Flying Our Flags for Filep

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!

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Top Ten Reasons to Write for Rights

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.

Those are some pretty amazing reasons to participate, but in case you need more, here are my top ten reasons to Write for Rights: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Rally for Filep Karma in Washington An Apt Metaphor

Today, Amnesty International activists and supporters rallied in front of the Indonesian embassy in Washington DC to raise their voices on behalf of prisoner of conscience Filep Karma, an activist who’s spent the last 7 years in prison for raising a flag.

The rally was held a week after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Indonesia for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Entrepreneurship Summit.  Amnesty International urged Clinton to publicly state that human rights will play as important a role as trade and security in US–ASEAN relations.

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Rally to Free Filep Karma in Washington DC

Filep KarmaFilep Karma has spent the last 6 years in prison for raising a flag. Join us in Washington, DC on May 19th for a rally at the Indonesian embassy demanding his release!

On December 1 2004, Filep Karma committed an act of simple courage. In commemoration of the 1962 declaration of Papuan independence, the prominent rights activist participated in a peaceful ceremony with hundreds of other members of Indonesia’s Papuan population. Exercising his right to freedom of expression, Karma raised the Morning Star Flag – a banned symbol of Papuan independence. The Indonesian police responded to the ceremony with crushing repression, beating and firing shots at the crowd. Karma was arrested and, on May 26, 2005, sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment on charges of treason.

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Activists Rally In DC For Human Rights

By Dana Watters, Amnesty Get On The Bus Volunteer

Even at nine in the morning on a Friday, when most of us would normally be counting down to the weekend, the energy in the Foundry in Washington, DC is phenomenal. In the sunshine outside, groups color flags in support of Filep Karma, while inside roses and key actions are passed around for signatures. Larry Cox hasn’t even arrived yet, and everyone is already buzzing with excitement.

By the time everyone has settled inside for the opening speeches, the count is well over one hundred Amnesty International activists. The various speakers infect the crowd with even more passion and anticipation, reaching a pinnacle when Larry announces that he has decided that joining us for Get on the Bus is more important than going home to meet with the IRS.

The group splits, half heading to demonstrate for the Women of Zimbabwe (WoZA) at the Zimbabwe Embassy and half for Walid Yunis Ahmad at the Iraqi Consulate. We march in long ovals, chanting and holding our signs, the very picture of peaceful protest. At the Iraqi Consulate, faces peer out from the windows and passers by stop to watch.

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Filep Karma Needs Urgent Help

By Carole Marzolf, Indonesia Country Specialist

The global Write for Rights write-a-thon may have ended last week, but Filep Karma still needs your help more than ever.

While thousands of people were writing on behalf of Filep, who’s imprisoned in Indonesia for raising a flag, he was arbitrarily transferred from Abepura prison where he was held to a police lock-out in neighboring Jayapura. His transfer, along with political prisoner Buchtar Tabuni and others, followed a prison riot triggered by the killing of an escaped convict by prison authorities on December 3rd.  Filep Karma and Buchtar Tabuni (along with another prisoner) were interrogated by police officials as witnesses to the riot.  News reports claim that the police have not charged the men with any criminal offenses.

Since their relocation to police headquarters in Jayapura, Filep Karma, Buchtar Tabuni and other prisoners have reportedly suffered degrading treatment, including denial of access to food and drinking water, medicine, family and legal counsel. Karma, whose health has been fragile since major surgery in July, protested these detention conditions with a several-day hunger strike. Amnesty International is concerned that Filep Karma may be denied access to adequate medical attention.  The men should be granted immediate access to legal counsel of their own choosing, and any medical attention they may require.

The Write-a-thon may be over but there is no time for respite.  Join us in taking action for Filep Karma now.

Prisoner of Conscience Filep Karma Begins 7th Year in Prison in Indonesia for Raising a Flag

This post is part of our Write for Rights series.

Former civil servant Filep Karma was among approximately 200 people who took part in a peaceful ceremony in Abepura, Papua Province, Indonesia on 1 December 2004. In commemoration of the declaration of Papaun independence in 1962, the Morning Star Flag was raised. Police then advanced on the crowd, firing warning shots and beating people with batons. Filep Karma was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison for treason.

