The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
Re: Attacks and Persecution against the Ahmadiyah Religious Community in Indonesia
Dear Minister Rudd,
I write to you regarding attacks and persecution against members of the Ahmadiyah religious community in Indonesia. We urge the Australian government to both publicly and privately raise concerns about this grave situation with the Indonesian government. Specifically, we urge the Australian government to press the Indonesian government to take all necessary measures to stop the violence and discrimination against the Ahmadiyah; end the prevailing climate of impunity for perpetrators of anti-Ahmadiyah violence; and revoke immediately all national, provincial, and city-level decrees that violate the Ahmadiyah's right to freedom of religion.
On February 6, 2011, about 1,500 people surrounded and attacked the small Ahmadiyah community in Cikeusik village, Banten province in western Java. Approximately 30 police officers present at the site made little effort to prevent the assault or protect the 21 Ahmadiyah members. The group killed three Ahmadiyah members and seriously wounded another five. An amateur videographer filmed the brutal attack and the video was later posted by various individuals and organizations on YouTube. Widespread national and international condemnation of the attack ultimately prompted the Indonesian police to investigate the attack and arrest 12 suspects.
The Cikeusik violence was just the worst spike to date in a wave of deadly attacks, abuse, and harassment directed against the Ahmadiyah. For example, on January 28, 2011, members of the Islamic Defenders Front attacked a mosque in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi. In October 2010, mobs burned down a mosque and several houses in an Ahmadiyah community in Cisalada, south of Jakarta. More recently, on March 11, villagers attacked four Ahmadiyah houses in Ciareuteun village, in Bogor. The police took no action against the assailants but arrested and questioned seven Ahmadiyah members and forced them to sign a document to renounce their faith. On March 13, in the nearby Bogor village of Cimanggu, assailants attacked four Ahmadiyah houses, causing the residents to flee.
The increase in anti-Ahmadiyah violence has corresponded with calls by Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali since September 2010 for the government to implement a total ban on the religious practice of the Ahmadiyah community. Minister Ali has called publicly for the government to take the "Pakistan road" in dealing with the Ahmadiyah faith. There, the outlawing of Ahmadiyah religious practices has made the Ahmadiyah the target of attacks, including large numbers of fatal shootings and bombings of Ahmadiyah individuals and mosques, by Islamist militants.
To date, with the notable exception of the arrest of some of the attackers in Cikeusik, the authorities have failed to hold accountable those responsible for the attacks on Ahmadiyah members, their mosques, and their homes. Organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front have repeatedly encouraged violent actions against the Ahmadiyah and even publicly threatened the Indonesian government over the issue, yet the leaders responsible have not been held accountable.
On March 9 the West Java military commander, Major General Moeldoko, openly asked his soldiers in Bandung to support banning the Ahmadiyah and urged Muslims "to invade" and "to occupy" Ahmadiyah mosques with their prayer rugs. Soldiers under his command and police officers went to various Ahmadiyah mosques in West Java and Banten provinces to pressure the Ahmadiyah to convert to what they espoused as "real" Islam.
Since the February 6 attack, an Ahmadiyah monitoring team has already recorded 56 cases of alleged forced conversion perpetrated by Indonesian military officers against Ahmadiyah, mostly in western Java.
These cases, in addition to the Cikeusik and Makassar attacks plus another one in Yogyakarta, reflect both the escalating violence against the Ahmadiyah community since the 2008 decree and the ongoing failure of police to hold perpetrators accountable.
The Ahmadiyah community is already subject to a discriminatory edict that violates their right to religious freedom. A June 2008 decree, the "Joint Ministerial Decree on Warning and Ordering the Jemaah Ahmadiyah Indonesia and Others," requires Ahmadiyah to "stop spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam," including "spreading the belief that there is another prophet with his own teachings after Prophet Muhammad."
At the time this national anti-Ahmadiyah decree was signed, officials said it was necessary to help stop further violence. Yet it has had the opposite result. Since the decree was issued, violence against the Ahmadiyah community has increased dramatically. According to the Setara Institute, a respected nongovernmental organization that monitors religious freedom in Indonesia, violent attacks against the Ahmadiyah rose from three reported incidents in 2006 to 50 in 2010.
Human Rights Watch is further concerned that numerous provinces and regencies in Indonesia have issued their own decrees against the activities of the Ahmadiyah religious community. In the past month, the two most populous provinces in the country-East Java and West Java-have adopted such decrees. On February 28, the East Java government officially banned the activities of the Ahmadiyah in the province, including displaying the sign boards of their mosques and schools and spreading their teaching on "electronic media." On March 3, the West Java government similarly banned the community. Both provincial governments justify the state-sponsored action based on the 2008 decree. According to the Ahmadiyah community, 16 provinces and regencies have issued anti-Ahmadiyah decrees since 2006.
The Indonesian government remains critically concerned about the views of the international community regarding its record in respecting human rights and protecting the rights of minority groups. As a close neighbor with a diverse and deep bilateral relationship with Indonesia, the Australian government can play an especially important role in raising concerns effectively. Specifically, we urge the Australian government to ask President Yudhoyono and his government to do the following:
- Repeal the 2008 decree banning the practice of the Ahmadiyah faith;
- Void all provincial and local anti-Ahmadiyah decrees and act to block similar laws in the future; and
- Combat the climate of impunity for crimes against the Ahmadiyah community, beginning by fully investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of the February 6 attack in Cikeusik.
Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.