Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Indonesian Police Arrest Transgender Women

Raids Conducted Under Discriminatory Local Religious Laws

Andreas Harsono

Indonesian police and Sharia (Islamic law) police jointly raided five hair salons owned by transgender women in Aceh province on Saturday. They arrested 12 waria, or trans women, forced them to strip off their shirts, and cut their hair in public. The waria remain detained as of Tuesday morning in Aceh.

Immediately following the raids, North Aceh Police Chief Untung Sangaji addressed a crowd that had gathered. “Our ulama [Muslim scholars] disagree with this disease. [This disease] is spreading,” he said, according to a phone recording posted to YouTube. “It’s inhumane if Untung Sangaji is to tolerate these sissy garbage.” He said he would take action not only against the trans women but also any visitors to their salons, adding that he decided to work with the wilayahtul hisbah (Sharia police) after he received complaints from area Muslim clerics. The Sharia police in Aceh have a well-documented history of targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

Aceh is the only one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces that can legally adopt bylaws derived from Sharia. In 2014, Aceh’s parliament passed the Islamic criminal code, which includes discriminatory offenses that are not crimes elsewhere in Indonesia. Consensual sex between two people of the same sex, for example, is punishable in Aceh by up to 100 lashes.

Aceh’s anti-LGBT policies have generated international opprobrium. Last May’s public flogging of two gay men in Aceh – Indonesia’s first public caning for homosexuality – sparked outrage far beyond Indonesia’s borders. In 2016, United Nations experts expressed concerns to Indonesia’s government about the abusive enforcement of Sharia against Aceh’s LGBT people.

This is just the latest incident in which Indonesian police have openly collaborated with Islamists to unlawfully target LGBT-related spaces and people. These raids have targeted everything from lesbian-owned houses to private gay clubs. Last year, more than 300 LGBT people were apprehended in police raids across Indonesia.

The situation in Aceh is foreboding. Indonesia’s parliament is deliberating a new criminal code, the current draft of which would criminalize consensual sex between two unmarried persons, in effect making all same-sex conduct illegal.

The North Aceh police should immediately and unconditionally release the 12 trans women and Indonesia’s National Police Commission should start an investigation into the incident, including the role of Sangaji.

Monday, January 08, 2018

A Former Political Prisoner’s Fragile Freedom in Indonesia

Filep Karma Arbitrarily Detained at Jakarta Airport

Filep Karma, a former Papuan political prisoner. In 2014, he published his book, Seakan Kitorang Setengah Binatang (“As If We’re Half Animals”), about Indonesian racism against Papuans.  © Andreas Harsono

Andreas Harsono
Indonesia Researcher
Human Rights Watch

Last week an activist famous in Indonesia for peacefully advocating for the independence of the country’s Papua and West Papua provinces, Filep Karma, briefly became a political prisoner. Again.

This time around, Karma, who always wears the Morning Star symbol of West Papua independence on his shirt, was detained by a uniformed Indonesian Armed Forces officer after disembarking at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

What ensued was a 90-minute arbitrary detention in which seven Air Force officers, including one bearing a semi-automatic rifle, interrogated Karma about the symbol on his shirt. The officers insisted Karma remove that symbol from his clothing and asked if he was a member of the armed separatist Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or OPM). According to Karma, throughout the interrogation, the officers verbally abused him, calling him “scoundrel,” “monkey,” and “moron.” They subsequently transferred Karma to the custody of airport police who released him without charge.

Karma, who spent 11 years behind bars after being convicted in 2005 of makar – rebellion or treason – for publicly raising the Morning Star flag, is no stranger to abuse at the hands of Indonesian authorities. In November 2011, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared him a political prisoner and demanded that the Indonesian government release him, “immediately and unconditionally.” The authorities only released him in November 2015.

Karma is just one of many Indonesians targeted under articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesian Criminal Code, which imposes multi-decade prison terms on peaceful protesters advocating independence or other peaceful political change. Many such arrests and prosecutions are of activists who raise banned symbols, such as the Papuan Morning Star or the South Moluccan RMS flags. (Human Rights Watch takes no position on whether Papua should be independent, but we oppose the imprisonment of people who peacefully express support for self-determination.)

Karma’s experience last week was an unwelcome reminder that his freedom remains at risk so long as rights-violating laws are on the books, and that there are Indonesian officials who would rather call him a “monkey” than respect his right to free expression.