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Indonesia: Residents seek gov't support after riots

6-months-pregnant woman runs for her life as riots break out in Indonesia's easternmost province Papua

Hayati Nupus   | 07.09.2019
Indonesia: Residents seek gov't support after riots

JAYAPURA, Indonesia

Nasriyah, six months pregnant, walked along a muddy swamp carrying Putri, her 15-month-old daughter. Her two other daughters, Riska and Ika, both teenagers, followed close behind, holding hands.

They all walked in a hurry towards the refugee post at the Jayapura Naval Base (Lantamal) X, after riots broke out in the restive region.

"I have lost all my strength, but I keep reminding myself that I have to keep going for the sake of my children," Nasriyah told Anadolu Agency.

Along with a number of auto shop employees, the family walked as far as four kilometers. Nasriyah’s husband was not there at that time.

Ten months ago, she and her husband Yusri decided to move from Makassar to Papua after Yusri got a job at an auto shop in Papua’s capital of Jayapura.

Before a string of protests condemning racist remarks against Papuans took place last week, police and soldiers urged the family to evacuate. So they chose to hide on the second floor while the protests broke out right in front of their auto shop.

The family hid while hoping the riots would come to an end. However, they did not.

Protesters set fires and started throwing stones. The smoke began to fill the second floor, where they hid.

Nasriyah said that she and her daughters jumped off the wall to save their lives and walked without stopping until they arrived at a refugee post.

"It was really hard. The hardest day of my life," she added.

A day after the incident, Nasriyah’s husband finally arrived at the post and told them that both of their house and shop at Koti Street had been completely burned.

All their belongings, including money and baby equipment for their newborn were burned to ashes.

"Hopefully, the government will help us out," said Nasriyah.

Shop owners need government support

Their neighbor Mohamad Jamhuri, 48, suffered a similar fate. He said that rioters looted his auto shop and torched the building and the vehicles.

Fortunately, his family and employees had already fled before the riots broke out.

Mohamad moved to Jayapura from East Java when he was four years old because his parents participated in the trans-migration program.

"I am not from a wealthy family. I started this business from scratch 15 years ago," he added.

He hopes that the government will provide assistance as soon as possible so he can restart his business.

After the riots broke out, the refugee post accommodated as many as 9,852 displaced people, including Nasriyah's and Mohamad's families. Currently, most evacuees have returned to their homes.

- Authorities work on recovery

Rustam Saru, the deputy mayor of Jayapura, said authorities have been working to help Papuan residents to recover their trauma.

According to Jayapura City Government data, 48 motorcycles and 24 cars were burned, while 182 shops were looted and torched down during riots.

"Based on data from Department of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives in Jayapura, we suffered an estimated loss of IDR29 billion [around $2 million]. Meanwhile, Jayapura City Social Service had estimated a loss of IDR17 billion [around $1.2 million]," the deputy mayor said.

Despite abundant natural resources, Papua and West Papua provinces have large populations living in poverty, as compared to the rest of country.

According to Indonesia’s statistics agency, nearly 20% people in the region are poor, compared to the national average of 9.4%.

At least 13 people have been killed in the easternmost province Papua region, including a military officer, in riots since Aug. 19.

The riots broke out following allegations of racist abuse and mistreatment of Papuan students on the island of Java.

* Maria Hospita contributed to this story

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