On December 13, 64 people were arrested at a punk show that was raising money for a local orphanage in the Aceh province of Indonesia. Those taken weren’t charged with a crime or brought before a court, but were arrested for having mohawks, tattoos, earrings, and wearing dark clothing. Basically for being “punk.”
These men and women, most in their early twenties, were taken to the Aceh State Police School for “reeducation.” The Aceh police chief explained in The Jakarta Globe that this process is “a traditional ceremony” where they give the men and women haircuts and toss them into a pool to teach them a lesson. “We’ll change their disgusting clothes. We’ll replace them with nice clothes. We’ll give them toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, sandals and prayer gear. It will all be given to them,” he said. “I’ll remind [police] not to breach human rights. We are oriented to educating our community, our nation. This is our country too, right?”
Reading the comments on this story from The Jakarta Globe, I was surprised by how many are in the support of this “reeducation.” One person wrote, “I don't know about punks in other countries, but I have encountered punks on several occasions in public places in Jakarta. They were extremely smelly and so stinky, because they did not take a bath for days. I had to hold my breath every time I passed them. If you don't want public breastfeeding, or nudism at public, then I don't want the sight of such smelly dirty punks for the same reason.”
But many, including activist Haris Azhar, believe the police have broken human rights laws by taking these people in. “I think it violates the rights of freedom of expression of youth groups in Aceh,” Azhar told Voices of America. “It seems like they are using the defense of Sharia restrictions to limit youth group and how they express themselves.” According to the BBC, Aceh is one of the most devout Muslim provinces in Indonesia, and though there are no laws against dressing as a punk, this is the second time the police have clamped down on punkers in the area.
After photos of the “reeducation” surfaced, members of the local and international punk rock community started to take action. The Seattle-based metal and punk label, Aborted Society is calling on fans of punk rock to create mixtapes of loud and aggressive music for their “Mixtape for Aceh” project.
Want to make a CD? Go here, and submit one before December 31st.
Image credits: Reuters, Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP