Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
The people of Aceh, on the north-western tip of Sumatra, have been the victims of a long-drawn-out campaign of repression – one that started during the despotic rule of former Indonesian president General Suharto and which has continued without respite under Megawati. Aceh’s natural gas has been exploited for years by US oil firm ExxonMobil. Typically, the ExxonMobil revenues have flowed to Jakarta. The US company depends on the Indonesian army to protect its vast holdings.
Gam challenged Indonesia’s control of the territory in the mid-1970s. Although Gam’s armed forces were quickly put down, the Indonesian military conducted a massive campaign of repression in Aceh throughout the 1990s. The civilian population suffered severely.
After the fall of Suharto in May 1998 people began to speak out about widespread killings, torture centres, rapes and the relentless destruction of people’s homes and schools. Among those who spoke out most vehemently were Acehnese women, many of whom had lost husbands and sons and been raped by Indonesian soldiers.
The outcry compelled the military to promise an end to the repression, but conditions did not improve. An Indonesian parliamentary investigation in Aceh in late 1999 gathered information about no fewer than 7,000 human rights violations and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. But justice for members of the Indonesian armed forces is as remote today as it was under Suharto.
After its reversals in the 1970s, Gam was able to regroup – strengthening its position in many parts of the province. Military operations to destroy Gam resumed with even greater ferocity in 1999. There were thousands of civilian casualties. The death toll in 2002 alone was 1,300.
As soon as Jakarta announced its recent decision to impose martial law, the Indonesian army launched air attacks on alleged Gam bases. Gam has nothing in the way of air defences itself. The military says it will increase the number of its troops in Aceh to 50,000 – claiming that it needs 10 men for each Gam fighter. But Gam is only thought to have around 1,000 guerrillas. Although the renewed operations will undoubtedly kill Gam personnel, no one believes the organisation will be destroyed or that the ‘Aceh problem’ will be solved by military means.
While not all Acehnese support Gam’s declared aim of independence, the unrelenting abuses the Acehnese have suffered at the hands of the Indonesian army have meant the organisation has no difficulty recruiting fighters.
The war now underway is comparable only to the one Indonesia unleashed against East Timor in the late 1970s, and we know how that ended.
Successive British governments have ignored warnings from human rights organisations to halt the export of military equipment to Indonesia. Britain has claimed that the exports are for legitimate defence purposes. But the Indonesian army itself admits that it faces no foreign threats.
The Indonesian air force now has several squadrons of British Hawk-200 and Hawk-100 aircraft; the contracts were concluded by the Thatcher and Major governments. Scorpion tanks have also been exported. Labour has so far refused to halt this trade. Hawks and Scorpions are among the armoury now being used in Jakarta’s war against the Acehnese. Hawks were already in action on the first day of martial law, escorting Hercules aircraft transporting troops to Aceh.
Western governments must exert pressure on the Megawati government to halt this new war against Aceh. They must call for the lifting of martial law and for renewed talks to end the conflict. Otherwise, Aceh will experience a humanitarian catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. And the British government must halt all further arms exports to Indonesia and demand that all military equipment supplied by the UK be withdrawn from Aceh.
For further details:
Contact Tapol, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, at email@example.com
Or visit: http://tapol.gn.apc.org
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook
‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali
Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.
Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent
Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art
Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs
Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite