"The authorities opened the door to this violence and in a way legitimized it"
Andreas Harsono is a journalist, blogger and active member of Human Rights Watch. He is not part of the Ahmadiyya community.
I have worked a lot on the persecution of this community and I know some members. I know them so well that after the massacre on Sunday, three Ahmadis - three educated young men who live in Jakarta but were originally from the village - came to my house to alert me. But I was in Sumatra, my wife informed me of the situation and I came back immediately. On my return, I heard eyewitness accounts and I was given this footage. They were looking for somebody credible to spread this information. They spent the night in my living room and left on Monday morning.
Last week, they returned to their village to help their families, because for a few days they had heard rumours that there would be an attack against the Ahmadiyya community. The lectures accusing the Ahmadis of having ‘haram’ (impure) blood were becoming more frequent and were stirring up hatred against them. But they had no idea that the attack would be so violent.
We sent the video to an Indonesian television channel. But they only broadcast the beginning, the moment where the attackers arrive in front of the house of the imam and the Ahmadis come out to defend themselves. The editors were scared of stirring up hatred by showing the most shocking scenes. I have since posted the video on the internet to shows the determination of the assailants, who chant 'infidel, infidel'. They all have a blue sash tied around their chests, which to me confirms that it was an organized attack.
“These heinous crimes are becoming more frequent”
What is surprising is that none of the eyewitnesses mentioned the presence of any particular group of extremists, which makes me think that they are ‘ordinary’ believers, believers indoctrinated by increasingly hateful preachers who pronounce that the Ahmadis ruin the faith of other Muslims.
I don’t have proof that the police were complicit in the assault, but many of the Ahmadi community are convinced they were, because of their passivity during the lynching. What is certain is that in the past ten years, no one caught attacking an Ahmadi has been sentenced.
In 2008, the Indonesian government issued a decree which classified the Ahmadi as blasphemers and introduced a five year imprison sentence for anyone teaching this religious doctrine. Since then, they have faced daily discrimination.
They cannot employ people of their farms, their children are bullied in school and these hate crimes have become increasingly frequent in the country. It is the authorities who have opened the door to this violence and given it legitimacy.