Papuan human rights defender, Yones Douw (see intro image), has closely followed the riots in the United States of America in response to the tragic killing of George Floyd by police officers.
“As a human rights activist, I see no difference between black Americans and black indigenous Papuans given the colour. The violations by security force officers which black Americans and indigenous Papuans have to face are the same. The discrimination which indigenous Papuans experienced is even crueller: They are insulted as monkeys, pigs, dogs or gorillas, being persecuted, intimidated, looted, killed, shot dead, hacked as well as discriminated against the law and in law enforcement.
However, the problem in the United States is the ill-treatment of black Americans during police operations. In West Papua, the root cause of the problem is closely linked to opposing views on the historical integration of West Papua into Indonesia. As Papuans, we have to underline that the conflict in West Papua is not a matter of development disparities or economic issues.”
The International Coalition for Papua has documented the extra-judicial killings of 31 victims by security force members throughout the year 2019. All victims of extra-judicial killings – except for a single case – were ethnic Papuans. A report on extra-judicial killings by Amnesty International confirmed this pattern. The finding is indicative of the continuing trend of state violence, violations of the right to life and the persistent racial discrimination which indigenous Papuans face in Indonesia. An independent human rights court has processed none of the cases. The Government has failed to hold perpetrators from the police and military accountable for such severe crimes. Spontaneous and government-driven migration over the past decades have caused a significant demographic shift in West Papua and the marginalisation of indigenous Papuans: Demographic experts estimate that less than 50% of the population are indigenous Papuans. The majority of indigenous Papuans live outside of the urban centres of West Papua, with less access to functioning education and health services. Indigenous Papuans are often labelled as primitive, uneducated, lazy and trouble makers or separatists.
Similar as in the United States, racist assaults on Papuan students in multiple Javanese cities took place in August and September 2019. Security force members and residents insulted the students as pigs, dogs and monkeys during the incident in Surabaya on 16 August 2019. The event triggered massive peaceful demonstrations against racism in Indonesia. Riots and outbreaks of ethnic violence accompanied some of the protests. Law enforcement institutions responded with mass arrests and a wave of prosecution against Papuan activists peacefully advocating for human rights and the right to self-determination.