Movement Against Human Rights Violations in Indonesia is Never Alone:
Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Solidarity with Victims’ Communities in Indonesia
We, civil society organizations and communities of victims of human rights abuses, including KontraS, IKOHI (Families of the Disappeared), JSKK (Victims’ Solidarity Network for Justice), and ICTJ are honored to receive the visit and solidarity from Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo from Argentina. These mothers, perceived as an “icon” for human rights struggles, have given great inspiration to human rights struggles around the world, and shows that the demand for truth and justice is a universal language. Gross human rights abuses—occurred frequently in Indonesia in the past—not only damage the endurance of those victims who suffered a direct impact, but also disturb our sense of humanity. Therefore, gross human rights abuses are the enemy of all humanity; hostis humani generis.
The struggle of the Madres (mothers) have inspired many victims’ communities in Indonesia, especially those in JSKK who hold regular peace vigils every Thursday in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta. This Thursday vigil replicates the same method that has been used by the Madres in the Plaza de Mayo in front of the Presidential Palace, the Casa Rosada, in the center of Buenos Aires. This peaceful action is legendary because it has continued for nearly 30 years since 1977, without the women missinge ven one Thursday. These mothers say there are only two things that can stop their action: if they are all killed or if the government reveals the whereabouts of their missing children and punishes the perpetrators for what they did during the Dirty War (1977-1983). They have transformed themselves from regular ”housewives” to become human rights activists who posed a serious threat to the military junta that was very powerful in Argentina at that time. Their struggle was not without cost; a founder of their organization was also ’disappeared’, they frequently encountered repression from security forces, and had to struggle against the patriarchal social system in Argentine.
The solidarity of these Madres for the victims’ movement in Indonesia shows that the struggle of victims of human rights violations in Indonesia–as exemplified by the 106 Thursday vigils by these victims and their families at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta–is not just on their own behalf, but on behalf of the universal humanitarian ideals of truth and justice. It is truly ironic that while more and more nations around the world are courageously taking radical measures to address past crimes against humanity, leaders in Indonesia still suffer from amnesia about the past and fail to uphold justice. Judicial proceedings currently underway in Cambodia seek to hold accountable members of the Khmer Rouge for the killing fields in which millions of people were killed during the 1970s. Recently the former President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment for his involvement in gross human rights violations in that country. Tragically, perpetrators of human rights violations in Indonesia still enjoy special privileges. Without shame they participated in the recent campaign for the National Parliament, competing for leadership of this country.
Nevertheless, and again, the struggle of victims in Indonesia–as also exemplified by the Madres–will not waiver until truth and justice are enforced in the land of Indonesia. We, the victims and those who struggle with them, believe that no matter how strong the wall of impunity is built by perpetrators and those who protect them, a time will come when that wall crumbles through the seeds of simple initiatives by victims.
Jakarta, 16 April 2009
KontraS, IKOHI, JSKK, AFAD, ICTJ, Amnesty Internasional
Profile of Representatives from Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo visiting Indonesia:
Lydia Taty Almeida, affectionately known as Taty, comes from a family with a military background; her father and brother are colonels in the army. Taty has three children. Her eldest, Alejandro, was 20 years old when he was abducted in 1975 when a student studying to become a doctor. He left home to go out one day, on 7 June 1975, and never returned. At first, Taty hesitated to join the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, because of her family’s background and knowing how much the people of Argentina hate the military. However, she finally decided to join because she felt she needed to struggle to discover the fate of her child who was disappeared. In 1985 Taty met some of Alejandor’s friends who remain very grateful to Alejandro, whose whereabouts remain unknown, because he never mentioned their names despite the fact that he was almost certainly tortured. Until now, Taty continues to struggle so that memory, truth, and justice will be enforced in Argentina.
Aurora Morea is one of the founders of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo who eventually found the skeletal remains of her daughter, Susana, in 1999. When Susana was abducted in 1976 she was 27 years old and worked as an architect and was active in politics to oppose tyrannical policies of the military junta. Aurora’s siblings began to stop communicating with her when they learned that Susana had been abducted because they were afraid they too would be abducted. It was when Aurora felt all alone that she joined the movement of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. She was arrested twice by police because of actions she organized and conducted with other Argentinian mothers. Yet these arrests never deterred her from participating in the ritual to circle the Plaza de Mayo as a form of protest for the government’s total lack of concern for the fate of children who have been forcibly disappeared.