For a country so close to Australia, I am always surprised at how many Australian citizens remain unaware of the genocide that is taking place less than 80 kilometres beyond the country’s northern shores.
Over 400,000 civilians have been killed by the Indonesian security forces in West Papua since the early 1960s, and the last month has seen some of the bloodiest incidents in recent times.
In mid-October, Indonesian military opened fire on a peaceful gathering of civilians at the Papuan Peoples Congress, leading to the deaths of seven people and the arrest and torture of hundreds of others. Graphic footage has just emerged showing the gross acts of barbarity inflicted on those present. The Indonesian authorities have refused to allow any enquiry to take place.
Following this crackdown, a gathering of West Papuan tribal elders near the highland town of Wamena was forcefully broken up by Indonesian soldiers. The elders were lined up naked and forced to endure hours of humiliating torture in front of their wives and children.
Finally, last week the tragic story emerged of a young West Papuan student whose head was set on fire by Indonesian security personnel as he walked to the market one morning. The absence of medical facilities means it likely he will suffer long-term pain and disfigurement. The Indonesian perpetrators of this have unsurprisingly released without charge.
People may be shocked by these mindless acts of violence, but they are nothing new to us Papuans.
We have suffered daily acts of torture, intimidation, r-pe, racism and injustice ever since Indonesia invaded our land. Part of the reason people know so little about the atrocities Indonesia is committing in West Papua is because the Indonesian authorities ban foreign media and international human rights groups from operating there. Even Indonesian journalists who attempt to report from West Papua can suffer grave consequences.
But increasing amounts of raw footage from mobile phones is leaking out, providing the outside world with an insight into the immense suffering of my people. People are starting to wake up to our plight, just like they did to that of the East Timorese people.