The Jakarta Post
Rights group Peaceful Yogyakarta Solidarity Forum have denounced the recent attempt by Islamic organizations and police personnel to forcefully disband Lady Fast 2016, an art event held by female artist group Kolektif Betina at Survive Garage, Yogyakarta.
At a press conference in Yogyakarta on Monday, the forum, which comprises artists, NGO activists and journalists, called on the State to protect the right of Indonesian citizens to express themselves.
“We condemn all forms of violence and intimidation which lead to the death of freedom to expression,” said Anang Nasichudin, representing Peaceful Yogyakarta Solidarity Forum during the press conference held at the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) Yogyakarta on Monday.
Dozens of Islamic mass organizations, supported by Kasihan Police personnel, disbanded the Lady Fast 2016 event on Saturday evening. Hate-filled statements were directed at several female artists and activists while a number of guests had been confronted with physical violence.
During the attack, the protesters had refused to mention the names of the organizations they represented. Some wore hats and tshirts featuring “Forum Umat Islam (FUI)” or Indonesia Islamic Front and “KOKAM”, an abbreviation for the Muhammadiyah Youth Force Command logos.
The Kasihan Police have asked local residents to temporarily seal a house owned by Survive Garage, reportedly so that members of the artist community cannot stay there.
“We hope that all state apparatus can be present and side with minority groups. We want Yogyakarta to become a tolerant city again,” said Anang.
Juwadi, an artist who came to the event together with his wife and their child, deplored the police’s excessive dispersal measures in which they had fired warning shots into the air, causing children to become frightened. Juwadi said that several police personnel wearing civilian clothing had fired warning shots in close proximity to his 5-month-pregnant wife and their child.
“I complained about it. I told them if they wanted to fire warning shots, they should do it far from children. The police personnel kept silent. But one of the mass organization personnel asked me why I was so contentious. He even challenged me to fight,” he said.
Juwadi deplored the police for not having allowed visitors at the event to feel comfortable. All this time, he added, Yogyakarta was safe and art events had always been ‘family friendly’.
Juwadi said several children visiting the event with their parents continued to suffer from trauma. After the event had been disbanded, two children and eight adults took refuge at Survive Garage. Several police personnel broke down the main entrance of the house as protesters had reportedly forced them to search the house to see whether there were alcoholic beverages inside.
Kolektif Betina representative Andina Septia said Lady Fast 2016 was an event for female artists to perform their art. The group consists of 40 female artists from all over Indonesia. The event was initially scheduled to be held until Sunday and would have featured music, discussions, workshops and offered artworks for sale.
"We initiated this event due to the lack of space for female artists to express themselves," Andina said.
Meanwhile, Survive Garage representative Bayu Widodo has rejected the accusation that his art space was a sinful place. If there were alcoholic beverages there, they were brought by the visitors and not offered as part of the event.
"Since it was established six years ago, we have held a number of events and there has never been such a problem," Bayu said.
Kasihan Police chief Comr. Suwandi said that the Islamic hard-liner groups who had disbanded the event consisted of FUI, Islamic Jihad Front (FJI), and others.
"We disbanded the event because it did not have a permit and had the potential to disturb the public order," Suwandi said.
LBH Yogyakarta director Hamzal Wahyudin said the event at Survive Garage had not needed a crowd permit since visitor numbers were less than 300 people, the minimum number of participants to require a permit from the National Police.
"We will report this case to the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM) because this is a potential violation of human rights," Hamzal said. (afr/ebf)
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