New Museum on Human Rights Offering Lessons From Aceh’s Painful Past

Banda Aceh, TAG - Decades of armed conflict in Aceh may be officially over, but scars remain from that tumultuous time that, as people like Reza Idria insist, should never be forgotten.

Reza, the director of the newly inaugurated Museum of Aceh Human Rights, believes the past holds valuable lessons no matter how painful they are.
“There is no intention at all for us to reopen old wounds here,” he said at the museum’s launch on Wednesday. “We only want the past to be remembered and serve as lessons for the future.”
He and a group of artists and activists formed the museum to record the many rights violations that took place during Aceh’s pro-independence movement from the 1970s to the late 1990s. More than 15,000 people were killed.
The Indonesian military launched a brutal crackdown on the separatists, until the state of emergency in the province was lifted briefly between early 2000 and 2003.
Though fighting flared up again after that, a devastating tsunami in 2004 refocused the country’s efforts toward rehabilitation and eventually led to a peace agreement.
The museum, temporarily lodged in a simple house in Ulee Kareng, Banda Aceh, has records of those grim events.
On its opening night on Wednesday, dozens of activists watched a documentary on school burnings that were rampant in 2000.
The burnings peaked in 2003 when the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) again declared Aceh a military emergency zone and moved to quash the pro-independence Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
The museum also displays photographs of victims who disappeared along with thousands of others during the almost 30-year conflict.
It also chronicles tragedies such as the massacre of Tengku Bantaqiah and 56 of his students on July 23, 1999, in West Aceh. He had been accused of hiding firearms for rebels.
The museum documents the military raid of a National Committee of Indonesian Youth (KNPI) building on Jan. 9 that same year in Lhokseumawe in northern Aceh, that left five dead and dozens injured.
Though its subject is bloody, the museum has refused to show graphic photos or videos of the violence, citing “ethical reasons.”
“We do have those photos. But if they are displayed, it might spark violent reactions and reopen old wounds,” Reza said.
While the new museum is billeted in temporary quarters, the director said he hoped the Aceh administration would realize the museum’s value and assign them a permanent building, such as the rarely used Tsunami Museum.
“This is actually the responsibility of the government, but we have taken the first initiative,” Reza said.
“Once there is state-built museum, we will grant every resource we have to it, which of course would be housed in a more appropriate setting,” the director said.
Reza said their museum not only documented abuses but could serve as a center for conflict studies.[]
New Museum on Human Rights Offering Lessons From Aceh’s Painful Past New Museum on Human Rights Offering Lessons From Aceh’s Painful Past Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on March 27, 2011 Rating: 5

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