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Shia refugees' supplies cut off

Food and water deliveries blocked

Shia refugees' supplies cut off
Ummi Kalsum, wife of a jailed Shia cleric, described the authorities' actions as "cruelty"
Ryan Dagur, Jakarta

November 27, 2012

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Local authorities have stopped the supply of food and water to at least 190 displaced Shia in East Java province, putting the refugees at risk, Amnesty International said in a statement yesterday.

The group was forced from its village in Sampang district on Madura Island in August, when an anti-Shia mob of more than 500 people attacked, setting dozens of homes on fire.

Reports say two people from Karang Gayam were killed and 10 others injured.

Following the attack, the villagers, including 69 women and 61 children, were moved to temporary shelter at a sports complex. 

On November 18, however, local authorities cut off the water supply to the shelter, Amesty said. On Thursday, the supply of food was stopped. 

Amnesty has urged district head Noer Tjahja and Minister of Justice and Human Rights Amir Syamsuddin “to ensure the displaced Shia community has immediate access to essential services such as food and clean drinking water.” 

The human rights group urged authorities to “guarantee the safe, voluntary and dignified return of the Shia community to their homes according to their wishes” and “provide assistance so as to enable them to rebuild the homes that were damaged or destroyed.”

In its statement, it quoted credible sources saying that some of the community’s members were intimidated and harassed by the local government officials, urging them to convert to Sunni Islam if they wanted to return to their homes.

Indonesia is primarily Sunni Muslim.

Andi Irfan, coordinator of the province’s Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), said district and provincial officials have told him there is no budget to continue supporting the shelter. Some assistance is being offered from volunteers, he said, but there are no supplies.

“Even the bathrooms have no water,” he told by phone from the provincial capital Surabaya.

Ummi Kalsum, the wife of a Shia cleric who was sentenced to four years in prison for blasphemy earlier this year, said she was disappointed by the local authorities’ actions.

“The halt of supplies of food and water to us shows the government’s cruelty. The government was there only when we were attacked. Now the government leaves us,” she said.

Meanwhile, deputy chairwoman of the Indonesian Ombudsman Azlaini Agus said it would send a team to investigate the case.

“They [internally displaced persons] should not have spent that long in a camp. The local administration has further violated regulations by stopping daily supplies. The government is obliged by law to provide services for the people,” she told The Jakarta Post newspaper.

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