Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners

Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners
Widodo has pledged to bring reform to Indonesia

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pleaded to Indonesia to stop the execution of prisoners on death row for drug crimes. AFP PHOTO

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person
The pope wrote that the principle of legitimate personal defense isn’t adequate justification to execute someone. Photograph: Zuma/Rex

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison   (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)
US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)
Woman who spent 23 years on US death row cleared (Photo: dpa)


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Friday, May 30, 2014

Peres, Abbas to pray for peace at Vatican on June 8

Yahoo – AFP, 29 May 2014

Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) greets Pope Francis during a welcome
ceremony at Ben Gurion airport on May 25, 2014 (AFP Photo/David Buimovitch)

Vatican City (AFP) - Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas will pray for peace at the Vatican on June 8, the Holy See said Thursday.

Pope Francis had invited the pair to his home for a "heartfelt prayer" for peace during his three-day trip to the region, and the meeting "will take place on June 8, during the afternoon," a date "accepted by both parties," the Vatican said in a note.

Despite expectations Francis would steer clear of the thorny politics of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his trip, the Argentine pontiff extended a personal invitation to the two men at the end of a mass in Bethlehem on Sunday.

"I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer... to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace," he said.

"Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment," he added.

Last month, US-led peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators collapsed in bitter recriminations. That ended a nine-month bid to reach a solution and left no political initiative on the horizon.

Pope Francis (R) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas attend a
 welcome ceremony on May 25, 2014 in the West Bank Biblical town of Bethlehem
(AFP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

The meeting had to be scheduled to take place before the 90-year-old Israeli president retires at the end of July.

"The meeting in the Vatican is to pray together, it's not a mediation," the pope said during the return flight to Rome.

"It is a prayer without discussions," said the pontiff, who has made interfaith dialogue a cornerstone of his 14-month-old papacy.

Peres is known for his close relationship with Abbas and has frequently pushed for a peaceful resolution of the decades-long conflict.

Earlier this month, he told an Israeli television channel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had blocked a peace agreement he had secretly negotiated in Jordan with Abbas in 2011.

Rami Hamdallah, the new Palestinian prime minister, left, with
 Mahmoud Abbas. (Photograph: Thaer Ghanaim/AFP/Getty Images)

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Indonesia Looks to an ‘Asian Century’ With China

Jakarta Globe, Vita A.D. Busyra, May 28, 2014

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, second from right, and
 Chinese President Xi Jinping — accompanied by their wives — shake hands
 during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta in this file photo taken
 on Oct. 2, 2013. Xi’s stop in Jakarta is part of his first official trip across Southeast
Asia. (AFP Photo/Bay Ismoyo)

Jakarta. The Indonesian-Chinese Friendship Association, or PPIT, has officially inaugurated its new 2014-2016 board of supervisors, trustees and advisory council, as it seeks to continue improving the bilateral relations between the two countries in the social, economic and cultural sectors.

PPIT chairman Bondan Gunawan, who served as the Indonesian state secretary in 2000, said on Saturday that Indonesia and China had “countless commonalities” and the need to enhance strategic cooperation should be targeted “not only by strengthening the bilateral relationship, but also increasing the compactness through education, art and culture, sports and humanitarian collaboration.”

“With the appointment of new PPIT board members, coming from various backgrounds and walks of life, we would like to show that Indonesian-Chinese have a strong feeling for Indonesia and a spirit to nurture better relations and cooperation between the two countries,” he told the Jakarta Globe.

“They also have the competence as well as alacrity to mingle with other Indonesians to build a better and greater nation in the future.”

Bondan said several programs were planned by the association, including a film festival in Beijing, and Indonesian-Chinese student exchange program, and the joint production of traditional Chinese medicine.

Sinta Nuriyah, the widow of the late former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid — who ended a decades-long restriction on the practice of Chinese traditions and observations of Chinese holidays imposed by the strongman Suharto — also attended the inauguration and delivered a short remark stating her full support for the association.

Xiao Yiwu, the counselor for cultural affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, underscored the importance of sustainable comprehensive strategic partnerships.

“President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono once said that both countries must continuously boost more partnerships in economics, politics, trade and culture as well as increasing people-to-people communication,” he said.

Last year, bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to $52.45 billion, with the value expected to top $ 80 billion by 2015. Direct investment by China in Indonesia amounted to $292.1 billion last year, a dramatic increase from $141 billion the previous year.

Esti Andayani, the Foreign Ministry’s director general for information and public diplomacy, pledged support for the PPIT’s programs.

