Victims of Indonesia Military (TNI) operations in Aceh, Timor Leste and Papua for the first time made public statements on Tuesday, speaking out about violent oppression and their struggle to overcome adversity.
One of the victims, identified only as M, became a victim simply by being a bystander. The 43-year-old Acehnese man was on his way to the market when he saw military trucks parked near an open field full of protesters.
“I inched closer to see what was happening when the protesters started hurling rocks at the soldiers. The soldiers fired shots and as I tried to run away, a soldier hit me in the back of the head and kicked me when I was down on the ground,” he said.
The local media had reported that a soldier was being held hostage by civilians and that the protesters carried guns.
“This was not true. And they claimed that they fired rubber bullets? My brother was shot with real bullets,” he said.
The incident, known as the Simpang KKA shooting incident in Aceh, claimed 39 lives and injured 106 people. Ten people also went missing.
During the incident, also known as the Dewantara atrocity, members of the military reportedly indiscriminately shot at protesters who were rallying against a previous shooting incident.
The incident happened in May 1999, when the province was under martial law, which was lifted in 2005 when a peace deal was signed between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government. “I am not vengeful, but why hasn’t the government settled the issue?” M asked.
Victims of TNI military operations from Timor Leste told a more harrowing story.
One of the victims, A, said he fled into the forest to join the Timor Leste Youth Organization when the Indonesian government invaded the region in 1975.
He and 300 other members were later captured by the military.
“After questioning, I was trampled by soldiers because I could not sing ‘Indonesia Raya’, the national anthem,” he said.
IP, also from Timor Leste, said she was forcibly taken from her family and adopted out to a military family after the 1975 invasion.
“I was abused, verbally and sexually, by my foster parents who later felt that I was a burden,” she said.
She was separated from her family for more than 30 years.
“For years I said the novena prayer so that I could be reunited with my family.” She was unaware that her family had been actively searching for her throughout the years.
“Finally, my family found me. Others haven’t been so lucky,” she said.
An estimated 4,000 Timor Leste children were reported to have been adopted by Indonesian military families, many of whom believed it was a charitable act.
Another victim of the TNI operation was NM, a native of Jayapura.
NM said that in 1982, she was detained by the military for more than a week for being vocal in her community and in her church.