In a country like the United States, the jailing of a peaceful political activist for raising a flag may sound mind-boggling. Yet, Amnesty International has documented that over 100 activists in Indonesia have been arrested and sentenced for raising forbidden flags and engaging in peaceful political activities.

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Indonesia Must Block Virginity Tests for School Girls

Students wait for a ride on commuter buses in Jakarta. ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images

As reports surfaced last week of a Indonesian high school forcing their female students to take pregnancy tests and other efforts to institute virginity tests for girls, we’re getting concerned about the effect this will have on women’s rights throughout the region.

The head of a vocational high school in Magetan, East Java, has forced his female students to undergo pregnancy tests as part of their eligibility to study. The headmaster plans to carry out this testing annually, as part of the admissions process. The Indonesian government has as yet done nothing to stop him – in fact, in September a legislator in Sumatra tried to introduce compulsory virginity tests for all female students.

We’re worried that these tests are not only extremely intrusive and degrading for girls at a sensitive age in their development, but also plainly discriminatory: the boys in the high school won’t be subjected to any equivalent form of ‘moral’ testing.

Indonesia, where Barack Obama paid his first-ever visit as President last week, has a patchy record on women’s rights, even the most basic ones –  we saw last week how it often fails to provide women with adequate medical facilities at childbirth. Previously, the Indonesian government has enacted legislation that denies Indonesian women who become pregnant outside marriage full access to maternal care and reproductive health. This is on top of the cultural sensitivity in the region which regularly works to ostracize women who become pregnant out of wedlock.

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Female Domestic Workers Must Be Protected in Indonesia

By Carole Marzolf, Indonesia Country Specialist for Amnesty International

This week President Obama paid his first ever visit to Indonesia since he took office in 2008. It took place in a heavy climate as President Yudhoyono is dealing with two simultaneous natural disasters: an earthquake followed by a deadly tsunami and a series of volcano eruptions which have triggered international media attention. Yet, while these catastrophes may provide the media with ‘outstanding’ visuals, a silent human tragedy unfurling the whole archipelago goes unreported.

Every year in Indonesia, an estimated 20,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth. Amnesty International published last week a report on maternal health in Indonesia. This report shows that discriminatory laws, gender stereotyping and criminalization of abortion constitute violations of women’s rights and of the state’s duty to guarantee the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and the threat of criminalization.

But the report also pointed out that some groups such as domestic workers are more vulnerable than others to violations of their sexual and reproductive rights. An estimated 2.6 million people work as domestic workers in Indonesia, the vast majority of whom are women and girls. Girls under 18 years old are believed to make up a third of that figure. Yet, the 2003 Manpower Act fails to provide any form of protection to Indonesian domestic workers who have been left out of the piece of legislation.

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Upon Arrival in Indonesia, Obama Must Address Human Rights Issues

As President Barack Obama prepares to fly to Indonesia November 9th, it is paramount that he concentrates on a few crucial human rights issues. Three main issues should be addressed:

Amnesty International holds raally for imprisoned Indonesian activist Filep Karma

First and foremost, President Obama must demand the immediate release of political prisoners.  Some individuals such as Filep Karma have been imprisoned for peacefully protesting by merely waving the Papuan flag.  He should do this before arriving in Indonesia to demonstrate our commitment to the right to protest peacefully and the freedom of expression.

Just last year in September, Indonesia passed a law that endorses stoning as a punishment for adultery. Not only is adultery punished but so is sexual orientation if it is not heterosexual, which can receive a punishment of 100 lashes from a cane. President Obama must urge the Indonesian authorities to repeal these laws which use cruel and unusual punishments.

Lastly, freedom of religion is severely restricted.  In fact, several laws further restrict freedom of thought and conscience.  “Blasphemy” is punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment and at least 13 people are currently serving time under this law.  Christian groups have been attacked by villagers linked to the Islamic Defenders Front, who enjoy impunity for their crimes.  Obama should demand that the Indonesian authorities guarantee freedom of religion and protect religious minorities.

The United States needs to stand with human rights in Indonesia and advocate for the protection of peaceful protestors, the repeal of inhumane punishments, and the guarantee of freedom of religion.  The best time to do that is when President Obama touches down on Indonesian soil on November 9th.