Audryn Karma with Eben Kirksey at the White House, 11.12.11
What an amazing few days it's been for the Filep Karma case. As I write, President Obama is in Bali, Indonesia, and surely has a briefcase full of calls for the immediate release of Filep. The UN has just responded to a petition filed by Freedom Now which states: "[the] United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued its opinion that the Government of Indonesia is in violation of international law by detaining Filep Karma." In August, 26 members of the House of Representatives wrote to Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) demanding Filep's immediate and unconditional release. And in anticipation of Obama's visit, Indonesian newspapers have been filled with stories about the possible human rights issues that he might raise with SBY. Amnesty's Indonesia researcher in London, Josef Benedict, commented on Obama's visit in an article for the Sydney Morning Herald.
But there's more! Into this perfect storm steps the intrepid Audryn Karma, Filep's oldest daughter. Audryn made her first trip outside Indonesia to attend Amnesty's Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference. She also was able to visit with Members of Congress and their staff, including a major supporter of Papuan human rights initiatives, Representative Eni Faleomavaega (American Samoa), and with officials at the State Department.
Amnesty activists first met Audryn at the amazing and energetic White House rally on Saturday. Four bus-loads of attendees left the conference and headed for the rally around noon. In an ever-widening circle of people at Lafayette Park, Audryn heard cries of "Free Filep Karma!" She was called to the bullhorn and introduced as Filep's daughter, to the cries and applause of the crowd. Although she worried about her English, Audryn didn't stumble as she explained that she had come to ask for her father's freedom.I next caught up with Audryn on Sunday, when she was the featured speaker at the conference's closing plenary. Eben Kirksey introduced her with a video that she had previously narrated. In short, she brought the house down, or more accurately, brought the handkerchiefs out. Audryn struggled at times to describe the impact her father's arrest and detention have had on the family.
When I heard that my father was sentenced to 15 years, my family and I felt the uncertainty of our future life. My only thoughts at that time was what would happen to me in the next 15 years, whether I would be fortunate or not but it did make me feel very depressed. For three days I isolated myself and cried. I was also sad because I was separated from my father when I was 17 years and when his jail term ended, I would be 32 years old and my sister 31. I imagined it would be a long time when we could be together again.
My future dream is to become a doctor so that I can help other people. When my friends and even my former teacher knew about my dream, they laughed at me and told me that my dream was impossible now that my father is in jail and with his condition he would not be able to have enough money to support my education.
The surrounding community, including the church also looked down and isolated us from their activities. Despite the distant attitude by the community, we always remembered our father’s advice to continue our study and make him proud some day. For that reason, my sister and I kept on working hard to meet our parent’s wishes.
As a final word, I would like to say that my sister and I will never give up and will continue to accomplish a better life in the future. We will fight for our father’s unconditional release and for us to reunite again as one happy family. I strongly believe that God is kind and will always bless and be with us. On behalf of my sister, I sincerely would like to ask you to also help free my father, Filep Karma.Audryn could breathe a sigh of relief that she had passed one of the trip's big hurdles. She had understandably been nervous about a speech in front of a large gathering, and had been practicing it for hours before her scheduled time. The conference ended on Audryn's note, and as people left they stopped to hug and offer Audryn their support. We had a little time in the afternoon, so we decided to visit a museum on the Mall before Audryn's evening monuments tour. Audryn expressed interest in something like Night at the Museum, so we headed to the bones at the Museum of Natural History.
Audryn is completing her dentistry internship and is interested in forensic dentistry -- so she enjoyed all the old jaw bones on display.
On Wednesday of this week we all met at the Mid-Altantic Regional Office for lunch and goodbyes. Audryn had brought a large bundle of gifts for everyone -- earrings, bracelets made of tree bark or shells, necklaces and hair combs, and also a koteka which had been signed by Filep. On our way to the airport we had time for one quick stop -- hot chocolate and cupcakes!
Audryn's seven day US visit must have seemed like a blur when she finally got onto her 20+ hour ride home. Though her mother has tried to shield Audryn and her sister from some of the hardship that Filep's detention has brought the family, Audryn has blossomed into a young woman who was offered the chance to seize the moment for her father -- and took the plunge. Everyone who heard and met Audryn came away with a sense of the courage it took her to make this trip. We are all rededicated to continue our actions for Filep Karma.