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Friday, 26 December 2014
Tsunami-Ravaged Aceh in Indonesia Now Faces Rising Islamic Fundamentalism

After the tsunami, the Muslim separatists in Aceh were given autonomy and the civil war that had killed 30,000 people since the 1970's was ended. The "peace deal was signed in Helsinki in 2005 after mediation by Martti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland who later won the Nobel peace prize." From The Telegraph:

In the seaside villages along the coast of Indonesia's Aceh province, the scenes of unimaginable destruction from the tsunami ten years ago shocked the world and left many locals convinced that the calamity was a "punishment from God".

The scale of the disaster in the province, the hardest hit area in the tsunami, remains difficult to comprehend.

It began with an earthquake with the energy of 1,500 Hiroshima atom bombs, which sent waves up to 100-feet high as far as four miles inland, wiping out entire villages and killing about 170,000 people.

Indonesia's mainland had not had a tsunami in 500 years – many locals did not know the word. The ocean was left awash with bodies, mainly women and children who were at home while the men worked on pepper and corn farms away from the coast.

The devastation was so severe that it spurred Aceh's separatists and the Indonesian military to end a 30-year war and sign the "most successful peace deal of modern times". In the following years, hotels and cafés began to line the beaches as one of the world's largest relief efforts delivered hopes of an era of prosperity.

But the optimism has now begun to fade amid fears the province is falling prey to rising Islamic fundamentalism that could spread across Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population. The province's Muslims and non-Muslims alike are now forced to obey a growing set of extreme applications of sharia law, including canings, fines of gold and jail sentences for offences ranging from gambling to homosexuality.

Andreas Harsono, a Jakarta-based researcher for Human Rights Watch who received recent death threats for exposing rights violations in Aceh, said the province is "starting to look like Afghanistan did 30 or 40 years ago".

"The seeds of extremist fundamentalism are there and it is spreading very fast," he told The Telegraph.

"It was bad in Aceh for a lot of people during the tsunami, and it is now bad for women and minorities, and it will be bad in the future for the whole of Aceh, maybe also for those close to Indonesia."

In various towns across the province, sharia police squads now prowl the streets on the lookout for unmarried couples or women wearing jeans or tight-fitting clothing or sitting sideways on motorcycles. The latest batch of bylaws, passed in September, introduced punishments of 100 lashes for sex "offences" such as extramarital sex and homosexual sex.

The punishments are frequently applied outside mosques on a Friday, where hooded, medieval-style figures conduct public canings for crimes such as drinking or working during prayers...

Posted on 12/26/2014 5:05 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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