Christy C. Road posted a link on her Fan Facebook site the other day to a BBC News story regarding a group of 64 punk kids who attended a punk benefit show raising money for orphans and were subsequently rounded up for “re-education” in the Indonesia province of Aceh. You may remember this area for a number of reasons: a devastating tsunami flattened the landscape in 2004, which led in part to an easement of decades old hostilities between the Acehnese of the province and the ruling government in Indonesia’s capitol of Jakarta. Indonesia is a predominately moderate Muslim country, though the province lends itself to a stricter observance of Sharia law. Aceh province (whose capital is Banda Aceh) has a form of autonomous governing since peace was made, but the province is still part of the larger Indonesia. I only know a little about the societal and governmental functions and structures of Indonesia and it hasn’t popped up on my radar in a long while, probably since the tsunami, in any focused way.
The punk kids in question appear to be your normal concertgoers and street kids trying to get by, who listen to music, have mohawks, piercings and tattoos, take baths infrequently and are “punk.” The group rounded up is not just from Banda Aceh: one man interviewed traveled from Northern Sumatra (Aceh is also located on Sumatra) to attend the concert and was worried about losing his job since he’s being held in custody for at least ten days, though not being charged with a formal crime. Reading through several stories and links since seeing the original post on Facebook yesterday, a number of theories could be forwarded in regards to why they are being rounded up, forced to shave their hair, and undergo a ritual “bathing away the punk” dip in a local river including the result of Sharia law and a show of strength in “morality” or to deflect from a drug scandal currently involving the police of Aceh. Maybe the scandalized police will have their hair shaved off and suffer a ritual “bathing away the crooked” dip in the local river, too. (I have a feeling their punishment will be far worse.)
Whatever the reason, there’s a group of kids who went to a punk show and are now being detained by the police in their country for doing so.
Aborted Society Records posted a link to this 5-minute journal on Jakarta’s punk scene and the Indonesian band Marjinal:
The kids detained are still undergoing “re-education” and will be held for at least ten days for those who live outside of the province and longer possibly for those who live in the province. The Facebook page “Punks for Punks: Demand the Release of Punks in Aceh” is calling for the Indonesian government to force the mayor and police of Banda Aceh to let the group go with no more of the re-education program in the ways of being more like everyone else around them. As an autonomous governing entity within Indonesia, this might be difficult for the government to do.
In the meantime, Aborted Society also started a “Mixtape for Aceh” campaign, wherein they are asking people to create cassette tapes of music to be sent to Aborted Society, who will then get the cassettes to kids in Indonesia. Cassettes are still widely used in the country, but according to the Mixtapes for Aceh site, CDRs in envelopes (not jewel cases) are also welcomed.
The most interesting report I’ve seen on this so far is from the December 13th Jakarta Post, “Aceh ‘Punks’ Arrested for ‘Re-education’,” which has a couple of articles linked to the post as well as some good comments regarding the punk scene in Indonesia. Reading comments led to articles recalling similar actions by the police in the non-Shariah-law city of Jakarta. Several commenters on this and other articles note that this story was deemed “newsworthy” by a wider, international audience only because Aceh is connected to a stricter and hardline interpretation of Muslim law, which makes for spicier headlines then “Dirty Punks Arrested in Jakarta.”
Here’s a primer from Human Rights Watch on “Policing Morality: Abuses in the Application of Sharia in Aceh, Indonesia” on what’s been happening in the province.
Dying Scene has noted that several bands are doing a compilation release called “Punk Aid: Jakarta Calling” and are looking for more bands to be on the hardcore compilation.
Here’s a link to photographs posted by the Guardian UK.
- Punknews.org: Police Assault On Punk Fans In Aceh, Indonesia (legendsarising.com)
- Freedom of Expression: Sharia Police Arrest ‘Punks’ in Indonesia’s Aceh (censorshipinamerica.com)
- Indonesian Punks ‘rehabilitated’ by Shariah police (vancouversun.com)
- This Is All Kinds Of Wrong of the Day (thedailywh.at)