“We’ve entered what we call the ‘Asian Century,’ in which all countries in Asia, including Indonesia and China, play a pivotal role at the regional and global levels,” Esti said. “And with both countries’ sharing the same vision and perception on, for example, climate change, food security, energy and global financial institution reformation, we’ve come to agree to increase cooperation and coordination, while upholding the commitment to peace, stability and prosperity for the region and on the international stage.”

Sudanese woman on death row gives birth

A Sudanese woman sitting on death row has given birth. The 27-year-old was sentenced to be hanged for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Deutsche Welle, 27 May 2014

Little over a week after receiving the death sentence, Sudanese inmate Meriam Ibrahim Ishag gave birth to a girl. The death row inmate, jailed for refusing to deny her Christian faith and convert to Islam, was eight months pregnant.

The woman's husband, Daniel Wani, saw them on Tuesday. In addition to his weekly permitted visits to the prison, located in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, Wani has not yet received special permission for an additional visit.

"I'm disappointed really," Wani told news agency AFP. "We weren't able to speak. There [was] a guard sitting there beside us."

The 27-year-old mother would continue to care for the newborn for the next two years, according to news agency DPA. Rights activists have told reporters that the inmate has already been caring for her 20-month old son in prison.

The case emerged last year when relatives of her father's family complained that she had been born Muslim but was married to a Christian man.

On May 15, a Sudanese court handed down the death sentence to the pregnant woman. Ishag was raised as a Christian in Sudan, where Sharia, or Islamic law, has applied since the early 1990s. Judge Abbas Mohammed al-Khalifa said that she would be hanged for not declaring Islam to be the religion of her birth.

One of Ibrahim Ashag's lawyers, Al-Shareef Ali al-Shareef Mohammed, has vowed to appeal the sentence before Sudan's constitutional court if necessary. According to Mohammed, Ishag's Muslim father had left her mother when she was a child and her mother - an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia - had raised her as a Christian.

Under Sudanese President Omar Bashir, sharia prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims. Children must follow their father's religion.

kms/jm (AFP, dpa)

Mohammad Iqbal, right, in an ambulance next to the body of his pregnant
 wife who was stoned to death by her own family in Lahore. Photograph:
KM Chaudary/AP

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dutch Painter Depicts Timeless Archetypes of Bali

Jakarta Globe, Tunggul Wirajuda, May 26, 2014

Paul Husner's work tries to capture the unique essence of the Balinese
 concept of harmony between nature, people and culture. (JG Photo/
Tunggul Wirajuda)

The two-dimensional image of a Balinese landscape drew in the viewer. Painted in a style reminiscent of late 19th century painter Paul Gauguin, the  painting is dominated by the imposing skyline of Mount Agung, a mountain sacred to Bali’s Hindus.

Titled “Ricefields On Mount Agung,” the oil on canvas by Swiss born artist Paul Husner aptly portrays the mountain’s literal and figurative place in the Balinese psyche.

Surrounded by a juxtaposition of lush foliage, temples and rice fields, the edifice seems like the center of Bali’s world and a bedrock of its people’s psyche.

Life seems timeless and almost utopian on its slopes. On the right, farmers worked neatly terraced paddy fields according to the Subak system, whose renown won it Unesco World Heritage Status. In the foreground, women set out with their offerings to their local temple, highlighted by imposing spires and colorful streamers. 

The scene, which is as idyllic as it is archetypal, is one of 28 paintings featured in Husner’s exhibition “Bali,” which is currently at the Erasmus Huis cultural center in Jakarta.

“The scene is very much in line with Tri Hita Karana, the Balinese philosophy of attaining harmony between nature, people and culture. The spirituality that defines the Balinese identity acts as a magnet for artists around the world and kept its art scene thriving,” Husner says of his works, which were made between 2008 to 2014. “As an archetype, Bali’s spiritual landscape is certain to thrive. I did not put signs of modernization, like its new airport and highway made in the wake of the island’s thriving tourist industry, since it is but a transitory reality.”

But Husner isn’t oblivious to the changes that Balinese society is subjected to, as he showed with works like “Balinese Woman and a Sacred Banyan Tree” and “Temple Festival in Sidemen: Balinese Women With Cocks.”

The former, which shows a woman walking past the banyan tree with offerings to the gods, seemed to be unflappable in going about her daily activities. But the twisted branches of the tree are a metaphor for the challenges that modern life, such as inflation and rising prices, seem to play in going about her daily life.

On the other hand, “Temple Festival in Sidemen: Balinese Women With Cocks” is perhaps a double entendre. On one hand, the cocks have long had a cherished place in Balinese agriculture due to their breeding for cockfighting, a favorite pastime on the island, while their crowing might signal the enroaching of modernization.

Both works are noted for their bright, vivid colors and distinctive use of lighting.

“It is said that the light in Bali is unique, and this is part of the reason why many painters are drawn there. The same [quality] has also been said about Dutch light,” says Dutch Ambassador Tjeerd de Zwaan about Husner’s work  and their beginnings in the Netherlands in 1964.   

“Bali is rich in archetypes of various religions, whether they be Hindu, Christian or Muslim, as well as that of other beliefs.

“But much of this was only captured in painting relatively recently, as it only gained in popularity less than a 100 years ago in Bali. Before then and up until now, installation art predominated on the island,” says the 72-year-old artist, who first came to Bali in 1964.

“But it didn’t take long for the medium to catch on. After all, it captures the underlying character of Bali’s archetypal image, namely its power and beauty.”

Husner captured this through his 2013 work “Nyepi Ceremony in Batukaru Temples” and “Balinese Temples in Jatiluweh, Bali.”

In the paintings, Husner gave the natural surroundings a decorative, intricate touch that is just as likely to come from the temple’s walls. The works are also noted for their darker use of shade.

“The paintings are among those that touch on, or embrace, the darker side. Admittedly, this has unsettled some people who found them and other works to be a bit sinister,” he says.

“But then, Hindu belief has always emphasized embracing the darker side of things as well as those that are more pleasant.”

“Bali” is Husner’s third exhibition at Erasmus Huis.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Indigenous Peoples Alliance Endorses Joko-Kalla Presidential Ticket

Jakarta Globe, May 23, 2014

Members of the The Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN)
hold up a signed declaration of support for Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla at the
Ibis Hotel in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Friday, May 23. (JG Photo/Ethan Harfenist)

Jakarta. The Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) on Friday officially announced that it would back Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla for the country’s top posts, marking the first time the organization had formally supported any presidential candidates.

“Joko is the only candidate who has no controversies with indigenous peoples,” said Abdon Nababan, AMAN’s deputy secretary general, at the Ibis Hotel in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

Several regional members of the alliance met for the event, dressed in full tribal regalia and singing traditional songs to mark the occasion. Neither Joko nor Kalla were not present, but People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) head and senior campaign strategist Sidharto Danusubroto stood in.

AMAN’s deputy for institutional development Mina Setra explained that AMAN had carefully mulled over each of the choices for the presidency this year before deciding to support Joko.

“We have a process to deal with this,” she said. “We have an AMAN team conducting analysis and assessments of all the presidential candidates, even when they weren’t official yet.”

But on May 2, AMAN formally met with Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle DI-P) candidate Joko Widodo to discuss the possibility of an endorsement. By then, the wheels were already turning on the partnership.

The tipping point for AMAN, though, was when Joko adopted the alliance’s platform into his own: Joko has pledged to push for the 2011 bill on the Recognition and Protection of Indigenous Peoples, a bill that was originally drafted by AMAN and given to Joko’s party, as well as implement last year’s landmark ruling on Indonesia’s Forestry Law, which guarantees the rights of indigenous communities over their customary forests.

“All of our members decided that Joko and Kalla were the best candidates for president and vice president,” Mina added.

Abdon echoed Mina’s sentiment, taking a subtle jab at Joko and Kalla’s rivals for the July 9 contest — Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa.

“We have to choose the better [candidates],” he said. “We came to the conclusion that Joko is the cleanest.”

When asked about Jusuf Kalla’s checkered past, however, Abdon conceded that although his record on AMAN’s issues was not sterling — the former vice president has gained notoriety recently for openly supporting paramilitary group Pancasila Youth (PP) during a scene in 2012′s internationally-acclaimed documentary “The Act of KIlling” — the group’s focus was on the president, not on the vice president.

“For us, Joko is the most important,” he said. “With Jusuf Kalla, of course, there is a record. But, Jusuf Kalla is a man who could bring dialogue to the front. For indigenous peoples right now, what we need is the space to bring dialogue.”

AMAN, an organization that represents 15 million indigenous peoples in over 2,000 of Indonesia’s indigenous communities, has never thrown its support behind any presidential candidate before. The alliance was founded in 1999 to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples and provide a mouthpiece for the country’s often disenfranchised customary communities.

World Economic Forum Gives SBY Global Statesmanship Award

Jakarta Globe, May 23, 2014

Indonesia's outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been
honored by the World Economic Forum. (Reuters Photo/Toru Hanai)

Manila. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was awarded the Global Statesmanship Award on Friday at the 23rd World Economic Forum on East Asia for his achievements during his time in office.

He was the third recipient of the award since the WEF was established in 1971. The two other recipients were Felipe Calderon in 2012, when he was president of Mexico, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2010, when he was president of Brazil.

