This is an urgent notice to the world that Indonesia have essentially imposed martial law in West Papua. 

In Intan Jaya, Puncak Jaya, and Nduga, Indonesian soldiers are roaming the countryside, conducting arbitrary house searches, beating Papuan civilians, and even murdering women and children. Near Wamena, a Papuan named Stefanus Wilil was shot dead at random while crossing a road. Last month, a 12-year-old boy, Enius Tabuni, was murdered by soldiers who then mockingly videoed his dead body. Merely days ago, a woman walking back to her village with her husband was stopped, beaten, and then he was shot dead. Women and young girls have been raped, churches have been burnt by soldiers, and sixteen villages in the Intan Jaya Regency have been abandoned by terrified inhabitants.   

My people are living in mortal fear of the next beating, the next murder, the next massacre. Everyone is a target: whether it is because they have a beard or Rasta culture, wearing dirty clothes, or carrying an axe or shovel to tend their gardens, every Papuan is under automatic suspicion. Hundreds have been forced to flee their homes by roving military bands acting with total impunity. They are taking refuge in the forests, where they lack access to food, water, and basic medical facilities. But even there they are not safe, with armed police occupying every corner of the Papuan countryside, transforming the land into a hunting ground for Indonesian troops.  

Seeing my people abused in this way brings up memories of 1977-1982, when I was a child living in hiding in the bush. The Highland operations during this time have been described by the Asian Human Rights Commission as a ‘neglected genocide’. Indonesia killed us with guns and bombs dropped from helicopters, but also with malnutrition and crop destruction. Even as a child I knew that my life was worthless to the colonial forces. The genocide and ethnic cleansing of West Papua is still neglected, as the massacre of ten Papuans in Wamena in February proves. According to UN figures, between 60,000 and 100,000 West Papuans have been displaced over the past four years. 

What makes this humanitarian crisis worse is that Indonesia consistently blocks local aid groups and religious leaders from visiting or treating internally displaced people. While churches are burnt, church leaders are forbidden from giving counsel and comfort for their congregations who have fled. 

It is clear that Indonesia is using the kidnap of New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens as a pretext to strengthen their colonial hold on West Papua. They are creating and exploiting violence to further depopulate our villages and create easier access to our resources through corporate developments like the Trans Papua Highway. This is all part of a sixty-year colonial land grab. 

On behalf of the ULMWP Executive, our peaceful demands to Indonesia are as follows: 

  1. Allow aid agencies to treat victims of forced displacement. 
  2. Allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights into West Papua, as has been demanded by over eighty-four countries. The international community must see through Indonesia’s obvious delaying tactics, and intensify their efforts to bring this visit about. 
  3. Allow international journalists to report on the situation in West Papua. 
  4. Draw back their troops to allow civilians to return to their lives. 
  5. Release all political prisoners, including the 80 activists arrested for handing out leaflets demanding Victor Yeimo be freed, Victor Yeimo himself, and the three students detained without charges last year. 

How many more West Papuans must die before the world takes notice of our freedom struggle? 

Benny Wenda

Smoke from the village burning can be seen in the background