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Shia refugees in East Java ordered to move

More than 160 families relocated as Sunnis shout insults

Shia refugees in East Java ordered to move

One of the 150 refugees who cycled to Jakarta this week in protest

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

June 21, 2013

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More than 160 Shia families in East Java who last year sought refuge in a sports complex following attacks from Sunnis have been ordered to leave by police.

The relocation took place yesterday afternoon following an Islamic prayer meeting in a field close to the complex in the Sampang district. Andy Irfan Juanidi, from the East Java chapter of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of violence (KontraS), claimed local authorities used the prayer gathering as a reason to move the refugees on.

Around 900 police escorted the families to a high-rise building in the Sidoarjo district.

The refugees had lived in the sports complex since August last year after a 500-strong Sunni Muslim mob attacked Bluuran and Karang Gayam villages on Madura Island, setting dozens of homes on fire.

According to the lawyer representing the Shia refuges, Herstaning Ikhlas, police had allowed up to 1,000 attendees of the prayer gathering to enter the sports complex.

“They shouted at the Shia refugees, ‘You are infidels! You are infidels!’” he told “Some of the Shia could only cry and pray.”

The refugees have on several occasions appealed to be allowed back to their villages. Earlier this week a group of around 150 cycled to Jakarta to publicize their plight.

Local Sunni hardliners have said however that they would only allow the Shia to return if they become Sunnis. Amnesty International last year quoted credible sources who claimed local government officials had attempted to forcibly convert them.

East Java Governor Soekarwo said yesterday however that there had been no forced relocation. “This was their [Shia refugees] demand,” he told “So the provincial government is facilitating the relocation.”

He also maintained that the provincial government will take responsibility for covering necessities such as food as long as they remain unemployed. 

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