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26 May 2010

IDAHO event cancelled in Yogyakarta after threats by Islamist group, activists hold 'protest on wheels'

Close to 50 people protested the police's inaction by cycling near the park where the scheduled event was to be held but the gathering was cut short after participants were warned that members of the Islamist group bent on breaking up any IDAHO activity were on their way.

A concert to be held in a public park in Yogyakarta (or Jogjakarta), Indonesia for LGBTIQ artists to showcase their talents and to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) last Saturday had to be cancelled after their permit was revoked, organisers told Fridae. Diversity Stage was to be the finale of a three-part IDAHO programme to be held on the evening of Saturday, May 22, at Sasono Hinggil, a large hall situated in Alun-alun Selatan (the South Square) in a public park.

Yuventius Nicky Nurman, a co-organiser of the event, told Fridae in a statement that on the afternoon of Friday, May 21, a representative of Sasono Hinggil went to the office of the IDAHO planning committee and requested that the building-usage permit that Sasono Hinggil had previously issued be returned.

Organisers say they were told by the representative said that the local police had officially asked the venue to rescind their permit citing violent threats received from Islam Defenders Front (aka Front Pembela Islam / FPI) – the same group that forced the cancellation of the ILGA Asia conference in Surabaya and the Human Rights training event at Depok, near Jakarta. 

Islam Defenders Front (FPI) flyer and banner condemning the IDAHO event.
The flyer reads: "Dismiss them! We strongly reject International Day Against
Homophobia here in Alun-alun Selatan, Saturday, 22 May 2010."
Photos courtesy of IDAHO Jogjakarta organisers.

On the morning of Saturday, May 22, a small group from the IDAHO committee went to the police headquarters to confirm what they were told. The police verified the existence of the FPI threat; and the organisers were given an official letter, and oral explanation as to why the police will not issue a permit for Diversity Stage. The reasons as provided by the event organisers to Fridae:

1. Allowing Diversity Stage to be staged was "not conducive to public safety and order."

2. Referring to similar events in Surabaya and Depok as precedents, the "highly contentious content of the event had caused clashes."

3. "The police had to maintain public order for the sake of a conducive atmosphere to support the then-upcoming local election."

The statement continued: “The police also made it very clear that should we pursue our event in spite of everything, they will not be able to guarantee the safety of the attendees. Pursue at your own risk, that was essentially what they said.”

Organisers then decided to cancel Diversity Stage and in its place, staged a mass cycling event given that Alun-alun Selatan is known for tandem-cycling.

“It was a Saturday evening and there were lots of tandem bicycles available for rent. We thought why not use them to our advantage. We could still protest by showing up in spite of the threat, and we could do so in an activity that is common in that area. That way the police would have no reason to kick us out,” Nurman told Fridae.

Photos courtesy of IDAHO Jogjakarta organisers.

Organisers say close to 50 people showed up wearing white shirts to mark their peaceful intent and protest the police's inaction by cycling in the area as they chanted Indonesia's national anthem, and songs related to their struggle.

But that was not to be either.

Some of the participants had received text messages while they were cycling that members of FPI were on their way to break up the event.

Nurman described the incident: “At that moment we took the decision to disperse in order to avoid unnecessary violent clash. We managed to escape. Some of us stayed and blended into the growing crowd. We saw FPI members coming in two jeeps, a few trucks, and at least a dozen motorcycles. They were wielding steel bars. We were lucky we got that text message warning.”

The determined 25-year-old graduate of University of Wollongong in Australia, who said he proposed the cycling event as a sign of protest after being inspired by what he heard about the recent Pink Dot rally in Singapore, is not giving up the fight.

“What happened to us is nothing new here in Indonesia. ILGA Asia went through what we went through. But we did something different.

"The Pink Dot rally gave us an example of how we can fight back. It showed us that even a simple picnic can send a bold message out. So we fought back the Jogja way. We cycled. We will continue our struggle. You will hear more from us. We are not done yet. We hope our little stubborn attempt will send a message to our friends out there that activism lives in Indonesia.”


1. 2010-05-27 04:29  
They said God is the creator and I'm pretty sure "gays" is also one of His final product. Uhuh! I just dun believe we all can self-create. So you bunch of idiots(no...not the one in pink. The one in green!) , better be nice to God's creatures!
2. 2010-05-27 07:58  
so cool, love the great outdoors and biking is great and fun and healthy wholesome way to protest... go outside this weekend and take your lover to a park, breath some fresh air

i still don't understand why anyone would go to a sauna in penang when there are so many great beaches to make out in and so many great outdoor places to go explore

if you are in Singapore take that special gal or girl and go kiss him on Mount Faber, go rollar blading on North Beach and take it outside with that yummy special someone

by the way, I think David29's cat looks like the Chesire cat in Alice in Wonderland
3. 2010-05-27 08:23  
This so called Moslem front defender is actually just a bunch of thugs getting paid. I have never understand why our government never take serious action to this so called "moral protector" organization. Their ways are violence and it can not go on like that. Not only to gay community, but also to lots of other topics or events where this FPI just came, shown their dislike and start hitting or smashing properties. Using Moslem religion as their shield is also very WRONG!!! I am not Moslem, but intelligent enough to understand that the word Moslem mean PEACE and definitely not VIOLENCE!

I feel sorry and sympathy for the gays in Jogja and Surabaya who just trying to voice their existence. It is a good start and somebody just has to do it to create a better living and understanding to the gay community. I believe, Indonesia need pressure from the international to against this thug organization called FPI as they are more like an organize crime kind of group.

Or they actually a whole closeted faggot who actually jerk off watching gay porn quietly... you never know. From existing case, usually the meanest bully to gay is usually gay himself... Carpe diem people
4. 2010-05-27 08:58  
I imagine none of the people holding the steel bars were detained or arrested. It seems statement 3 explains it all in the letter to the group from the police. 'upcoming elections....'
5. 2010-05-27 09:53  
The event was "not contusive to public safety" and "might cause clashes"...

Muslims claim theirs a religion of peace: I guess we are all supposed not to notice how often it’s most ardent followers resort to violence.
6. 2010-05-27 13:04  
Science flies you to the moon.

Religion flies you into skyscrapers.
7. 2010-05-27 21:56  
Those gay Indonesians are very brave.
Religious extremists really show the reasons why many of us fear religions. They want to force their beliefs onto others. It confirms my belief that most religions cannot have any rational foundation. The believers are herded like sheep and kept under control by sheep dogs and then fleeced by the priests and mullahs.
8. 2010-05-27 22:42  
well i live in canada where gays are fully integrated into society and our laws also allow gays to wed and live like normal couple in society here. canada is such a big country and we have plenty empty land so why dont all the gays in said oppressed countries such as indonesia apply to live in canada?
9. 2010-05-27 23:32  
These extremists continue to use fictional religions as a breeding ground for hatred, fear and segregation. Every intelligent person knows that these pathetic individuals will evaporate as communication, facts, awareness and understanding take over.

The old ways are no longer needed.

Share your stories, tell your friends, tell everyone you know and love.

Every single one of us can make significant change.
10. 2010-05-27 23:46  
I want to clarify a few things:

1. We were threatened by a very specific fundamentalist group, namely FPI that is infamous for their violent antics.

2. The problem is that we did not get the protection we deserved from the Police.

3. A large majority who came to our event were Muslims. (I myself am a Catholic -- though I am a Catholic just like how Madonna is a Catholic.) So I do mind comments with generalization. Some of the cyclist wore Hijab. Wearing a Hijab or believing in the one and only God, DOES NOT mean you cannot fight for Human Rights.

4. WE were not protesting against Islam. We were protesting against religious thugs, THEIR oppressive belief, and THEIR violence.

So, on behalf of my Muslim compatriots, we are in this struggle as a community of human beings. This is our human concern; we understand that very well.

We would very much like to move beyond the religious vilification paradigm. We want to work together to make sure that Human Rights is served given the available legal instruments. We do not believe in the eradication of beliefs. We value pluralism. We intend to find creative solutions within our pluralistic society.


Yuventius Nurman
11. 2010-05-28 01:57  
The photos suggest that boys were having fun- one way or another :)
12. 2010-05-28 05:58  
omg....i feel sorry for wha hapenned in jogja....if only i and everybody were brave enough like them , things would go differentlly around the world,its such a shame...really proud of them and shame on the thugs ,i really dont understand how the way they are thinking.....
13. 2010-05-28 11:03  
While it’s sad that, in this instance, a group of thugs seem to be calling the shots in Jogja, one must remember that Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country and, to their credit, do not criminalised homosexuality like most (but not all) other Muslim majority countries and even some non-Muslim majority countries like Singapore. Those who have visited Jogja will know that most of the people there, while being very friendly, generous and hospitable, and not very sophisticated or well-educated and would have been fed a steady diet of misinformation about gays all their lives.
14. 2010-05-28 18:56  
Hey yuventius,
Your campaign ideals sound really sensible ... and you will win in the end. Good luck with it!
15. 2010-05-28 20:01  
Well said Yuventis!
We have a lot to learn from people with your sort of wisdom.
16. 2010-05-29 07:53  
sorry fridaers, my line here won't have anything to do with this article, I just want to tell you that if you know (and like) Thailand, AND if you have a sense of humour, you should read yveserwan's comment #26 under the article "Gay Thai director wins top prize at Cannes", it's one of the funniest and wittiest I have read in a long time. I also live in Thailand so I fully appreciate every word.
17. 2010-05-29 17:25  
I can't believe that not only did this happen, but the police and government allowed this to happen! It completely contradicted what the day was supposed to be about: a day to celebrate and protest AGAINST homophobia! This just furthered the ammo against the increasingly tarnished image of Muslims as well, so it's really a lose-lose, sad day for all. A hurrah to those who were brave and remained standing their grounds.
18. 2010-05-31 18:40  
thinking out side the square (;-)) people in religious countries need to tailor their campaigns to their own culture taking into consideration any specific threats, being clever and creative wins in the end, I do believe the Canadians won their rights by clever legal strategies that Gay Australian & American activists woefully havn't had the intelligence to learn from.
19. 2010-06-02 19:01  
@18- well said. Can't use one template for all.
20. 2010-06-03 11:47  
Wow.... Luckily got the warning early.

I'm against those religious thugs.

We should get back to our muslim's teaching, that is listen to others, accept other people views, and protect the faith (believe in God and Messengers, all living beings are created by God and only God can judge you !!)

Be strong and your supporters are there in Indonesian community. And plan to work closely with your non-supporters. As Yuventius said, "We intend to find creative solutions within our pluralistic society."

21. 2010-06-04 17:12  
Laguna, the government knew about gay sauna and allow them to operate so that they can keep as many gay at bay instead of straying in public. There are often unpleasant police raids if not due to compliants. There are enough of sauna country wide if the police wants to raid everyday.

Are sure you can bring your lover to Mt Faber and kiss him openly like straights? First, you get staring eyes from passerby, then complaint to the authority, followby police investigation. If a couple of 'gay' can stir such attention, what if there are many gay couples? Of course there is the famous Fort road in Singapore where gays meet in the public. Why Fort road? Because its remote from the public (straights). What if meeting gets 'hot'? Most Singaporean has no privacy rather staying with parents. So, sex in the public? Sauna is the only place where gays are free to meet. Not until the day when gays are generally accepted, then more gays can come out of the sauna, bring his lover to mt Faber and kisses him.

Ronmac, it is very nice of you that gays are welcome in Canada. However, born and grow in our motherland, there are many bondages. Sad to say, migranting is the last resort.





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