Hard-liners force out sex
congress participants

Members of hard-line Islamic groups forced their way into a Surabaya hotel Friday, demanding participants of a planned congress on sexual orientation in the East Java city to leave the country by Sunday.

The police took no action against the move, condemned by politicians and activists as “unconstitutional” and violating human rights, who said the conference should be seen as “a celebration of democracy and human rights”.

Dozens of foreign participants from Mexico, Canada, the US and 13 Asian countries were scheduled to take part in the 4th regional Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA) conference scheduled to run from Friday to Sunday.

But the organizer decided Thursday to officially cancel the event, citing “security reasons”, after the police refused to grant them a permit fearing protests from religious groups.

Secretary-general of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in East Java, Mohammad Chaeruddin, said the foreigners were told to leave because Surabaya Muslims believed the conference was against religious values and teachings.

“We forced them to return home  by Sunday. We also told them not to make a media statement,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

The group also entered several hotels in Surabaya and nearby Malang, including Mercure Surabaya where the conference was scheduled to be held on Thursday. They also urged hotels to make a written statement refusing to host the conference.

On Friday at 3 p.m., FPI members, the Islamic Community Forum and the Indonesian Ulemas Council arrived at Oval Hotel. Hundreds more from the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, which held a rally protesting gay, lesbian and transexual communities outside Grahadi Surabaya, arrived later.

South Surabaya Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Bahagia Dachi, said the police would ensure the safety of conference participants, including foreigners.

“We’ll provide security escorts for foreigners to Juanda Airport Surabaya,” he said.

Surabaya’s Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence coordinator, Andy Irfan Junaidi, criticized the police for allowing religious groups to undermine and violate the rights of minority groups.

“Religious groups have prevented the groups to gather, against the guarantee of the Constitution,” he said.

Separately in Jakarta, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party politicians have called the police banning of a planned gay and lesbian congress in East Java as “unconstitutional”.

“[Holding a congress] is a basic human right,” Benny Kabur Harman, House of Representatives’ justice and human rights commission chairman, said Friday.

“Gays and lesbians are citizens whose political and legal rights are guaranteed and protected by the Constitution, which allows freedom of opinion.

“The state should in no way forbid the congress from being held.”

Benny’s colleague, Pieter Zulkifli, said the congress should be seen as “a celebration of democracy and human rights”.

The National Awakening Party (PKB) said the congress must be relocated overseas “for the sake of the country’s moral values”.

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