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Two men remove an Indonesian flag as the compound of the Gafatar religious group burns after being set on fire by villagers in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province, January 18, 2016.  © 2016 Reuters

Update May 13: Farah Meifira, the “international spokesperson for the former members of Gafatar,” contacted Human Rights Watch soon after the release of our news release on March 29 to say that Gafatar had disbanded and that it “was not a religious group,” but a community organization focused on socially and environmentally beneficial activities such as blood drives, tree-planting, and providing free medical check-ups to low income Indonesians. Many other Gafatar members had told Human Rights Watch that Gafatar is a religious organization. Human Rights Watch remains concerned that the Indonesian government is persecuting members on the basis that Gafatar is a religious organization and is violating their basic rights to freedom of expression, association, and religion.

(Jakarta) – Indonesian officials and security forces have been complicit in the violent forced eviction of more than 7,000 members of the Gafatar religious community from their homes on Kalimantan island since January 2016, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch research in West and East Kalimantan provinces found that security forces failed to protect members of Gerakan Fajar Nusantara, known as Gafatar, standing by while mobs from the ethnic Malay and Dayak communities looted and destroyed properties owned by the group’s members. Government officials transferred Gafatar members to unofficial detention centers and then to their home towns not as a short-term safety measure but apparently to end their presence on the island and dissolve the religious group.

“Ethnic groups and state officials have acted hand-in-hand in the name of ‘religious harmony’ to deny members of the Gafatar religious community their basic rights to security and religious freedom,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “Government agencies and security forces did little to protect Gafatar members from expulsion, but instead assisted in their forced eviction, locked them up, and scattered them around the country.”

The security forces prevented physical assaults on Gafatar members, but only by forcibly evacuating them from Kalimantan to Java, members told Human Rights Watch. Authorities then arbitrarily detained and interrogated them and threatened them with criminal charges.

The forced eviction and detention followed a wave of intense public animosity against the group fueled by media reports in early January of allegations by relatives of Gafatar members that the community engages in abductions and forced recruitment. The Gafatar have long generated public suspicion due to their belief system, which combines Islam with Christian and Jewish beliefs, leading to accusations that Gafatar members practice “deviant teachings.”

Members of the Gafatar religious group disembark from an Indonesian naval ship after arriving from West Kalimantan province at the port in Jakarta on January 27, 2016.  © 2016 Reuters/Beawiharta
Media reports also claimed, without providing evidence, that Gafatar was a separatist movement bent on creating an independent theocracy in Kalimantan.

On January 14, Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo instructed regional administrations to close down Gafatar offices. On March 24, Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo announced a joint decree signed by Minister of Religious Affairs Lukman Saifuddin and Minister of Home Affairs Tjahjo Kumolo banning Gafatar activities and propagation of the group’s beliefs. Punishments for violations include a maximum five-year prison term, based on the 1965 blasphemy law.

At a news conference on March 24, Attorney General Prasetyo said: “If we let it go on, Gafatar could potentially cause public unrest and trigger various other sensitive issues. So I hope all parties understand that this [is] for the sake of maintaining religious harmony.”

A Gafatar spokeswoman, Farah Meifira, told Human Rights Watch that violent mobs forcibly evicted 2,422 families, a total of 7,916 people, including many children, from West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan provinces between mid-January and mid-February. At the peak of the crackdown, in late January and early February, Indonesian authorities were detaining more than 6,000 Gafatar members forcibly evicted from Kalimantan in at least six unofficial detention centers in the provinces of Jakarta, Yogyakarta, West Central, and East Java. Human Rights Watch has been unable to independently confirm these figures, but in the first two weeks of February visited three detention centers in Java that each held at least 800 Gafatar members. At the time of writing, there are currently at least 302 Gafatar members, including at least 100 children, who remain in detention in Central Java’s Boyalali regency awaiting transfer to their hometowns in North Sumatra.

