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The Portuguese first colonized the island of Timor, of which East Timor is part of along with West Timor, in 1520. The next three centuries marked attempts by the Spanish, the Dutch, and the British to colonize the island. These attempts were successful, but Portuguese sovereignty over East Timor was finalized due to treaties signed in 1860 and 1893. Later, during World War I, Timor became under the control of the Japanese, until the Portuguese once again regained possession. However, in 1975, political movements and civil war broke out causing so-called “disappearances,” executions, violence, crimes against humanity, and other atrocities. Twenty-five years later, in 1999, atrocities still exist in East Timor.
Portugal ruled the colony with a ruthless and brutal regime during the years before WWI. Despite attempts to bring peace to the island by breaking up the local kingdoms, the people did not change their lifestyles. Though people attempted to rebel against Portuguese rule, their attempts were crushed.
The Japanese took over the island in 1941. Following the takeover, a small group of Allied troops with support from the natives waged guerilla warfare against the occupiers. While the successes of the Allies were great, over 60,000 natives, almost 13% of their population, lost their lives. ( easttimor.com)
After the War, the Portuguese fascist regime ruled the island as before. However, in 1974, the fall of the dictatorship completely changed the mentality on the island. Three main political parties emerged, each having its own goals. The UDT (pro Portugal) and the ASDT (pro Independence) formed a coalition and the ASDT became what is called as Fretilin. The other party, Adopedti (pro Indonesia) had little support in East Timor, but was backed by the military regime of General Suharto in Indonesia. Soon after, the UDT withdrew from the ASDT, and they staged a coup against the ASDT and Fretilin in the capital city of Dili. Fretilin opposed the coup, conquered the UDT forces, and set up their own government. The Indonesian army invaded the town of Batugade in December of 1975, causing more conflict. After the fall of Batugade, Fretilin declared independence, and the Indonesian army invaded Dili on the 7th December. This takeover was violent and the Indonesian Army executed thousands of civilians. More than 10% of the population of Dili were killed in the first four months, with a death toll nearing between 60,000 – 100,000 lives. ( easttimor.com )
During the invasion of Dili in December 1975, the Indonesian army committed horrible acts towards civilians. Apparently, according to Amnesty International, there are dozens of reports that tell of indiscriminate killings as the soldiers came into Dili. Civilians were rounded up like cattle as most were shot execution style, while others were apparently tied to poles and thrown into the ocean. Estimates of the death toll report that at least 10% of the capital’s population was murdered.
Once the United States, Europe, and Australia gave backing to Indonesia, any resistance to them was crushed. The atrocities never stopped from there. Entire villages were enclosed and the population was either executed or transported to camps. These camps were like prisons, the people couldn’t even grow their own food, which is what they have relied on their entire lives. Thousands of people starved in these camps. Villages were even subjected to chemical weapons that destroyed their crops and poisoned their water.
On November of 1991, a massacre by the army of peaceful protesters in Dili was videotaped and broadcast around the world. This massacre soon became known as the Santa Cruz Massacre, after the cemetery where the massacre took place. Ensuing investigations revealed that at least 270 people, most of whom were children, were killed and that many others were imprisoned, tortured, and executed in the following weeks. The Santa Cruz massacre caught the attention of the world and brought up questions of the human rights situation in East Timor. In 1993, the UN Human Rights Commission passed a decree condemning Indonesia. After this decree, numerous organizations visited the country and decided that the human rights situation was intolerable. However, these were short-lived and basically accomplished nothing. Since 1991, killings have continued, while harassment, torture, and imprisonment of suspected opponents of Indonesian rule occurs everyday. The last few years have seen a growing amount of tension between the people of East Timor and the thousands of Indonesian migrants living there. These tensions have resulted in occasional outbreaks of violence between the two groups.
Within two months ago, according to the East Timor homepage, twelve pregnant East Timorese women, seeking shelter in refugee camps, had their throats slit to their abdomen. The fetuses were then removed and pro-Indonesia militia members smashed the heads of the fetuses with large rocks.
After that, the women were decapitated and the militia displayed their heads on sticks. Apparently, the Indonesian military views East Timorese babies as symbols of the future and plan on killing as many babies as they can. Even worse, the Indonesian army also has a plan to eliminate the East Timorese people as an entire race. This plan is named “Operation Combing,” and is reminiscent of Hitler’s “Final Solution.” There are around 200,000 East Timorese being held captive. Like Hitler’s Jews, the East Timorese men and women are separated once they reach the camps. The women are used for sex, while the teenage boys are taken away trained to fight.
Overall, the situation in East Timor is horrible and some kind of action must be done. The world seems to be ignoring the East Timorese pleas for help. Recently, more action has been done to end these crimes against the people of East Timor. No race has the right to go throught what the people of East Timor have undergone. Torture, kidnappings, disappearances, and death have been commonplace in their country and if something is not done, it will continue for a long time. Bibliography “Amnesty International.” Online. Netscape. 26 November 1999. Available: http://www.amnesty.org “Timor Today.” Online. Netscape. 26 November 1999. Available: http://www.easttimor.com
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