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Taliban-style Islamic police terrorizing Aceh BANDA ACEH - Dewi Haryanti was in a hurry. The 25-year-old was exchanging her hotel waitress uniform for street clothes for the trip to her second job at a boutique she owns with her sisters in the capital of Indonesia's tsunami-torn Aceh province.

In her rush to get out the door, Haryanti almost forgot to put on her traditional Muslim headscarf. It was a near-mistake that these days would have easily led to police harassment, possible arrest - maybe even a public flogging. Things have certainly changed in Aceh since billions of dollars began pouring to rebuild the province following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, but not all of them are positive. 'I didn't wear a jilbob (headscarf) at the hotel I worked in before the tsunami,' Haryanti, a native Acehnese with Middle Eastern features and a quiet, high-pitched voice. 'Now I do.'

She has little choice. In the months following the tsunami, the Aceh government inexplicably began vigorously enforcing a three-year-old provincial statute on Sharia, or Islamic Law. The provincial Islamic law department was unleashed to crackdown on 'immorality' - alcohol, gambling, women appearing in public without headscarves or venturing out at night without a male escort.

The 'Sharia police,' as they are known across the province, have become a power unto themselves - uneducated, arrogant young men operating outside of any legal framework or rules, human and women's rights activists say. Their illegal detentions and harassment of women, intimidation of the population and violent behaviour - they've publicly flogged more than 135 people for various violations in the past nine months - has earned them comparisons to Adolf Hitler's 'Brown Shirts' in Nazi Germany.

'It's only going to get worse,' warned Mercedes Chazez for the United Nations Development Fund for Women. 'It's infuriating [because] they don't have the authority to be doing these arrests.' Indonesian law on Sharia is, to say the least, vague and confusing. The constitution states that the Muslim-majority nation is a secular, but the national parliament in Jakarta in 2003 passed legislation allowing Sharia in Aceh, and several local district governments have followed suit. Although Indonesia has 190 million Muslims, the country has historically been mainstream. Alcohol, cigarettes, bars and nightclubs are legal across the country.

Residents of Aceh are considered among the most devout Muslims in Indonesia, but the province has never previously had Sharia or hudud - Islamic punishments such as publicly whipping people with a bamboo cane. That's why both foreign and Acehnese activists are dismayed with the Sharia police's campaign.

One young Acehnese woman was publicly flogged for kissing her boyfriend in public, while another 23-year-old has been locked up in Acehnese jail for more than two weeks without access to an attorney after being caught drinking beer. She could be flogged up to 40 times if found guilty by a local religious court.

H. Alyasa' Abubakar, director of the Sharia enforcement office, denied during an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that his employees were abusing their power or arresting women, saying they 'are only advising them about wearing the jilbob.' But when pressed on numerous of cases of women being illegally detained, he said, 'If they do that, then it's wrong,' but gave no indication that any of his officers would be punished.

Equally troubling is the complete silence among Western and Asian donors who have pledged billions of dollars to Aceh's reconstruction. A spokesman for the US embassy in Jakarta declined to say whether the Bush administration, which justified its invasion of Afghanistan by saying American troops were liberating women from the Taliban, supported the Aceh government's flogging policy. The issue will likely come to a head when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Indonesia on March 14.

Activists say many Acehnese are increasingly fed up with the Sharia police's antics. Last November, after officers arrested a teenage schoolgirl standing outside her front yard with a male friend and accused her of being a prostitute, a mob ransacked their office. But Acehnese society as a whole remains weary of publicly speaking out.

'If anyone says they don't like Sharia, it can be interpreted as not supporting Islam,' said T. Ardiansyah, director of Kata Hati Institute, an Aceh-based human rights and conflict resolution institute. That appears to be changing. Last Wednesday hundreds of Acehnese women marched through the capital demanding nondiscriminatory implementation of Sharia, and an end to the heavy-handed tactics by enforcement officers.

'They deserve to be hated because their way of implementing Sharia is arrogant,' said Elvida, a protest coordinator from Flower Aceh, a local women's right group 'Women are almost always blamed for any infractions [while] the rich and powerful get away with things like corruption.' More public dissent is expected. A newly formed group of activists and attorneys is planning to file a lawsuit against the Sharia enforcement office to demand that it be close.

That might prevent a repeat of incidents like one that occurred in late February at a leading Banda Aceh hotel. Sharia policemen barged into the lobby and arrested three women attending an international conference because they were not wearing headscarves. According to witnesses, an officer screamed at one of the women: 'The way you are dressed makes my penis erect!' Ironically, none of the witnesses could recall seeing it.



Posted in Religion @ 12 March 2006 14:46 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink





kiwimave
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(Edited) Posted @ 12 March 2006 17:13

The oracle Kimi already said a long time before...

They shoud have listened to me... This tumor will spread though the rest of Indonesia if we don't stop it now...



Jantje
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(Edited) Posted @ 13 March 2006 01:44

How do you fight it, dok. This is a pandamic of the worst kind. Teach them common sense? Emoticon: Laugh out loud



sidia
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Kiwi is a dukun (belanda) bule .
A witch doctor.



dirgantara
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Aceh will be gone from the international investors list. Only recource natural seekers will put a step there.



Yogya-Bali
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And ofcourse the whole aid-circus who are already very active in Aceh with their commonly unexperienced workers.
Maybe the Arab countries will support their Aceh-brothers? I doubt it.



dirgantara
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Well not with weapens I hope..



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