This video is one of the most disturbing and sickening things that anyone could ever witness. I do not say that lightly.
It shows an incident from from Indonesia this past weekend weekend, in which a mob attacked the home of Ahmadiyya Muslims – a minority sect despised by many extremists. In three minutes of truly abhorrent footage the thugs literally rip apart the Ahmadies’ home, set their car alight and drag them into the street where they beat and stone them to death. They then stand around cheering, taking photos on their phones and stamping on their victims’ bodies.
It is almost impossible to watch but it must be seen…the story must be told…for this is reality facing Ahmadies in Indonesia today.
The saddest thing is that it is all so familiar. In October I wrote almost exactly the same words in an article about another video: of Indonesian soldiers cutting, burning and beating West Papuan tribesmen. Like the West Papuans, Ahmadies live in daily fear of loosing their homes, their possessions and ultimately their lives simply because of their identity and culture. Similarly appalling violence is regularly meted out Indonesia’s Christians –with one of the most horrifying incidents coming six years ago when three girls were beheaded as they walked to school.
What lies behind such barbarity? How can such a naziesque approach to race and religion exist in what is purported to be a modern and democratic state? The answer lies-at least in part- with President Yudhoyono and his government; for though sectarian and racist violence is always formally attributed to mobs, militants and rogue soldiers- it is regularly encouraged, facilitated and inadequately punished by the Indonesian authorities.
For example, the numerous attacks on Christians over recent years have come against the back-drop of state-sponsored harassment including unconstitutional church closures and a ban on home worship. Inconsistent sentencing has also followed inter-communal violence, with those who beheaded the schoolgirls sent to jail but Christians involved in reprisals sent before a firing squad.
October’s torture video was dismissed as a case of troops disobeying orders – ignoring the fact that they were only ever in West Papua as part of an occupation illegal under international law. Jail sentences of eight to ten months for those involved only confirmed the governments’ indifference to crimes where the victims are Papuan.
And this weeks repulsive murders follow a longstanding repression of Ahmadiyya worship combined with an utter failure to deal with media incitement or hate crime. Tellingly, the only police presence visible in the video is a single office who makes a half hearted attempt to dissuade one member of the mob before disappearing as the killing ensues. There is no further sign of the authorities even during the sickening celebrations as the Ahmadies lie dead. Official promises to bring the perpetrators to justice - if previous form is anything to go by – are utterly worthless.
Of course –the ultimate responsibility lies with those physically committing the torture, the attacks and the murders; but it is an inescapable fact that under Yudhoyono a environment has been created in which these are practically possible and often viewed as acceptable. Legislation degrading minority groups to the status of second class citizens inevitably gives ammunition to extremists seeking their destruction, whilst the absence of any serious preventative security or judicial consequences leaves the bigots practically free to act.
It is said that evil triumphs when good men do nothing…but Yudhoyono and his government's crimes are far worse than that. Through actively creating and maintaining a climate of hate they are as guilty as those who stoned the Ahmadies, burned the Papuans and decapitated the Christians. If justice is to be served- it must go all the way to the top.