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Rights activist Usman Hamid releases song for victims of 1997-98 abductions

Kompas.com - December 5, 2023

Dani Prabowo, Jakarta – Human rights activist Usman Hamid together with the music group The Blackstones have released a song titled "Where", which tells the story of the pro-democracy activists who were abducted and disappeared in 1997-98.

The launch of the song was held in the lead up to the commemoration of International Human Rights Day which falls on December 10.

Hamid, who is also the executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said that the song was written in cooperation with Denny Setiawan when he was accompanying Dyah Sujirah or Sipon (who died in January this year) in her search for her husband and missing poet Wiji Thukul.

"The song was written when I accompanied Dyah Sujirah or Sipon to look for the whereabouts of and information about her husband, Wiji Thukul", said Usman in a written release on Tuesday December 5.

Hamid said that it was not just Thukul's wife, but that that there were members of other families such as Tuti Koto, the mother of missing activists Yani Afri, who were also looking for their children.

Through the song, Hamid is urging the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) to fully resolve the abduction of the activists.

"Moreover there is already four recommendations from the 2009 DPR, the government is obliged to form an ad hoc Human Rights Court, to look for and find information about their fates, provide reparation for the [families of the] victims and to ratify the UN convention on forced disappearances", he said.

Hamid is also invited a number of other musicians such as Thukul's son Fajar Merah and Once Mekel to the release of the song at the Amnesty International Music Festival, which was held at the Pos Bloc in Jakarta on Sunday December 3.

Aside from "Where", a number of other songs Hamid has written were also played such as "Sakongsa", which was inspired by the murder case involving former police internal affairs division chief Inspector General Ferdy Sambo, and the song "Munir", written to remember the 2007 assassination of renewed human rights defender Munir Said Thalib.

Then there was the song "Larung" and "Kanjuruhan", which criticise President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for failing to fully resolve the fatal 2002 Kanjuruhan soccer stadium stampede in Malang, East Java.


Radical street performer, poet and labour activist, People's Democratic Party (PRD) member Wiji Thukul, disappeared in February 1998. It is suspected he was a victim of the military abductions along with other activists which disappeared in Solo (Central Java). The bodies of Thukul and three other PRD activists have never been found and they are presumed dead.

In 1997-98 as many as 23 pro-democracy activists were abducted by members of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus). After extended periods of detention – in many cases the victims were severely tortured – most were released although 13 (including Thukul) remain missing and are presumed dead. Former Kopassus commander Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto, who was at the time President Suharto's son-in-law, has admitted to ordering the abductions but claims they were all released alive and well. He was subsequently discharged from the military over the abductions but has never been tried in court. Currently serving as Defense Minister, he is running as a presidential candidate alongside President Widodo's eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka in the 2024 elections.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Jelang Hari HAM Internasional, Usman Hamid Rilis Lagu untuk Aktivis Korban Penculikan 98".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2023/12/05/14020071/jelang-hari-ham-internasional-usman-hamid-rilis-lagu-untuk-aktivis-korba