The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) mourns the death of Carmel Budiardjo, a tireless defender of human rights in Indonesia, West Papua and Timor-Leste, who passed away July 10 in London at the age of 96.
We join with many around the world in mourning her passing and in celebrating her inspiring life.
"Carmel was a hero to me as well as to thousands of people in Timor-Leste, Indonesia and West Papua. She also motivated ETAN's creation, was invaluable with networking and inspiration, and brought her wisdom to our first national conference 28 years ago," said Charles Scheiner, a co-founder of ETAN.
"I am deeply saddened by this news. Carmel's stories and activism, her focus, analysis and persistence, her deep commitment to justice and truth and, on top of all that, her wonderful kindness and generosity have given me inspiration and a model for activism since I first read her work. I feel so fortunate to have known her and learned from her," said Pam Sexton, a member of ETAN's Board.
Carmel did several U.S. speaking tours with ETAN in the 1990s.
"TAPOL and Carmel provided a basic education to we who were learning about the region. At one of ETAN's earliest national meetings in 1993, she urged us to see Timor and its struggle for self-determination as closely linked to the struggle against Indonesia's dictatorship and militarism," said John M. Miller, ETAN Coordinator.
Carmel moved to newly independent Indonesia in 1951 after marrying Suwondo Budiardjo in 1950 and became a citizen in 1954. She was a devoted anti-fascist and became a respected economist, working with the Indonesian government and media and lecturing at universities.
Following General Suharto's seizure of power in 1965 and the subsequent persecution of the political left – including the murders of hundreds of thousands – the military imprisoned Carmel and her husband. Britain refused to help her, because she had become a naturalized Indonesian citizen and because the UK supported Suharto's purge. She recounted this harrowing time in her 1996 book, Surviving Indonesia's Gulag: A Western Woman Tells Her Story. She was released after three years and deported to the United Kingdom, where she worked for Amnesty International and then founded the organization TAPOL, named for the Indonesian portmanteau for Tahanan Politik, or political prisoner. For the next half-century, she devoted her life to human rights in Indonesia, through research, publication, networking, advocacy, and protest.
Her organization's newsletter, the TAPOL Bulletin, provided first-hand accounts of the abuses of the Suharto dictatorship facilitated by a wide range of contacts in Indonesia. In 1984, she co-authored the book The War Against East Timor with Liem Soei Liong, one of the first comprehensive English-language accounts of Indonesia's brutal occupation. The two also co-authored West Papua: The Obliteration of a People in 1988. She also helped found the environmental organization Down to Earth in 1988, the British Coalition for East Timor (BCET) in 1991, and the London Mining Network in 1997.
Carmel outlived the Suharto regime, the occupation of Timor-Leste, and the war in Aceh – three major victories she played key roles in. TAPOL continues to campaign against the horrific abuses and racism in West Papua and on behalf of political prisoners, for human rights and against injustice in Indonesia.
Carmel inspired and taught rights activists around the globe. She has received numerous awards including the 1995 Right Livelihood Award and the John Rumbiak Human Rights Defender Award in 2008 from ETAN's sister organization the West Papua Advocacy Team. She was also recognized as an Eldest Daughter of Papua.
Carmel visited Timor-Leste in August 2009 on the 10th anniversary of Timor's independence referendum, where she received the Order of Timor-Leste from the government of Timor-Leste. During the same visit, she challenged Timor's young people to continue the international solidarity their country had received by supporting West Papua's struggle. This inspired a demonstration that same week and campaigning that continues.
Carmel will be missed by many around the globe, but the many people she encouraged, taught and motivated will carry on her work. ETAN offers our deepest condolences to her family and friends.
A luta continua!
Contact: ETAN, 917-690-4391; firstname.lastname@example.org