Women And The Fight For Peace And Freedom In West Papua

AWID Logo newraised-fist-teuredxt-wpma-logo

Published in Partnership between West Papua Media and AWID

Source: AWID

August 9, 2013

Women and the Fight for Peace and Freedom in West Papua

FRIDAY FILE: After 42 years of Indonesian rule, women in West Papua continue to fight for their freedom and peace.

By Rochelle Jones

West Papua – officially under Indonesian rule since 1963 – is located in the Western half of the island of New Guinea – 250km north of Australia. In 2012, West Papua Media conducted interviews with four West Papuan women who are active in the nonviolent movement for freedom. Here, AWID gives some background, and excerpts from the interviews. 

Act of No Choice

The Australian-based Free West Papua describes how during the 1950s, West Papua was under Dutch Colonial rule, but by 1961 were moving towards independence with their own flag, the ‘Morning Star’, and Papuan government officials. In the early sixties, however, “Conflict erupted over West Papua between The Netherlands and Indonesia, and a United Nations agreement gave control of the colony to Indonesia for six years. This was to be followed by a referendum. These six years of Indonesian control saw well-documented cases of violence and abuse by the military. Then in 1969, Indonesia conducted a sham referendum called the Act of Free Choice. Only 1025 Papuans, representing a population of one million, were picked to vote. Under severe duress, including threats from senior ranking military officials to cut their tongues out, they voted to remain part of Indonesia. Despite a critical report by a UN official who was present, citing serious violations, the UN shamefully sanctioned the vote and West Papua officially became a part of Indonesia. Papuans call this referendum the ‘Act of No Choice’”

With a track record of denying foreign journalists access to West Papua (or arresting and deporting them) – the Indonesian government continues its stronghold over this resource-rich region. A stronghold held together largely by the presence of the Indonesian military¾which are known for their violence enacted with impunity, but also by the silence of the international community. Free West Papua estimates that “since 1962, 100,000 people have been killed or disappeared by the brutal military regime. Thousands have been raped and tortured and entire villages, especially in the highlands, have been destroyed.” In May this year, West Papua Media published one disturbing report of recent killings and rapes, perpetrated by the Indonesian military.

Tragically, reports such as these are part of every-day life for West Papuans, who are of Melanesian descent and culturally different from Indonesians. Resistance to Indonesia’s occupation has existed from the beginning – but the military has repeatedly responded with violence and intimidation. Whilst more information is getting out about West Papua and international concern grows over the human rights situation, this can be marred by politics and economics, with governments hesitant to upset Indonesia.  In recent years a new independence organisation, the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) has held “huge independence rallies… across West Papua and the West Papuan’s voice is united more than ever.”

Women in the struggle

Asked why they joined the nonviolent movement, Fanny Kogoya, Rini Tabuni, Heni Lani and Ice Murib (1), the women interviewed by West Papua Media, each recount experiences of injustice, disrespect and the violence of growing up in a land without freedom. Murib highlights the simplicity of their struggle: “We want to be free. We want you to help us be free. Indonesia doesn’t care about us as people. So the only thing that we want is to be free…to live our own life in our own land.”

Kogoya says: “As a child I often saw people beaten-up by the police, without any reason at all… As a student I started to compare government policies with what was actually happening… On the one hand you had the constitution, which talked about freedom and the Pancasila, which talked about social justice, but in reality there was very little political space for us Papuans. When I was living in Java I could compare the health and education system with what we had in West Papua and it was just so different…There is very little political difference for Papuans before or after [the regime of] Suharto… Papua has yet to experience a real democratic space. These kinds of things make me really emotional. I realized I had to resist. I can’t be silent.”

Tabuni recalls: “my father was one of the victims of 1977. Indonesian soldiers cut open his chest with knives. They took out the contents of his stomach and they removed his heart. My grandfather saw this happening with his own eyes. As the soldiers were cutting open my father’s chest they were saying, “Where is your God now? Who is here to save you?” Tabuni explains how freedom activist Benny Wenda, now living in exile in the UK, inspired her after her family lived in Jayapura with Wenda’s people: “In 2000 Benny started to become more active… [and was granted] refugee status in England. We watched… how he continued to struggle. That inspired those of us who lived inside Papua to continue to struggle… It was in this context that the KNPB entered. My friends and I said let’s stay with this organization, let’s sit down with them and see what we can do together.”

After witnessing countless events as a young girl, like the arrest of her father, Lani recounts her political awakening as a student when she was told about the history of West Papua’s struggle: “Before [this] it was like I was sitting in this small dark room with little rays of light coming through. These rays of light were like my father getting arrested and Benny Wenda getting arrested. When I got my education it was like the door of this room was flung open… I went outside for the first time and saw what was really happening. The day on the beach in Hamadi was the first time I saw the Morning Star flag. I grabbed it and held it. Finally, I realized, I’m not an Indonesian, I’m a Papuan!”

However, there is a struggle within the movement. Kogoya describes it as a “double challenge” that women face: “We struggle against Indonesia but we also struggle against patriarchy in the movement. See we have two enemies: the way women are treated within the movement and the evil and injustice of the state. We are definitely fighting against some of the men within the movement who think we aren’t capable.” To that, however, Lani says “Women are in leadership positions and telling men what to do, so we’re already there… playing positions of leadership in the movement.”

Ongoing nonviolent resistance

Living with such violence and oppression, the women still agree that nonviolent resistance is the way forward, and yet they also admit to thinking about taking up arms. One of the obvious barriers to taking up an armed struggle is the sheer strength of the Indonesian military. Kogoya says “Even though we’re struggling nonviolently the Indonesian state continues to respond violently. They arrest people, beat people, kill people. Often my activist friends say, “What’s the point? If we struggle nonviolently they’re going to beat us, arrest us … if we struggle violently they’ll do the same things. Often people join the armed struggle because… they’ve had these traumatic experiences and… it’s an emotional reaction. Of course in our culture we also have a history of fighting back… of tribal warfare. We are a courageous people. So with these three things – our memories of suffering, our history and culture, and our courage – armed struggle is a real option for us….But Papuans are also a very practical people. We know civil resistance can also work. So my dream is to learn more about civil resistance.”

Tabuni understands why people would want to respond with violence, however, she says: “If I struggle through violence I am going to experience a number of problems. I’m going to lose a lot of my rights. I’m going to lose my best friends. And people are going to… steal my land and kill me… But now I see that there’s an opportunity to resist through nonviolent struggle. People at the grassroots need to know that nonviolent action can be really successful… We can learn from the examples of other countries.”

How can the international community help?

To be an independent nation is the goal for West Papua¾freedom from Indonesian rule and its associated violence. But this is also a struggle for culture and for the environment. Lani says since she joined the struggle “my friends have been arrested, some have died in jail, some have fled to Papua New Guinea. It’s like we are migrants in our own land. So many people from Java, from Sulawesi, from Sumatra have come to our land.” Large scale migration of Indonesians into West Papua has the potential to unthread the very fabric of their culture and existence – and the mining and deforestation of pristine forests threatens to destroy the environment as well.

To achieve freedom these women stress the need for as many people as possible to stand in solidarity. Kogoya says they need the support of environmental groups around the world to join the struggle, adding “We need institutional support. And we want people to campaign about Papua to stop the violence… We really need technical assistance with media. We also need to influence other countries, particularly the U.S.”. Lani’s message is “for all the Papuan people to be involved in the civil resistance struggle. We have to work together.” She adds “Tell your friends in Australia and the U.S., ‘Stop sending military weapons to Indonesia. Stop.’ Because whenever we do things we face the military with those arms, and those arms are sent by your countries. The military are being trained by your countries to kill us.”

