In Indonesia, the slogan "Papuan Lives Matter" emerges

Demonstration demanding that political prisoners from Papua be released unconditionally at Balikpapan District Court in East Kalimantan Province, Indonesia, June 17, 2020. REUTERS / Stringer

Text by: Gabrielle Maréchaux Follow

In Indonesia, the media coverage of the "Black Lives Matter" movement quickly generated the new slogan "Papuan Lives Matter" to denounce the racism of which the Papuans in the archipelago are victims, but also the police violence to which they have been subjected l 'last summer. More than ever a topical issue with the conviction for treason of 7 Papuan students and activists who had participated in anti-racist demonstrations.


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From our correspondent in Kuala Lumpur,

It's a new slogan that gives new impetus to an old fight, notes Syaharani, who like many Indonesians does not have family names. “  Many Indonesians have expressed their support for the“ Black Lives Matter ”movement and therefore, we are trying to tell them there has also been discrimination, racism and police violence in our own country for a very long time.  " 

Acquired in the Papuan cause, the national BEM union of this student thus gave its legal support to these 7 Papuan students and militant independence activists arrested for having participated in anti-racist demonstrations which led to an increase in police violence last summer.  

To support their fellow Papuan students, the union has thus tabled an amicus curiae , a legal action which allows the Indonesian legal system to stand in solidarity with the accused without being involved in the events for which they are being tried.

Last summer, the Syaharani union had already supported other Papuan students victims of police violence on the evening of the Indonesian national holiday, she recalls: "  The authorities had besieged a dormitory of Papuan students who were studying on the island of Java. The trigger for this intervention was the supposed destruction of an Indonesian flag by these Papuan students. The police then came with tear gas, destroyed the students' dormitory, intimidated them, there were also racist comments, they said for example that the Papuan students were monkeys or looked like monkeys. And this incident then sparked anti-racist protests in the country and especially in Papua.  " 

The protest movement, which revived the burning issue of the independence of the Indonesian regions of Papua, was then suppressed by the authorities, and the NGO Humans Right Watch counted 33 dead and 8,000 displaced in Papua as a result of these events.

Ten months after these anti-racism actions, the seven Papuans arrested after having demonstrated have received their verdict this Wednesday, June 17, 2020: 10 or 11 months in prison for each of them they will serve on the island of Borneo, far from their native region. All of which suggests that the "Papuan Lives Matter" movement is not about to stop. 

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  • Indonesia
  • Racism

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