FREE ACEH MOVE­MENT

Midweek Sport - - NEWS -

REBELS in Aceh spent the best part of 30 years fight­ing for in­de­pen­dence from In­done­sia – and the epic bat­tle saw a lot of blood­shed!

The fall-out dates back to 1949, when ter­ri­tory gov­erned by the Nether­lands was brought to­gether to form the Repub­lic Of In­done­sia.

The King­dom Of Aceh had never be­longed to the Dutch, so when it was in­cor­po­rated in the new repub­lic it se­ri­oiusly pissed off many res­i­dents.

Out of that anger rose the Free Aceh Move­ment, AKA Ger­akan Aceh Merdeka (GAM), founded in 1976 by Hasan di Tiro, a de­scen­dant of the last sul­tan of Aceh.

Over the next three decades, be­tween 15,000 and 20,000 peo­ple were killed as the fierce rebels launched three ma­jor at­tempts to win their free­dom.

With 150 rebels on board, the group’s first ef­forts at gain­ing power saw Di Tiro bid on a con­tract to build a gas pipe­line to the Exxon Mo­bil plant.

But In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Suharto’s anti-com­mu­nist stance dur­ing the Cold War had won him the back­ing of the US – and by 1977 GAM had all but gone.

Abuses

When the group re­con­vened in 1989, it boasted around 1,000 highly-skilled sol­diers af­ter fi­nan­cial sup­port from Libya and Iran had funded train­ing overseas.

The In­done­sian mil­i­tary re­sponded by lock­ing Aceh down, set­ting fire to vil­lages and kid­nap­ping and tor­tur­ing sus­pected rebels and their rel­a­tives.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in­cluded 7,000 hu­man rights abuses and re­sulted in the killing of sus­pected in­for­mants by GAM lead­ers.

In­done­sia an­nounced GAM’s demise in 1996, but the fall of Suharto in 1998 and the de­ci­sion of his suc­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Hab­bie, to with­draw troops from Aceh gave rise to one fi­nal upris­ing.

A younger, more heav­ily-armed unit forced Hab­bie to re-de­ploy troops to the province and, by 2002, there were around 50,000 sol­diers and po­lice in Aceh.

Se­cu­rity crack­downs re­port­edly caused sev­eral thou­sand civil­ian deaths.

In 2005, GAM agreed to re­move its mil­i­tary wing in favour of es­tab­lish­ing a po­lit­i­cal party, which con­tin­ues to op­er­ate.

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