Gafatar members told Human Rights Watch that officials forbade them from leaving the facilities except for short excursions to purchase food and other necessities. They said government officials also threatened them with “religious reeducation,” “deradicalization counselling,” and prosecutions for blasphemy. In at least one detention center, in Boyolali, Central Java, military personnel subjected about a thousand Gafatar members to mandatory “patriotic education,” all-day sessions about state ideology and civic education.

Since mid-February, the government has released most detained Gafatar members, but it has failed to adopt measures to protect their rights to freedom of religion, movement and association. Members say that the Indonesian government has not offered them the means and security to safely return to their homes in Kalimantan.

Instead, the government has discouraged Gafatar members from returning to Kalimantan, requiring them to return instead to their original home towns following their release from detention centers. Government officials have enforced this forcible relocation by compelling Gafatar members to be released into the custody of either local officials or relatives from their home town.

The Indonesian government should take prompt action to end the persecution of the Gafatar religious community in Indonesia, Human Rights Watch said. The joint decree effectively banning the group should be revoked. The government should help group members return safely to their homes in Kalimantan, and provide effective security to prevent further harassment and violence. It should provide prompt and adequate compensation or other reparation for property lost. The authorities should investigate and appropriately prosecute officials, security force personnel and local residents responsible for the forced eviction and other unlawful acts against members of the Gafatar community.

“The government’s abuse of Gafatar members’ rights is the latest example of official complicity with forces of intolerance in Indonesia,” Kine said. “The Gafatar, like the Shia, Ahmadiyah, and some Christian congregations, have learned the hard way that officials and security forces obligated to protect religious minorities are all-too-ready to deny them their freedoms.”


For further information on the history of the Gafatar movement, international law, and statements from the Gafatar members interviewed, please see below.

Persecution of Gafatar Religious Community

Human Rights Watch interviewed 34 Gafatar members, including six women and a child, in Jakarta, Bekasi and Yogyakarta between February 1 and March 23, 2016. The interviews were conducted outside of three unofficial government detention centers established for Gafatar members in those cities after their expulsion from Kalimantan. Access to the detention centers was strictly controlled, requiring Human Rights Watch to interview Gafatar members who had been given temporary leave. Human Rights Watch also interviewed government and security force officials in Jakarta and Kalimantan as well as a local Islamic cleric and indigenous Dayak tribespeople in West Kalimantan.

Gafatar and Intolerance of Religious Minorities

Gafatar is an Islamic sect officially founded in January 2012 and headquartered in Jakarta with an estimated 55,000 members and branches in all of Indonesia’s 34 provinces, Meifira, the Gafatar spokeswoman, said. Gafatar’s spiritual leader, Ahmad Mushaddeq, is a Muslim mystic and a self-declared messiah whose interpretation of Islamic doctrine resulted in a four-year prison term for blasphemy in 2008. The group’s beliefs have led to accusations that it propagates “deviant teachings” in violation of Indonesia’s 1965 blasphemy law, which protects only six religious faiths – Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Hinduism. The Home Affairs Ministry refused to extend Gafatar’s nongovernmental registration permit for doctrinal reasons in 2015.

The Gafatar community is just the most recent target of worsening intolerance, discrimination and violence against religious minorities in Indonesia over the past decade. Across Indonesia, religious minorities, including Shia Muslims, several Christian groups, and the Ahmadiyah, have been targets of harassment, intimidation, threats and, increasingly, violence. The Setara Institute, which monitors religious freedom in Indonesia, has documented many cases of violent attacks against religious minorities over the last decade, including 214 in 2014 and 197 in 2015.

Groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (locally called FPI) regularly mobilize masses of "protesters” to harass and intimidate minorities’ houses of worship. The leaders of such groups say they are defending the Muslim community against "infidels" and "blasphemers." They frequently disrupt the religious observances of minority communities with loudspeakers, and by dumping animal carcasses and feces on doorsteps of houses of worship.

The semi-official Indonesia Ulama Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia), which advises the government regarding policies on religion, has contributed to discrimination against religious minorities. The Ulama Council ruled in 2005 that the Ahmadiyah community deviated from Quranic teachings, and in February it issued a fatwa against Gafatar for deviating from Islamic teachings. Indonesia’s mainstream Sunni Muslim mass organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, have not spoken out against attacks on religious minorities or publicly opposed the Ulama Council’s fatwas.

State institutions have also directly violated the rights and freedoms of minorities, Human Rights Watch said. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society under the Attorney General’s Office have eroded religious freedom by issuing decrees against religious minorities and pressing for the prosecution of “blasphemers.” All of these institutions were involved in the anti-Gafatar campaign.

Organized Attacks against Gafatar Community Members

Gafatar members told Human Rights Watch that starting on January 15, mobs armed with sticks, clubs, and machetes in the Kalimantan regency of Mempawah threatened Gafatar farming communities with violence if they did not leave the area within three days. Gafatar members said that government officials and police officers visited their communities to pressure them to comply. The authorities’ warnings included explicit references to notorious “mass killing” incidents in the 1990s in the nearby communities of Sambas and Sampit. Those killings were a byproduct of ethnic tensions fueled by the government’s policy of “transmigration” in the 1970s and 1980s – the transfer of large numbers of predominantly poor Javanese families to less-developed ethnic minority areas such as Kalimantan.

On January 18, hundreds of ethnic Malay attacked two Gafatar communities, in Kampung Pasir and Antibar villages in Mempawah. A cell phone video from Antibar shows police officers and military personnel standing by as the mob damaged property and burned down eight communal houses. Then the military and police evacuated about 1,600 Gafatar members by truck to an army base in Pontianak. Their number gradually grew as more displaced Gafatar members were evacuated from other regencies including Kubu Raya, Melawi, Landak, and Bengkayang. Similar protests against other Gafatar communities in other regencies in both West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan followed within days.

Gafatar members all described the passive or active complicity of police and military personnel in those forced evictions. They said that in each incident the police and military stood by while mobs attacked Gafatar homes and property, and intervened only to prevent physical injury to Gafatar members and to evacuate them. Within three weeks, the West and East Kalimantan governments deployed a combined air and sea operation to relocate thousands of Gafatar to unofficial detention centers in Java. Within days of their evacuation, the Ulama Council declared Gafatar a “heretical” organization. On February 4, Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Puan Maharani advocated the prosecution of Gafatar members for “spreading controversial teachings.”

Relevant Legal Standards

The Indonesian government has through its constitution and international treaties made commitments to respect the right to religious freedom. Religious freedom has been part of the Indonesian constitution since independence in 1945. In 2005 Indonesia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides under article 18(2) that “[n]o one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice,” and under article 27 that “persons belonging to ... minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion.”

The UN Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors state compliance with the ICCPR, stated in its General Comment 22 that it “views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they … represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility on the part of a predominant religious community.” In February 2013, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeld, warned that elements of a draft Indonesian law on mass organizations “can violate freedom of religion or belief.” Bielefeld, along with the special rapporteurs on freedom of association and expression, urged the government to revise the bill, enacted in July 2013, “in line with international human rights norms and standards.”

International law also protects everyone from forced eviction. The term “forced eviction” has been defined by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights as “the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.”

Indonesia’s Constitution, in article 28(H) 1, guarantees that “[e]very person shall have the right to live in physical and spiritual prosperity, to have a home and to enjoy a good and healthy environment.” Indonesia’s Law on Housing and Settlement further states that “[e]very citizen has the right to occupy and/or enjoy and/or own a decent house in a healthy, safe, harmonious and orderly environment.”

The Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has concluded that “forced evictions are prima facie incompatible” with the requirements of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In addition, the ICCPR protects individuals from “arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence,” and guarantees everyone the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attack.

Forced evictions may also result in violations of other rights protected by both Indonesian and international law. Evictions infringe upon the rights to freedom of movement and the freedom to choose one’s place of residence. Violence and reckless destruction threaten the right to security of the person. The disruption caused to children’s schooling can constitute a violation of the right to education.

The UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (the “Guiding Principles”) apply to people who have been forced to leave their homes, including during generalized violence or violations of human rights (Introduction). The Guiding Principles protect everyone from displacement from their homes because of practices aimed to alter the religious composition of the population (principle 6). The government should protect those who are displaced from discriminatory arrest and detention as a result of their displacement (principle 12). It should ensure the displaced have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose their own residence (principle 14).

Competent authorities have the primary duty and responsibility to establish conditions that would allow displaced people to “return voluntarily, in safety and with dignity,” to their home, or resettle voluntarily in another part of the country (principle 28). They are also responsible for assisting those who return or are resettled to recover their property and possessions, or obtain appropriate compensation or other form of just reparation (principle 29).

Gafatar Members Describe Intimidation, Violence, Forced Eviction

Forced Eviction from Kalimantan

Gafatar members described how their communities were formed, and how they were evicted and detained.

Dwi Adiyanto, a 31-year-old entrepreneur originally from Yogyakarta, said:

We surveyed three areas in West Kalimantan in June 2015: Pontianak, Bengkayang and Mempawah. Our members in Yogyakarta agreed to move to Mempawah. We bought and rented a total of 16 hectares of land in Kampung Pasir village in Mempawah. We did all the legal and customary requirements, building 10 communal houses. We started to develop our farm in August 2015. In total we had 329 members from Yogyakarta.

On January 14, 2016, at the height of the media hysteria about alleged Gafatar abductions, several government officials, police officers and soldiers came to our farm along with around 50 Muslim Malay thugs. They asked a lot of questions regarding our farm and our faith. A former village head gave an ultimatum, demanding we leave Mempawah in 72 hours. He mentioned the Sambas and Sampit massacres. At 10:30 p.m. the meeting finished, but they asked all of us – a total of 28 men, women and children—to line up in front of them. It was a psychological pressure, especially on our children.

On January 15, we had a meeting at the Mempawah regency office led by Deputy Regent Gusti Ramlana plus the police chief, the military commander, the Indonesian Ulama Council, village heads and the public prosecutor. We were nine: five Gafatar men from Kampung Pasir village, who came from Yogyakarta; and four Gafatar men from Antibar village, who originate from East Java. Gusti Ramlana kept on pressing us “to follow what the public want … going back to Java.” Mempawah police chief Suharjimantoro asked the meeting to wait for West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis’s decision on Gafatar. We learned later that Cornelis wanted Gafatar members to leave Kalimantan.

On January 18, we had another meeting at the Mempawah regency office chaired by Regent Ria Norsan. It was tense, with hundreds of protesters outside the building. In the evening, while we were still refusing to leave Mempawah, a mob burned our white Toyota van, putting pressure on us to agree to be returned to Java.

Seemingly ironically, the police decided to provide security for us and asked us to board a police truck. (But) we were detained and charged with blasphemy at the Pontianak police Mobile Brigade headquarters in Pontianak. We were denied access to lawyers. Our families were also denied permission to visit us. We were detained there for one week.

On January 25, police moved us to the West Kalimantan police headquarters. Again we were interrogated to get additional details on the blasphemy charge against Gafatar. Later that day we were flown to Surabaya and detained in a government shelter for a week, with other Gafatar members, prior to being moved to Yogyakarta where I was detained in another government shelter until I was released on February 2.

Hadi Suparyono (a pseudonym), a 42-year-old entrepreneur from Limau Manis village in West Kalimantan:

I was born in Pulau Maya. My father was also born in Pulau Maya but my mother came from Pontianak. I helped set up the four Gafatar communities in Pulau Maya, respectively migrants arriving from the provinces of Riau Islands, Bangka Belitung, Aceh and Jambi. We had a total of 33 hectares of farmland.

On January 23, 2016, police, soldiers and government officials came to Limau Manis, detaining my wife, our four children and me. They contended that it was to protect us from possible violence.

On January 24, when I was already detained, they came again [to Pulau Maya] with many thugs, telling Gafatar members to leave Pulau Maya in 48 hours. We were moved to and detained in an army compound in Pontianak. They told us that we were about to be returned back to our hometowns in Java. I told them that my hometown is Pulau Maya. I have many relatives living in both Pontianak and Pulau Maya. Could I go home? I need not go to Java.

The military refused to listen to my argument. They brought all of us onto a Navy ship and sent us to Jakarta. It was a military ship and we were like sardines. Many children became sick during the one-night trip to Jakarta. We arrived in Jakarta on February 1 and were detained in the haj dormitory under the Ministry of Religious Affairs shelter in Bekasi, outside Jakarta.

Agustiar, an agricultural instructor originally from Kuningan in West Java:

On January 15, my wife woke me up, saying that there was a protest against Gafatar at the neighboring farm. About 300 people had surrounded the farm and asked Gafatar to leave. Soon police, soldiers and government officials arrived, pressuring us to leave in 48 hours. We disagreed [with that pressure], but understood the danger. We asked [police] to give us more time. How could we leave our farms, tons of rice seeds, tractor and other equipment in only two days?

In the next two days, the situation became tense with hundreds of thugs protesting outside our farm and demanding we leave. [Gafatar] women and children hid near the forest. Only Gafatar men stayed to guard the houses.

On January 19, more than 1,000 thugs with yellow headbands attacked our farm, burning the houses and destroying the rice fields. The police and the military did not use force to stop them. They only prevented the thugs from using violence against us. The military brought us in their trucks to an army compound in Pontianak. We stayed there until January 25, when they brought us by Navy ship to Jakarta.

Andry Cahya, a 48-year-old businessman and the eldest son of the Gafatar spiritual leader Ahmad Mushaddeq: 

We have a total 125 hectares of land in Melawi. It’s collectively owned or rented by 21 Gafatar families including mine. We planted mostly ginger. The plan was to develop a partnership program involving other farmers and targeting exports [of ginger valued at] Euro 3 million to Euro 5 million to the Netherlands.

When the violence broke up, I was in Pontianak. We still had 15 tons of ginger seeds and 4 tons of turmeric in Melawi. They were all destroyed. I personally lost two cows during the violence. I sold 12 other cows at cheaper prices.

The West Kalimantan government deployed three Navy ships, one commercial ship and nine Lion Air commercial planes to forcibly evacuate us from West Kalimantan. I don’t know the non-material losses that we suffer. We want to return to our lands and to work there.

Herman (pseudonym), the 29-year-old Gafatar coordinator in West Kalimantan’s Sukamaju village:

It began on January 11, when I was summoned to a meeting at the village office. We showed all of the legal documents. We were asked to sign a statement, declaring that we have no ill intention. We listed our 345 members in Ketapang [regency], originally coming from Central Java and North Sumatra.

On January 19, the expulsion order was given to us and the deadline was January 24. We could not negotiate. Village officials said the order came from Jakarta and Pontianak. But it was flooding on January 24. The National Search and Rescue Agency used rubber boats to bring hundreds of us to the main road. We were transferred to trucks to go Ketapang. It was a rough ride. A pregnant woman was immediately rushed to a hospital in Ketapang [capital]. We were detained in a former cement warehouse in Ketapang.

On January 26, we were shipped to Semarang, Central Java in an overloaded ship. It had only a capacity of 600 people but more than 1,300 Gafatar members were there. In Semarang, we were detained again until our respective local governments took us from Semarang. We were reeducated on patriotism in Semarang like the Pancasila state ideology. We want to be compensated for our [lost and destroyed] assets  in Ketapang.


Restrictions, Abuses in Gafatar Detention Centers

At the height of the crackdown against the Gafatar community, local government officials, police officers, soldiers, and officials from the Social Affairs and Religious Affairs Ministries were detaining more than 6,000 members forcibly evicted from Kalimantan in at least six unofficial detention centers in the provinces of Jakarta, Yogyakarta, West, Central and East Java West and East Kalimantan. Those detention centers included military barracks and haj dormitories, and places not designed to house large numbers of people, namely a cement factory warehouse, a sports stadium, and a government youth center guarded by officials from Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Religious Affairs, public order officials and police officers.

Susi (a pseudonym)), a 30-year-old homemaker who was five months pregnant when mobs forcibly evicted her family from their home in Lempai Jaya village, Melawi regency, in West Kalimantan, said:

On January 22, my husband received 32 government officials, police officers, and soldiers, who basically asked us to leave our community in 24 hours. They said a Muslim mob might attack us.

I was pregnant. I also took care of my two other children. We had no other option but to leave.  We were evacuated with buses and trucks to the Melawi Regent residence and later to an army compound in Pontianak. There were two other Gafatar farming communities [evicted from] Melawi. In total it was more than 800 members.

No doctor evaluated my pregnancy either in Melawi or Pontianak. We usually ate organic food in our farm, but in the detention centers, we were [only] given instant noodles and canned sardines ... [so] malnutrition was a problem. We lost so much money during the trip to supplement the children’s food.

Adi (a pseudonym) who was staying on a Gafatar farm in Suka Maju village, West Kalimantan at the time of the forced evictions:

I was forcibly evicted on January 26, staying one night in a cement factory in Ketapang and then taking a Navy ship to Semarang, Central Java. The government used 13 buses to transport 302 Gafatar members to the haj dormitory in Boyolali. There are more than 1,600 people in the dormitory.

It was mandatory for us to take a three-day religious course, including on the blasphemy law, in the dormitory. They also assigned a psychiatrist to lecture us, trying to make us believing that we had a mental illness. We were not allowed to go out of the building. It was guarded by police, military as well as officials from some ministries including social affairs, health, [and] religious affairs.

After two weeks, most of the Gafatar members were evacuated back to their respective home provinces but not the 302 of us who came from North Sumatra. We’ve been staying here for almost two months. The North Sumatra government argued they still do not have the money to pick us up.

Edhi Hartomo (a pseudonym), a Gafatar leader in Mempawah, West Kalimantan, who is under investigation in Jakarta for alleged violations of Indonesia’s blasphemy and treason laws:

In Yogyakarta, [I was] detained in the Youth Center building with a total of 248 Gafatar members. My wife called me and said that our child was being treated in [Yogyakarta’s] Muhammadiyah hospital. I had been prevented from meeting with my family members and a lawyer since I was first detained in Pontianak.

Government officials and police officers who guarded the [Youth Center] building did not allow me to leave to visit my child. They repeatedly said they were ordered to keep us inside the building. [The same restrictions] happened in Pontianak, Surabaya and now Yogyakarta. Only after pleading with higher ranking officials was I allowed to visit my child, [but] only for 45 minutes in the hospital. I was accompanied by some officials to visit the hospital.

Andi (a pseudonym ), a Gafatar member in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, described  conditions in a detention center in Depok, South Jakarta where he was confined following his forced evacuation on February 1, 2016.

My family members live in Depok, south of Jakarta but they had to seek a permit to visit me in the stadium. We could not go out. We had to stay there until Depok government officials picked me up.

There were security officers who guarded the stadium. The food provided was only instant noodles and rice. Children suffered the most, coughing, depressed and traumatized. We tried to buy milk and extra food from vendors, but we couldn’t go out. There was not a single paper given to me declaring that I am a detainee. We finally had some vendors who agreed to deliver us food via the [stadium] gates.

Anton (a pseudonym), a 35-year-old Gafatar leader in Ella Hilir, Melawi regency, whose family was forcibly evicted on January 23:

We were evacuated by the Teluk Penyu naval ship from Pontianak. It was tough to travel for two days inside the warship. It has no rooms. We were put inside the belly of the ship, sleeping on the floor. At the Jakarta seaport, we were taken by bus and truck to the Haj Dormitory [a government facility for Indonesian citizens en route to the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca] in Bekasi.

