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Jakarta Post

Future uncertain for Yogyakarta transgender school

  • Bambang Muryanto

    The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta   /   Sun, February 28, 2016   /  11:47 am
Future uncertain for Yogyakarta transgender school Police officers guard the entrance of Al Fatah Islamic school for transgender people in Kotagede, Yogyakarta, last week. Local authorities have shut the school down in the face of pressure from a hard-line religious group. (Antara/Regina Safri) (Antara/Regina Safri)

Police officers guard the entrance of Al Fatah Islamic school for transgender people in Kotagede, Yogyakarta, last week. Local authorities have shut the school down in the face of pressure from a hard-line religious group. (Antara/Regina Safri)

Al Fatah Islamic School for transgender people in Yogyakarta has ceased all activity and its owners and students are keeping a low profile after the school was shut down by local authorities amid protests from a local hard-line group.

Al Fatah, located in a house owned by the leader of the school, Shinta Ratri. was calm and quiet when journalists visited the school in Jagalan, Kotagede subdistrict, on Saturday.

Several transwomen shut themselves in their rooms as journalists approached.

Shinta also refused to talk to the press about the shutting down of the Islamic school, which was established elsewhere in 2008 and moved to Jagalan in 2014.

She wanted to take a break, she said, and had no plans to re-establish the school at another location.

"I am still tired and I want to calm myself first. Life goes on, and I also need to earn money," the former makeup artist told thejakartapost.com through a text message.

Authorities decided to close down Shinta's school after a local meeting on Wednesday.

The authorities claimed that Al Fatah was a public nuisance, with motorcycles blocking the road whenever the school held events and activities. There were also reports of noisy karaoke nights and alcohol consumption at the school.

The meeting was urged by the Yogyakarta Islamic Jihadi Front (FJI), a group that opposes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Banguntapan subdistrict chief Jati Bayu Broto said the decision was taken in the public interest.

Aditia Arief Firmanto from the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute, representing Shinta, meanwhile insisted the latter had not closed the instution out of fear of the FJI.

"Shutting down the school is a violation of human rights. These students are being denied the right to a religious education," Adita said on Saturday.

The legal aid institute also deeply regretted the failure on the part of the Banguntapan Police to address a broadcast message allegedly sent by the FJI threatening to seal Al Fatah on Feb. 19, distressing and frightening Shinta and her students.

"[The Banguntapan Police] said they had no cyber division, and could only use Article 335 of the Criminal Code to track down the sender," Adita said.

Meanwhile, Banguntapan Police chief Comr. Suharno denied that his force had refused to respond to the reports, but had suggested that the complainants report instead to the Bantul Police or Yogyakarta Police, both of which have cyber divisions.

Al Fatah teacher Abdul Muhaimin said he would continue to fight for the school's right to exist and educate, noting that activities were limited to reciting the Koran, learning how to pray and celebrating Islamic holidays, and did not extend to anything that might disturb the peace and order of the neighborhood.

"Why do we need permission for a Koran recital? Parking issues can be managed. It is of the upmost importance that we do not let this problem interrupt the students' right to learn their religion," said Muhaimin, who is also the headteacher of the Nurul Umahat Islamic Boarding School in Kotagede.

The Sharia and Law School of Nahdlatul Ulama Islamic University in Esparza has cooperated with Al Fatah since 2014, aiming to improve the quality of the transwomen's life.

Separately, FJI leader Darohman said the group would allow Al Fatah to operate again under the condition that the transwomen repented and returned to being men.

"If they do not change, their prayers will not be accepted," he said. (rin)

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