“I stand before you now with a sense of pride for what Indonesia has become today,” said Yudhoyono, whose second five-year term ends in October. “In a world marked by political turbulence, economic uncertainty, and strategic tensions, Indonesia does have a good story to tell.

“We have achieved that critical point of no return in our democratic development. We have proved to ourselves and to the world that we do not have to choose between democracy and development, and that indeed we can have both political freedom and high economic growth at the same time.”

On Thursday, Yudhonoyo reiterated that the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) could reach its development agenda to double the region’s combined gross domestic product to around $4.4 trillion by 2030. With millions of poor people across the region, Asean could also try to reduce the region’s poverty rate to 9.3 percent in the same time frame, he said. World Bank data show 43.3 percent of Indonesia’s population lived on less than $2 a day in 2011, compared to 52.7 percent in 2009.

“But as an optimist, I do see the glass as half full,” Yudhoyono said on Thursday. “I believe our generation is now endowed with the resources and knowhow to beat age-old problems of poverty, deprivation and conflict.”

Indonesia has embarked on a plan to support economic growth, aid the poor, promote jobs and protect the environment, he said.

“The overall purpose is to attain sustainable growth with equity,” Yudhoyono said on Thursday. “By pursuing this strategy over the past 10 years, we have been able to stimulate growth, reduce inequity and alleviate people from poverty.”

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was presented the award at a launch sponsored by the Lippo Group, which is the parent company of the Jakarta Globe.

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The Future Is Bright for Europe, Indonesia

Jakarta Globe, Giacomo Tognini,  May 23, 2014

According to data from the Ministry of Manpower, 6,351 Europeans currently
call Indonesia their temporary home. (JG Photo/Boy T. Harjanto)

Jakarta. Indonesians and Europeans don’t always get along. When asked how they felt about one another, one source asserted that “British people keep to themselves,” while another exclaimed that “Indonesians are rude.” Stereotypes abound whenever diverse cultures meet, even in the supposedly globalized world we live in today. Indonesia and Europe are no exception, yet trade, travel, and cooperation between the two continue to grow.

The two cultures made contact for the first time when Portuguese explorers reached the Sunda Kingdom in 1512, leading to centuries of Dutch and Portuguese colonization of the archipelago. Nowadays, an estimated 6,351 Europeans live in Indonesia, 13.8 percent of all the expatriate residing in the country, according to a May 10 report from the Ministry of Manpower and Transportation.

While the history between the two is hardly pleasant, Indonesia’s rapid economic development and the advent of the European Union have led to strengthened ties and increased cultural exchange. According to a December 2013 report by the Indonesia Diaspora Network, 185,512 Indonesians make the Old Continent their home, in addition to approximately 700,000 people of mixed or Indonesian descent in the Netherlands.

In the post-war era, Europeans arrived to work in diplomacy and Indonesia’s expanding industries, and many more traveled to experience its natural and cultural wonders. Conversely, some Indonesians emigrated to seek a better life in Europe during economic trouble at home.

Whereas Europeans continue to come to Indonesia for the same reasons, today people increasingly move in the opposite direction for higher education. The European Union’s recent push to attract more foreign students to study in its renowned universities by providing scholarships through its Erasmus Mundus education outreach program has been successful. Around 7,000 Indonesians studied in the EU as of 2013, many of whom receive financial aid from the European Commission.

However, a clear cultural divide remains between Indonesians and Europeans across the continent.

“I definitely love living here, but I have to say it takes a lot of effort to make friends,” said an Indonesian student in London. “My closest friends here aren’t British.”

When it comes to other nationalities, she had a different perspective: “French people are a bit condescending, I feel like Italians are the friendlier bunch.”

Europeans in Jakarta mention a similar experience adapting to their host culture.

“We have a completely different mentality because we are separated by centuries of history,” said an Italian woman who has lived in Indonesia for a year. While she admires the natural beauty of the country, she “cannot stand the traffic that paralyzes this city and the complete lack of respect for the environment.”

The EU and the Indonesian government have long collaborated on a variety of bilateral projects to aid in the resolution of significant issues. The Blue Book on EU-Indonesian Development Cooperation published in 2013 outlines six areas of partnership: education, economic cooperation, the environment and climate change, good governance and human rights, disaster preparedness and conflict prevention and health, water and sanitation. Many of these target specific regions of the island nation that require more help in certain areas and less in others to maximize efficiency.

Along with the EU as a whole, Indonesia is among the members of the G-20, an organization that represents the world’s 20 largest economies. Indonesia is now the 10th largest, as revealed in a World Bank report published in 2014. As a result of Indonesia’s growing economic clout, the EU is seeking a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), a deep free trade agreement. The union was Indonesia’s second largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) behind Japan in statistics released by the Indonesia Investment Coordination Board in 2012, although it has fallen in the rankings since due to slower yearly increases of investment compared to South Korea and Singapore.