We were given rooms and beds. Visitors could not meet us in this building owned by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. I have three daughters and two of them became sick. The children were very stressed out. There were inadequate toilets to accommodate more than 800 Gafatar members. We had to line up to use the restrooms.


Ongoing Restrictions of Gafatar Members’ Rights

Since mid-February, the Indonesian government has released the majority of detained Gafatar members, but it has failed to protect their rights to freedom of movement, religion and association. Members perceive the government’s failure to criticize a recent joint statement issued by Kalimantan-based ethnic Dayak warning Gafatar to not return to Kalimantan as passive complicity with their forced eviction.

Gafatar members alleged that a central government requirement that they return to their original home towns following release from detention centers is effective support for their forced eviction. Government efforts to discourage members returning to Kalimantan include a Jakarta municipal government plan to offer them low-cost public housing on the condition that Gafatar  members not live together to avoid  unspecified “trouble.” Members say that the government has also failed to deliver on a commitment to provide compensation for members who estimate that they have lost assets valued at least 30.4 billion rupiah (US$2.3 million).

Government officials in Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan, have described the expulsion of the Gafatar members from Kalimantan as an “evacuation” to protect their safety. Gafatar members said that government officials and security forces  justified their role in their forced eviction as necessary  to prevent a potential eruption of mass violence similar to the one that killed  thousands of Madurese settlers in Sambas, West Kalimantan, and  Sampit, Central Kalimantan, between 1999 and 2001.

Government officials later described the detention of Gafatar members as part of an official “registration process.”  The members said that process included mug shots and fingerprinting – including for hundreds of members’ children, which government officials said were essential for “future monitoring.” Although the government has provided some children of Gafatar members with trauma counseling  in detention, restrictions on their movements made it impossible for them to attend local schools during that period. Meanwhile, police have questioned at least 19 Gafatar members, including the sect’s leader, on possible violations of Indonesia’s “blasphemy and religious defamation” laws.

Prasetya (a pseudonym), a 34-year-old Gafatar member in Sukamaju village:

In Boyolali [detention center], government officials checked my ID card and found out that it was registered in [the Central Java town of] Surakarta. But it was my former residence. I have no house in Surakarta. My rented house is actually in Karanganyar regency, near Surakarta.

I did not change my ID card when I moved to West Kalimantan. The problem was both governments [in Karanganyar and Surakarta] refuse to recognize my existence, [so I had to] stay longer in the detention center. They said I could leave the detention center if my neighbors [in Surakarta] could pick me up. It was difficult [to arrange that] with all of the media coverage that Gafatar are heretics. I still cannot find a job with all of the stigma on Gafatar members.

Dewi, a 29-year-old homemaker in Cilacap, Central Java who is married to a Gafatar member, but not involved in the group’s agricultural movement:

When my husband was detained in Pontianak in January, he questioned the poor treatment that they had received in the army compound. It apparently affected me. [Shortly after he made those statements,] Cilacap police came to my house, seizing my laptop, my cell phone, dozens of [Gafatar] books, and flash drives. I was interrogated and declared a “witness of blasphemy.” But the police did not tell me who the suspect was. It created quite a problem in my neighborhood. I am being treated differently [by my neighbors] now since the police raid of our house.

Eka (a pseudonym), a female construction engineer from Makassar who lived in Ella Hilir, Melawi regency, West Kalimantan, and was forcibly evacuated to Jakarta in February 2016:

I know two Gafatar women who gave birth while detained in Pontianak. They gave birth in a hospital, but were returned to the army compound after delivery. Drinking water was bad as it was taken from [the polluted] Kapuas River near the compound. I was fingerprinted. I had my mug shot taken like a criminal. I have a record in the police database. How can you find job? Gafatar is over now for me. I want to move on. 



An earlier version of this news release mistakenly quoted Andry Cahya saying the group had made 3 million Euros (US$3.3 million) from their first exports of ginger; the 3 million figure in fact was a goal, not what they had already earned. The news release has been changed to reflect this.

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