The local government on Indonesian Island of Bangka is currently expelling members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, after it issued a letter demanding that they either convert to Sunni Islam or face expulsion.
The letter, dated Jan. 5 urged members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the Srimenanti subdistrict, Sungailiat district, to convert to the mainstream Sunni teachings of the Indonesian Muslim majority or face expulsion from the regency. It also stated that JAI (Jammat e Ahmadiyya Indonesia) was forbidden from spreading its teachings in the regency.
Members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Bangka were forced to leave their homes by Bangka Regent on Friday, February 5, 2016. The Regent made his decision based on a Joint Agreement signed by three ministers.
The regency’s decision outlined in the letter was based on a meeting with the Religious Community Harmony Forum (FKUB) on Dec. 14, last year. The meeting was attended by the leaders of the local chapters of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah, the Bangka Police chief, the district chief and a representative from JAI. In the meeting, the Bangka police chief and the district chief all called for the expulsion of Ahmadiyya followers.
Members of Bangka Island’s Ahmadiyya community, which comprise of just 14 families, told Human Rights Watch that the expulsion order followed months of harassment and intimidation by government officials, police officers and representatives from Muslim groups.
Bangka Regent Tarmizi H. Saat had asked members of the Ahmadiyya congregation to move out from their premises located in Sri Meranti Village, Bangka by February 5, 2016.
On February 5, 2016 11 Ahmadis left their homes while nine stayed behind in Srimenanti. Out of 11 people that moved out, two were male while the others were women and children. The nine other people who still remain in Srimenanti sub-district are living in the Ahmadiyya Secretariat Office.
Indonesian Ahmadiyya Congregation (JAI) spokesman Yendra Budiana said “They are not free, these people are not allowed even to return to their homes for safety reasons.”
He added “Ahmadiyya did not receive any letter in relation to the Bangka regional government’s order to leave the village by Friday, February 5, 2016. The community was also not allowed to meet with the Regent or other government representatives.”
According to reports Bangka Regional Secretary Feri Insani, Bangka Military District Commander Lieutenant Col. Infantry Utten Simbolon and representatives of the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia group met at the Raja Lait Restaurant on Thursday, February 4, 2016 to discuss the plan to rid Bangka of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Ahmadi children face Death Threats
In Bangka adults aren’t the only target of the discriminatory policy. Ahmadi children are also at risk as they face continuous death threats. Child Protection Task Force Coordinator, Ilma Sovriyanti said that Ahmadi children are constantly getting threats from people in the neighborhood and at school.
Ahead of the eviction, the children received written death threats saying ‘ you son of Ahmadiyya will be killed ‘ along with an image of a slit hand. Ilma said, Due to these threats children are frightened. Out of the 10 Ahmadi children we talked to, two have suffered severe trauma due to the eviction and death threats.
Ilma says, the children had now been evacuated to a safe house under the care of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
“The kids are in a condition where they do not understand, why people hate their family and why their friends are threatening to kill them.” he said.
Background of the Bangka Incident
Spokesperson of Jamaat Ahmadiyya Indonesia (JAI), Yendra Budiana said that the banishment of Ahmadiya community in Srimenanti village, Bangka Regency, began after the community faced difficulties in obtaining ID cards.
“It began with ID card issue, and then moved to the issue that Ahmadiyya had violated Joint Ministerial Decree and had been accused to have caused unrest among other residents,” Yendra said at a press conference at Lynt Hotel, Petojo, Jakarta, on Monday, February 8, 2016.
Yendra said that the Ahmadiyya community in Srimenanti village had been having difficulties in obtaining ID card since 2015. According to Yendra, the head of the village was reluctant to issue ID cards for members of the community due to pressures from certain groups.
“The government should protect the rights of citizens and promote dialogue among people, instead of getting involved in the conflict and making it worse,” Indonesian Ahmadiyya Congregation (JAI) spokesman Yendra Budiana said on Sunday.
Yendra said that Ahmadis in West Nusa Tenggara, East Java, Central Java and West Java had experienced similar treatment.
He cited as an example around 5,000 Ahmadis living in Kuningan, West Java, who often encountered problems when applying for IDs and getting married.
New York based Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Sunday urging the Indonesian government to immediately intervene to protect members of the Ahmadiyya from intimidation and threats of expulsion.
“Bangka officials are conspiring with Muslim groups to unlawfully expel Ahmadiyya community members from their homes,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“President Joko Widodo needs to immediately intervene to uphold the rights of the Ahmadiyya and to punish officials who advocate religious discrimination.”
History of Ahmadiyya persecution in Indonesia
The persecution of Ahmadis increased in 2001, when some local residents of East Lombok subdistrict in West Nusa Tenggara declared the Ahmadiyya belief as a heresy. The members of the religious minority were banned from obtaining an education, and some have become internally displaced since they have been expelled from their homes. Around 30 Ahmadiyya families are still living in a government sanctuary in West Nusa Tenggara.
In June 2008 the government of then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree ordering the Ahmadiyya 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 Ahmadiyya followers including an attack in Cikeusik in February 2011 in which three Ahmadis were killed.
During Yudhoyono’s decade in power, militant Islamists, with the complicity of local police and government officials, forced the closure of more than 30 Ahmadiyya mosques.
In 2011, West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan banned the Ahmadiyya in Tasikmalaya from praying in their own mosque. Similar rules were subsequently imposed in other provinces, including East Java.