Read the full interviews here: “We Want To Be Free”: An Interview With Four Women From The West Papuan Movement For Freedom

For more information:

Visit West Papua’s Independent Human Rights Media: https://westpapuamedia.info/

Read the Enough is Enough report (testimonies of women from West Papua) from the International Center for Transitional Justice.

Read the latest HR report from the International Coalition for Papua



1) “We want to be free”: An interview with four women from the West Papuan Movement for Freedom. Interview by Alex Rayfield and Claudia King from West Papua Media. Photos taken by Javiera Rose.

Article License: Creative Commons – Article License Holder: AWID


“We Want To Be Free”: An Interview With Four Women From The West Papuan Movement For Freedom

AWID Logo newraised-fist-teuredxt-wpma-logo

Source: West Papua Media


In 2012 Alex Rayfield and Claudia King had the privilege of interviewing four extraordinary West Papuan women, all active in the nonviolent movement for freedom in West Papua, a Melanesian nation-in-waiting occupied for more than five decades by the Indonesian military. All four women had known deep pain as a result of the occupation of their homeland and the corrosive fear of being targeted for extermination.

Some wrestled with hate of Indonesians that at times threatened to overwhelm them. All had imagined, even desired, to wage armed struggle against the Indonesian government. But instead of being pacified by terror or succumbing to cravings for revenge these four young women refuse to give into hatred or relinquish their dreams of freedom (merdeka). All are engaged in efforts to realize their hopes for a restored Papua without resort to weapons or violence. How could this be possible? King and Rayfield travelled into Indonesia and West Papua to learn about why they joined the Papuan movement for freedom, what they long for, why they had chosen to struggle nonviolently, some of the challenges they faced and about the experience and role of women in the movement.

Since interviewing the four, one of the women, Fanny Kogoya, the Director of Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Papua (WALHI Papua) and a former central committee member of the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat or KNPB), has had to flee the country. Another KNPB member Rina Kogoya, Secretary of the Port Numbay (Jayapura) branch, has decided to remain in West Papua but has gone into hiding as the Indonesian police systematically try to destroy the organisation through a campaign of summary execution (22 KNPB members were killed in 2012 alone), arrest, torture and trumped-up charges of treason, hatred of the state, bomb making and murder. The other two women are Heni Lani, from the Alliance of Papuan Students (Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua or AMP) and Ice Murib, Chair of the Movement of Papua Women (Gerakan Perempuan Papua).

When and why you got involved in the movement?

Fanny Kogoya, Director, Friends of the Earth, Papua

My name is Fanny Kogoya. I am a Lani woman from the Dani Tribe, Wamena, West Papua. I am now the Director of the Papua office of Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

I first became active in the struggle in 2000. At that time I was 20 years old. I joined in a number of forum discussions with student activists from the Papuan Student Alliance (Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua). It was first semester of university but before I moved to Jogjakarta.

For years the Dani people experienced repression from the Indonesian military. Prior to 1998 – when Suharto was overthrown – the Dani’s homeland was in a military operations area (Daerah Operasi Militer). During reformasi, in 1998 and 1999 there were lots of demonstrations and my friends and I felt like we could do something. But when I was in high school, before 1998, we could not speak openly about freedom for West Papua. It was even difficult to buy or sell Papuan music. If you spoke about freedom during these times you were accused of being a part of the GPK (Gerekan Pengacau Keamanan) “the movement of security disturbers” [a police and military code for the OPM or Papua Freedom Movement]. As a child I often saw people beaten-up by the police, often without any reason at all. When I moved to Jogja I started to remember all of these things that had happened to me as a child and for the first time I was able to talk about that with other people. It was like a lid was lifted off of a boiling pot.

One of the things I we talked about was when the biologists were kidnapped by Kelly Kwalik [a legendary Papuan guerilla leader killed by Detachment 88 in December 2009]. Prabowo, one of the Kopassus [Indonesian Special Forces] commanders tried to release those hostages but what happened was that a whole lot of people were killed up in the highlands. I started reading about the history of West Papua’s integration with Indonesia, the so-called integration and I began to realise just how much wrong, how much injustice the Papuan people had experienced at the hands of others.

As a student I started to compare the policies, the government policies, with what was actually happening on the ground. On the one hand you had the constitution which talked about freedom and the Pancasila which talked about social justice but in reality there was very little political space for us Papuans. When I was living in Java I could compare the health and education system with what we had in West Papua and it was just so different. Things were so much better in Java. What is happening in Papua now is just like the New Order under Suharto and just like the reformasiperiod after Suharto. There is very little political difference for Papuan before or after Suharto. After Suharto we thought there would be more space for us but Papua has yet to experience a real democratic space. These kinds of things make me really emotional. I realized I had to resist. I can’t be silent. I have to resist.

When I was a student studying in Jogja I came to understand that I am a person who possesses land; that my life is very different from other Indonesians. The connection to land, to Papuan culture, to Adat, is quite different from what is in Java. Our relationship to our ancestors is different from those in Java. Papua is not Indonesia. Indonesia is very different from Papua.  Papua is something completely different from Indonesia.

Rini Tabuni, secretary of KNPB, Jayapura-Sentani

The first time I got involved in the struggle was in 2008. I had just finished my university studies. This was already 10 years on from Suharto and in the period of reformasi, so people felt freer to talk about the issue of freedom. The hopes embodied in reformasi gave me spirit [semangat] and encouraged me to get involved in the movement.

My mother would often speak about the things that she experienced in her life. She talked about what happened in Wamena in 1977 when there were massive military operations. My parents were pastors of the Kingmi church in Wamena at that time.

Actually my father was one of the victims of 1977. Indonesian soldiers cut open his chest with knives. They took out the contents of his stomach and they removed his heart. My grandfather saw this happening with his own eyes. As the soldiers were cutting open my father’s chest they were saying, “Where is your God now? Who is here to save you?” My grandmother and my grandfather then fled to the forest where my mother and I were hiding. They told us what had happened. And of course this event really traumatized my mother. Even now when she tells this story she always cries.

So that’s one reason I’m involved in the movement, that’s one reason why I struggle. After this we moved to Jayapura. We lived in Dock 5 with Benny Wenda’s people. In 2000 Benny started to become more active in the movement. Benny and all of my family had to flee. We ran to Papua New Guinea. After a little while, when it was safer, my older brother, who was working in the civil service, brought us back to Jayapura. Of course Benny got refugee status in England. We watched what he did from the outside; how he continued to struggle. That inspired those of us who lived inside Papua to continue to struggle in the movement. It was in this context that KNPB entered. My friends and I said let’s stay with this organization, let’s sit down with them and see what we can do together.

Heni Lani, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua

My name is Heni Lani, I am from the Dani tribe of Wamena.

I was 18 years old when I got involved in the struggle. That was in 2003. But before that, as a girl, you know, I had experiences like Fanny and Rina. When I was in primary school the police came to my house and arrested my father. Even as a little girl, I could see the way the police treated my father was not respectful. It really made us angry. At that time my father was a principal of a primary school. Back then I had no idea that in addition to being a principal my father was also organising indigenous people in Wamena. So in the beginning I had no idea why my father had been arrested. And I guess that is what really made me angry. Two days after the police arrested my father he came home. For a week my father just stayed in the room with my mother. As children we had no idea what had happened.

I stayed with my family in Wamena until Middle-High School when I went to a Catholic boarding school. Every Saturday we’d have a chance to go home and be with our family. One Saturday night when I was at home, two police officers came around to my house. They were in plain clothes but they were carrying weapons. They arrested my father again. I still remember it. We were sitting down having dinner and the police came into my house. They grabbed my dad and they dragged him outside.

