Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of ‘The Act of Killing’ poses during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images).
By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator and Max White, Amnesty USA Country Specialist for Indonesia and Timor-Lesté
I had every possible appendage crossed as the Oscar for Best Documentary was announced on Sunday evening. The best documentary, film, makeup (just take a look – you’ll see what I mean) and more was The Act of Killing. The Academy chickened out and went with safe; handing the award to one of its own, lest they risk discomfort.
There are more than 300,000 migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, with about half from Indonesia (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).
I had no time to myself – I worked long hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. with no rest day. My employers didn’t allow me to leave the house without someone accompanying me. When it was bed time, I had to wait for everyone to sleep because I slept in the family bathroom.
This 30-year-old woman from Tulungagung told Amnesty International her story in 2012.
In an extensive new report, filled with heartbreaking testimony about exploitative recruitment, physical and sexual violence, lack of food, excessive hours and restrictions on religious practices, Amnesty International examines the experiences of Indonesian domestic migrant workers trafficked to Hong Kong.
Writer/director/producer Joshua Oppenheimer of ‘An Act of Killing’ poses at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo Credit: Matt Carr/Getty Images)
By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair
“At first, we beat them to death. But there was too much blood. There was so much blood here. So when we cleaned it up, it smelled awful. To avoid the blood, I used this system. Can I show you?”
So speaks Anwar Congo, the enigmatic and terrifying character who comes to be the focus of the new film, The Act of Killing.
Director Joshua Oppenheimer spent over eight years creating what is being called a documentary, but after seeing the film, you may feel that we don’t yet have words for what he’s created.
Indonesian workers shout slogans during a protest in front of Parliament building in Jakarta as lawmakers attend the plenary session to pass the mass organization bill. The workers unions vowed to appeal the controversial restriction to Indonesia’s freedom of assembly laws in the Constitutional Court (Photo Credit: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images).
I worry about Indonesia. I worry that the democratic progress of the past few years is just slip slidin’ away. While Egypt and Turkey’s passionate and public debates on reform reach the front pages of our newspapers, Indonesia appears calm to the world. But, it looks like the government is worried.
Particularly alarming is a new law on Mass Organizations, passed on July 2, 2013. Suddenly, organizations operating in Indonesia are limited to eight purposes including maintaining the value of religion and belief in God; preserving the norms, values, morals, ethics and culture; and establishing, maintaining and strengthening the unity of the nation. Foreign organizations are required to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and must operate under new rules that include not disrupting the “stability and oneness” of Indonesia.
Some of the villagers had previously been harassed by local government officials who told them to convert to Sunni Islam if they wanted to return to their homes. Now, after eight months, the Sampang district administration has agreed to the demands from anti-Shi’a groups to forcibly evict the Shi’a community from their shelter in a sports complex and remove them from Madura Island in East Java.
By Max White, Amnesty International USA Indonesia Country Specialist
Recently, Amnesty International released a comprehensive report, “Time to Face the Past,” documenting the disturbing failure by Indonesian governments, local and central, to establish the truth of what happened to victims of years of violence in the province of Aceh, Indonesia. The conflict left up to 30,000 people dead, many of them civilians; it is nearly eight years since the end of that conflict.
When President Obama came into office, he was encouraged to investigate and prosecute U.S. officials responsible for torture. In January 2009, the New York Times reported, “President-elect Barack Obama signaled in an interview broadcast Sunday that he was unlikely to authorize a broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like domestic eavesdropping or the treatment of terrorism suspects.” He stated that, “…we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”
For many of us, Indonesia may seem to be a country recovered. We may recall the conflicts in Aceh, Papua and Timor-Leste in the late 1990s, or even the violence that ravaged the country in 1965. We may think of it as a country split asunder into more peaceful parts, a region struck by a tsunami that showed its strength to recover, or the former temporary residence of President Barack Obama.
For many of us, Indonesia is a country on the other side of the planet, whose human rights challenges perhaps don’t make us sit up and take notice compared to the acute and current crises we hear flit through our TV news.
Johan Teterissa in his cell at the Waiheru detention centre. (Photo Al Jazeera English)
Johan Teterissa is that forgotten prisoner in a dark cell who needs the Amnesty candle. The Indonesian elementary school teacher was recently transferred to Batu Prison on Nusakambangan Island in Indonesia, which is even further away from family and friends in Maluku.
His family couldn’t see the cuts bleeding from being beaten with electric cables upon his arrival at Batu Prison.
In June 2012 Amnesty International received credible information that he and other prisoners at Madiun Prison did not have adequate access to clean drinking water. The prison authorities were also limiting the amount of water available to Johan and other prisoners for bathing.
What was his crime? Johan is serving a 15-year sentence for peacefully unfurling the banned regional flag, the “Benang Raja,” at the end of a dance performed for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during a ceremony in Ambon, Maluku. The police escorted twenty-two activists, including Johan, off the field. Once out of sight of the president, the police beat the activists, forced them to crawl on their stomachs over hot asphalt, and forced billiard balls into their mouths. Johan has never received adequate medical care for his injuries. Prison authorities turned away an independent doctor who tried to see him in July 2010.
Do you have a flag at your house, your school, your office, or on your car? In the US, many people display US flags, but you also see lots of other kinds of flags—flags from people’s countries of family origin, or rainbow flags for LGBT pride, or even confederate flags recalling the Civil War era. Whether or not you like a particular country’s flag, or agree with what a given flag stands for, you have to admit that people don’t often run into trouble for flying their various flags. They certainly don’t end up in jail. But then again, they don’t live in Indonesia.
On December 1, 2004, Filep Karma was arrested for raising a flag during a peaceful ceremony in Papua, Indonesia. Sentenced to 15 years behind bars for his nonviolent activism, Filep continues to be an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, and he needs our help! Now is the time to take action: flood the streets of DC, educate your community, Write for Rights, stand with Filep now!
Fall is my favorite time of year: the air is cooler, the leaves are pretty, Amnesty International student groups are back together again, and people start signing up for the Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon.
In this—the world’s largest human rights event—we use letters, cards and more to demand the human rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. We show solidarity with those suffering abuses and work to improve people’s lives.