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Villagers in Lombok Ransack, Destroy Ahmadiyah Homes
Fitri R | November 26, 2010
A gang of youths in Gegerung village, West Lombok district, on Friday destroying an empty home belonging to the Ahmadiyah community, which was forced to seek refuge in Mataram after a 2006 pogrom. (JG Photo/Fitri)
Mataram. Villagers in West Lombok district on Friday destroyed 22 homes belonging to Ahmadiyah families in the latest wave of violence there aimed at the minority Muslim sect.
Exactly a week earlier, local officials drove 12 Ahmadiyah families out of Gegerung village following growing opposition from the rest of the village.
No injuries were reported in the latest incident as the homes had all been abandoned following evictions in 2006 that saw 133 Ahmadiyah followers forced to take refuge at a temporary shelter in Mataram, the West Nusa Tenggara capital, where they remain to this day.
Friday’s incident saw a mob of several hundred villagers, including women and children, tear down 21 homes and burn one other to the ground.
The chain of events leading up to the rioting began earlier, during a meeting led by district head Zaini Arony after Friday prayers.
Zaini called on the villagers not to resort to violence following last week’s animosity, assuring them his administration would resolve the long-standing issue.
Following the meeting, however, angry villagers began arming themselves with machetes, crowbars and swords in preparation to raid the empty homes.
“If you don’t come out of your homes, we’ll tear and burn them down. So come out or we’ll come and get you!” the mob yelled while pelting the empty houses with rocks. “Destroy the Ahmadis who bring shame to Islam!”
About 100 armed police officers managed to hold back the crowd for some time. However, they later scattered as the violence intensified.
The mob ransacked the houses and then went on to completely demolish them. The authorities claimed they had successfully prevented further damage by seizing a jerrycan of gasoline from the rioters.
Syahudin, Gegerung’s village chief, said he had lost all control of the situation.
“It was impossible to get under control,” he said. “They even drove me away from the scene when I tried to stop them.”
The crowd finally dispersed after the army sent in soldiers to secure the area.
West Lombok Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Agus Supriyanto said his officers were now investigating the motivation for the attack, but had not yet made any arrests.
“Our next step will be to secure the Ahmadiyah neighborhood until the situation calms down,” he added. The police had made a similar pledge following the evictions on Nov. 19.
Agus rebuffed accusations his men had allowed the villagers to run amok, saying they were taking “the persuasive approach, given that most of the mob were youths and children.”
In his town hall address before the violence, Zaini offered the villagers four options to ending the animosity with the Ahmadis.
The first, he said, was to strictly enforce a 2005 bylaw that banned members of the sect from West Lombok.
The second option was a controversial plan to relocate all Ahmadiyah families in the district to remote Teluk Sepi, in Lombok’s south, which has been widely criticized by rights activists.
“Given that they’re not accepted here, I feel it’s my humanitarian duty to find someplace else for them,” Zaini said. “But they haven’t agreed yet and instead keep asking about the facilities to be built for them there.”
The third option was to relocate them to Kalimantan or Sulawesi, while the fourth was to compensate them for the property lost in Gegerung and let them start new lives elsewhere.
Zaini said his administration had already set aside Rp 710 million for the compensation deal, but the families wanted Rp 1.5 billion.
Sarim Ahmad, one of those forced to flee Gegerung on Nov. 19, said he hoped the authorities would come up with a better solution that would not foster more hatred against the community.
“We’ll go anywhere, as long as there’s legal certainty for us and our families,” he said at the shelter in Mataram. “To date, we’re not accepted as citizens of this country because the authorities continue to deny us ID cards.”