16 November 2012

Keerom, – It was early and the streets were not too crowded  when I started my journey from Abepura, Kota Baru District at 6.30 a.m. (Papuan time) to Arso, in Keerom which is a drive of about two hours and a half by two wheeler.

After arriving in Arso, I went on to the village of Kwor and arrived at about 9:16 a.m., and from the village of Kwor I continued the journey towards the bivouacs of the internally displaced people (IDPs) who had run into the forests, out of fear for their lives.

During the six-hour drive through the gardens, rivers and forest, I arrived at the bivouacs of the IDPs: the 38 people were scattered in four different bivouacs; they came from three villages, namely, Sawyatami (11 IDPs), Workwana (9 IDPs) and of PIR III Bagia (18 IDPs).

The group of IDPs who settled in the bivouacs in the middle of the forest, is composed of 20 men and 18 women. Among the IDPs, there are seven (7) children under the age of five (toddlers).  In addition to parents and toddlers, there are 15 students consisting of eight (8) elementary school students, four (4) junior high school students and three (3) high school students. These students have not attended school for the last five months.

In the camps, the IDPs could rely only on food collected from around the bivouacs likesago, sago worms, wood worms and wild boar. “We have stayed out here in the forest for five months, and in order to survive, the only thing we could eat were sago worms and wood worms and the only thing we could drink was water from the creek,” said LK (68yr), a traditional leaders who is also on the run.

The condition of the refugees is very deplorable: there are two pregnant women, namely the two-month pregnant Rosalina Minigir (36 yr), and the four-month pregnant Agustina Bagiasi (35 yr). Another woman, Aleda Kwambre (28 yr) gave birth to a baby girl at the shelter camp. At the present, two babies were found to be in very poor health conditions: Penina Pekikir (3 yr) and Ruth Kimber (1 yr), and if the situation persists they could turn critical.

“I am afraid of Kopassus [the Indonesian special forces]. I saw how they came with their guns, entered into the village of PIR III and started shooting. So I was afraid of going to school,” said CK (17) who ran away and stopped attending school because he did not feel safe anymore, after all the acts intimidation by the security forces.

NY (8yr) expressed the same fear as CK, as she says with a timid voice:”It’s been a long time since I attended school, I was afraid when I saw the soldiers flying over the village with their helicopters.”

MT (38yr) also expressed disappointment with the local government of the Keerom District, as it was unable to ensure safety and security for the indigenous Papuans in Keerom. “I am angry because these high officials, local government officials, regents, scholars, community leaders, traditional leaders and religious leaders,  do not care about us in this forest. I was scared when I saw these police officers, they went into the villages and they just started shooting. I was afraid so I had to run into the forest” she said, sobbing.

The refugees expressed the hope that ELSHAM Papua would return with international human rights institutions to mediate their return to their respective villages. “Christmas is near; we were not able to gather money for the celebrations. These children have not attended school for five months. So we really hope that ELSHAM can help us so we can return to our village,” said FK (50yr), filled with hope.

As reported earlier by ELSHAM, the 38 locals had fled from the three villages because they were afraid of ongoing sweeping operations conducted by the joint Indonesian military and police forces in Keerom, since the shooting of Yohanes Yanuprom, the head of the village of Sawyatami on 1 July 2012.

Up to the date of this report, the IDPs remain in the forest without proper food and adequate medicine.

Elsham News Service


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