Indonesian Shiite Refugees Denied Food, Told to Go Home
Jakarta (dpa) â€“ About 300 Shiite Muslims fleeing an attack by local Sunnis on Indonesia’s Madura island have refused to return home, fearing further violence, activists said Thursday. Â Â (source)
Hundreds of Shiite refugees fleeing religious violence in East Java were denied access to water and other basic necessities on Wednesday as the local government urged them to return home.
“There was no food today, no water at all, but we have small children here as well as sick and old people,” said Iklil Al Milal, a religious leader in Nangkernang village, Sampang, where the violence occurred.
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Last week, the village was reportedly attacked by a mob of 1,000 people, who burned down a Shia Islamic boarding school and three other houses. As many as 351 Shiites fled the area and were evacuated by local officials to the Sampang sports stadium.
Wahid Institute researcher Muhammad Subhi said that volunteers with supplies for the Shiite refugees had been denied entrance to the stadium.
“Some of our friends who wanted to deliver food [for the people] were being stopped by the police, they could not get inside,” Subhi said.
He urged the police to dispatch officers to the village to provide security assurance for the people.
“The last time we checked, the situation in the village was still tense,” he added.
Iklil confirmed that he had heard the same thing.
“People don’t want to come back if they can’t get a reassurance of safety, including for our leader,” Iklil said, referring to his older brother, Tajul Muluk.
Tajul was taken from his home by police officers in April and was forced to leave the village for a year following pressure by hard-line groups.
Tajul and Iklil have another brother, Rois Alhukama, who allegedly triggered the conflict.
Rois was said to have renounced his Shia background after being scolded by his brothers for polygamous acts. Since then, he has reportedly been inciting neighboring Sunni communities against his own family.
According to Iklil, even though police and government officials want the villagers to return to Sampang, they have requested to relocate elsewhere.
“I told them if the others are allowed back, then I should be, too,” he said.
Kabul Supriyadi, who was investigating the case for the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said while people had been cleared to re turn, he would not advise Iklil and Tajul to do so â€” even though he had the word of East Java’s police chief that the area was secure.
“Looking at the situation and the people there, I don’t think it is possible for the leaders to return yet,” Kabul said. “We received information that they could lose their lives if they return.”
Kabul spent four days visiting the village and meeting with government officials, police officers and religious leaders â€” who are mostly Sunni â€” from the district to the provincial level.
“We found that the incident was fueled by a family conflict as well as differences in faith,” he said, adding that most of the leaders saw it primarily as a conflict of faith.
“It seems that the leaders could not accept each other’s [sectarian] differences,” Kabul said.
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