Bangka’s Ahmadiyah followers evicted

Women and children of the Ahmadiyya religious sect in a district in Bangka regency, Bangka Belitung province, were evacuated on Friday evening to save them from the wrath of local residents.

The evacuation was made after negotiations between Ahmadiyah leaders, local ulemas, the military, the police and the local administration failed to reach an agreement.

“Under police and military escort, they were moved to another place in the regency due to security concerns,” Jamaah Ahmadiyah Indonesia (JAI) congregation spokesman Yendra Budiana said.

Yendra said some male members remained at JAI’s office in Srimenanti village, Sungailiat district.

Six Ahmadiyah families live in the district and 17 Ahmadiyah families live in the regency.

At noon, hundreds of residents stood outside the office of the Ahmadiyah, which was used as a meeting place for a mediated discussion led by Bangka Military Command chief Let. Col. Utten Simbolon.

Utten said the local ulemas and administration leaders had offered the Ahmadiyah four options, two of which included leaving their faith or moving to another area.

“They asked for the options to be written out so they could also reply in written form,” he said.

In response to the demands, Ahmadiyah legal advisor Fitria Sumarni said the Ahmadiyah was a legal religious organization listed in Indonesia and one that upheld the principle of peace.

The Jakarta-based Setara Institute has asked the central government to intervene to prevent the eviction of the Ahmadiyah in Bangka regency, accusing Bangka Regent Tarmizi as one of the main instigators of the expulsion.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, the institute’s deputy chairman, said the planned eviction had been objected to by Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo but Tjahjo’s objections were ignored by Tarmizi.

“Tarmizi’s opposition to the home ministry is essentially opposition to the President,” said Bonar in statement on Friday.

Earlier, the New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a statement urging the Indonesian government to immediately intervene to protect members of the Ahmadiyah from intimidation and threats of expulsion.

The Ahmadiyah have been under threat since June 2008 when the government of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree ordering the Ahmadiyah community to “stop spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam”. Those who violate the decree can face up to five years in prison. Following the decree, militant Islamists launched several violent attacks on Ahmadiyah followers including an attack in Cikeusik in February 2011 in which three Ahmadis were killed.

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