As the second-largest democracy and the world’s largest Muslim nation, Indonesia has tremendous geopolitical importance. This is likely to increase, given the archipelago’s strategic location in a region witnessing the ascent of China and India. Europe is taking note: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited at least four European countries in his second term, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Indonesia between 2012 and 2013. These are signs of the country’s rise as an influential player in the international arena.

In the future, a continent emerging from an economic crisis and still searching for its place in a global chessboard dominated by the United States and China could gain from increased cooperation with a nation seeking a role commensurate to its massive demographic and economic expansion.

The two have much to learn from one another. Sarah Braga, a Portuguese-Luxembourg student in Jakarta, believes that “Europe has become a very individualistic region, whereas in Indonesia it’s more about a sense of community.”

“Indonesians are a people that know how to laugh and be happy even in times of difficulty,” said an Italian resident of Jakarta. “This is something that Europeans should learn from.”

Related Article:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Young Iranians arrested for 'vulgar' Pharrell Williams' Happy dance

Six Iranians, some of whom were filmed without veils, forced to apologise to state for 'vulgar clip which hurt public chastity' 

The Telegraph, Josie Ensor, and Ahmad Vahdat, 21 May 2014

Six young Iranians have been arrested and forced to apologise after posting a home-made version of US singer Pharrell Williams’s hit song Happy on the internet.

The clip shows three men and three unveiled women singing and dancing to the tune in the streets and on rooftops in Tehran, the capital.

The Islamic Republic took exception to the video, which was posted on Youtube and received nearly a quarter of a million views, accusing the group of producing a “vulgar clip which hurt public chastity”.

Hossein Sajedinia, Tehran's police chief, said: “Following a series of intelligence and police operations and after coordinating with the judiciary, all the suspects were identified and arrested.

“After a vulgar clip which hurt public chastity was released in cyberspace, police decided to identify those involved in making that clip.”

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One of the women who took part in the video, entitled Happy: We are From Tehran, said the girls had covered their hair with wigs in an attempt to conform to the codes.

Under Islamic law, in force in Iran since the 1979 revolution, women must cover themselves from head to toe.

More than a decade ago a “morality police” unit was formed to verify that women scrupulously respect the dress code in public.

She said the purpose of the video, which was posted online in April, was to “tell the world” that young people are “joyful and want to make the situation better. They know how to have fun, like the rest of the world.”

However, the group were each made to “confess to their criminal acts” on state television.

The brother of one of the women criticised the decision to arrest his sister Reyahane.

Siavash Taravati, who lives in the US, told the Telegraph. “The IRIB’s (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) action in showing the “confession” of my sister and her friends (...) is just outrageous.

“Apparently they first arrest people without any charge or civil right to defend themselves, then interrogate them and then make them confess and finally broadcast their show.”

Mr Taravati critised the tactics used by the police squad that arrested his sister. "We understand the security forces arrest Reyhane when she was at home and alone," he said. "The arrested people are being held at Vozara detention centre but as to which force is holding and interrogating them no one has any clue."

More than a decade ago a “morality police” unit was formed to verify that women scrupulously respect the dress code in public.

The internet is also heavily filtered in Iran, with the authorities blocking access to popular social networking sites.

Civil liberties and women’s rights have returned to the forefront since President Hassan Rohani’s election last June.

A moderate, he had campaigned for greater cultural and social freedoms in the Islamic republic, specifically urging police tolerance over the veil.

In a speech over the weekend, Mr Rouhani argued that Iran should embrace the Internet rather than view it as a threat.

But Conservatives regularly denounce what they see as laxity on the part of the authorities on women covering up or on behaviour deemed offensive to Islam.

Pharrell Williams responded to Iran’s decision on his Twitter account, saying: “It’s beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”

One of the dancers updated her Instagram profile to say she had been released 

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Iran president vetoes WhatsApp ban
'Iranian president' engages with Twitter's Jack Dorsey

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Indonesia’s Presidential Race Set to Move Into Overdrive

The Jakarta Globe, Erwida Maulia, May 20, 2014

Presidential hopefuls Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto have announced
 their vice presidential running mates, and both have the backing of religious parties.
(Reuters Photo/Dwi Oblo)

Jakarta. Monday’s declaration of two tickets running in July’s presidential election evokes at least two questions: Do hopefuls Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto have anything different to offer the Indonesian voters? Secondly, will their respective running mates boost their chances of clinching the country’s top position, or will they be the cause of the candidates’ downfall?