The next thing that really influenced me occurred when I was in Senior high school. Actually Rina and I were at the same school. One afternoon, around the time Benny Wenda was arrested,  I was hungry so I went outside the boarding school to buy some cake. I was still wearing my school uniform. I bought some cake from a street seller and I put it in a big plastic bag. This man was standing next to me and he said, “ hi younger sister, good day. What’s your name.” I told him “my name is Heni.” He asked me where I was from but because I didn’t know him I said, “Father would you like some cake?” He took some cake then I crossed the road.

I crossed the road and I noticed there were lots of police. Suddenly the police ran across the road and grabbed the guy I had just given cake to. The police dragged him by his hair and beard. It was only then I realized it was actually Benny Wenda. Benny Wenda shouted out in Lani, “quick, help me, grab this bag”. There were no other people from Wamena there so they did not understand what he was saying but I understood. Then he said it again: “help me, grab this bag”. But I didn’t do anything. I just stood there watching him cry out.

The next day in the Cendrawasi Post [the main daily newspaper in Jayapura, the capital of West Papua) there was a big photo of Benny Wenda on the front cover. The newspaper sellers were calling out “C-post, C-post, Benny Wenda arrested, Benny Wenda arrested.” I bought a paper and started reading it.  In the article it said in his bag were a whole lot of sensitive documents; the morning star flag, his passport, all sorts of things. After reading the C-post I realized, wow it really was Benny Wenda that I met yesterday. Before that I only knew his name. I had never met him before. I can’t tell you how guilty I felt, like I had done some really wrong. I didn’t go to school that day. For the next three days I was carrying this burden. I kept on thinking to myself, why didn’t I do anything? Perhaps if I knew it was Benny Wenda I would have gone and helped him, grabbed his bag to keep it from the police. That was the third experience that influenced my political development as an activist.

After school I started studying at University but I continued to stay at the Catholic dormitory. I would often witness demonstrations on the main road in Abepura. At our campus there was a small discussion group led by Jeffrey Pigawak. I started to attend and began to ask questions; why did the police do this and why did the police do that? I wanted to try and understand the things that I had witnessed as I was growing up. Bit by bit I became more active in the discussion group. That was between 2002 and 2003. In 2003 I made a decision that I would become more active. The first group I got involved in was the street parliament (Parlamen Jalanan), which was set-up by Filip Karma and Yusak Pakage.

On the April 5 2004 I got my political education from Filip Karma. I remember it was at the beach in Hamadi. Filep Karma told me all the things that happened in our history, the whole history of our struggle. He told me everything going right back to the time of the Dutch, about Angganeta Manufandu in Biak during the 30s and 40s, the role of Mama Yosepa in the highlands, all these things. Before I received my political education from Filip Karma it was like I was sitting in this small dark room with little rays of light coming through. These rays of light were like my father getting arrested and Benny Wenda getting arrested. When I got my education it was like the door of this room was flung open. It was as if I went outside for the first time and saw what was really happening. The day on the beach in Hamadi was the first time I saw the Morning Star flag. I grabbed it and held it. Finally, I realized, I’m not an Indonesian, I’m a Papuan!

All these events culminating with the political education I received from Karma and Pakage strengthened my commitment to this struggle. Since then my friends have been arrested, some have died in jail, some have fled to Papua New Guinea. It’s like we are migrants in our own land. So many people from Java, from Sulawesi, from Sumatra have come to our land. We don’t have space to do anything. I finally discovered that the reason my father was arrested was because they wanted to take his land to build a stadium. My father was defending his land but they took his land to build a stadium. My father had said if you want to take my land to build a school, well then okay, we can talk about it but they didn’t care. When I became involved in the movement my father told me all these things. So I have no reason to sit down and be quiet.

Ice Murib, Chair of the Papuan Women’s Movement

I first got involved in the movement in 2008 but something happened to me in 2006. I was in Jayapura in class three of senior high school at the time. The date was March 16 2006. There was a big action in Abepura. Lots of students were involved including Heni. My friends and I were in Kotaraja. We tried to get a taxi home but the road was blocked everywhere so we had to walk. It was quite a distance, maybe 20 kilometers. When we passed the road between the University of Cendrawasih and the Trikora football field,  I saw students burning tires, they were blockading the road, and I saw Heni speaking. Suddenly I heard shooting. Students were running everywhere. I joined them. We ran and ran. I still had my school clothes and I was running for my life. The police were arresting people. There were soldiers everywhere but I kept running. I ran all the way home. The following day I didn’t go to school. I heard they were looking for students. Their pictures were everywhere including Heni’s. Her face was posted on the wall, along with other people who were wanted by the police.

At that time I felt sick in my heart. I thought, this isn’t right, this isn’t just. That is why I joined the Alliance of Papuan Students from the Central Highlands. But you know, the events of March 16 2006 were not the only thing I have seen. I have also experienced some of the things that my friends Fanny, Rina, and Heni have experienced. My parents and grandparents were involved in the events of 1977 in Wamena. The repression then was so heavy…

At that time in Tiom my grandfather would see the military come and take pieces of iron. They would heat them up in water and use them torture people. The soldiers would stab people with these hot pieces of iron until they died. The police would go through and sweep the village, searching for people. Helicopters hovered above while the police and army went house to house searching for people.

One morning everyone hid in the church. The children, the women, and the men, they all tried to hide in the church. And then the Army came. Other people from other villages also came. The army and police asked people to come out of the church. My grandfather came out of the church and ran. He took my father who was still young and hid in the forest.

The army forced everyone to come out of the church. The men were forced to strip down, to take off all of their traditional clothes until they were naked. At that moment one of the soldiers came up to one of my grandfather’s friends and in front of including the children, he slit his throat. Other people were killed that day too. I don’t know how many but I can tell you that my grandfather’s friend’s throat was slit. And then they made everyone eat his head. We can eat pigs, but we can’t eat human beings. That is why my grandfather and father fled to the forest. Everyone was grieving.

In 2000 when I was in second grade middle school Morning Star flags were being raised all over the Baliem Valley. Every morning the members of satgas, a kind of unarmed militia set-up by Papuan Presidium Council, would raise the morning star flag at various posts throughout the valley. The president at the time, Gus Dur gave an order that the Morning Star flags had to come down. On the morning of October 6 2000 I went to school in Wamena city. The police and military were everywhere, travelling from post to post to try and take down the flags. I remember feeling confused. When I got to school it was so quiet, everyone had gone so I went home. As I tried to go home a man from Biak asked me, “Who are you? Where are you from? You’ve got to go home, you can’t be here, you have to go home.” I ran down the main road all the way home. As I ran I saw police and military everywhere. I pass a satgas post where the police and soldiers are trying to force the flag down. I see a woman trying to defend the flag. She had her  arms wrapped around it. I saw them beat her. They just beat her until the blood ran down her face. Along the side of the road people were being beaten and tortured. Of course seeing all of these things I was so scared.

So I just ran. I ran all the way home. But when I got home nobody was there except my two younger sisters. At that time they were about 4 years old and 1 ½ years old. I was asked them, “Where is everyone? Where did everyone go?” My sisters told me that my mother was sick and my father was taking her to the hospital. She didn’t know what she should do, everyone was fleeing to the forest, everyone was running. My sister looked at me and said, “What should we do?” Nobody was there. Nobody was coming to help them. Then one of my grandmothers came she told me, “you can’t stay here, you can’t stay here, you’ve got to go, it’s not safe here.” So I got some powdered milk for the baby, some clothes for them and some food. I also got some shirts and shorts for my sisters. I grabbed a couple of things of my fathers, some documents that were important. Then I wrapped my youngest sister who was 1 ½ years, in a sheet and I wrapped and put her in a noken (string bag).  I took my other sister who was 4 years old, by the hand. By this time it was already night and there was heavy rain. In the beginning I didn’t know where I should go. It was really quiet. We went to the forest, in the direction of a village. It was a fair way to that village and I felt really scared. I felt so little. I am taking my two younger sisters into the forest, it was the middle of the night and I didn’t know where my parents were and what had happened to them. Finally we arrived at the village and stayed in one of the houses there. I cared for, looked after my younger sisters. Early morning the next morning I could hear the planes flying overhead, looking for people. There was nothing we could do. We just had to stay in that room. We couldn’t do anything.

When my father came back to the house from the hospital he looked for us but couldn’t find us. Finally he found us and we stayed there in that village for a week. When my mum came back from the hospital we returned home to our house and the situation started to get a bit better.

Two years later in 2002 something else happened. There was a raid on the military post in Wamena. Some people stole a couple of guns. This happened one Saturday night. I remember we were getting ready to go to church. When the priest began preaching the army suddenly burst in and forced everyone out of the church and into the front yard where they pointed guns at us and told us to sit down. The soldiers kept asked us if we knew what happened. This man raised his hand and said something but it was dark and there was heavy rain.  I heard the noise of footsteps but I didn’t see anything. Then before I knew it a soldier hit him and dragged him off to a patrol vehicle. After that everyone was too scared to say anything. The soldiers continued to ask us what happened but everyone was too scared to say anything. Finally the army left. When the army went people started to tell stories. Some people said that the many who raided the military base was Yustinus Murib and his friends. And of course my father was scared for us to go to school because our clan name is Murib. My father told us, if people ask you what your family name is, don’t tell them it’s Murib. Just go home if they ask. Don’t say anything because it’s really dangerous for you.

These are some of the reasons why I got involved in the AMP-PT. I joined in demonstrations. In 2008 I also joined the demonstrations organized by KNPB. At that time, the highland students were being hunted down. Fanny and I had to flee. We lived in the forest for 5 months with other students, hiding from the police.

Later I stayed with Reverend Sofyan Yoman. This was around the time his book was banned. I was at his house when officers from the national intelligence agency (BIN) and the police came to his house. They wanted to arrest Reverend Sofyan but he said, “This is my land, this is my place. I am the master of my own land. If the president orders you to arrest me, you have to ask, you have to tell the president to come here because I am the president of my own land.” The police and the people from the national intelligence agency left. They didn’t know what to do!

I have witnessed all these things. They are part of the reason why I joined the movement.

Why are you struggling nonviolently? Where does the courage to do that come from?

Fanny Kogoya, Director, Friends of the Earth, Papua

We have to acknowledge that if you are going to struggle nonviolently there will also be victims just the same as if we were to take up arms. It would be a mistake to commit to nonviolent just to avoid suffering. Even though we’re struggling nonviolently the Indonesian state continues to respond violently. They arrest people, beat people, kill people. Often my activist friends say, “What’s the point. If we struggle nonviolently they’re going to beat us, arrest us … if we struggle violently they’ll do the same things”.

Often people join the armed struggle because of their experiences. They’ve had these traumatic experiences and they make a decision to join the armed struggle. Often it’s an emotional reaction. Of course in our culture we also have a history of fighting back, a history of tribal warfare. All Papuans have courage, we are a courageous people. So with these three things – our memories of suffering,  our history and culture and our courage – armed struggle is a real option for us. And there are many people who believe we can only get self-determination through violence.

But Papuans are also a very practical people, we’re not a theoretical people. We know civil resistance can also work. So my dream is to learn more about civil resistance and how it works. I want to go back to the victims of violence, whether they are people who have been involved in the armed struggle or not, and I want to say, “There’s another way, there’s a different way”. Of course it’s difficult to influence those in the jungle who are fighting as a part of the armed struggle but I can influence those in the city and in places where I live to struggle nonviolently.

We have to understand that the Indonesia military receives support from the Americans, from the Australians, from the Dutch. Papuans will never be able to match the weapons the Indonesians have. Unless all of these foreign countries that support the Indonesian state come and take all of their weapons away … but at this stage there is just no way we could ever compete.

So the realistic option that I have is to organize people to struggle nonviolently. If we struggle through civil resistance more people can be involved, old people, young people can be involved. Involving all types of people, the whole Papuan society, can give us a tremendous amount of strength.

Rini Tabuni, secretary of KNPB, Jayapura-Sentani

Actually everyone thinks we Papuans need to take up arms. There are so many reasons why people want to take-up arms and fight back. Some people want to take up arms because they don’t have any trust that the Indonesian government is going to resolve the conflict peacefully but a lot of people want to take up arms because of the experiences that we have, they don’t know any different. But we do. If we take-up arms against Indonesia the response will be so fierce, so sharp, so heavy. But I understand why people feel they have to reply a death for a death, why they want to respond with violence.

If I struggle through violence I am going to experience a number of problems. I’m going to lose a lot of my rights. I’m going to lose my best friends. And people are going to come and steal my rights, steal my land, and kill me. There are other people that are going to come and take over and possess our land. But now I see that there’s an opportunity to resist through nonviolent struggle. People at the grassroots need to know that nonviolent action can be really successful and I can give them evidence of that. We can learn from the examples of other countries. Lots of other countries have gained freedom through nonviolent struggle. People who have faced the same kind of problems as us have found a way through. When people know this they are going to be touched deeply. We can use our culture, our way of life to help our friends understand that actually they can struggle through nonviolent means. I can do this but I can only do all of these things because God is involved, because God’s hand is involved in all of this.

Heni Lani, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua

The first thing that I have to do is acknowledge is that there is a part of me that sometimes wants to take-up arms. But then I imagine what would happen. I think about the numbers of people that will be wiped out.

Like Fanny and Rina said we also need to compare the strength of Indonesia with the strength that we have. The Indonesian army is trained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And their knowledge of military warfare is so far advanced from any knowledge of armed struggle that we have. I can only be brave enough to take up arms when we have the same military strength to face them. But I don’t feel brave to take up arms before then.

I choose to struggle nonviolently. I have experienced these terrible things that have made me strong. But not just I, everyone in Papua have memories of suffering. These experiences are a source of courage for us.

I feel certain that we have to struggle nonviolently. I feel strong when we resist with nonviolent strategies and tactics and our movement isn’t labeled with negative stigmas. People on the outside can see that we’re struggling nonviolently. I don’t feel scared to struggle nonviolently. One of the sources of strength of nonviolent resistance is that it is not only me who is struggling, it’s all of us Papuans working together. We also have amazing leaders, particularly religious leaders who have made us realize that also West Papua is going to be a better place if people struggle nonviolently. More people will be involved. We’re not just talking about forming a new nation we’re also talking about how we can live in the midst of that struggle and you know civil resistance is a better way, it allows us to live better in the midst of struggling for something better. Maybe because I’ve got an understanding and knowledge of civil resistance that I feel brave.

Ice Murib, Chair of the Papuan Women’s Movement

If we could get lots of arms, I think Papuans would struggle violently. But we really don’t have lots of arms. We have some. But it’s nothing compared to what the Indonesia military has.  I know that civil resistance can bring about change but sometimes I have doubts. Maybe we can’t do it through civil resistance because the Indonesian government is a type of tiger. It is a really bad type of tiger that we’re up against. And you know their thinking is, they should just kill us.

What are you struggling for? What do you want?

