‘Truth is one of our rights’: victims of Indonesia’s bloody past want more than regret from their president

Rebecca Root 

The violence began when the military set out to quash what it said was a communist coup sparked by the deaths of six generals. This has since been identified as a government pretext to launch a large-scale pursuit of communists and sympathisers. About 500,000 people were murdered in six months and 1 million more imprisoned. While an International People’s Tribunal identified the slaughter as a crime against humanity in 2015, there has been no official investigation and no prosecution of those responsible... In 2021, the Observer revealed that the UK Foreign Office had contributed to inciting the violence by vocally calling for all communist organisations to “be eliminated”.

Ita Nadia is an Indonesian activist who lost her uncle, aunt and a nephew in the mass killings of 1965-66. Her husband, Hersri Setiawan, an 86-year-old writer, was imprisoned without trial for more than a decade. Hearing loss and damaged lungs are the consequences of the hard labour and torture he was forced to endure.

On Wednesday, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, often referred to as Jokowi, acknowledged the communist purge alongside 11 other “gross human rights violations” that took place in the country between 1965 and 2003. Activists and those affected say they need more than an acknowledgment.

“The statement is not enough for us as victims of the genocide of 1965,” says Nadia….