Joko and former Vice President Jusuf Kalla declared their election bid at the historical Gedung Juang in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Monday morning, ending speculations as to who Joko would pick as his running mate ahead of the July 9 presidential poll. The declaration came just a day before Tuesday’s registration deadline at the General Election Commission (KPU).

Kalla, who is also former chairman of the Golkar Party, had been regarded by many as the strongest candidate for the job, but other names, such as current Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie and Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chief Abraham Samad, also continued to pop up.

Joko told journalists at the KPU office that he picked Kalla because of the politician’s popularity among the voters, as well as his political experience and track record.

“I’ve been in the bureaucracy [business] for nine years, and I know those [qualities] are needed,” Joko said. “Integrity, a full understanding of politics and the economy; these things are also very crucial.”

Neither Joko nor Kalla spoke about their campaign platform, although Joko said they had submitted their vision for the country to the KPU during registration.

“When the time comes, we’ll talk about it. Later, OK?” he said.

This not deter political analysts from speculating that the pair’s actions during and after the announcement — when they pedaled their own bikes to reach the nearby KPU office — was a clear indication of their populist platform.

“We saw the informal, modest announcement. That gives a populist impression,” Siti Zuhro of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said on Monday. “And Joko has struck people as a populist figure — not too formal and strict with protocols.”

Muhammad Qodari from political survey institute Indo Barometer agreed, adding that the populist image has traditionally been attached to the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Joko’s party.

“[Joko-Kalla’s] vision and mission are probably not very different from [PDI-P’s] nationalist-populist platform, which can be seen from its history and rhetoric,” Qodari said.

Prabowo and his Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) initially built their reputation on a nationalist-populist image, but that was before the recent political situation brought three out of four Islamic parties with legislative seats at the House of Representatives closer to Gerindra.

The three parties — the National Mandate Party (PAN), the United Development Party (PPP) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) — all have declared their support for Prabowo and his running mate, PAN chairman Hatta Rajasa.

Prabowo and Hatta also declared their bid in the upcoming presidential on Monday, just a few hours after Joko and Kalla’s announcement.

“Their declaration event looked formal and institutional, with a religious nuance,” Siti said. “Nationalist-religious [platform] seems to be their starting point.”

Although PDI-P has the fourth Islamic party in its bloc, the National Awakening Party (PKB), this hardly gives its coalition an Islamic coloring, with PDI-P’s dominance and PKB’s small share in the alliance that also consists of the National Democratic Party (Nasdem) and the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), Siti said.

“It’s different from the Gerindra coalition,” she said. “It [Gerindra’s alliance] has a strong religious nuance because of the three Islamic-based parties in it.”

Rights activists recently criticized Prabowo after Gerindra published on its website a manifesto of the party, which includes its religious stance considered intolerant toward minority groups.

The manifesto states: “The state guarantees each citizen’s freedom to adhere to a religion/belief. But the government/the state is obliged to regulate this freedom… The state is demanded to guarantee the purity of teachings of religions acknowledged by the state — from all kinds of blasphemy and heresies.”

These sentiments have been seen by many as Prabowo’s attempt to woo its Islamic coalition partners and voters.

Qodari doubts, however, that using religious sentiments would as it has never been successful in the past — including when Kalla and his running mate Wiranto used it in the 2009 presidential elections.

“JK-Wiranto in 2009 attempted took that direction,” Qodari said. “But [religiosity] is not an effective issue.”

Nevertheless, Siti added, with Islamic parties’ better than expected outcomes in the legislative elections, religious issues may still have some significance.

“But we have very heterogeneous voters here in Indonesia,” Siti said. “And the [political] figures themselves play a very determining factor.”

Aside from analyst speculations on the candidates’ possible platforms, not much has been said as to what the two tickets vying for Indonesia’s top leadership posts for the next five years will offer in their campaigns.

Joko earlier this month talked about a “mental revolution” in an opinion piece published by Kompas daily, underlining the need for a change in mentality, particularly in the education sector.

He also described the actions he would take in the agricultural sector concerning food security issues, during a visit to a farming village in Bogor, West Java. Joko declared his stance against the conversion of agricultural land for residential or industrial use, saying farmers should be given government support to increase productivity. This, in turn, would diminish the country’s reliance on imports by boosting domestic agricultural and fisheries.

But Prabowo may be a real challenge to Joko when it comes to wooing farmers, Siti said. Prabowo’s leadership at the Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI) is a good indication of his strong grip on Indonesia’s farming communities.

But she hailed Joko’s call for a “mental revolution,” saying a fundamental change in our ways of thinking was indeed what Indonesia needed.

