This year’s Ramadan is no different from the previous Ramadan. Ahmadis in Wisma Transito, Mataram, Lombok Island, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) are still ‘displaced in their own hometown’ due to differences in faith.
The government’s promises to give them proper shelter, the so-called martyrs in charge of refugees, are mere rhetoric. Since fleeing until now, he said, none of them have received homes from the government.
Even some of the refugees were born and raised in the Transito hall which was transformed with plywood into living spaces between families. One of them admitted that he did not know the meaning of privacy and home as a family room.
The Setara Institute, a religious freedom advocacy organization, called on the national and local governments to create solutions for victims by providing decent housing and integrating refugees with the wider community.
On the other hand, the Head of the NTB Provincial Social Office, Ahsanul Khalik, admitted that the processing of certificates for refugees who own land outside the conflict area is in process, to then build houses by the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR).
The Ministry of Religious Affairs said that the Center for Diverse Harmony (PKUB) had been working with the relevant ministries to build temporary habitable homes for the Ahmadi refugees.
Violence against the Ahmadiyya community in Lombok has, at least recorded, occurred since 1999, 2001, and 2006. Now, there are 30 heads of families (KK), with a total of 115 people living in Wisma Transito who are waiting for the government’s helping hand to find a way back home.
Asa refugee, “Home is heaven on earth”
A group of children were seen playing ball in a field, in front of the Transito Dormitory, Majeluk, Mataram City, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), on Tuesday afternoon (18/04).
While around the dormitory hall, which has stood for 16 years, some children are playing chase.
The compound is home to hundreds of Ahmadis who were expelled from their hometowns a dozen years ago.
Inside the hall, there are rooms measuring 2×3 meters blocked by wooden plywood where a number of elderly people can be seen resting. In the past, the partition between families used cloth to banners.
Next to the dormitory, several women are busy preparing food for iftar in a soup kitchen built of plywood and zinc.
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At the end of the dormitory, Munikah was standing guard in front of his stall selling basic necessities. The mother of five is from Ketapang village, Lombok, who was expelled from her village in 2006 for converting to Ahmadiyah.
“Here it feels safe, Friday prayer, Eid prayer, worship is safe, no one disturbs. The surrounding residents are fine,” Munikah said at Wisma Transito, Tuesday (18/04).
“Don’t want [to return to Ketapang] if there is no security guarantee. If there is a guarantee, free like everyone else, maybe [want to]. But if it’s not there, it’s not brave, it’s traumatized,” he told journalist Abdul Latief Apriaman, reporting for BBC News Indonesia.
In the midst of his busy closing shops to break his fast, Munikah said that this year’s Ramadan worship was different from before, even quieter than during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We don’t make Eid cakes, it’s quiet. When Corona yesterday was not this economic way. Now that Corona is over, the economy is slumping,” he said, naming one of his children born in the refugee camp, Sinta.
Munikah named his son Sinta because in 2007, the first fast in the refugee camp, Indonesian President Gus Dur’s wife, Sinta Nuriyah Abdurrahman Wahid, visited them.
In addition to the sluggish economy, he added that refugees were getting 10kg of rice from the local government, much smaller than the previous year.
In between her activities, Munikah shared her biggest hope in life, which is to have her own house.
“I gave birth here, my son got married here, and even had grandchildren here. That’s the place. If we have our own house it’s like heaven. The house is heaven on earth, we want to live a quiet and happy life,” he said.
However, she cannot afford to buy a house because their savings have been lost as a result of past violence. The only hope is the government.
“Our money is no longer there because it runs out on the road. We had a little money and stayed there, evicted for a while, burned, it would be gone. Now it’s empty-handed, don’t have the capital to buy land, houses,” said her husband, whose husband is no longer working.
Children born in refugee camps: “I feel inferior when I invite friends to play at home”
Today, there are about 30 families – consisting of 115 Ahmadis from various parts of Lombok island – who inhabit the Transito dormitory, including dozens of children born and growing up teenagers there.
One of them is Maryam, 16, the daughter of Shahidin, who is in charge of the refugees at the guesthouse.
With Syahidin’s permission and accompanied, BBC News Indonesia interviewed Maryam to share her life experience of being born in a refugee camp.
In Ramadan this year, Maryam said she rarely played outside the house. “In the morning I sometimes go to bed, then recite. It’s rare to want to play for fear of getting tired later,” he said with laughter.
In between the laughter, Maryam shared her sadness as a child born and raised in the refugee camp.
“I like to be inferior when I invite school friends to play at home because I know this is not our home, not our land. I was embarrassed,” he said.
Maryam also admitted that she did not know the meaning of privacy and home as a family room because throughout her life she always lived together with other families.
He kept hope simple. He wanted his family to have their own house and land so they could take their friends to play in his private room.
“I want to get out of here quickly, have my own house, my own land, my own room. Hopefully the government can realize that there are still displaced people who do not have homes. I want the government to care about us,” he said.
Deputy Chairman of Setara Institute, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, said that what Maryam revealed was one of the various negative impacts that arise due to the deprivation of the basic rights of a citizen, especially children, namely to have a place to live.
“Children in the dormitory will certainly experience certain psychological conditions that cause a sense of discrimination. Moreover, the conditions there are bad, the kitchen is outside, they are placed in a room that is blocked by plywood, cardboard,” he said.
