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NTB government prepares to allow Ahmadiyah refugees to return home
Panca Nugraha, The Jakarta Post, Mataram
Ahmadiyah refugees in West Nusa Tenggara will be allowed to return to their homes soon, the host governor announced Monday, following three years of foot-dragging over the issue.
Governor M. Zainul Majdi told The Jakarta Post his administration, through the relevant agencies, would repatriate the refugees by conducting public awareness campaigns to “provide understanding to people where the Ahmadiyah members came from”, and ask the beleaguered minority sect members to socialize with the local community.
“The administration will return them to their home villages, but this process must be supported by a willingness on the part of residents in these villages to accept them again, and by members of Ahmadiyah interacting more and not remaining so exclusive any more. We are carrying out dissemination efforts at the moment,” Majdi said.
He did not specify when the Ahmadiyah members would be returned, but said this was the administration’s final decision on the matter, rather than relocating them.
“We’ll definitely keep addressing the Ahmadiyah issue through approaches according to the joint ministerial decree,” he said.
As many as 137 Ahmadiyah members from 33 families have taken refuge at the Mataram transmigration transit center since being forced from their homes in Ketapang hamlet, Gegerung village, Lingsar district in West Lombok in February 2006.
In Central Lombok regency, around 57 Ahmadis from 15 families now live at the former Praya hospital after being driven from their homes in Praya subdistrict, Praya district, Central Lombok, in June 2006. To date, six people have died and eight babies have been born in their three years in exile.
It remains unclear how the Ahamdiyah members will reintegrate into their previous communities, having seen most of their belongings destroyed, including houses.
The violence against Ahmadiyah followers was believed to be triggered by the Indonesian Ulema Council’s issuance of an edict calling the sect heretical.
Earlier this year, the government bowed to pressure from radical Islamic groups and issued a joint ministerial decree banning the Ahmadiyah from spreading their teachings.
Bachruddin, head of the West Nusa Tenggara Social, Demographic and Civil Statistics Agency, said the status of the refugees was considered unique, and stressed its handling could not be carried out according to standard procedures.
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees defines refugees as a group of people forced to move because their places of origin are ravaged by natural or social disaster, in which the state cannot guarantee their safety.
“The Ahmadis took refuge not because of a natural disaster, but because they were evicted by the state,” Bachruddin said.
“This poses a unique problem: They are actually not refugees, but the fact is they effectively are.”