Happier days: A picture of the Aceh punk community several days before the arrest of punkers.“We’re not criminals, get us out of here,” appealed Yudi from behind bars. Yudi and 63 punk members were detained by the city police of Banda Aceh for allegedly having made a false proposal in order to stage a punk rock concert in Banda Aceh on Dec. 10.
The performance at Taman Budaya Aceh, titled “Aceh for the Punk: A Music Parade and Fundraiser for Orphanages”, was also attended by punk followers from various parts of Indonesia including Jakarta, Bekasi, Lampung, Jambi, Pekanbaru and Batam.
“We organized the concert with the positive aim of fund-raising and we got licenses from the police and Ulema Consultative Assembly. We didn’t have a booze and drug party as charged by the police,” said Yudi. He claimed to have planned the program long before to help raise awareness in Banda Aceh of the positive things his punk community could offer.
“So far our group has been regarded as the scum of society with no purpose in life. We’ve always been chased by the city police and sharia police for what they describe as disturbing public order,” added Yudi. The untidy appearance of punkers has created the public image that links the punk community with crime and un-sharia morality.
Friendly cut: A young man helps groom a punker. Mohawk is a hairstyle typical of punk members.“Our community is not against sharia law, but we think if sharia still imposes discrimination against certain groups in society, it means it’s not yet properly implemented and it’s a form of hypocrisy,” Yudi pointed out.
Yudi’s assertion that the event was meant for orphanages failed to prevent the Banda Aceh city police from capturing the 64 punkers in the concert venue, as the license request was deemed different from the aim of the show.
“They claimed to be an Acehnese community that would perform for [charitable] fund-raising purposes, so the police and ulema issued the permits,” said Aceh regional police chief Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan.
Iskandar added that the police had been tricked by the Aceh punk group. When the arrest was conducted, according to Iskandar, the police also discovered liquor and drugs believed to have been consumed by the punk youths. “It’s one of our reasons for their detention,” he said.
After being held for several days, the police finally sent the punk fans to the State Police School in Seulawah Valley, Aceh Besar, some 60 kilometers east of Banda Aceh.
“We’re educating them there for 10 days to change their mind-set and direct their purpose in social life,” said Iskandar.
Before their move to Seulawah Valley, male punkers were shaved bald to rid them of their typical Mohawk hairstyle and all of them were immersed in a pool as part of a traditional purification practice. “Why are we forced to be shaved? It violates my right as a citizen to choose my personal appearance,” protested Wawan, one of the punk members.
But Wawan and his peers could do nothing when several policemen cut off their hair. Some female punkers were even sobbing as they had their hair cut by policewomen. “My parents have never treated me like this. For me it’s an inhuman act,” said Nanda tearfully.
Punk youths have been an annoyance to the Banda Aceh city administration for some time.
Their behavior, including drawing graffiti on walls, is considered to be harmful to public interest. They are also considered a disgrace to sharia as most punk girls don’t wear headscarves and punk boys have tattoos on their bodies.
“In Islam, women should wear headscarves and men must not have tattoos, because they won’t be able to perform mandatory prayers with their tattoos,” said Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal. For this reason, Banda Aceh city police and sharia police have frequently raided punk hangouts.
Drowned dreams: Arrested punk members are immersed in a pool to observe a tradition of purification of past sins before being educated to be good citizens in the sharia version.“Banda Aceh must be free and rid of punk members and the like. We don’t allow such groups to defile our environment and degrade the sharia we’re upholding,” maintained Illiza.
The way the Aceh government and police attempt to reform punkers has invited criticism by Aceh legal expert Saifuddin Bantasyam. In his view, punkers are not big criminals, drug addicts, gamblers or drunkards.
The public can distinguish between crime, offense and juvenile delinquency.
“In my opinion, it’s very strange if they’re treated like Mafiosi, big embezzlers or drug traffickers. Never forget that any mistake in responding to their behavior can ruin their future,” warned Saifuddin.
The detention of punkers without adherence to proper procedures, according to Saifuddin, translates into a violation of citizens’ rights and is thus a breach of law. If some of them are under age, Saifuddin added, the government and society should also abide by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly in treating children involved in legal problems.