Remembering : 14th anniversary of Indonesian May Riots (1998-2012)
This illustration is dedicated to all the Indonesian Chinese women and girls who were victims of the Indonesian May Riots in 1998. You are scattered everywhere around the globe, some of you still remain in Indonesia. Many of you still live in fear and in hiding. We have not forgotten you. We hope some day those responsible will be brought to justice. We hope some day our future generations will learn the truth when the racism and the riots finally make it to official text books in all schools across Indonesia.
About the May riots:
•During the Asian Economic Crisis, university students in Jakarta took to the streets in peaceful protests in May 1998. Two of them died during confrontation with riot police (allegedly Indonesian police fired at student groups using real bullets). This triggered riots and Jakarta fell into chaos.
•In the midst of the violence that broke out over the next few days, there was an organised, systematic raping and killing of Indonesian women of ethnic Chinese descent (and/or those who were perceived to be so) in Jakarta and in other cities.
• Aftermath: Human Rights organisations looked into the matter, but until today, not a single person has been made to stand trial or even put under formal investigation, despite numerous eyewitness accounts and hospital records of patients that has been treated for sexual violence at the time.
•Due to the long history of racial discrimination against Chinese in Indonesia most victims who can afford it, chose to run away and bury the past, migrating to countries like Singapore or the United States. Those who have expressed the intention to testify received death threats. There has been at least two suspicious deaths linked to the aftermath of May Riots : one of a young woman who was due to testify at Human Rights Convention in the Netherlands, one of a prominent human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.
• I am an Indonesian Chinese woman, who happened to be living in Singapore during the riots, although my parents and immediate family was in Jakarta. The lack of accurate news coverage of the events and the proliferation of gory gossip and graphic imagery (some were real, some were fabricated— it was impossible to differentiate which was which) has left me with a certain intangible emotional trauma. I observed from a distance. Worried over my parents and my cousins. I knew nothing, so I imagined the worst.
• Growing up under Suharto regime where it is illegal for Indonesian Chinese to speak and write Chinese means I can’t read or write Mandarin. I had to resort to Google Translate to find out how to write the Chinese characters you see in the picture. It reads ‘Hua Ren’ (Ethnic Chinese). There was a website set up immediately after the international overseas Chinese community heard of the riots, and it was named www.huaren.org. People donated money through the site, amongst other things.
• The May riots changed the way I see my life and my identity forever. I have struggled with this issue for so long, so I decided to make this image to help myself through self-expression. And I would like to apologize in advance if you are one of the women affected by the riots and this picture reopens old wounds. I am truly sorry. I only wanted to reach out and to say that I wish I could be your voice, that I, and many others like me, have not forgotten what happened, and that our hearts go out to you.
• Finally, as said before, no one really knows who these women are, who went through this and survived. The woman you work with, your friend, your colleague, the woman sitting in the bus next to you…they could all be them. If that makes you think, I hope you consider passing this picture on. Hopefully this message in the bottle gets to the intended recipients, and achieve the intended purpose.
•The full wikipedia article of the incident can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_1998_riots_of_Indonesia