Police in Indonesia‘s most conservative province have stripped away body piercings and shaved off mohicans from 65 youths detained at a punk-rock concert because of their perceived threat to Islamic values. The teens and young men were also stripped of dog-collar necklaces and chains and then thrown in pools of water for “spiritual” cleansing, the local police chief, Iskandar Hasan, said on Wednesday.
After replacing their “disgusting” clothes, he handed each a toothbrush and barked: “Use it.”
It was the latest effort by authorities to promote strict moral values in Aceh, the only province in this secular but predominantly Muslim nation of 240 million people to have imposed Islamic laws.
Here, adultery is punishable by stoning to death, gay people have been thrown in jail or lashed in public with rattan canes, and women must wear headscarves.
Punk rockers have complained for months about harassment, but Saturday’s roundup at a concert attended by more than 100 people was by far the most dramatic.
Baton-wielding police broke up the concert, scattering young music lovers, many of whom had travelled from other parts of the sprawling archipelagic nation.
Dozens were loaded into vans and brought to a police detention centre in the hills, 30 miles (60km) from the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, for rehabilitation, training in military-style discipline and religious classes, including Qur’an recitation.
They will be held there for at least 10 days, after which they will be returned to their parents.
One 20-year-old detainee, Fauzan, was mortified.
“Why? Why my hair?” he said, pointing to his clean-shaven head. “We didn’t hurt anyone. This is how we’ve chosen to express ourselves. Why are they treating us like criminals?”
But the police chief, Hasan, insisted he had done nothing wrong.
“We’re not torturing anyone,” he said. “We’re not violating human rights. We’re just trying to put them back on the right moral path.”
However, Nur Kholis, a national human rights commissioner, deplored the detention, saying police must explain what criminal laws were violated by the youngsters.
“Otherwise, they violated people’s right of gathering and expression,” Kholis said, and promised to investigate it.
Aceh was given semi-autonomy as part of a peace deal with Indonesia’s central government after the province agreed to end a separatist struggle in 2005.
were you there? if so we would love to speak to you, to get the real stories of what happened
anda Aceh. Rizal Adi Syaputra says he is a proud punk, but still prefers to hide his dyed red hair under a cap.
The 20-year-old is a member of one of the Aceh capital’s five punk communities that have become the latest target of the province’s Wilayatul Hisbah, or Shariah Police, and Public Order Agency (Satpol PP).
He spent 10 days in detention after being picked up by the Shariah Police, until his parents were able to secure his release.
“I was released recently,” Rizal said. “The officers did not shave my head because my mother told them she would cut my hair off herself. This is why my hair is still intact and not shaven off like my friends.
“There are punks whose heads have been shaved clean by these officers, possibly with the consent of their parents.”
Rizal said his parents were forced to sign a contract with the Shariah Police promising not to repeat his offense. But he said he still had no idea why he had been detained.
Marzuki, who is the head of investigations at Satpol PP and the Shariah Police in Aceh, told the Jakarta Globe that the raids on punks in Banda Aceh were in accordance with existing regulations in the province
“These raids have been verbally sanctioned by the Aceh governor and police chief, and we have received permission through writing from the Banda Aceh mayor,” he said, adding that young punk communities were a public nuisance.
“The presence of punks bothers the general public,” he said. “They are involved in theft, brawls, attacks and assaults in Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar. They are criminals. Their actions are against Acehnese culture and violate Islamic Shariah law.”
At least five punks are currently being “rehabilitated” at the Satpol PP offices through religious studies, Marzuki said.
“They will only be released if their parents pick them up and sign a contract promising that they will not continue what they are doing now,” he said.
“Parents have thanked us because they have been unable to knock sense into their kids who have been influenced by this punk culture.
“If we catch someone three times after having undergone rehabilitation with us, we will hand them over to the police. We only arrest those who have committed crimes.”
Rizal told the Jakarta Globe that he and five friends from the Museum Street Punks community were arrested while they were hanging out at the Blang Padang field near the city center one Saturday night.
He said he joined the punk community in 2009 because he wanted more personal freedom and an outlet to create art.
“We asked the Satpol PP officers why we were being arrested; we were just sitting there,” Rizal said.
He was speaking on the side of a demonstration on Thursday protesting the Shariah Police’s targeting of punks.
“We asked them why we were being arrested, but the Satpol PP officers stayed silent. They did not tell us anything,” he said.
“We, as members of the Museum Street Punks, have never committed any of the acts they have accused us of. We are only involved in social activities,” Rizal said, adding that he and his punk friends had even raised money for the survivors of last year’s Mentawai tsunami.
At the demonstration on Thursday, members of the five punk communities sat together and sang in protest.
The demonstration’s coordinator, 19-year-old Juanda Syahfitrah, said they were angry about the accusations by the Satpol PP and the Shariah Police that punk communities were criminal groups.
“Punk kids are not criminals. We detest the stigma that has been laid on us,” he said, adding that Banda Aceh was home to more than 100 members of different punk communities.
“We have been here forever. Why are they [the Satpol PP] only now arresting us through no fault of our own?
“We are just young people who want to create art, but not for money. We have every right to organize and express ourselves.”