“Concrete changes in mindset, coupled with law enforcement, are crucial to support economic development,” she said. “Joko gives the impression of wanting to create new values, a new culture in the government aimed at improving the people’s welfare.”

On the other hand, Qodari pointed out, Prabowo may have a more systematic platform compared to Joko. The 50-page manifesto of what his government would do if he was elected is a clear indication.

“This is because Prabowo had a head start in the race for presidency, and as the leader of Gerindra, he was able to promote himself from the very start,” Qodari said. “Joko is not a party chairman and became a candidate quite late in the game.”

Joko has led most popularity surveys whoever he was paired with, although a recent survey by Indikator Politik Indonesia pointed out the Jakarta governor garnered most votes with Kalla.

The survey, announced last week, showed Joko-Kalla securing 51 percent of the vote if they face off with Prabowo-Hatta, who may get 32 percent. The remaining 17 percent of respondents were undecided.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A First for Indonesia, Ethnic Chinese Leader Takes Charge in the Capital

Jakarta Globe, Kanupriya Kapoor & Anastasia Arvirianty, May 18, 2014

Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. (JG Photo/ Afriadi Hikmal)

Indonesia’s presidential race isn’t until July. But there’s already one winner.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has taken over as acting governor of Jakarta, the first ethnic Chinese to do so.

A Christian, Basuki succeeds Joko Widodo who has stepped aside to run for the presidential election on July 9, which opinion polls suggest he will win. Basuki will automatically take over to complete Joko’s five-year term if he does win.

Indonesia’s Chinese make up only about 2 percent of the 240 million population.

Resented for their wide control over trade and business, and suspected of loyalty to China, Indonesian-Chinese have been deliberately kept out of the political and military hierarchy for most of the country’s almost 70 years of independence.

The resentment, which has burst into bloody riots in the past, appears to be on the wane, although it’s not over.

Even critics of Jakarta’s acting governor complain mostly about what they see as his abrasive style of governance, not his background.

“People are voting for a track record today,” Basuki told Reuters in an interview in his office in April. “It’s not about the race or religion…or some primordial idea of who should run [the country].”

Bad cop

Basuki has been the bad cop to Joko’s good cop. In contrast to the typically soft-spoken and Javanese Joko, Basuki has gained a reputation for being a tough guy not afraid to shake up the city’s sleepy bureaucracy.

“The first thing we have to fix here is the bureaucracy…by testing and evaluating their performance,” Basuki said.

“We say to them if they don’t want to follow us, they can get out. Sometimes we have to kick them out. Of course they are angry but we don’t care.”

Basuki, 48, has served as Joko’s right-hand man since winning the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial election when the pair toppled the incumbent with their can-do, transparent ideas on fixing the many problems of the chaotic city, including chronic traffic and flooding.

“I personally don’t agree [with Basuki becoming governor] because he’s too temperamental,” city councilor Boy Bernardi Sadikin told media.

Sadikin is the son of a former Jakarta governor from the 1970s, who many residents believe was the last popular and effective leader the city saw before Joko and Basuki.

Videos of Basuki losing his temper with inefficient bureaucrats have gone viral in Indonesia but the public has been largely supportive of the acting governor’s no-nonsense style in a country bedeviled by corruption and bureaucratic inertia.

When running in the 2012 Jakarta election, Basuki, who is from the resource-rich Bangka Belitung province, faced smear campaigns from rivals.

But the at times blatant racist attacks had little effect and Jakarta residents voted in favor of Joko and Basuki with a 55 percent majority.

Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy, has a history of communal tensions that have at times boiled over into violent attacks specifically targeting the ethnic Chinese minority.

The country saw one of the most horrific attacks on the Chinese community in 1998 as Indonesia descended into political and economic chaos following the Asian financial crisis. Rampaging mobs targeted Chinese-owned businesses and in some cases killed and raped Chinese-Indonesians, forcing hundreds to flee the country.

Hardline Muslim groups, who last year protested the appointment of a Christian woman to a Jakarta district office, have also threatened to protest Basuki’s rise to power.

But Basuki believes Indonesia is becoming more pluralist.

“The Jakarta election was a test and…we see more ethnic Chinese running for [public office] now,” Basuki said. “One day soon Indonesia will be ready for a non-Muslim or ethnic Chinese leader, even president.”

Friday, May 16, 2014

Govt Plans to Open Komodo to Cruise Ships

Jakarta Globe, May 16, 2014

Komodo dragons mating. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Jakarta. East Nusa Tenggara’s provincial tourism agency on Friday said it had appropriated Rp 60 billion ($5.26 million) to build a floating aluminum dock off Komodo that would open the island to cruise ships.

