The Jakarta Post
Over 110 followers of the Ahmadiyah Muslim minority group who have been living at the Wisma Transito shelter in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), for a decade are still demanding the government take responsibility for their future.
Feb. 4 marked 10 years since the Ahmadiyah followers were accommodated at Wisma Transito after being driven out of Ketapang hamlet in Lingsar district, West Lombok, by a group of intolerant residents.
'We wish to return to Ketapang and live freely like other citizens. But no one wants to listen. The government probably regards us as nonexistent. Now, we have resigned ourselves to our fate and to life at the shelter. We are grateful our children can be strong and patient here,' community coordinator Syahidin told The Jakarta Post in Mataram on Friday.
The government initially provided the 29 displaced families with basic necessities but stopped in 2008 due to limited funds.
Since then, the displaced people, who were previously farmers and farmhands, have been forced to take on any work to survive. Men have become ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers, construction workers and itinerant barbers, while the women sell various wares from baskets.
Syahidin said the families desperately wanted to return to their village and lead normal lives, including cultivating their farmland and raising their children with adequate health care and education.
In the past 10 years, little has changed at the shelter, apart from the number of residents. Syahidin has recorded the birth of at least 24 babies at the facility, a dozen of whom now attend elementary school. Meanwhile, nine elderly people have died in the last 10 years.
He said that since 2014, refugees who reached adulthood had been provided with identity cards as Mataram residents.
However, despite being underprivileged, they had yet to receive access to government assistance programs for health care and education, such as the Indonesia Health Card and Indonesia Smart Card.
Munikah, 40, acknowledged that surviving at the shelter was arduous, adding she had never received aid despite holding evacuee status.
'We have the same hope of returning home. In our own home village, we could be free to rebuild our economy and raise our children. However, we must continue to be patient,' said Munikah.
To meet her family's needs, Munikah set up a small kiosk in the Wisma Transito compound selling snacks and foodstuffs to other evacuees. Her husband, Sahdan, 45, works as a barber, with irregular income.
Sahdan and Munikah are the parents of Transita Sinta Nuriyah Safitri, 7, named after the wife of former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid.
'When Transita was born, Ibu Sinta Nuriyah was by chance visiting Wisma Transito at the end of 2007. We yearn for leaders like that, who are sensitive to our situation,' said Munikah.
Ahmadiyah followers in Indonesia frequently face the threat of violence from intolerant residents.
Last week, several women and children from an Ahmadiyah community in Bangka regency, Bangka Belitung province, were removed due to the risk of harm from other residents.
In February 2011, three Ahmadiyah followers were killed in Cikeusik, Banten, after hundreds of angry residents surrounded and attacked them.
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