A government crackdown on Indonesian LGBTI people has caused an increase in death threats against advocates and organizations working with the LGBTI community.
Irish NGO Front Line Defenders discovered this alarming trend during interviews for a report on the country.
The NGO released the report, Government Crackdown on LGBT Rights Emboldens Extremist Attacks on Peaceful Activists, on Thursday morning.
Researchers spoke to human rights defenders who have felt pressure since the government’s crackdown began in 2016.
They have also faced ongoing violent raids of LGBT gatherings, threats against community leaders are increasingly frequent, personal, and violent.
‘Our investigation illustrates that the government’s own crackdown on LGBT rights in 2016 emboldened those who want to terrorize human rights defenders into silence,’ said Front Line Defenders executive director, Andrew Anderson.
‘Ongoing police raids and a failure to respond to attacks against HRDs send the message that violence against peaceful activists is acceptable in Indonesia.’
Some of the key findings of the report found that almost all of the human rights groups had received multiple death threats since 2016.
The groups had also noticed an increase of religious extremists calling for the public to attack them. The use of religious terminology had increased in the threats against the human rights groups. One example of a threat was, ‘your blood is halal’, meaning that to kill them is religiously sanctioned in Islam.
Three of the groups were forced to move offices after a raid or physical intimidation.
The raids and threats were perpetrated by extremist groups, local religious police, and state police.
In several cases, state police ignored activists’ requests for protection when an extremist group announced in advance its intention to attack an event.
‘We knew ahead of our event that it would be attacked – the extremists called and told us they planned to attack. We called the police beforehand, they wouldn’t come,’ one human rights advocate said.
‘We called them during the event, they wouldn’t come.
‘So some of us put our own bodies between the attackers and our friends. The police showed up at the very end and watched us be beaten.’
Sex workers facing intimidation
Sex workers both trans and cis gendered were at the ‘forefront’ of intimidation in Indonesia.
Trans sex workers who also work as advocates for their community said food and housing security was a massive issue for them. Pervasive homelessness, poverty and food insecurity mean that the need to make money at night limits the number of hours they can devote to protection work during the same hours.
Yogyakarta is a city on the island of Java.
Sex worker rights defenders there said there had been an increase police targeting ‘at night’ when they were trying to work. They said due to their visibility as activists ‘during the day’ they were more likely to be targeted by police.
Front Line defenders
Front Line Defenders undertook its reasearch in July this year. Researchers met at-risk human rights defenders in four provinces: Aceh, Makassar, Yogyakarta and Jakarta.
The group interviewed more than a dozen LGBT activists in Aceh, the only province in Indonesia governed by Islamic Sharia law. Earlier this year two men in the earlier twenties were convicted of homosexuality in Aceh and convicted to 85 lashes.