(Image: Indonesian Soldiers hold up the body of the local OPM leader they just killed)
Papuans have endured horrific violence since Indonesia first invaded in 1963, and West Papua continues to be a modern example of genocide.
Amnesty International and most other human rights organizations agree that at least 100,000 Papuans (one sixth of the total population) have been killed during the occupation. The true figure is likely to be even higher, with thousands having “disappeared” or starved to death from forced relocation to inhospitable areas. It’s almost impossible to document the exact number of victims, since academics, human-rights defenders and journalists are targets themselves of intimidation, torture and murder.
Popular civic and cultural leaders are also strategically assassinated in order to wipe out the Papuan culture as well as the people. Throughout most of the occupation, simply raising the Papuan flag has been punishable by death.
In June 2004, nineteen U.S. Senators sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan stating: “In Papua, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have long documented human rights violations. A military campaign in the Central Highlands has led to an inestimable number of civilian deaths and significant population displacement. The fate of those hiding in the Papuan forests remains unknown, as military authorities have prohibited provision of humanitarian assistance. Human rights organizations have endured intimidation and threats by government security forces operating with impunity.”
Shielded from the rest of the world, the Indonesian military has been carrying out a systematic plan of attack on the original inhabitants of one of the most culturally rich yet technologically poor places on earth. Spears and arrows have provided little defense against machine guns, helicopters and bombs. Indonesian troops are well-armed and trained in modern warfare by the “developed nations” who for forty years turned a blind eye to the recurring reports of crimes against humanity. This is only starting to change.
Since April 2003, Indonesian troops have carried out raids on highland villages resulting in hundreds of people being displaced and countless rapes, assaults, torture and summary executions en masse. Health clinics, churches, schools, gardens and villages have been burned to the ground as part of state-sanctioned terrorism. This is a strategic operation designed to annihilate the vast majority of Papuans, who refuse to assimilate with their Indonesian captors.
According to the Free West Papua Campaign: “Large parts of West Papua are blockaded and inaccessible to aid organisations, Indonesian human rights observers, the Indonesian press or the churches. West Papua as a whole is barred to foreign journalists and has been so since its annexation in 1969. There have been recent incidents in Ilaga, Manokwari, Wasior and Sorong where members of tribal councils, village elders, schoolteachers, priests and even women and children as young as three have been shot, tortured to death or have disappeared.”
Just like East Timor (illegally occupied by Indonesia from 1974 to 1999) West Papua is a prime example of genocide in our time – orchestrated by the same military regime that is still unaccountable to its own government. Like East Timor, the seemingly endless occupation is hidden by a shroud of darkness imposed by the Indonesians.
The Papuan people face obliteration unless the outside world soon steps in.