Tag Archive: Human Rights


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.

 

 

 

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Dear Mehmet,

How are you? Well I’m sure that you are not ok. Living in detention has never been ok because you have no freedom. As an investigative journalist, writing is the greatest happiness for you. I’m sure that your colleague in Taraf newspaper and the readers are missing you so much.

Source : www.724haberal.com

                  Source : http://www.724haberal.com

Dear Mehmet, I don’t know about you. I’m just an ordinary Indonesian girl who likes keeping up with Turkish political news. I knew about your detention by reading turkish online newspaper. I’m so sad with what has happened to you. It reminds me of what happened to an Indonesian journalist several years ago. Do you want to know about it,  Mehmet?

Fuad Muhammad “Udin” Syafruddin was an investigative journalist, just like you. Tragically, he was killed at his house on 16 August 1996. Until now, his mysterious murder has not been resolved.  To know more about the case, Mehmet, you need to understand political situation in Indonesia at that time. In 1996, we were still living under the authoritarian regime of General Soeharto. At that time, General Soeharto oppressed critical journalists and political opponents, just like what happens in your country right now.

Picture of Udin. Source : skalanews.com

                    Picture of Udin. Source : skalanews.com

Udin worked at Bernas Daily Newspaper in Yogyakarta. Before he died, he wrote a series of articles on corruption in Bantul regency.  His murder became a national issue because it was presumed that local government officials was involved. Instead, police didn’t arrest the real murderer but sacrificed a man named Dwi Sumaji a.k.a Iwik. That stupid police charged Iwik with : “murder because of jealousy”. Later, he was acquitted by judges due to lack of evidence.

Dear Mehmet, several weeks ago I read that you have been transferred to unhygienic cells with inhumane condition along with Hidayet Karaca (president of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group) and some police officers. Even they didn’t provide you  with fork and spoon to eat! That’s why on the first paragraph in this letter I said that you’re not ok. Besides, I’ve read that you were detained because of releasing classified documents by publishing it on Taraf newspaper. Well, whatever was it, you just did your job, for the sake of public interest. Nevertheless, I understand that some people don’t like what you did . “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong”, said Voltaire.

Sadly, in your country, journalist imprisonment is becoming a trend. On 1 December 2014, Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) released a report on imprisonment of journalists worldwide. It was said that there were 7 Turkish journalists who were being jailed. And I’m sure that the number will be increasing because more and more journalists have been arrested and detained so far in 2015.

In my country right now, none of journalist are taken to court and imprisoned but sometimes they are always become target of violence by police. Freedom, justice, and democracy are quite expensive here in my beloved country, dear. Uhmmm…what else should I write?? Ah, I remember that you were detained on 2 March 2015. It means that you were detained 5 days before your birthday!!!! Celebrating (or not celebrating it ?) your birthday in detention was tragic. I can’t imagine the pain that you bear! 

Dear Mehmet, I hope you keep going strong although it’s very hard. I hope political situation in your country will be better as soon as possible. Let’s hope and pray that the best is yet to come after the general election on 7 June. Deposuit Potentes de Sede et Extalavat Humiles (He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted those who were humble). Keep fighting, Mehmet, hiçbir zaman yalnız yürümeyeceksin (you’ll never walk alone). As you said when you were handcuffed by the police : “I’m going to bury them [those pressing charges against me] in the trash bin of history. These handcuffs are my pride. Journalism is my pride”. Never lose your pride, dear!

Baransu was handcuffed. Source: zaman.com.tr

                  Baransu was handcuffed. Source: zaman.com.tr

 

On 28 May, Turkish people celebrate the second year anniversary of Gezi Park protest. The protest, which lasted for approximately one month, was initiated by a group of environmentalists in Istanbul opposing the construction of a replica of Ottoman military barracks in Gezi Park.

The problem is that the Gezi Park is one of the few remaining green spaces in Istanbul. Rumors suggested that not only the replicas which would be built there, but also the shopping center. Various sources claimed that the decision to redevelop Gezi Park into a replica of Ottoman military barracks made too quickly, without public consultation, and without open discussion. This protest quickly spread to various cities in Turkey.

As time went by, this protest turned into anti-government protests. Various circle of society, ranging from students to civil society groups expressed their disappointment with Prime Minister’s (Reccep Tayyip Erdogan) political style. Actually, this protest was the culmination of public discontent with the government. After the Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the 2002 General Election, Turkey’s economy and political situation were relatively stable. There were no turbulence until 2011. After a period of tranquility was ended, Erdogan began to show his negative side by applying authoritarian policies.

In 2013, Freedom House, a US based NGO issued a report on democracy index in Turkey.  According to the report, Turkey remained a “partly free country”. One of the reasons was because in 2012, Turkey imprisoned more journalists than any other country in the world. In addition, political opponents were oppressed and sometimes they were subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.

Participation of Football Supporters Clubs In Gezi Park Protest

One of those groups which participated in the protest were football fans in Istanbul, especially the supporters of Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray. Among those supporter groups, Beşiktaş fans were the most in numbers, followed by Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray. The main Galatasaray groups stayed away from the protest after joining in initially because their leaders are close to AKP and Erdogan. Nonetheless, it did not stop other Galatasaray supporters from showing up.

It is unimaginable that thousands of football fans from the rival clubs united by protests against the ruling government. They called their collaborative action as “Istanbul United”. Their action was documented in a movie called “Istanbul United”, which were directed by Olli Waldhauer and Farid Eslam.

A most famous group of Beşiktaş supporters called “Çarşı” was the largest in number and the most influential. Çarşı is a “left wing” supporters group and the most politically active. Gezi Park protest was not unprecedent action for them. During the 2005/2006 football season, they collaborated with Greenpeace to oppose the installation of a nuclear power station in Sinop (a Turkish city near the black sea).

Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray fans. Source : Uludagsozluk.com

Courage shown by Çarşı during Gezi Park protest was not without risk. After the protest many of them were arrested, detained, and brought to trial. They were charged with “plotting a coup”. Furthermore, the indictment was explained that they were “attempting to capture the Prime Ministry’s offices with the aim of creating “Arab Spring-like upheaval”.

Criminal indictment against Çarşı received many criticisms, one of them was from an international human rights NGO, Human Rights Watch (HRW). ” Charging these Beşiktaş football club fans as enemies of the state for joining a public protest is a ludicrous travesty. It reveals a great deal about the enormous pressure being exerted on Turkey’s justice system by the government” , said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch. “.

Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) deputy Atilla Kart described the indictment as a strong indication of fascist rule in Turkey. “The government wishes to put the entire society under pressure. This is fascism. The government calls all acts by civilians, which include prevention of the uprooting of trees and protection of the environment, coup attempt”, he complained.

Support for Çarşı also came from Borussia Dortmund fans. When Dortmund played against Frieburg in Signal Iduna Park stadium on 13 of September 2014, Dortmund supporters unfurled a banner reading : “Do not give up” and “Freedom for the Ultras (Çarşı) and Turkey”.

Until now, the trial against 35 members of Çarşı is still ongoing. Çarşı continued to actively voice the oppressed, for example by joining May Day march. What Beşiktaş,  Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray did in Gezi Park protest is a proof that football can play a unifying role in a fight against tyranny. Perhaps, for many people, justice, democracy, and freedom have died in Turkey. However, the struggle will continue whenever and at any cost.

Çarşı participated in May Day

Çarşı participated in May Day. Source : Hurriyet.com.tr

Bu makale, adalet, demokrasi ve özgürlük için mücadele eden türk halkına ithaf edilmiştir (This article is dedicated to Turkish people who are defending justice, democracy, and freedom)

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*This article was translated from Indonesian. Please read the original version here .