“This year we’ll build a cruise ship dock on Komodo Island,” tourism secretary Wely Rohimone said, as quoted by state-run Antara News Agency. “We’re in the preparation process.”

Wely said the dock would be finished in 2015 and would be built to last for 25 years.  The project, Wely said, would come as part of a broader effort to make Komodo National Park easier to visit.

Komodo and a handful of nearby islands, the only known habitats of the Komodo dragon, are increasingly popular as tourism destinations but remain relatively difficult to access.

The Komodo dragon has been classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as a vulnerable species.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Experience Working With Jakarta’s Transgender Community

Jakarta Globe, Ratna Fitriani, May 15, 2014

Swara, a support group for transgendered Indonesians, meets to education
members about their rights. (Photo courtesy of Swara Salon)

Transgendered people have a long climb ahead toward acceptance in Indonesian society.

Transgender, unrelated to sexual orientation, is a gender identity expressed by individuals who do not identify themselves as members of their biological sex.

While supporting the Indonesian transgender community has been an extraordinary opportunity for me, it has been a challenge.

Many of the people I interact with are HIV positive.

One day, one of my transgender friends, asked me: “Do you have the courage to be my friend?”

“I’m a person with HIV, and my family doesn’t know,” my friend said. “Knowing I’m transgender is already a nightmare for them, and if they knew I’m HIV positive, it would only make things worse. The reality of it was difficult to accept, but life must go on.”

Honestly, I was scared. At that time, I knew very little about HIV. The short conversation would forever stay in my mind.

I started asking myself, “Do I genuinely want to be their friend? Or is this just a ‘duty’ that I need to fulfill?”

I decided to continue my interaction with them in hopes to find the answer along the way.

In 2011, Indonesia Untuk Kemanusiaan (IKA), the resource mobilization organization I currently work with, began supporting a group of young transgender people in Jatinegara, East Jakarta. This group, called Swara, or Sanggar Waria Remaja, was established in 2010 by several transgender activists. In only two years Swara grew rapidly, quickly making a name for itself as a progressive organization supporting more than 150 transgender individuals throughout Jakarta.

“LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] organizations in Indonesia have data accurately documenting violence against transgenders,” said Chika Noya, program manager for gender-based violence at Rutgers WPF Indonesia. “The data shows these people face disproportionate amounts of discrimination in all areas of life, especially in employment, which is exacerbated through unstable jobs and a lack of acceptance of their political identity in the community.”

One of the major issues currently faced by young transgenders is a culture of rank and seniority within the community.

“It’s very common in transgender communities for newcomers, usually from outside of Java, to begin a dependent relationship with a ‘Mami,’” Swara founder Lulu said.

Mami is the term used for a more established transgendered person who serves as a protector and mentor but sometimes uses that influence to exploit a young newcomer.

Swara, Noya explains, aims to improve the lives of transgendered people by advancing an anti-discrimination campaign to support the trangender community.

“The organization creates a safe environment for [transgender people], in which they can learn safely learn about their rights through informal education organized by activists and volunteers,” Chika said, “We also help them gain financial independence by teaching them ways to create a home business, such as a beauty salon, so they will no longer suffer from socio-economic inequalities from pervasive discrimination in the workplace.”

In many cases, transgender youths are shunned by their families and communities. They quickly make their way to the big city, where they hope to find acceptance.

“Here in Jakarta, no one knows me, and I can be myself without worrying about shaming my friends and family,” said Aysa, who rarely returns to her hometown. But several months ago, she says, her father fell ill and Aysa’s family asked her to return home.

After one week in the hospital, her father succumbed to his illness. His dying request to Aysa was that she cut off her long hair and dress as a man.

Most of these young individuals decide to run away from home to escape the shame and anger felt by their families. In some cases, they are asked to leave.

As a result, they tend to drop out of school, are left to work on the streets or worse; they end up in debt, addicted to drugs and struggling to get by.

Left with few options, transgenders are often foreced to turn to prostitution or busking on the street. If they are lucky, they may find work at a salon as a beautician.

In the past two and a half years, I’ve gained a better understanding on the complexity of their lives in exclusion. Still, I can only imagine how hard they must struggle to be accepted as regular citizen in today’s society.

IKA’s decision to support transgender youths through a government scheme called “PNPM-Peduli” is a step in the right direction. The move is a below-the-line advocacy program that calls on the government to acknowledge the rights of transgenders across Indonesia.

In 2012, when Swara launched their new hair salon, I sat down in front of the mirror and asked Aysa to cut my hair.

The next day I gave my friends the directions to the salon. Their complements brightened my day. But it wasn’t about me; my happiness was for my friends at Swara Salon.