Fanny Kogoya, Director, Friends of the Earth, Papua 

Speaking personally, we’ve got to get freedom quickly and that has to be through political means. But if I speak from the position of a WALHI Director, we need the support of various groups around the world who love the environment. Papua has the third largest forest. We love the forest and if this forest is destroyed that will have a global impact. People need to realize that what is happening in Papua is not just happening to Papua itself, it is something that is happening to all of us. We need people to work with us. We need institutional support. And we want people to campaign about Papua. We want people to campaign to stop the violence and if we work together we will be successful.

We really need technical assistance with media. We also need to influence other countries, particularly the U.S. America has a big influence so the US should have a really clear and strong policy about Papua. That would be a really good thing. Obviously we want that policy to be in support of freedom. And of course if you look at the history of Papua the US has been really involved. I want to ask all Americans, all U.S citizens, to pressure their government to take responsibility for the fact that Papua is not free.

Rini Tabuni, secretary of KNPB, Jayapura-Sentani 

I want you to know that I want to be free. I want freedom. That’s it. I want to be free.

Heni Lani, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua

The BIG thing that I want, is for all the Papuan people to be involved in the civil resistance struggle. We have to work together. People can help by doing little things, making shirts and stickers and little things like that. We can start from little things like that.

Tell your friends in Australia and the U.S., “Stop sending military weapons to Indonesia. Stop.” Because whenever we do things we face the military with those arms and those arms are sent by your countries and the military and D88 are being trained by your countries to kill us.

Ice Murib, Chair of the Papuan Women’s Movement

We want to be free. We want you to help us be free. Indonesia doesn’t care about us as people. So the only thing that we want is to be free. We want to be free to live our own life in our own land. 

What is the role of women in the movement?

Fanny Kogoya, Director, Friends of the Earth, Papua 

Women have a really big role in the movement. Sometimes women feel like they are the enemy, that the military and the state see women as the enemy. We have a double challenge that we’re facing. We struggle against Indonesia but we also struggle against patriarchy in the movement. Se we have two enemies: the way women are treated within the movement and the evil and injustice of the state. We are definitely fighting against some of the men within the movement who think we aren’t capable.

We need to struggle so that women are the same within the struggle. I never feel that women are better than men in the struggle. I’m just as great as they are, just as great as the men are. We need to get rid of this view that men are somehow better in the struggle. We need to erase that view. If men and women can have this same view then we will just have one enemy, not two.

In terms of being elected as the director of WALHI, there were actually 2 people going for that position, a man and a woman, but I got the position. I feel proud about that. We are also supported by men’s organizations as well. So you know, this is a sign of our strength.

Rini Tabuni, secretary of KNPB, Jayapura-Sentani

I agree with what Fanny said, we are not just struggling for freedom we’re also struggling for equality within the movement. We can’t retreat from these two things.

Heni Lani, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua

And of course, the evidence is before you now. These four women here are all providing leadership. The same is true in AMP and KNPB. Women are in leadership positions and telling men what to do, so yeah, we’re already there, we’re already playing positions of leadership in the movement.


All this is just a fraction of what was happening. We could write down our whole history and send it to you but it would be a book! We carry all of the stories of what happened to us and what came before us in us. If we don’t do something, the next generation after us will experience even worse things.

Fanny: But for me, of all of these terrible things that I’ve experienced, the worst thing was the killing of Mako. Mako was a really good friend of mine. And because of Mako’s death we have to struggle. Mako Tabuni really supported me to take a leadership position in WALHI. I became the director on the 13th and Mako was shot down on the 14th. At 5 o’clock I was elected to the position of director, and then at 7 o’clock Mako shook her hand and said, well done, fantastic. And then 8 o’clock the next morning he was shot down.

There are many other things too, Kelly Kwalik’s killing, the killing of Arnold Ap, Theys Eluay’s killing, all those in the forest who have been killed.

Heni: But Indonesia can’t do anything without the assistance of countries like Australia and the US. So we need to put pressure on them. Stop sending arms to Indonesia.

Interview by Alex Rayfield and Claudia King. Photos taken by Javiera.

Article License: Copyright – Article License Holder: West Papua Media

“Enough Is Enough!” Testimonies of Papuan Women Victims of Violence and Human Rights Violations 1963–2009


March 14, 2012
ICTJ, the Women Commission, and the Women Working Group of Papuan People Assembly

“We women of Papua have been bruised, cornered, besieged from all directions. We are not safe at home, and even less so outside the home. The burden we bear to feed our children is too heavy. The history of the Papuan people is covered in blood, and women are no exception as victims of the violence of blind military actions. We have experienced rape and sexual abuse in detention, in the grasslands, while seeking refuge, no matter where we were when the army and police conducted operations in the name of security.”

In 2009–2010, ICTJ, the Women Commission, and the Women Working Group of Papuan People Assembly provided support to Papuan women in a project to document gender-based violence and human rights violations that occurred between 1963 and 2009. This documentation effort aims to understand different patterns of violence, including abuses committed by security forces and resulting from efforts to seize natural resources in Papua, as well as violence women have experienced in their own households since the army took control of the region in 1963. Of the regions in Indonesia, Papua—on the verge of becoming independent when Soehato gained power—experienced some of the highest rates of atrocities committed under the regime. And recent crackdowns in Papua indicate the government is still adopting a heavy-handed security approach.

The women in Papua worked on this collection of stories of violence and abuse over three months, interviewing 261 people (243 women and 18 men). The report finds that a range of factors within Papua—violence employed by security forces, a culture of discrimination against women, and lack of political will to change policies among others—have meant the victims are still neglected and none of the effects of violence have been addressed. “Change cannot be postponed any longer,” the women conclude.

West Papua Report June 2011

West Papua Report
June 2011

This is the 86th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at edmcw@msn.com. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to etan@etan.org.


The daughter of prominent Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma has written about the failure of justice in West Papua. In spite of democratic progress in much of Indonesia, she notes that “the old regime dies hard in West Papua.” Amnesty International‘s annual report on human rights trends in Indonesia documents continued human rights abuse, notably in West Papua, where AI cites the poor performance of security forces. The failure of the Indonesian government to afford justice in a number of outstanding cases of security force abuse in West Papua is exemplified in a recent case in which a civilian was killed by security forces who deny responsibility. The Indonesian government’s intervention to prevent an elected member of the Papuan Peoples Council from taking her seat is only the latest example of discrimination against Papuan women. The Indonesian military appears to be reassuming a major role in providing security for the Freeport mining complex. HIV/AIDS infections in West Papua continue to rise dramatically with the Freeport mine complex town of Mimika recording the largest increase. Observers continue to comment on the failure of “special autonomy” in West Papua.


Daughter of A Papuan Political Prisoner Calls for Justice in West Papua

Audryne Karma, daughter of Filep Karma,  one of West Papua’s most prominent political prisoners, published a May 23 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Ms .Karma, while praising the democratic advances under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono throughout much of Indonesia, observed that for West Papuans “the old regime dies hard. Indonesia has yet to realize the promise of democracy and human rights for all of its citizens,” she writes. After ten years of failed “special autonomy” policies, Ms. Karma writes that West Papuans were “systematically persecuted” as they sought to call attention to special autonomy’s “broken promises.”

The piece by Ms. Karma, boldly and articulately explains that in West Papua, those members of the security forces who commit torture targeting innocent Papuan civilians receive the lightest of sentences (if prosecuted at all) while Papuans who engage in peaceful protest demanding their human rights are locked up for years.

She persuasively describes the case of her own father, Filep Karma, who is serving a 15 year sentence for his peaceful protest. She describes how a notoriously biased judge sentenced her father to three times the sentence recommended by prosecutors and that his Christian faith was openly mocked in the courtroom. During his imprisonment he has suffered repeatedly at the hands of his jailers, denied urgent medical care and punished for his efforts to mediate a dispute within the prison where he is incarcerated.

