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Yogya students unite to defend Senyap screening against Muslim hard-liners

Solidarity Net - March 11, 2015

Fullah, Yogyakarta – Today, Wednesday March 11, student forces have united in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta and succeeded in safeguarding democracy on campus.

The Sunan Kalijaga Islamic State University (UIN) Rhetor Student Press Institute (LPM Rhetor) together with students from the greater Yogyakarta Student Movement Front (FGM) succeeded in blocking reactionary civil militia groups from closing down a joint screening and discussion of the film Senyap (The Look of Silence) organised by the LPM Rhetor.

The FGM Yogyakarta is comprised of the Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (Pembebasan), the Indonesian Student Press Association (PPMI), the People's Liberation Party (PPR), the Arena Student Press Institute (LPM Arena), the Ekspresi Student Press Institute (LPM Ekspresi), the Nuansa Student Press Institute (LPM Nuansa), the National Students Front (FMN), the Islamic Students Association (HMI), the Indonesian Islamic Students Association (PMII), the Muhammadiyah Students Association (IMM) and other groups, while the reactionary civil militia groups that threatened to close down the screening called themselves the Jogja Forum Umat Islam (FUI).

The incident began two days earlier on Monday March 9 with intimidation against the event by the campus rectorate who withdrew permission to hold the screening on the grounds of maintaining security and stability on campus and regulations on the Yogyakarta sultanate related to "Special Jogja".

A number of threats were made by campus authorities ranging from not providing campus facilities to criminal sanctions if a riot occurs. This however in fact reinforced the student's determination to hold the event on Wednesday.

By 8am the venue for the event at the Student Center building was packed with people wanting to watch the film, although they were blocked by campus security personnel and two rectors and their staff who tried to stop the event going ahead. There were a series of negotiations between campus officials and the organising committee. By 9am a crowd of men wearing turbans and white clothing calling themselves the Yogyakarta Islamic Community Forum (FUI) had formed up at the west gate of UIN Sunan Kaijaga.

Plain clothed police officers also arrived to secure the campus and prevent chaos by guarding the east gate of the campus. Prior to the arrival of the police, there were security teams formed by the student front around the campus that had been on alert at different security posts since 7am.

Meanwhile, several organising committee members inside held protracted negotiations with rectorate staff. The students clearly wanted to continue with the event as demonstrated by students shouting that they wanted to watch the film and the document prohibiting the event being torn up by the head LPM Rhetor negotiator.

At around 10am the film screening began with an estimated audience of around 200 students and non-students. The event was opened with a greeting from the organising committee and representatives from organisations that are part of the FGM.

"Democracy needs to be fought for, especially democracy on campus, so these repeated prohibitions must be resisted and this time round the event will proceed", said one of the speakers.

"If the film screening is attacked, then the masses here must also join in to fight and struggle for democracy", said Mirza Asahan from Pembebasan.

The local UIN rector Minhaji managed to approach participants with intention of closing down the screening of the film by director Joshua Oppenheimer. The grounds being that the film screening had not yet obtained a permit from the government. The organising committee however refuted this and explained that the film titled the The Look of Silence is being promoted the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). In the end Minhaji left the Student Center and the film was screened.

Up until the end of the screening at around 2pm, the event proceeded smoothly and the FUI protesters outside proved unwilling to attack.

This is the first time that a public discussion and screening of Senyap has not been closed down in Yogyakarta. Previous screenings by the Yogyakarta Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and others on campuses such as UGM, the Indonesian Fine Arts Institute (ISI), the Sarjanawiyata Tamansiswa University (UST) and the Sanata Darma University have been closed down by the military and reactionary civilian militia groups.

It is important to note that the event went ahead not because the police were guarding the campus gates. And not because of support from the rector who had clearly tried to stop the event. The military, in this case the police, clearly did not support the event and following the screening the LPM Rhetor offices were raided by police and the LPM Rhetor leadership questioned.

It is clear that the screening went ahead because of the courage and strength of students who united to defend democracy. The large number of people who watched the film is evidence that ordinary people want to know about Indonesia's real history. The organising committee continued with the event despite being repeatedly intimidated by campus staff, even when security personnel tried to remove the screen and lock the entrance. [It is testimony to] the unity and courage of the Yogyakarta FGM in maintaining security and motivating people to support the screening.

The commitment to such unity shows that even when there are attempts to close down events students will continue to stand firm and fight. The means that the readiness to fight and resist Islamic reactionary civilian militia groups is already there. The successful film screening of Senyap in Yogyakarta today has further strengthened our confidence to fight for democracy. The power of organised unity in building the fight against anti-democratic groups is the key to maintaining the people struggle for democracy and prosperity until it is won.

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski for the Indoleft news service. The original title of the article was Mahasiswa Yogyakarta Bersatu, FUI Gagal Bubarkan Acara Nonton Senyap.]

Source: http://solidaritas.net/2015/03/mahasiswa-yogyakarta-bersatu-fui-gagal-bubarkan-acara-nonton-senyap.html.

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