game

When the pro-communism government came on power in Afghanistan in 1980s, the pressures on Hazaras reduced but the situation changed drastically after the fall of them. Then, the Hazaras were systemically under persecution by different militia groups. When Taliban was ruling on Afghanistan, the Hazaras again faced massacre and forced displacement. After Taliban was overthrown in 2001, it was thought that their situation would also change but in reality, as a movement, Taliban is still exist. And last November, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) linked–militia beheaded seven people from Hazara ethnic in the southern province of Zabul following their kidnapping a month before. Three women and a child were among of the victims.

Many Hazaras have been forced to seek refuge overseas, and some of them ended up in Indonesia as a transit place in their journey to find a safer place to live. They then apply for refugee status to the UN refugee agency, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Unfortunately, they cannot attend school or work legally.

In Cisarua, West Java, a group of teenage girls from Afghanistan have found a surprising escape from the boredom and seeming hopelessness of their lives: futsal. Twelve-year-old Banfsha Mudaber arrived in Indonesia from Herat Province in the western part of Afghanistan with her parents and four siblings in December 2013. The Mudabers flew to Malaysia before continuing to Indonesia by boat together with some 24 other people. Like many of their countrymen, they settled temporarily in Cisarua, Bogor, about 80km away from Jakarta, while awaiting resettlement, which could take years.

Banfsha cannot attend a formal school. Every day from 6 A.M. to noon she studies at the Refugee Learning Center, which was set up with some international support by other refugees. To kill time, Banfsha and her 14-year old sister Nooria often played football with other kids. Inspired by a friendly match of the boys’ football team, some girls from the Refugee Learning Center formed a football team. This was something unthinkable in their own country.

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Banfsha was playing futsal. She refused to show her face, so i respected her decision.

“Our parents did not allow us to play football at home because there were a lot of killing, kidnapping, and shooting. It just wasn’t safe,“ said Banfsha. And then there is also cultural barrier. “Many families think that if girls play football, they are bad girls,” she added.

But eventually the parents allowed their daughters to play. The team later became a futsal team, which is an indoor version of the mini football. Said Banfsha’s sister Nooria, 14: “It was my father who wants us to play football.”

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Nooria also refused to show her face, so i took her picture from behind

On the day I visited them, the two were playing in a friendly match with a team from another refugees learning center. Nooria and Banfsha said they are passionate about futsal. Playing futsal makes them feel healthy and fresh.

The girls’ futsal team is led by Said Sadeq Akbari, 33, who had been a coach for the last 13 years. He used to coach a men’s football team in a sports center in Tehran, Iran. Akbari said he was happy with the progress of the girls’ futsal team.

“I coach the girls to make them healthy and to prepare them if they eventually decide to play futsal or football more seriously,” he said. ”They are good players, but if they have more facilities, they will get even better,” he added.

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Coach Said was standing in the middle

Life may be safer in Indonesia, where they don’t fear being massacred or beheaded by the militias, but it is not any easier, with limited money and a future that remains unclear. Since refugees cannot legally work, they often have to rely on their savings.

“As refugees, we could be here for four to five years, and we don’t have much money. We don’t know where the UNHCR will sent us,” said Banfsha, adding, “but wherever they send us, it will not be a problem.”

She told me her hopes for the future: “I want to become a writer or a journalist like you, because I want to know about refugees. I want to know what their problems are.”

Despite their hardship, they never lose hope and faith.

“Our purpose of coming here is to be safe and to have education. By having education we can improve our life,” said Nooria.

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Refugee Learning Nest girls futsal team

And last week, surprisingly and accidentally, I met 4 Hazara refugees in Central Park Mall, West Jakarta. I seems that I get beter in recognizing faces. Before, I even couldn’t distinguish Hazara and Chinese because they are both Mongoloid. I told them that three months ago, I wrote reportage about Hazara refugees in an online magazine. Then I talk to them for more than 30 minutes.

Miki, who previously lived in Kabul said  : “Of course I know that every country has its own problem. But here, in Indonesia, i get more freedom”. Other refugee, Ahmad, told his risky journey by boat from Malaysia to Medan. Most of them arrived in Indonesia by boat, which was a very risky journey.

Many people still asking why “refugees don’t look poor”. I told you one thing : most people who seek refuge in other countries don’t feel safe. SAFETY is a BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS. Hazara people fleed their home countries because they fear persecution based on their race and religion.

As for me, my encounter with refugees leave me a deep impression. I keep asking why,  in this twentieth century , there is still religious and ethnic persecution. This is make me sad and broken heart. Then I realized that the only winner in war is weapon industry. Civilians suffer the most in war. Making the world a better place to live is not an easy task. As long as most people worship money and power, peace is only an illusion.

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Hazara refugees that I met accidentally at Central Park Mall

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This story has been published in magdalene.co  . You can see the original version here . All pictures are mine.