Ms. Karma notes that her father is one of at least 130 political prisoners who suffer torture and other abuses within a penal system strongly criticized by UN and other international observers.

In a an affront to justice, Ms. Karma writes that in 2007, Indonesia’s Supreme Court struck down the sedition provisions of the Indonesian Criminal Code under which her father and many other political prisoners were prosecuted. None of the political prisoners convicted under these overturned provisions has been released.

Recalling President Obama’s November 2010 visit to Indonesia and his appeal that “every child born in this country be treated equally, whether they come from Java or Aceh; Bali or Papua,” Ms. Karma hopes that the international community would hold President Yudhoyono to this standard. “The Indonesian government cannot be an exemplar of democracy, human rights and the rule of law while it persecutes those who peacefully insist that it live up to those very aspirations.”

(Note: also see Pacific Scoop’s May 5, 2011, “Jailed Leader Filep Karma And The Fight For Papua’s Future.” a detailed and compelling analysis by renowned scholar Dr. Richard Chauvel of Victoria University in Australia.)

Amnesty International Calls Attention to Continuing Violations of Rights in Indonesia

In its annual report for 2011, released in May, Amnesty International issued a broad condemnation regarding the performance of Indonesian security forces and of the Indonesian judicial system, singling out for particular criticism their role in West Papua and Maluku:

“The security forces tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees, and used excessive force against protesters, sometimes leading to death. No adequate accountability mechanisms were in place to ensure justice or act as an effective deterrent against police abuses. The criminal justice system remained unable to address ongoing impunity for current and past human rights violations. Restrictions on freedom of expression were severe in areas such as Papua and Maluku.”

Security forces “tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees, particularly criminal suspects from poor and marginalized communities, and those suspected of pro-independence activities in Papua and Maluku provinces.”

Two videos which emerged during 2010 revealed “members of the police and military torturing and otherwise ill-treating Papuan men. The first video
showed Yawan Wayeni, a Papuan political activist, just before his death in August 2009.” Amnesty International observed that despite severe abdominal injuries, Wayeni “was denied medical assistance by the police.” The second video “showed Papuans being kicked and otherwise physically abused by members of the Indonesian military, and two Papuan men being tortured during interrogation.” The AI report noted also that “Indonesian officials confirmed the authenticity of both videos.”

The AI writes that “freedom of expression continued to be suppressed.” For example, Ardiansyah Matra, a journalist covering corruption and illegal logging in Papua, was found dead in the province in July. “At least 100 political activists were in prison for peacefully expressing their views in areas seeking independence such as Maluku and Papua.” AI calls attention also the case of Filep Karma (see above).

AI reports that “Impunity for past gross human rights violations in Aceh, Papua, Timor-Leste and elsewhere continued… Most past human rights violations against human rights defenders, including torture, murder and enforced disappearances, remained unsolved and those responsible were not brought to justice.

Failure of Justice in West Papua: A Continuing Saga

The Papuan Customary Council, DAP, expressed its disappointment with the rule of law in West Papua, including the number of cases in Papua that have not been solved, according to a May 14 report in Jubi, translated by Tapol.

DAP’s Forkorus Yaboisembut expressed disappointment that “the shooting of Opinus Tabuni on August 9, 2009 on International Indigenous People’s Day in Wamena has not yet been solved.’

Yaboisembut explained that “incidents like this result in the marginalization of the Papuans. They are being exterminated in their own homeland.’

The same Jubi article reports that Markus Haluk, the secretary-general of the Association of Students of the Central Highlands, complained that “a huge number of cases in Papua have remained unsolved. He mentions the Wasior case (2001), the Biak case (1998) and the Abepura case (2000).

These complaints about fractured justice in West Papua were made as yet another case of a Papuan killed by security forces was surfacing. According to a May 18 Jakarta Post report, a dispute involving members of the Indonesian military (TNI) allegedly led to the death of Papuan Derek Adii, 26, from Manokwari regency.

The article cites a news release by the synod of the Papuan KINGMI church which “said the incident erupted as a passenger ferry was about to leave the Samubase Port in Nabire.”

The synod report claimed that Adii called on soldiers blocking access to the ferry to make way after some children had reportedly fallen and been trampled by other passengers. The offended soldiers, who were part of the Nabire Military Command, then assaulted him. “One of the soldiers, Chief Sergeant Hans Aru, drew his bayonet and stabbed Derek in the eye and he died. His body was later thrown overboard,” according to the synod.

When asked for confirmation, the Jakarta Post wrote that Nabire Military commander Lt. Col. Tatang Suyatna denied the reports. “It’s slander,” Tatang said, who claimed that the soldiers were securing the ferry while it was docking when the incident took place. He alledged that the victim was fighting with other passengers who had accused him of stealing and the victim turned on the soldiers as they separated the fight and fell to the sea by accident. The commander did allow that the victim “could have been injured when he was falling overboard.”

A conflicting military account alleged that the victim was drunk.

WPAT Comment: The failure of Indonesian authorities to pursue justice in instances when Indonesian security forces kill or maim Papuans is common place as noted by Yaboisembut and Haluk. The May 18 incident offers an illustrative example of security force impunity in matters where death and injury to Papuans transpires.

Indonesian State Interference in Papuan Woman Leader’s Election to the MRP Underscores Discrimination Against Women

A May 23 Bintang Papua report, translated by TAPOL, notes that representatives of number of women’s organizations in Papua demonstrated peacefully to protest Indonesian government blocking of the swearing in of Hana Hikoyabi to her seat in the Papuan Peoples Council, the Majelis Rakyat Papua (MRP).

The women complained that no legal justification for Hikoyabi’s suspension had been given. They demanded transparency regarding the government’s action and insisted that the selection of the chairperson of the new MRP should not take place until there were clarity about the membership of all its 75 members. The demonstrator met with the acting-chair of the MRP, Joram Wambrauw, who said that he lacked the power to take a decision on this matter but promised to pass the women’s concerns to the governor of Papua.

Separately, in a May 10 interview with the Jakarta Post, Papua Human Rights Working Network coordinator Fien Yarangga observed that the barring of Hikoyabi from the MRP was an example of Jakarta’s intimidation targeting Papuans. The Indonesian government “frequently intimidates Papua in the name of the unity and integrity of the Republic of Indonesia, even though such a stance creates a culture of fear among Papuan officials with strategic positions in regional administrations,” she says.

Fien made the remarks at a press conference in connection with the government’s rejection of Hikoyabi as a member of the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) for the 2011-2016 term. Fien added that “a culture of intimidation has curtailed the development of democratization in Papua.” Fien cited the Home Minister’s refusal to accept Hikoyabi as a member of the MRP after she was declared not loyal to the state ideology Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution, even though Hana had met all the requirements for the position. “There was no legal basis for this. It is more political intimidation and character assassination against Hana and even against all the Papuan people who selected Hana,” she said. Fien added that “the way taken by the Home Minister was also aimed at curbing critical Papuan women in defending their own people.

Writing in the May 1 Bintang Papua, Hikoyabi called her rejection “unlawful.”

“This places me in the difficult position of having been responsible for an act of treason – makar – whereas at the time that I nominated myself for member of the MRP from 2011 – 2016, I received an official confirmation from the local police and from the local court of law that I am well-behaved and have never been found guilty of anything or convicted of anything.”

