Remember Cikeusik?

I found recent stories of Islamic organisations launching hate campaigns against Shia moslems very disturbing. A quick google search on Anti Syiah came up with links to websites, blogs and facebook groups declaring "war" against the Shiite people. The feeling of hatred is familiar. It is almost similar to the ones incited towards Indonesian Ahmadis culminating with the massacre in Cikeusik in 2011. I was re-reading my original draft and decided to post it here. All 2,500 words of it. the edited version can be found here.

The opening trial for 12 men, part of around 1,500 lynch mob who killed 3 Ahmadis last February in Cikeusik, Banten, are facing charges at the Serang District Court. Now moving to its fourth week, the panel of judges will start hearing testimonies from witnesses.

Footages of the attack are still available on YouTube, in which semi-naked bodies of two men, later identified as Roni Pasaroni and Warsono from North Jakarta, were brutally pelted with stones. The perpetrators could face between 12 years in jail and death if convicted.

The Globe met with survivors of the attack Ahmad Masihuddin, 24, and Irwan, 29.

Masihuddin's survival could be attributed to his knowledge on martial arts. The Police had pronounced him dead when his muddy naked body was thrown into a police truck.

“I was dragged 500 meters by these people, along the way they beat me up with rocks, bamboo poles, and slashed me with their machetes, I lost consciousness and I thought I was dead already,” he told the Globe.

Irwan was deeply traumatized by the attack and almost refused to talk about the incident. Until now he has refused to be interrogated by the Police.

‘We were told it was only a demonstration’

Irwan and Masihuddin went to Cikeusik separately on Saturday night.

“I was at our regular Koran recital meeting in Petojo [Central Jakarta], Roni came to me and asked if I wanted to go with him to Cikeusik. I asked him what for, he told me to guard a demonstration,” he said.

Aroun 10 p.m., Irwan, Roni, and Warsono were picked up by Deden Sujana, head of security of the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI). Deden almost lost his right arm when he used it to parry with a machete. He was later named as suspect under the allegation of triggering the attack.

Separately, Mashuddin was at his home in Kali Deres, West Jakarta, when he received a text message right before midnight from Eki.

“He’s on holiday and asked me to replace him to guard an Ahmadiyah asset in Cikeusik. Without thinking it over I agreed,” he said.

Masihuddin worked as an administration staff in JAI, while Eki and Tubagus work for the security department with Deden. However Masihuddin was well-trained in self-defence. He’s a taekwondo black belt holder when he was just 15, and became a Muay Thai kickboxing instructor when he was only 18 years old. Aside from that he also practiced yoga.

A 2008 decree restricted the Ahmadiyah's religious freedoms but stopped short of banning the sect outright. Even so, senior government officials say the Ahmadiyah should accept mainstream Islam or renounce their faith.

The sect claims 500,000 followers in Indonesia, where it has existed in relative peace since the 1920s.

Being the minority and frequently victimized by hardliners and fundamentalist group made Ahmadiyah communities stand for each other in times of need.

Irwan, who was a mobile phone credit seller, first met Roni, a motorcycle taxi driver during a protest in front of a small Ahmadiyah mosque inside a residential in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta in November.

Irwan’s family rooted from Manis Lor village in Kuningan district, West Java, where around 2,000 followers of the Ahmadiyah faith live, making it the largest Ahmadi community in Indonesia. He followed his father who had been living in Jakarta since the 1970s after he graduated high school.

Mashuddin also once guarded an Ahmadiyah school in Parung, Bogor when it was attacked in 2008, and together with Tubagus stood guard when an Ahmadiyah orphanage in Tasikmalaya, also in West Java, was sealed by local authorities in December.

“I was with the same car as [Tubagus] Chandra and Diaz [Ferdiaz Muhammad who also survived the incident]. Chandra was driving, we arrived at Serang at 3 a.m. and picked up 5 more Ahmadis,” Mashuddin continued.

As they arrived, Mashuddin saw about 200 police officers standing by at both road ends of local Ahmadiyah cleric Ismail Suparman residence.

“I texted my parents so that they didn’t have to worry. The Police were here,” he said.

But then the wife of Cikeusik village head Inayah came in screaming, telling them to leave because thousands of people will come to slaughter them.

“Deden told her, don’t worry, we have pak Hasan here [Cikeusik police chief of crime unit],” he added.

The convoy went to rest in another room but was soon awaken by loud chants of ‘Allahu Akbar’ or ‘God is great’, and ‘Ahmadiyah infidels’.

It was around 10.30 a.m.,when around 1,500 villagers descended to Ismail’s house. The rest can be seen from the videos that has been posted by various people to You Tube. Deden was seen to hit one of the defendants Idris Mahdani, 30, from Banyu Mundu village, Kadu Hejo subdistrict, 40 kilometers away from Cikeusik.

Idris was the one seen on the video with black leather jacket, leading the villagers while shouting “Out of the way Police! Infidels! Infidels!”

After he was hit by Deden, he retreated several steps back before taking out his machete and waved it on the air as the villagers pelted the Ahmadis with rocks.

Masihuddin said that at that time he went outside and started pelting the villagers with stones, but realizing that they were soon overwhelmed, he and a number of others tried to escape to the back of the house.

“But we were stuck in a knee-high mud at the paddy field. The drive to Cikeusik was taxing and we were exhausted,” he said.

The group parted, some ran towards a nearby jungle while some to the riverside. Irwan was already ahead of the group, when he climbed down the trench by the riverside and inched away from the mob. Marsihuddin followed him, but stumbled to the ground as the mob caught up with him.

“I had with me about Rp 2 million for food and accommodation, and my blackberry, they greedily took it. But it didn’t spare me from further beatings,” he added.

He also saw Roni who came back to tried to save Bebi who was kicked on the face before being hit with a rock. Bebi survived the attack. His jaw was displaced and until now he can only eat blended food through a straw. That heroic act was taken by the mob as a challenge and they began furiously hitting Roni.

“I saw Irwan slipped and fell to the river, in the meantime I had 10 men on top of me trying to hit me with sticks and stones and stabbed me with their machetes,” he said.

“They tried to stab me with a bamboo pole, I dodged, then I heard somebody said, ‘oh he knows martial arts’.”

Udin was dragged about 500 meter to Ismail’s house, on the way he was viciously beaten when they arrived in front of Parman’s house he saw somebody stabbed a bamboo pole on Roni’s body.

“They already stripped me and was about to cut my genitals, I shoved the man and shout ‘You guys have to have limits!’, another man hit me on the side but the impact also knocked the guy who tried to mutilate my genital,” he said.

Masihuddin said that he tried to focus, and keep calm, he controlled which muscle that he has to tighten to avoid fatal injuries, while protecting his head and neck.

“I turned on my side and let it take the beatings. I don’t want to give them my neck. Until now that part of my body went to sleep, as if a stroke,” he said.

A number of times he felt like his life is going to end when the machete slashed to close to head.

“The police thought I was dead, they threw me into the car just like that. But I gained consciousness and started to ask for water. I was extremely dehydrated,” he said.

The trip from Cikeusik to Malingping hospital, 10 kilometers away, took 1.5 hours and the Police only gave him a piece of shirt to stop the bleeding from a gash on his head.

“I met Deden in the hospital, he was holding his right hand, I saw Bebi vomiting blood, Ferdiaz put me on his lap and started giving me water, he was also injured,” he said.

The men were later moved to Serang hospital, which was another 6 hours drive, while Deden was immediately brought to Pertamina hospital in Jakarta. In Serang their stitches has to be removed since it was tainted by dirt, and has to be redone.

Irwan on the meantime was trying to stay afloat.

“I could barely swim, I was dragged by current as I tried to stay afloat, in the meantime the mob was still trying to hit me with rocks,” he said.

He had no idea how long he was under water, when he suddenly could breathe air again.

“At one point it’s all dark. But then I heard a voice calling me. It was Yadi,” he said.

Yadi swam against the current and drag him to the side.


Although Irwan did not sustain any critical injuries, he is now afraid of water and refused to remember of the February attack.

“I am undergoing counseling for my trauma. My therapist said that I had to think of water as my savior. If the river current didn’t carry me away, I might be one of the casualties,” he said.

Masihuddin found him in raging moods whenever he saw police officers or men in white robes.

“Once I wanted to go to Senen, I passed the National Monument and at that time there was a demonstration on Libya and Ahmadiyah. All of a sudden I started shouting to the driver, ‘Just hit them! Hit them! Why should they make a fuss over other country when their own is still in a mess!’,” he said.

Luckily he was with his sister who apologized for him and told everyone that her brother has a mental illness.

“At other time I was in Citraland and saw a police officer, I went to him and screamed at him, ‘What are you doing here? You’re doing nothing! Just like in Cikeusik! Officers only watches and do nothing!’,” he continued.

Masihuddin also suffered from vertigo and severe headache, which made him pop 6 to 7 pills several times a day. He had an infection on his right eye when the mob tried to stab it with a bamboo pole, his hearing, he said, had also decreased and his vocal chord has just recovered.

“Previously I almost can’t talk,” he said.

He had to see various doctors every day, from neurologists, ear specialist, and eye specialist.

Fair Trial?

A video taken by a sect member showed the crowd of more than 1,000 people push police aside and storm a local Ahmadiyah leader's house shouting "infidel" and "Allahu akbar" (God is great).

After a brief exchange of rocks, the mob overpowered the defenders and set upon them with sticks and stones. One man was filmed being stoned and clubbed to death as he knelt on the ground half naked. The bodies were then mutilated.

Police officers fled the scene once the violence began, but returned later to mill among the mob as it destroyed the sect's property and continued to beat the corpses of the three male victims.

A cleric, Ujang Mohammed Arif, 52, is charged with masterminding the attack by inciting others to commit violence.

Arif sent another defendant, Endang bin Sidik, a phone text message days before the attack reading "Please mobilise ulemas (Muslim scholars), clerics and Koranic school students to besiege Ahmadis in Cikeusik (village)," prosecutors said.

Endang forwarded the message to 62 people and asked them to gather at his house and wear blue ribbons on the day of the assault.

“It’s a difficult trial we are going to face with. There’s a possibility that we are going to take the blame,” Masihuddin said, he is due to testify in court at about three weeks.

Last week chief of crime unit for Cikeusik police First Insp. Hasanudin testified for defendant Ujang Muhammad who allegedly rounded the youths from neighboring villages for the attack.

He was amongst the police officers who tried to coax Deden and the others to get out from the house.

“The people came half an hour after the negotiation, when [the Ahmadiyah people] knew that they were coming, they took out their spears and catapult,” he told the panel of judges presided by Rasminto.

In the trial Hasanudin said that the mob shoved their bare hands to the air while citing God is great.

“I just found out that there were victims after the clash subsided,” he said. He denied that he saw defendant Ujang Muhammad on the scene.

Another defendant Endang bin Sidik also testified last week for Ujang, saying that he only brought a book on Ahmadiyah and hadits.

“We came there to have a discussion, but turned out they started to threw us with rocks and catapult. We fought back with the rocks and wooden poles lying around the area,” he said.

He denied that Ujang was giving orders to the people.

“He stood 20 meters away from the house,” he said.

Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch Asia who uploaded the video hoped that it would be considered as key evidence.

“The video maker has been questioned by the police, and we are hoping that he could use the video as evidence,” he said.

He was aware that fundamentalist groups will not like the fact that the video is on the net for public consumption.

Hasril Hertanto, legal expert from the University of Indonesia: believes that it is on the hands of the prosecutors and the judges.

“Our Criminal Procedure Code [Kuhap] does not acknowledge video materials as evidence, but this was updated by article 5 of the Information and Electronics Transaction Law. However, prosecutors or lawyers are the ones who has to submit the video to the trial and ask for the judges’ permission to use it as court evidence,” Hasril explained.

The Code, which was issued in 1981, only recognizes witnesses and experts testimonies, paper and object evidences, and the judge’s conclusions derived from the testimonies and evidences.

“I believe in order to pursue the material truth [the judges] should get with the times, and are willing to accept the video as a court evidence,” he said.

Firdaus Mubarik from Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI) feared that the threat for mistrial is so big, especially since not all major media are willing to covering it.

Together with several others they set up a twitter account @cikeusiktrial for live tweets during the trial and to provide the public with background information regarding the suspects and the event itself.

Endnote: To a lot of people's (people with their common sense and humanity intact anyway) dismay: in the end Deden was given a six-month prison term. Dani bin Misra, a 17-year-old, smashed a victim’s skull with a stone; was charged with manslaughter and got three months. Idris got convicted because of illegal possession of a machete and got five months and 15 days in jail. (see the discrepancy?)

Quoting Lin's op-ed piece:
In other words, murder — organized, premeditated and captured on video — is not much more of a crime than stealing a bunch of bananas. In Indonesia, it appears, you can get away with murder, as long as the killing is done in the name of religion.
Prosecutors actually recommended light sentences because they said Ahmadiyah members partly provoked the attack by being in the village and then compounded their error by filming and distributing videos of the attack. This is a bit like saying a woman is to blame for being raped because she wore a skirt.

I agree with one security analyst regarding the anti-shia gathering, on why now and why this theme, that it all has to do with the upcoming election. Find one enemy to wage war against and rally for alliance. Once you got an alliance big enough, and in fact becomes the majority, time to "sell-out". This guy couldn't be less obvious:

“We will support any candidate who wants to make an MOU to purge the Shiites from Indonesia," Muhammad Al Khaththath, secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema and Congregation Forum (FUUI).

Should journalists be activists as well?

This is a piece I wrote after meeting with Nepali senior writer, editor and publisher Kandu Dixit in a discussion held by Japan Foundation in July 2012. The interview with Dixit reminded me of an other post by media critic and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen.

Anyhow, the debate on journalistic objectivity is as old as..journalism itself, i guess. Dixit argued that journalists in developing countries could not afford being "completely neutral", just being the passive reporter and publish whatever the officials are saying.

The original piece is below, edited version can be found here.

To the 57-year old Nepalese writer, editor and publisher Kandu Dixit, journalism is never limited to reporting events as it is, for him it has to mean something, act as an agent of change.

"In Western journalism school, they teach that you would loose your credibility if you become an activist. My argument is that, it's better for your credibility if you have a more active role in finding solution to your society's problem," Kunda told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.

Starting out his career as a microbiologist, Dixit's gradual shift to journalism might have more to do with his DNA. His mother, grandparents were writers and poets, Dixit had written for scientific journals at the same time he started writing for mainstream publications.

Eventually he was awarded with a Fulbright scholar to pursue journalism in Columbia University, before working for the BBC World Service at the UN Headquarters and later as Asia-Pacific director of news agency Inter Press Service, based in Manila.

Dixit returned to Nepal in 1997 after 10 years living abroad, a year later he co-founded Himal weekly magazine, and then in 2000 an english weekly tabloid Nepali Times.

"I want to come back to Nepal and be a journalist, try to change things and make democracy works," he said.

Nepal had always been an absolute monarchy mired with domestic conflicts and violence before finally declaring itself as a federal republic in 2008, making it the second youngest country after East Timor. In 1996, the communist party of Nepal (Maoist) had waged violent resistance against the royal parliamentary system causing a decade-long Civil War with more than 12,000 casualties.

But even after the war and a promise of democracy, the situation in Nepal is not improving, and this is where, according to Dixit, where media should take part.

"After the war, [it turns out the] political leaders who were elected were not accountable. We have revolutions but people who tried to change things became dictators who they replace, the same old story," he said.  "Media has to play a role in the reform and try to keep the revolution on track."

Dixit also viewed that media can prevent future wars by exposing injustice and promote inclusive agendas. "The seeds of conflicts are actually made during peace time: discrimination, exclusion, social injsutice, the rising gap between rich and poor, and intolerance," he continued.

On his book, Dateline Earth: Journalism as if the Planet Mattered

In 1997, Dixit had his first book published, a 185-page publication that not only looked into environmental journalism but also on how to hold on to the core values of journalism while being deeply involved and passionate for a cause.

Something he said that journalists in developing countries, such as Nepal and Indonesia, could not afford to ignore.

"The ["Western" journalism] rule was made by a society that already has a certain economic status, a history of democracy, and their freedom is not threatened, while our society is still struggling. We're still trying to make democracy work so we have to take much active role," Dixit said.

These values are what he tried to instill in both of his publications in Nepal.

"We believe in basic things like non-violence politics and tolerance and we're trying to protect that. We cant just [act like] we're just here to observe, you have to be involved and protecting that freedom otherwise there's no point," he continued.

And this is an extract from Rosen's post:
The once “safe” choice [we have no idea who is right] becomes the riskier option. That point is reached when enough people begin to mistrust viewlessness and demand to know what the writer thinks, even though they also know that they may not agree.