Women In The Red-Green War


by Woro (Jakarta), Max (London), Tony (Los Angeles)

Crime has offenders and victims. But this is a story about victims in the far distance of Sumatra, Indonesia. This is not about the reasons, the motive, the killer, or the cinetron that plays out as part of the political theatre. Neither is this about cuddly tigers, the haze, or other irrelevant reasons. This is the story about victims. This is the story of two wives, Misriati and Musfida, their children, and the ill-conceived, paranoid new wave of a Marxist ideology that has caused harm, destroyed two lives, and created deep scars for generations to come in communities that had long been otherwise peaceful.

This is a story about the failure of the government to face the threat because of incompetence, fear, or ignorance. Indonesian fundamentalist socialists are for real and they have killed in the name of revolution; a revolution that in 1991 became obsolete but today appeals to the ill-informed who are being exploited by a global euphoria of new socialism in a desperate attempt to gain power. But we are not talking about them; we are talking about the unheard cries of the victims, their families, and their children. That is what this story is about.  It is the story of two Indonesian women who are bound by tragic circumstance. This is the story about victims.

It is 4 AM in Pulau Padang an island in Sumatra, Indonesia, but Musfida (26) is already set to harvest rubber in land a few kilometres away from her small Malay house. Dawn is the best harvest time. She spends two hours collecting the rubber before heading back home. Once home, she helps her two children prepare for school. Her son, Ilham (11), is a 5th grader and her daughter, Elsa (5), is still in kindergarten. Musfida then runs an errand to harvest areca nuts. She collects the nuts and dries them up in order to accumulate enough for sale.

This is Musfida’s daily routine. Sometimes she also does laundry to earn extra money to feed the family. However, despite all Musfida’s hard work she can only afford a minimum living in this island of Riau province.

Although Musfida is accustomed to working hard, the story was different when her husband was around. Yannas (34), who usually worked as a carpenter or goods mover in the market, was the main source of income for the family. But Yannas has been absent for almost a year. He now lives his life as an inmate in a Bengkalis prison where he is serving a 16-year prison sentence. In October 2013 Yannas was found guilty by Bengkalis District Court of the 2011 premeditated murder of a PT Riau Andalan Pulp Paper (RAPP) excavator operator.  Yannas killed in the name of a group of fundamental socialists, some of whom are now also on trial.

On the day of his arrest, Yannas was moving goods using a cart in the village market. Musfida was hysterical upon hearing the news from the head of neighborhood. She never knew Yannas was involved with the group and had no idea how her husband became on the police wanted list since he had never mentioned a thing to her before. Therefore, the arrest of her husband was a big shock. Even a night before the arrest, Yannas was still home, acting like nothing happen.

After the arrest Musfida become depressed and her days were only filled with tears. She now has to bear burdens financially and emotionally. Her world collapsed. She can only afford to visit her husband in prison once every 3-4 months because she can hardly afford the travel, since the prison is located on a different island. She has never received any help or support other than from relatives and neighbours. Even the Serikat Tani Riau (STR) people, a group that is part of the People’s Democratic Party (PRD) where Yannas belonged when he was involved in murder, has never shown support for her.

“I still can’t accept how much misery they brought upon me and my family,” she said. But life must go on. She has two beautiful children to support even though she still can’t answer how she can plan for their future.

The children sometimes ask about their father. They miss him because Yannas was never really away for so long before. They don’t know about their father’s case and the fact that he’s in prison for a long time. Musfida only tells them that Yannas is away for work for a certain period of time and that he’ll buy them bicycles when he gets back home. Every time they do a prison visit, the children think they’re going to their father’s workplace.

In Langkat (North Sumatra), Misriati got hit even harder. The bad news arrived for her on the 13th of July 2011. Misriati is the wife of Chodirin, the murder victim. Misriati’s husband is gone forever. She is not as lucky as Musfida who still can meet her husband once in a while.

The tragedy she has had to face made the mother of a child (4) fight for justice on behalf of her husband to the National Commission of Human Rights in Jakarta back in 2012. While the progress was slow, justice was served for the first time when one of the offenders, Yannas, was convicted and sentenced. One of the leaders of the group, Muhammad Riduan, is on trial right now in Bengkalis. Riduan was arrested before Yannas, which poses the question of whether he was trying to save himself by giving up the others since the court named 16 others involved in the murder. The remaining culprits should expect to be arrested for what was described by police as an execution-style killing; a brutal murder of a father, a husband, a friend, and neighbour to many in Langkat. With Yannas’s conviction and sentencing, for once, justice was served in Indonesia.  While nothing can ever replace her husband, a slim ray of relief may be in Misriati’s heart right now.

As the family of a murder victim, Misriati has received support and aid, unlike Musfida. With the aid she received, Misriati is now selling clothes around the village in order to feed her family. With the progress of the trial two years after the event, it seems that Misriati wants to move on with her life. But she doesn’t want to talk about the death of her husband. It’s understandable by the burden she has to bear and the son she has to raise.

This is the story of two victims. It is not about the killers, not about ideology, and not about the global interests of the “old red” joining the “new green.” This is about victims that suffer from the games of others. This had nothing to do with protecting the environment or anything else.  This was about murder, planned and executed with the full knowledge of others and if justice is not blind, they will have their day in court, regardless of organization, local or foreign – even if they hide in the ranks of foreign paid civil society groups.

These two Indonesian women have had to step up to make end meets for their abandoned families. They are collateral damage of the Pulau Padang radical socialist movement; a movement that claims to protect their own people’s rights but has killed in the name of a new revolution, without mercy, remorse, or regret.

The authors of this article opt to remain anonymous since the journalists investigating the facts of the planned murder were threatened by foreign NGOs and their local counterpart who pose as activists but are part of a militant, extremist wing of the People’s Democratic Party in Riau, which has penetrated a foreign-sponsored, civil society group in Riau. This story is, however, about the victims. Not more, not less.


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