Indonesian Military To Provide Security For Papua’s Freeport Mine

In a May 13 report published by national daily Republika, TNI Commander Suhartono told reporters that security at the massive Freeport copper and gold mine in West Papua would become a collaborative effort involving the military and police. He told the media that “TNI continues to support Polri in providing security at the vital installation, PT Freeport Indonesia.” Suhartono comments came following a meeting between TNI and police personnel in Timika, the major town in West Papua nearest the mining complex.

A separate report by Antara says that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has asked the Indonesian military and police to give security guarantee to businesses and investments in Papua as part of efforts to accelerate economic development. A presidential spokesman said that the President had listened to the views of PT Freeport Indonesia regarding security, suggesting that PT Freeport welcomed and may have sought the joint TNI-police security arrangement.

The expanded military role in securing Freeport comes in the wake of repeated violence. Freeport security personnel Daniel Mansawan and Hari Siregar were killed on the key mountain road to the mine site in early April. That attack followed by only a few days an unsuccessful attack on Freeport personnel and a January 2010 attack on a convoy that injured nine. Local authorities report no progress in apprehending the perpetrators.

The killing of Mansawan in particular has raised concerns among Papuans. Mansawan was one of the few Papuans to reach a senior position on Freeport’s staff. The failure of security forces and Freeport to pursue his killers aggressively has been the source of protest by local Papuans.

WPAT Comment: In the recent past, the Indonesian police had been assigned the role of protecting PT Freeport with the option of seeking TNI assistance as conditions warranted. This new arrangement, which comes on the heels of renewed violence targeting Freeport personnel in the past two months would appear to restore the TNI security role of previous years when the TNI had come under strong criticism over what many saw as extortion of PT Freeport with cash flowing from Freeport to senior TNI personnel.

HIV/AIDS Infections Rise Sharply in Papua with Area Near Freeport Leading The Trend

A May 6 report in Banjir Ambarita says that the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Papua and West Papua has risen more than 30 percent to over 17,000 in just four months as compared to 13,000 in August of 2010.

Kostan Karma, head of the Papua AIDS Prevention Commission (KPA), told the media “that the spike in infections was very worrying, and blamed it on the prevalence of unprotected sex.” He said that if the number of people living with the virus rose to one percent of the population of both provinces — which the 2010 census put at 2.8 million — the KPA would begin imposing mandatory testing for all new mothers in the region. He explained that this would at least help identify infected newborns, who could then get early treatment.

Kostan said that Mimika, adjacent to the PT Freeport copper and gold mining complex had shown the highest increase and overall number of infections.

The Papua AIDS Prevention Commission blamed the proliferation of new districts over the past 10 years as a factor for the spread of the virus.

“What’s happened is that there’s been more money spreading around, which encourages people to break with the traditional way of life and adopt a more modern lifestyle, including sexual promiscuity,” Kostan said. “What we’re trying to do is get churches to spread the message to get people to stop having casual sex, or if they must, to at least use a condom.”

WPAT Comment: Single male workers recruited by Freeport from outside West Papua to work at the mining complex have long fueled prostitution, gambling and alcohol and drug abuse in Mimika. This illicit activity operates under the protection of security forces in the area.

More Observers Comment on The Failure of Special Autonomy

An article in the May 15 issue of Jubi underscores the continuing unhappiness of Papuans with the “special autonomy” law (OTSUS). Olga Helena Hamadi, Director of the Commission for Disappearances and the Victims of Violence (KontraS) told the media that since the enactment of special autonomy, West Papua has been beset with problems. She noted that many buildings have been constructed that are of no benefit to the indigenous population, for example, the construction of commercial premises. ‘These buildings are for other people,’ (i.e., migrants) she said.

“As for the demands for permanent premises for Papuan businessmen, they are still struggling for this to happen. Their future is still very much in the air. The kind of premises they have been calling for have not been built by the government. The premises that have been built do not last long even though they have been calling for this since 2004, she said.”

OTSUS makes provision for a Commission of Truth and Reconciliation to be set up but all that has happened since OTSUS, she says, has been the creation of a National Human Rights Commission which “means that human rights violations, acts of violence and shootings are only dealt with by the Komnas HAM. The result is that many cases have got stuck, some of which got no farther than a court hearing. There has been no follow-up.”

Also, there has been no proper accounting for OTSUS funds. “There is no accountability because no procedures have been put in place,” she added,

All of this point to the failure of OTSUS.

For its part, the May 14 Jakarta Post carried a report by Nethy Dharma Somba that focused on problems with the special autonomy law. The article notes that the chairman of the special autonomy evaluation committee at the Papuan legislative council, Weynand Watori, told a forum in Jayapura that an evaluation on special autonomy implementation was needed to avoid both the failure of special autonomy and to address the continued poverty suffered by most Papuans.

He noted that special autonomy was designed to help improve education, health, economy and infrastructure for indigenous Papuans. In August 2005, Papuans held a rally at which they asserted that special had failed to bring prosperity to the people. Rallies were also held in July 2010 where protesters called on the legislative council to revoke special autonomy.

The forum agreed that an evaluation of the implementation of special autonomy was needed by involving all stakeholders with the council’s special committee as facilitator. Cenderawasih University in Jayapura and the Papua University in Manokwari, should be entrusted to prepare the right evaluation method.

Back issues of West Papua Report


West Papua — Violence against indigenous women

May 20, 2011

An article from Fien Jarangga & Galuh Wandita, Cultural Survival – Spring 2011 forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

INDONESIA: West Papua — Violence against indigenous women

Fien Jarangga coordinates the Papuan Women’s Human Rights Network, a newly formed network of Indigenous human rights workers from Papua, Indonesia.
Galuh Wandita is a senior associate at the International Center for Transitional Justice.

Papuan women have been suffering terrible violence both outside and inside their homes for the past 40 years, and for most of that time, they’ve suffered in silence. But now a group of women has launched their own truth commission to give support to the victims and to pressure the government to change its behavior.

Papua (the western half of the island of New Guinea) has long been in a state of upheaval. When Indonesia declared independence from the Netherlands in 1945 and achieved international recognition in 1949, Papua remained under Dutch rule. Indonesia contested this situation, and in 1962 the territory’s administration was transferred to the United Nations. Part of that agreement called for an “act of free choice”—a territory-wide vote in which citizens could choose independence or becoming part of Indonesia. The vote was supposed to be universal, but in practice an Indonesian general choose 1,025 men to act as representatives of the whole population, and those representatives voted unanimously for the territory to be absorbed by Indonesia. Some Papuans claim that the process was flawed because it did not follow the one-person-one-vote model and was conducted in a context of on-going military operations, and there has been a low-level resistance movement operating in Papua ever since.

The Indonesian military and police forces, ostensibly acting against these rebels, has committed a wide range of human rights abuses, including murder, rape, torture, and kidnapping, often in secret and rarely with any consequences.

That behavior came to particular public attention in October 2010, with the circulation of a YouTube video showing three Indonesian soldiers torturing two Papuan men. The soldiers were tried by a military court, which sentenced them to less than a year in prison for “not following orders” (the Indonesian military code does not recognize torture as a punishable offense).

Indonesian military presence remains strong in Papua, and the number of Indonesian settlers from other islands is quickly outgrowing the number of indigenous Papuans. Papua was granted “special autonomy” status in 2001, with legislation to establish a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission “to clarify the history” of Papua. To date, none of these provisions for justice have been established, while atrocities committed against the Indigenous Peoples continue.

So, more than a year ago, a group of Indigenous Papuan women gathered to talk about the violence that we have experienced. We wanted to look back to the past, because we knew that there needs to be a reckoning, a way to listen to Indigenous women who experienced violence since the time of conflict started more than 40 years ago. We wanted to write down, for the first time, women’ s stories of rape and abuse that took place during military campaigns in Papua. We also wanted to listen to stories of Indigenous women beaten by their husbands, because we know that the violence in our private lives is also connected to the violence that took place during times of political conflict.

