Last weekend, the Indonesian police took 43 West Papuan students into custody for allegedly disrespecting the Indonesian flag during an independence day celebration (an allegation the students deny).
Police stormed the students’ dorm and used teargas to force them out, while bystanders and officers called them “monkeys”, a derogatory term for ethnically Melanesian Papuans.
West Papuans have long been cast by Indonesians as primitive people from the Stone Age, and this racist treatment continues to this day. West Papuan author Filep Karma described the extent of racism against West Papuans in his 2014 book, As If We Are Half-Animal: Indonesia’s Racism in Papua Land, saying he often heard Indonesians call West Papuans monkeys.
This latest episode of discrimination builds on more than five decades of racism, torture, summary executions, land dispossession and cultural denigration of West Papuans by Indonesian security forces.
After the students were detained last weekend, riots erupted in the cities of Manokwari and Jayapura. Thousands of people turned out to protest against the mistreatment of the students and, more broadly, the mistreatment of West Papuans by the Indonesian authorities. Many protesters waved the nationalist Morning Star flag, an act punishable by a 15-year jail sentence (Indonesia is not just sensitive about how West Papuans treat the Indonesian flag – the state prohibits them from flying their own.)
In response to the deteriorating security situation, Indonesia has deployed more troops to the region.
Detailed Story HERE