By Hilda Wayne
In a village in West Papua, a young Benny Wenda watched as Indonesian military forced his Melanesian aunties to wash themselves by the river ‘ to clean themselves up’ before they were raped. One of Benny’s aunts had her baby ripped from her arms and thrown to the ground before she, the mother, was also raped. Both baby and mother sustained fatal injuries. They died.
Severe internal injuries were what eventually killed the West Papuan father of Wiwince Pigome, sustained many years before at the hands of the Indonesian military.
Wiwince’s family were from Wamena and her father, a school headmaster, had become a statistic of the documented violence against West Papuans in the aftermath of a general election. The year was 1977.
When he died, Wiwince’s was just 11 years old.
Stories of how women’s breasts were cut off from their chests leaving them to bleed to death, or of West Papuans being forced to have sex with their husbands in public or raped by the Indonesian military while their husbands were forced to watch, were told, in hushed tones in the Pigome home. These, Wiwince said, were ‘just stories’ that were not permitted to be mentioned in public on threat of severe repercussions by the Indonesian authorities.
And the violence continues – so far, close to half a million people of West Papua have died at the hands of Indonesia’s repressive regime.