In May 2009, 19 Indigenous women and 3 men from 11 organizations across Papua met for 4 days to discuss how we could we begin to collect some of these stories. With support from the National Women’s Commission and assistance from the International Center for Transitional Justice, we developed some forms and came up with a plan to find these women, convince them to tell their story, and write those stories down. Working for more than a year, we were able to collect stories from 261 Indigenous women survivors of violence.

The team worked for more than six months interviewing victims and witnesses, as well as conducting group interviews while making maps and timelines together, to jog each other’s memories. Interviews were analyzed and discussed together by the team, and a report and recommendations were drafted and discussed in workshops held in Jayapura. This participatory approach was used to ensure transfer of knowledge and skills to Indigenous Papuan women involved in this effort.

These are some of the stories we collected:

1967, military operations were conducted in the town of Biak and began to move to the villages. In 1969 went home to Swaipak, Biak staying there during the Sadar operations. The Yospan became a threat to parents, because they had to let their young daughters ; in fact, some parents pressured their daughters to go to the Yospan rather than be targeted with physical violence or threatened… In the middle of the night the people were woken up… the young girls were made to dance Yospan then have sexual relations. The troops said to the parents and husbands, ‘You must understand.’

During a dance party organized by the troops in Jayapura district, around 1989, a fight broke out between some community members. Some soldiers intervened:

The soldiers brought my sister in law and told her to swallow a battery, until she was coughing. They wouldn’t allow us to bring her to the hospital . . . . The next day, they brought me and to their post . . . . They opened our clothes, and told us to stand in water for hours . . . . Then they made us sleep on the beach for about one hour. We were given no food; we were very hungry. Then they forced to rape me. After that they made us walk to the post naked; at the post a picture was taken of us.

But we also heard stories of violence in the home:

Fighting in families in my neighborhood usually happens after our husbands consume alcohol . . .CT (a local brand) . . . . When we wives are beaten to almost half dead by our drunken husbands, the crazed husbands don’t get arrested or taken away. Maybe this is also because other than some people who sell CT, there are also policemen who sell and consume (alcohol). So how will the police take care of security?

And how Indigenous women are susceptible to HIV/AIDS:

I was married when I was 14 years old. When I was in elementary school, in fifth grade, I was forced by my family to enter a traditional marriage with a chief who already had three wives. I tried to resist; I wanted to go to school like my other friends. But the chief kept pressuring my family, so I had no choice . . . . After a year, the chief brought a new wife from the town and told us this is the fifth wife. Since the fifth wife arrived, our family started getting sick . with my husband, who died, then wife number five, then three, then second, and first. They all died in one year… After being examined (at the hospital), I was infected by HIV/AIDS. This is a new illness for us. We were told to take ARV medication regularly.

Finally, on April 19, 2010 we produced a 90-page report called “Enough Already” on violence against women that took place during 1963-2009. We presented this report to the Papuan Indigenous People’s Council, an official body established by the Special Autonomy law for Papua to protect Indigenous People’s rights, and to the National Women’s Commission. The Special Autonomy law was passed in 2001, and it includes the establishment of a truth commission and a court to try human rights violations. But until now, none of these has been established. Many other parts of the Special Autonomy law have also not been implemented.

Main Findings and Recommendations
Our report documents more than 135 cases of state violence against women and 113 cases of violence in the family, using as our guide the definitions in the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. As mentioned above, we purposefully looked at both state and domestic violence to reflect what we have experienced in our lives. Indigenous women experience violence in the context of the political conflict in Papua, where we are displaced during military action, often becoming victims of rape, abuse, and other human rights violations. At the same time, Indigenous women are reporting high rates of domestic violence perpetrated by their husbands or partners, while receiving little protection from police or state agencies. Ironically, the influx of funds as part of the special autonomy package granted to Papua since 2001 seems to have increased the level of alcohol consumption, unprotected sex, and incidents of domestic violence. Similarly, special autonomy has not become a deterrent to human rights violations. Cases of rape by the military have continued to take place after reformation (1998) and special autonomy (2001). In fact, we found cases where women victims of human rights violations later become victims of domestic violence due to the stigma they experience as victims.

The crimes by the military and police that we documented included killings and disappearances (8 cases), attempted killings and shootings (5), illegal detention (18), assault (21), torture (9), sexual torture (6), rape (52), attempted rape (2), sexual slavery (5), sexual exploitation (9), forced contraception or abortion (4), and displacement (24). And those were just among the women who gave testimony.

Looking at the stories we collected, we made some findings regarding the conditions that perpetuate and contribute to violence against Indigenous women in Papua:

1. The central government maintains a security approach that overuses violence, with impunity for perpetrators of human rights violations, including gender-based violations.
2. There is discrimination against women in the Papuan Indigenous culture which leads to a tolerance towards violence against women.
3. The continued conflict (over natural resources, the political situation, and local-to-national-level struggle for power) has created a context that leads to an increase in incidents of violence against women, both in the public and private realms.
4. There is a lack of response and political will from the government to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in general, and specifically to the problem of violence against women.
5. Indigenous Papuan women experience layers of trauma and disempowerment without access to any interventions, causing a cycle of victimization.

We made recommendations to the Indonesian central government, calling for accountability, including acknowledgment of the truth regarding human rights violations; establishment of a truth commission and human rights court for Papua, as required under the Special Autonomy law; and the political commitment to enter into a peaceful dialogue with Papuan stakeholders.

Reform recommendations, including vetting and trials for those who committed crimes, were made to Indonesia’s armed forces. We also made recommendations to the Papuan local government, legislative body, and the Papuan Indigenous People’s Council to take concrete steps to eradicate violence against women, including developing a comprehensive approach to prevent and respond to domestic violence, and a local mechanism based on law for the rehabilitation of victims.

We handed over the report in a simple ceremony at the Papuan Indigenous People’s Council building in Abepura, where council officials, members of our team, commissioners and staff from the Women’s Commission, representatives of victims interviewed for the report, and other civil society members gathered to witness the handing over of the report. The chair of the council’s Working Group on Religion set the tone of the event when he led the opening prayer by articulating the need for acknowledgment. “We pray for those who have been tortured; we pray that God gives us strength and hope that there will be improvement in our lives. We also pray for those who committed this violence, so that they see themselves for what they have done.” The head of the council praised members of the documentation team as representing “the women of Papua who have won this first battle.” He acknowledged that one of the most difficult challenges is changing their own culture “so that cultural violence can be addressed and acknowledged.” He underlined the need for the elimination of violence, “even when our people say that this is normal.” “We now have to start the second battle,” he said.

A musical group and local choir sang songs that brought tears to all of us attending the ceremony, expressing the deep emotions in the struggle against oppression and racism of the Papuan people. Excerpts from some of the lyrics:

Black is my skin, curly is my hair, I am Papua…
Even when the sky falls down, we are Papua

Small Bits of Truth: Follow-up Activities
The work that we did is an example of how Indigenous groups are beginning to use human rights tools to recover and acknowledge the truth about past violations. In a context of impunity, where the debate about the need for a truth commission may or may not lead to the establishment of one, we are trying to make our voices heard. So far, what Indigenous women have experienced has not been acknowledged by the government. So we are at least acknowledging this ourselves.

Since we finished the report, we have formed a network for further work. We plan to work on how to help the women victims’ take positive steps to healing, while also pressuring the government to recognize their stories, and commit to stopping the violence.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: