One million hold peaceful demonstration against US attack on Iraq

Kompas – March 31, 2003
Thousands of protesters take to the streets of Jakarta (romanaufklarung)
Thousands of protesters take to the streets of Jakarta (romanaufklarung)

Jakarta – Around 1 million people -- originating form at least 25 political parties and social organisations -- held a demonstration in Jakarta on Sunday, in the framework of opposing the US invasion of Iraq. The demonstrators who called themselves as the Indonesian Solidarity Committee for the Iraqi People (Komite Indonesia untuk Solidaritas Rakyat Irak) -- and referring to their action as being supported by 3 million people -- condemned the attack , the source of which is the destroyer of world order..

This time the wave of actions was visibly larger. The demonstrators filled both sides of the road -- each made up of three lanes respectively -- on Jalan M.H. Thamrin and Jalan Merdeka Selatan. When the head of the group, which moved off from the Hotel Indonesia roundabout at 9.30am lead by the president of the Justice Party, Hidayat Nurwahid, had already arrived in front of the US Embassy on Jalan Merdeka Selatan, the tail of the column of demonstrators was still at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. The distance from the US Embassy to the Hotel Indonesia roundabout is around 2.5 kilometers.

The masses began to fill the Hotel Indonesia roundabout at 8am. Among the different groups they came from the Justice Party, the Prosperity Justice Party, the National Mandate Party, the United Development Party Reformasi, the Vanguard Party, the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), the Crescent and Star Party, the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI), the Indonesian Mujahidin Council, the Indonesia Islamiya Religious Council, Hizbuth Tahrir, the Association of Indonesian Churches, the Muhammadiyah Youth Association, the Indonesian Brotherhood of Muslim Workers, the National Student League for Democracy and students from a number of institutions of higher education.

Many figures from national, religious and mass organisation joined in the action opposing this US attack on Iraq. Among them was the speaker of the National Consultative Assembly (MPR), Amien Rais, the former Minister of National Education, Yahya Muhaimin, MUI chairperson KH Amidhan, MUI secretary general Din Syamsuddin, MPR member Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, human rights figure Munir and the chairperson of the Vanguard Party, Rachmawati Soekarnoputri.

As well as bring political party symbols and posters, the masses also held a happening art action. In addition to this, they also carried biers for the corpses of the victims of the US attack, US missiles which are destroying Iraq and an effigy of US President George Bush.

The masses rejected a request by US Ambassador to Indonesia, Ralph L. Boyce, to meet with representatives of the demonstrators. In his speech, Din Syamsuddin said that after discussions with a number of elements who were at the action, they agreed to refuse to meet with Boyce.

“Our statement is clear, reject the war and end the US attack against Iraq. So there is nothing more which needs to be discussed. Today the US ambassador asked to meet with our demonstrators who total 3 million people who have held this peaceful aciton”, said Din Syamsuddin.

At around 11.15am, Hidayat Nurwahid ordered the demonstrators to return immediately to their homes and respective organisations in an orderly manner.

“Our action is a peaceful action, so don’t soil the actions against the war and violence with acts of violence as exhibited by the terrorist state of America”, said Hidayat.

Before the masses dispersed, they sang the national anthem Indonesia Raya. Although the demonstrators had already dispersed, the tail of the demonstrators was still moving along Jalan M.H. Thamrin towards the US Embassy. There was a number of student groups who continued their action in front of the US Embassy and continued their actions in front of the office of the United Nations on Jalan M.H. Thamrin. Moreover, there was a group of demonstrators who were still holding an action at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout.

Demanding a clear position

The day before, hundreds of demonstrators also held a similar action in front of the US Embassy building. The demanded that the Indonesian government take a clear position in an active effort to safeguard world peace as mandated by the constitution. They called on the Indonesian government and appealed to the Malaysia government to close the Malacca Straits to war ships or supporters of the US invasion of Iraq.

“So far the government position has been divided. On one hand it does not agree with the US military actions against Iraq, but on the other hand it allows war ships or supporters of the US invasion of Iraq to pass though our waters”, said the chairperson of the PRD, Haris Rusli Moti, on Saturday during a break in the demonstration at 3.45 at the US Embassy building.

The demonstrators came from the National Coalition group, the Youth and Student Opposition Front, the Ampera [Message of the People’s Suffering] Front, the Women’s Claim Alliance and women demonstrators from the Muslimat Movement.

The last group to arrived in front of the building at 3.45. This group again called for US President George W. Bush to be brought before the International Court to be tried for crimes against humanity.

Human solidarity

Autonomous groups, foundation and committees around [the Islamic mass organisation] Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) called for solidarity actions on the issue of the humanitarian crisis being faced by the people of Iraq. This call will be manifested in the form of street actions and the formation of medical and food coordination posts.

This issue was raised by the chairperson of the NU’s Central Leadership Institute of Study and Development of Human Resources (Lakpesdam) Sultonul Huda to reporters at the national offices of the NU, Saturday.

Meanwhile, the national chairperson of the NU’s National Girl’s Association (IPPNU), Ratu Dian Hatifah, added that the NU will also immediately open coordination posts for humanitarian aid at the IPBNU offices on Jalan Kramat Raya 164 Jakarta. (mam/win/lam)

[Translated by James Balowski.]