Publisher By: Minority Rights Group International
Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, is also an intensely diverse country whose citizens are drawn from an estimated 300 separate ethnic groups, speaking different languages and practising multiple religious faiths. While the country is often held up as a model of religious tolerance and democracy, alarming instances of intolerance, which sometimes spilled into violence, shows that the reality is far removed from the political platitudes.
There were numerous examples throughout the year. Members of Indonesia's Ahmadiyya community, a Muslim community branded heretics by religious conservatives, continued to face persecution. In April, members of fundamentalist group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) attacked an Ahmadi mosque in Singaparna, West Java, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which contends that police did little to stop the damage.
Indonesia's often heavy-handed crackdown on the movement for autonomy and self-governance in West Papua continued to have detrimental impacts on indigenous Papuans in the country's easternmost provinces.
In June, police shot and killed independence activist Mako Tabuni, whose death triggered angry demonstrations. Police claim the vice-chairman of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) violently resisted arrest, but activists and rights groups dispute this. Also that month, KNPB leader Buchtar Tabuni was arrested after police accused his organization of engaging in violence.
Throughout 2012, activists and rights groups accused police and military of employing intimidation tactics against activists, including arbitrary arrests, shootings and torture. In a June report, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) outlined what it said was a drastic increase in reported torture incidents over the past 12 months, predominantly at the hands of police. The rights group said they had recorded 86 allegations of torture – triple the previous total. Roughly 40 per cent of reported victims were from the Papuan provinces.
The continuing conflict in West Papua is exacerbating what is already a worrying health situation for civilians. According to Indonesia's National AIDS Commission, AIDS prevalence rates are at least 15 times higher than the national average. This suggests a need to step up awareness and education efforts in high-risk areas. At a national level, heightened HIV infection rates are generally found in traditionally high-risk groups. However, in Papua, health professionals say the problem is more widespread across the general population.
At the same time, NGOs, including those working in the health sector, say the authorities have made it increasingly difficult to work in the area, which suggests that West Papua's political stability will be an important determinant in changing health outcomes for minority groups.
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