For this reason, Bonar said, the children need to be integrated with the wider community so that they feel part of Indonesian citizens.
“Religion is not only tolerance, but also equality. They should be seen as citizens who have the same obligations and rights, not just based on their religion. Whether the government has the political concern and courage to provide a breakthrough is always not there,” he said.
‘Taking refuge in your own hometown’
The person in charge of Wisma Transito, Syahidin, said that until now there had been no follow-up on the government’s promises to relocate them.
On the contrary, Syahidin explained, the last communication with the government was that refugees would be given assistance in building houses, but it was only intended for those who had land titles outside the conflict area.
In fact, Syahidin said, every refugee hopes to be given a house because many of them do not have land.
“Giving away the house is just rhetoric, it has never been done until recently. From 2008 until now it’s just plans,” he said.
Syahidin shows the bathroom of Wisma Transito, which has been converted into a residence for Ahmadiyya refugees, in 2018.© BBC
Syahidin said there are currently around 30 families living in refugee camps with a total of 115 people.
The number is decreasing, Syahidin said, but not because of housing assistance from the government. The refugees independently repaid their homes or migrated to other cities.
“Until now, there has not been a single family that has occupied its own house from the government. In fact, those who have their own land do not exist, let alone those who do not have land,” he said.
He also hopes that the next government can solve the problem faced, namely moving them from the Transito refugee site.
“We are taking refuge in our own hometown, it’s very strange. We are not given the freedom like other Indonesian citizens, like our Lombok brothers, to practice our faith in our own homes,” he said.
Seeing this, according to Bonar Tigor, the central and regional governments should have a way out for those who have been deprived of their basic rights as citizens for a dozen years.
“The key is now in the hands of the government and there are many ways it can be done. This has continued for dozens of years because the government has no initiative, as if they don’t know what they want to do,” he said.
Efforts of central and provincial governments
An Ahmadiyya prays at a mosque in Jakarta.© Getty Images
Head of the NTB Provincial Social Office, Ahsanul Khalik said, the central and regional governments are arranging certificates for refugees who own land, to then build houses by the PUPR Ministry.
“If there is already a right to the land they have, the PUPR Ministry will build them houses. We in the regions only help how to solve the administrative process. The position of the land is not problematic and must be sterile from their social problems,” Khalik said.
“That’s what is being strengthened, if others, we are actually just waiting for developments,” Khalik said.
Meanwhile, regarding the implementation of Ramadan this year, Khalik said the provincial government continues to communicate with Ahmadiyya refugees, although he admitted there is no special handling for them.
Religious Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anna Hasbie said that since several years ago, PKUB has been working with several relevant ministries to build temporary habitable houses for Transito refugees.
“So there is a program, it can’t be all direct because if I’m not mistaken, it was originally several hundred [people], but now it’s much reduced. It was done in stages of his transfer to a temporary house,” he said.
“In principle, the Ministry of Religious Affairs considers that worship is a citizen’s right that must be protected, and we ensure that these citizens’ civil rights remain,” Anna added.
In addition to temporary housing assistance, he said, the Ministry of Religious Affairs also regularly provides social assistance to refugees through PKUB.
Examples of peaceful paths to conflict resolution
People from diverse backgrounds hold their hands against persecution in the name of religion.© Getty Images
Ahmadis are one of Indonesia’s most vulnerable minorities and often face discrimination and persecution, according to Setara Institute data.
In addition to Lombok, according to Indonesian Ahmadiyya Jama’at (JAI) Spokesperson Yendra Budiana, the Ahmadiyya Parakansalak community in Sukabumi, Nyalindung in Garut, and Sintang in West Kalimantan are still under pressure to practice their faith.
For the congregation at Wisma Transito, said Yendra, they can carry out worship well, even though on the other hand with miserable conditions because they have not yet had a house.
“The challenge now is more on execution by the government to immediately build decent homes for refugees after almost 17 years of living in displacement in their own homeland,” he said.
Yendra said there were examples of conflict resolution when all parties opened up to establish tolerance between religious communities, namely in Kuningan, West Java.
He recounted that in 2010, the Ahmadiyya community of Manislor in Kuningan was attacked by a mob on behalf of various anti-Ahmadiyah organizations.
After the incident, he continued, Ahmadiyya people’s public service rights were also revoked, such as not being able to get an e-KTP, not registering a marriage book in KUA and not being able to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
After conducting formal advocacy efforts and cultural approaches to religious leaders to the community in Kuningan, finally in 2016, the Ahmadiyya community obtained e-KTP, and other basic rights of citizens.
“Even today the Kuningan Regency Government collaborates a lot with the Ahmadiyah Manislor community such as the Blood Donor Alert Village, Eye Donor Alert and Disaster Alert Village to help local government programs and also the Kuningan community,” he said.
In fact, he said, the regent of Kuningan is now an advisor in the Ahmadiyah Manislor Eye Donor Community (KDMI), which won the MURI record as the largest village of eye donor communities in Indonesia.
“Many community leaders who used to oppose the existence of Ahmadiyya now often come to visit the Ahmadiyya community to support the collaboration of social humanitarian movements together,” he said.
Journalist in Mataram City, West Nusa Tenggara, Abdul Latief Apriaman, contributed to this report.