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Jakarta Post

Pressure mounts for Australia to cancel scholarship of student accused of sexual abuse

  • Dyaning Pangestika
    Dyaning Pangestika

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, May 9, 2020   /   12:30 pm
Pressure mounts for Australia to cancel scholarship of student accused of sexual abuse Protesters march in Yogyakarta on International Women's Day 2019 to call attention to sexual violence prevention, including on university campuses. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

Activists have put pressure on the Australian government and the University of Melbourne to revoke a prestigious scholarship awarded to Ibrahim Malik, a high-achieving Indonesian student who has been accused of sexual abuse.

At least 30 female students from the Indonesian Islamic University (UII), where Ibrahim completed his undergraduate degree, have come forward to report him to the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Yogyakarta) for alleged sexual abuse.

A petition on change.org, created on Thursday by four Indonesian recipients of the Australia Awards scholarship – the scholarship on which Ibrahim is currently studying in Melbourne – had garnered 4,700 signatures as of Saturday. "We ask the Australia Awards Scholarship to have zero tolerance for sexual abusers by revoking the perpetrator's scholarship," the petition said. It added that sexual abuse was not in line with the values of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which was committed to preventing sexual exploitation, sexual harassment and violence.

The creators of the petition said the accused had been studying for a master's degree in urban planning at the University of Melbourne since 2018. “The perpetrator is a high-achieving student and was selected for the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative [YSEALI]. He had a pious image, gave motivational speeches at many events and delivered sermons in mosques. He was also referred to as an ustaz [cleric].”

The students alleged that Ibrahim had committed acts of sexual violence, including verbal harassment and forced sexual acts, during his time as a student at UII. He allegedly continued his actions while he was studying in Australia on the Australia Awards scholarship.

“The survivors reported that they experienced sexual abuse between 2016 and 2020,” said LBH Yogyakarta deputy director Meila Nurul Fajriah on Wednesday.

Fajriah said the victims did not report the abuse immediately because the accused was a popular student at UII.

Read also: High-achieving student to be stripped of honors after 30 women report him for alleged sexual abuse

Ibrahim responded to the accusations on Instagram on April 29, saying he had been wrongly accused and that he forgave those who accused him.

Ibrahim, who was granted an honorary title by UII for his academic achievements, will be stripped of the accolade as a result of the allegations, a UII spokesperson said on Wednesday.

A spokesman from the Australian Embassy said the embassy had been notified of Ibrahim’s alleged sexual misconduct.

“We are aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by an Australia Awards scholar. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and its programs have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct claims,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

“We take all allegations of this nature seriously and manage them in accordance with our policies and Australian law,” he continued, adding that the embassy was unable to provide further details because of privacy constraints. 

The Australia Awards Scholarship also replied to The Jakarta Post’s request for comment.

"The Australia Awards in Indonesia, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the University of Melbourne are fully aware of the allegations against Ibrahim Malik. All further action relating to this matter will be taken by the University of Melbourne and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on behalf of the Australian Government as sponsor of Mr. Malik’s Australia Awards scholarship," the Australia Global Alumni team in Indonesia said on Thursday.