Monday, May 22, 2006

Profile of Aguswandi - Aceh Activists

Aguswandi - Personal profile

Born on August 17th 1977 at the village of Sibreh, in the District of Aceh Besar, Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, Aguswandi is the second of 6 children of a farmer. Despite the rather unusual name for an Acehnese, both his parents are Acehnese (the name is in fact derived from the date of his birth that coincides with the Indonesian Independence Day).

Socially active since he was in secondary school, at 17 Aguswandi was elected president of the inter-secondary schools organization. He entered the tertiary education in 1995 by registering in the Law Faculty of the Syiah Kuala University of Banda Aceh, where he soon got involved in organizational activities. In 1998 he was elected Secretary General of the University Senate. In the same year he was also elected Coordinator of SMUR, one of the most active student organizations in Aceh struggling for democracy and human rights. Through this organization Aguswandi has been involved in many popular upheavals against the atrocities of the Indonesianmilitary. In fact, he had been very active even before the fall of the Suharto regime, fighting against the authoritarian, materialistic and oppressive government of the so-called ?New Order? government of the fallen General. He was one of the students who went on hunger strike to highlight the demand for the withdrawal of the ?Military Operation Zone? classification of Aceh, which was practically a martial law status that had resulted in thousands of innocent people being massacred by the Indonesian armed forces.

In 1998 he spearheaded with SMUR the campaign to boycott the Indonesian general elections, which the students felt as being incompatible with the condition in Aceh that was virtually under military rule. SMUR has also organized demonstrations against the military atrocities and was also one of the organizers of the very successful mass demonstration held on 11/8/99 that saw nearly half of the Acehnese population converging in a very disciplined, peaceful and orderly manner, to the capital of the province to show their unity in demanding a referendum to decide whether the province should remain as part of the Indonesian Republic or to be independent. Some 1.5 to 2 million people gathered on that historic day in Kutaraja (Banda Aceh) to proclaim the restoration of their dignity as a people. This organization has been very active also in the mass education of the Achenese people on their rights, and has established operational posts in villages to help the people traumatized by the Indonesian soldiers. SMUR was the first to establish ?command posts? in refugee camps that since six months ago have reached hundreds with the number of refugees reaching 200.000.

Aguswandi has been the object of several terror and intimidation measures by the Indonesian army. In fact, on May 18 1999 the military authorities issued an official statement declaring Aguswandi an enemy of the State, for which he responded in the front page banner of the SMUR?s bulletin, ?Lantak?: ?I am proud to be an enemy of the State, if helping the people is considered being an enemy of the State?. Following which, several death threats were sent to him and some military officers have even said it openly in public. A week before he left for the US last November the office of SMUR was firebombed.

Since Februari 2000 Aguswandi has been coordinating the Aceh office of the nation-wide Commission for Disapperances and Victims of Violence of Aceh (KontraS Aceh). KontraS Aceh is a non-governmental organization that works to campaigns to stop the state violence in Aceh. With hundreds of volunteers throughout Aceh, this organization conducts regular monitoring and documentation of human rights violations, as well as and advocacy for victims of human rights abuses in the province. In October 2000, KontraS Aceh worked together with various other civil groups in organizing Congress of Victims of Human Rights Violations in Aceh, which was attended by thousands of victims representing the different districts in Aceh. KontraS Aceh?s progress in documenting facts and figures of violence committed by the Indonesian military and police forces (TNI/POLRI) in Aceh has incited increasing threats to Aguswandi and KontraS Aceh volunteers throughout the province.

Although a humanitarian pause signed by the Free Aceh Movement and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia has been in effect since June 2000, it has failed to halt the on-going bloodshed in Aceh. In fact, the number of deaths and human rights violations has risen dramatically since June. Human Rights Watch has estimated that close to 10 people disappear in Aceh each week, with many eventually turning up murdered and many more undergoing unlawful detention, intimidation, sexual violence, and torture.The Indonesian armed forces have also been systematically targeting human rights activists, students and NGOs who speak out against the on-going violence in their homeland.

The deteriorating condition in Aceh requires thus increased international campaigns for the strengthening of the non-violent civil forces that are struggling for human rights there. This is very important in view of finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Aceh. It is imperative that the international community be made more aware of the true situation in Aceh. It this in this context that KontraS has sent Aguswandi out into the world, to establish relations with the various international organizations that are concerned with the democratization process and the restoration of human rights world-wide.

Aguswandi has gained some experience in international relations, having been invited to speak in seminars on Aceh in Washington DC organized by the International Forum for Aceh (IFA) of New York, and at the Asia Conference on Aceh in July 1999 in Bangkok jointly organized by the Asian Forum for Development and Human Rights (Forum-Asia) and IFA. He was also the representative of the Acehnese community in the United States to meet with President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) during the Indonesian leader?s visit to the US last November 1999.

While in the US, Aguswandi also spoke to university students and faculty at Fordham Law school and New School University in New York and helped build an international student network of support for Aceh. In December 1999 Aguswandi visited governmental and non-governmental parties in England, Holland and Germany as part of his campaign to bring international attention to the conflict in Aceh.

In late 2000, Aguswandi represented Aceh at the International Conference on Conflict Resolution, Peace Building, Sustainable Development and Indigenous People, held in Metro Manila, Philippines, December 6-8 2000. At the conference, Aguswandi gave a stirring presentation on the crisis in Aceh and drafted a resolution for peace in Aceh, which was unanimously supported by the 110 participants from all corners of the world, and is to be released in the conference declaration.

He also went to Geneva in March 2001 as Aceh NGO Representative for UN Human Rights Commission Annual Meeting. In Geneva, he make an intervention on human rights condition in Aceh. He also did some lobbyist work to many governments representation from several countries. In March 3, 2001 Aguswandi was finished his studies in constitutional Law of Syiah Kuala University, Banda Aceh. He is also keen on philosophy, international relations and poetry. At the moment he is doing MA International Relations course at London Metropolitan University.

Irwansyah Yahya Student of Economics Agra University, Agra - India


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Irwansyah Yahya. Student of Economic in Agra University, Agra - India