Vivid images that emerged from Indonesia’s Papua province this week are pretty gruesome: teenage boys in school uniforms lie in a pool of blood, surrounded by shell-shocked residents. They are a grim reminder of the ongoing human-rights abuses in the country’s easternmost corner, wracked by a low-level armed separatist movement and heavy-handed military crackdown for about half-century.
On Monday, five high school students, aged 17 to 18, died in the town of Enarotali after security forces allegedly shot at a crowd of about 800 Papuans — many of whom were pupils — protesting on a soccer field, not far from the military and police offices. At least 17 civilians were wounded, including women and children. A sixth victim died on Tuesday, Papuan media reported.
The ill-fated protest was sparked by a brawl between troops and local residents, including children setting up Christmas decorations, shortly after midnight — it ended with a 12-year-old boy being beaten by rifle butts and stones thrown at the military personnel. The U.N. Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have since called for an independent investigation into the deadly shooting.
The Papua region, which has some of the world’s largest copper and gold mines, is the only remaining area plagued by armed separatist conflicts in Indonesia. (East Timor voted for independence in 1999 and Aceh rebels reached a peace deal with Jakarta in 2005.) While the two Papuan provinces are currently a virtually no-go zone for foreign reporters — two French journalists making a documentary on Papua’s insurgency were arrested last August, jailed for more than two months and later deported.
Surfers for West Papua is a solidarity and awareness-raising campaign aimed at exposing Indonesia’s brutal oppression and on-going occupation of West Papua
Originally founded as ‘Don’t go to Indo’, Surfers for West Papua is a solidarity and awareness-raising campaign aimed at exposing Indonesia’s brutal oppression and on-going occupation of West Papua.
Quick facts about West Papua:
- Indonesia assumed control of the western half of New Guinea in the 1960’s after invading and, later, holding a sham referendum on self-determination.
- Since the 1960s over 100,000 Indigenous West Papuans have been killed at the hands of Indonesian security forces (ref. Amnesty International). The exact figure is likely to be much higher – perhaps over 500,000 – but difficult to verify as foreign media and human rights organisations are banned from the region.
- In addition to the many thousands who have been killed, many others have been tortured, raped, displaced, intimidated and imprisoned.
As a result of a massive transmigration program, implemented by the Indonesian government, Indigenous West Papuans are now a minority in their own land.
- Despite the wealth of natural resources in the region, West Papuans are some of the poorest people in Indonesia. Foreign mining and logging operations channel wealth out of the region, often causing massive environmental damage in the process.