The video shows little girls, marching through the streets of a town in Indonesia while wearing niqabs and carrying fake weapons. The video was filmed on August 18 and, since then, has been shared several thousands of times on social media. This footage was met with outcry in Indonesia, prompting administrators at the girls’ school to apologise.
These little girls were students at an elementary school in Probolinggo, a town in the province of East Java. They were marching in a cultural parade held on August 18, the day before Indonesia’s independence day.
The video was posted on the town’s Facebook page on the day of the parade, along with the caption: "Primary school carnival in the town of Probolinggo this morning". This post alone has already been viewed more than 620,000 times, not to mention the countless other pages and accounts that shared it in separate posts (here, for example).
Many people left comments expressing their shock and outrage. Some of them said that these schoolgirls had been indoctrinated and that they never should have carried weapons, even fake ones. Others called for the school to be shut down and for authorities to launch an investigation into the matter.
"During the parades organised to celebrate independence, children usually wear traditional garments”
Yuliana (not her real name) lives on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
"Several of my friends shared the video on Facebook. We were all shocked – it’s the first time that I’ve ever seen schoolgirls dressed like that.
Lots of people were asking why these schoolgirls were dressed like that. During the parades organised to celebrate independence, children often wear traditional clothes that tell the story of our country. Sometimes, they wear military outfits that look like the uniforms worn by the Indonesian army. Sometimes, they wear old military uniforms, which is also a reference to history. But children never wear anything like what these little girls were wearing.
Lots of people thought they were seeing images of little girls in the Islamic State organisation. Radical ideas can be developed very early, starting when children are very little, so that is why people were up in arms about it."
Bambang Soesatyo, the president of the lower house of the Indonesian parliament, also responded to this video, saying that it was an “inappropriate spectacle” and that it could “negatively influence the children and their way of thinking”.
School administrators responded by saying that it had never been their intention to “inculcate violence” in the children.
When asked about the outfits worn by the children, the school's principal replied that “the children were marching while wearing veiled uniforms and carrying weapons with the theme ‘Struggle for the Prophet to Increase Faith and Piety’”. He added that they had simply used accessories from a previous event to save money, without explaining what this previous event was.
As this primary school is located on a military base, the commander also offered his excuses for the incident, saying that it wasn’t at all their aim to spread radical or terrorist ideology.
However, their explanation still wasn’t enough to convince everyone, says Yuliana. And the police in Probolinggo said they were launching an investigation into the school.
People were all the more shocked about this incident because, in May, there were a series of terrorist attacks in the Indonesian town of Surabaya – which is also located in East Java. Children were used by extremists to carry out some of these attacks.
Religious extremism has been on the rise in Indonesia, the country with the largest number of Muslims in the world. About 90% of the population is Muslim.
This article was written by Chloé Lauvergnier (@clauvergnier).