1.13.2012

Shi'a Muslims at risk of attack in Indonesia

Rather than protecting Shi'a villagers, security forces filmed the attack on mobile phones
     Hundreds of Indonesian Shi'a Muslims have been living in a temporary shelter after their village was attacked by anti-Shi’a groups at the end of December. On 12 January, they were forced back to their village, despite an ongoing risk of further attacks.
     On 28 December 2011, Shi’a religious leaders from Nangkrenang village in Sampang district, Madura Island were warned by the Omben sub-district police that their community would be attacked by anti-Shi’a groups. Despite requests for police protection, only one police and one military officer were present on the morning of 29 December when a mob of around 500 hundred people, some carrying sharp weapons, entered the village. According to local sources, the officers did not intervene but instead recorded the attacks on their mobile phones. The mob set fire to a place of worship, boarding school and various homes in the vicinity. Although 25 Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officers arrived at the scene an hour later, no steps were taken to prevent the attacks or protect the community. One person arrested for the attack has since been released.
     Following the attacks, around 335 villagers, including at least 107 children, were evacuated to a temporary shelter at a sports complex in Sampang. Many of the children were afraid to go back to their homes and schools. Conditions in the shelter were reported to be inadequate, with limited access to clean water and sanitation.
     On 4 January 2011 the Sampang district authorities and police began to pressure community members to return to their homes. Water supplies to the shelter were reduced and the authorities threatened to evict some community members from the shelter. The community refused to leave the shelter until they received adequate protection from the police and the perpetrators of the attack were brought to justice. In spite of this request, they were forced onto trucks by the local government authorities on the evening of 12 January, and taken back to their village. However, the authorities told four community members that they could not return.

     The Shi’a community in Sampang, East Java have faced intimidation and attacks in the past, including in 2006 and 2011. They have also reportedly been pressured by anti-Shi’a groups to convert to Sunni Islam.
     Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of intimidation and violence against religious minorities by radical Islamist groups in various parts of Indonesia. These include attacks and burning of places of worship and homes, at times leading to their displacement. In most cases, those who commit acts of violence are not punished.

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