Meka Beresford – A group of trans women who were stripped and beaten in Indonesia have spoken out about their ordeal.
Last month, 12 women had their heads shaven, were forced to wear typically male clothing and forced into demeaning exercises in an effort to "turn them into men".
The raid was called "operasi penyakit masyarakat," which translates as "community sickness operation".
The horrendous abuse was carried out in Aceh, Indonesia. It is the only province in the country which practices Sharia Law.
The 12 women have recounted to Amnesty International Indonesia exactly what happened on the night of January 27 when they were rounded up as part of the "clean up" operation. Police conducted multiple raids on local salons to find the trans women and then they were brought to a central part of the town.
In front of a group of onlookers, the women reported that the police chief delivered a speech condemning their gender identity and provoked the crowd to jeer at them. "Oust them. Just burn them. Just kill them," the onlookers reportedly chanted.
The women said that they were then marched in a military-style manner to a nearby park where they were forced to carry out mock military training to make them "manlier". They were also forced to strip naked.
They were ordered to roll on the ground, but when one woman refused a warning shot was fired to scare her. Another woman said she had water thrown on her for protesting the treatment.
One begged the police to "just shoot me", and told them that she would rather die with "dignity" than be tormented and humiliated. "You as a transgender do not have the right to have dignity," the police chief allegedly responded.
Six of the women had their hair cut off and were told to urinate in a bottle for a drug test. One woman was told to hose down the others, but she was kicked by authorities for not doing it properly. They were told to shout "like men" and were slapped with shoes.
After being soaked through with the hose, the women say that they were detained and made to sleep in a cell with no mattress on a cold floor in wet clothing.
The following day, they say that 11 of them were "released" but forced to go to a religious sermon where a Muslim cleric told them that they should "return" to their "nature". He also allegedly said that it was "ok to kill transgender or other LGBT people because they are more eying than kafir (an infidel)".
The one woman who was not released was detained because of an explicit video found on her phone.
Amnesty said that the treatment was "cruel, inhuman and degrading" and could be defined as torture under international law.
Usman Hamid, the Executive Director for the Indonesia branch of the charity said that the arrests and abuse was based on nothing but discrimination. "It is appalling that a group of heavily armed police officers raided and arrested transgender women on the basis of nothing but hatred."
"Local authorities and ordinary people, in the name of Shari'a law, have colluded to attack and humiliate these transgender women. We believe the actions of the police amount to torture under international law," Hamid said.
The women are said to have been left "deeply traumatised" by the raid and felt forced to flee the province out of fear for their safety. Some were intimidated by neighbours or family members.
One woman was kicked and had a stone thrown at her. A number were also fired from their jobs because employees were afraid to keep employing them because of unwanted police attention.
Amnesty made a call on Indonesian authorities to investigate into the "War against transgenders".
"The harrowing tales of these women must be a wake-up call to the Indonesian authorities and people everywhere. The human rights of all Indonesians... must be upheld and protected equally.
"President Joko Widodo must instruct the National Police to order North Aceh police to stop attacking and start protecting transgender people, should they receive threats and intimidations from local people," they said.