What is happening in the Aceh region of Indonesia, the “re-education” of punks, most specifically the Aceh 64 who were taken from the city of Tamn Budaya has not been sitting well with me. I have to admit that seeing as how I have been a punk from an early age, the best form that I was able to find to express the isolation and anger that I was feeling, and my hopes for a better world, this has really struck a chord with me.
The Police in the Province of Aceh, Indonesia have, under orders of a religious fundamentalist government, rounded up punk rock fans and have shaved the punks heads, taken their dog collars, necklaces and chains and thrown them into pools of water for “spiritual cleansing.” The punks will now ‘spend 10 days getting rehabilitation, training in military-style discipline and religious classes, including Quran recitation. Afterward, they’ll be sent home.’ We can easily imagine how this must feel to receive this type of treatment, also if you are a fan of punk or metal or any similar music subculture, it hits home in a slightly different way than the other human rights cases that we have sadly come accustomed to ignoring in the West. I can easily empathize with the complete frustration and humiliation these ‘punks’ must feel as I have had a few brushes with bully ‘authorities’ who pretend they’re acting ‘in the name of the law’ but I have never, and hopefully never will, experience this type of human rights abuse by authorities of a state.
What is maybe the most interesting in all of this is the growing gulf between some particular official accounts of the detainment, and this is where I am starting to think that this might be an attack on the poor and that the street punks have simply become the face of this fight. Most authorities have all held the same line that punk is at odds with the teachings of Islam, they have claimed that these raids will continue to support their purpose of suppressing the growth of the punk communities and there are no plans for it to end anytime soon.
” Maybe, if there’s funding for us, we can continue their re-education on an extended basis until they’re better. After that we’ll hand them all over to the city government.”
The Police Chief’s justifications are religious in nature, and revolve around a notion of protecting the wider society in Aceh from the supposed threat of punk, and it’s adherents. Although, Armensyah draws distinctions between “clean” punks “that exist in different classes”, and the 64 young people his force swept off the street, detained without charge, confiscated their clothes and were forced to get haircuts. When the media asked why, if it is hygiene the main issue, the police would not also round-up the homeless in Aceh, the Chief said: “There are no homeless in Aceh, there are only punks.” The Governor however states that they were arrested for falsifying a permit for a gig, it is still unsure if all 64 detainees were arrested on this charge or just the one person who applied for the permit, and at other times he claims that the detainees were not arrested:
It is untrue that the police arrested them. That’s not it. The truth is that the police are helping them develop [their skills].
Human Rights Watch however have very different views to the officials mentioned above in reference to what has happened. M. Choirul Anam from Human Rights Watch said: “First, they violated freedom of expression. Punk is only a way to express oneself, just like a person wearing a necklace. The punk kids do not disturb public order, so the police do not have to catch them.” Anam has also gone to declare that the way that the detainees have been treated go against the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment which Indonesia is bound to since signing it in 1985. The Aceh Police force has also not followed the due process of law. The punks were not given proper legal treatment, the police executed treatments without going through any legal channels. Human Rights Watch has also stated that there will be more human rights violations if they don’t proceeded this case legally.
To everybody: If you believe in human dignity, autonomy, and the right for people to be able to make their own decisions- keep fighting for your rights and freedoms, as well as the rights and freedoms of others. There are many actions that have been happening in support for the Aceh 64, and there are many things that you can do to help.
- Change.org has made a petition to advocate for their release.
- The record label Aborted Society is collecting mix tapes and burned CD’s (no cases) to send to their fellow punks to help with morale. Maybe you can help out?
- Check out this 100% ruling documentary about the Indonesian punk ‘scene’
- German punks Red Tape Parade have appealed for their fans on Facebook to send them spare gear to be sent out to Aceh punks in the near future, with their initiative, Up The Aceh-Punx. Here is a status from their Facebook page: ” I have direct contact to someone in Aceh, so now I’m asking all of you – no matter if you play in a band, write for a zine, own a label, or simply share our love for punk music and punk culture – to contribute stuff so we can send it over to Indonesia, to let our friends there know that they are not alone, and that “unity” is more than a catchphrase in a song. So, if you have CDs, zines, records, pins, shirts etc. you can give away please leave a comment and we’ll get in touch.” They are posting pictures of the donations on their Facebook page.
Let’s keep the spirit alive!