LGBT rights defenders: Intolerant groups proliferating, state remains silent

Tempo – February 23, 2016
Protesters class with police during LGBT solidarty rally - February 23, 2016 (Beritagar)
Protesters class with police during LGBT solidarty rally - February 23, 2016 (Beritagar)

Shinta Maharani, Jakarta – Hundreds of pro-democracy activists were threatened and intimidated by intolerant groups when they held a peaceful protest action at a square alongside the McDonalds fast-food restaurant near the Tugu Monument in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on Tuesday February 23.

The threats began before the protest began and continued throughout the action itself. Before holding the demonstration, a broadcast was circulated calling for the demonstration by pro-democracy groups at the Tugu Monument to be broken up. The broadcast was made by a section of the Islamic Community Forum (FUI).

The broadcast included written information about figures and participants of the protest including their vehicle types and number plates followed by their addresses. It said they would hunt down anyone who supported the pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) action.

The pro-democracy activists held their ground near the McDonalds restaurant until 7.30pm maintaining solidarity and support between activists and ensuring that they would be safe on the streets. “We received information that there would be sweeps by intolerant groups”, said Pro-Democracy Solidarity spokesperson Ani near the McDonalds restaurant on Tuesday evening.

Ani said that the state is failing to provide a sense of security from the proliferation of intolerant groups whose demonstrations and protests are increasing the number of cases of intolerance and violence.

The activists were not just defending the rights of LGBT people, but also protesting violence against farmers who are opposing the construction of a new airport in nearby Kulonprogo regency.

Ani said that since 2014 there have been at least 20 or so cases of intolerance or violence against pro-human rights civil society groups. Unfortunately, law enforcement officials have failed to guarantee their sense of security.

She said that today’s action represented an opportunity to retake democratic space. “We’re fighting an anti-LGBT, racist, fascist, repressive and oppressive movement”, she said.

As many as 150 activists were initially planning to demonstrate at the Tugu Monument. Police however banned the action on security grounds because hundreds of people from the Youth Generation of the Indonesian Islamic Front (AM FUI) were already guarding the area.

Based on Tempo’s observations, hundreds of people from FUI had been on guard at the Tugu Monument, the zero kilometre point near the central post office and the Abu Bakar Ali parking area near the Malioboro shopping district since late morning. Some carried green flags along with their motorcycles. During the action they expressed their strong opposition to LGBT people with banners.

FUI AM public relations division head Fuad Andreago said the broadcast had been issued by militia groups that oppose LGBT people. “The broadcast by the militia is natural. They felt troubled because they were challenged by a counter action”, said Andreago.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was Pembela Hak LGBT: Kelompok Intoleran Merajalela, Negara Diam.]