Militia unable to disband screening of ‘The Look of Silence’

By Fullah, Yogyakarta – Today, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, Yogya students stood united in guarding democracy on campus. The students’ press organisation LPM Rhetor of Universitas Islam Negeri Sunan Kalijaga (Islamic State University Sunan Kalijaga), together with student organisations grouped in Front Gerakan Mahasiswa se DIY (Yogya Student Front), were able to stop reactionary civilian militias who wanted to disband the screening and discussion session of the documentary ‘The Look of Silence’ (Senyap).  The Yogya Student Front consist of organisations PEMBEBASAN, PPMI, PPR, SMI, FMN, LPM Arena, LPM Ekspresi, LPM Nuansa, FMN, HMI, PMII, IMM, KPO PRP, and other groups. The militia group, meanwhile, called itself Front Umat Islam FUI (Islamic People’s Front) Yogya.


The chronology of the events went as follows: two days prior – on March 9, 2015 – the event organisers were already intimidated by the university Administration, who revoked permission for the event. It said that it needed to secure campus safety, and also mentioned Yogya city regulations. A number of threats came from the campus administration, including from one of the deputy rectors. The threats ranged from denying campus facilities to criminal charges for organisers should there be unrest. However, these obstacles only strengthened the students’ resolve to go ahead with the event that Wednesday.


Starting from 8 o’clock in the morning that day, the crowd that had gathered at the Student Centre to watch the movie was blocked by campus security officials. One of the University rectors was also present and tried to stop the event. Negotiations continued between campus officials and event organisers. Until 9 AM, the western gate of the campus was already filled with masked men clad in white, who named themselves FUI Yogya. Police, who arrived with the excuse of securing the campus and preventing unrest, guarded the eastern gate.


Before the police arrived, university security grouping consisting of students were already present on campus. They had been ready since 7 AM. While they stood on guard, event organisers and university administrators were involved in tough negotiations.  The organisers were determined to carry out the event, strengthened by the crowd of students yelling for the film to be screened, and LPM Rhetor officials shredding the letter banning the screening.


Around 10 AM, the screening started with the presence of over 200 spectators, consisting of students and other civilians. The event was opened by speeches by the organisers and a number of other organisations grouped in the Yogya Student Front.


“We must fight for democracy, especially democracy on campus. Bannings (like these) must be countered, and this event shall continue,” one of the speakers said.


“If this screening is attacked, then the crowd here has to fight back in order to hold up democracy,” said Mirza Asahan of Pembebasan Yogyakarta (Free Yogyakarta).


UIN Rector Akh. Minhaji also spoke to the organisers and tried to get them to cancel the screening of Joshua Oppenheimer’s film. His reasoning was that the state had not given official permission for the film’s screening. However, the event organisers explained that Senyap had been endorsed by Komnas HAM (Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission), which is an official government institution. Finally, Minhaji left the Student Center, and the film was screened. Until the event ended at around 2 PM, everything ran smoothly. The FUI crowd did not dare to storm into the venue.


This is the first time that an open screening and discussion of Senyap was unsuccessfully blocked in Yogya. Prior to this, reactionary civilian militias were able to foil the screenings organised by AJI Yogya (Independent Journalists’ Association of Yogya) and a number of other universities such as Gajah Mada University, Arts Institute ISI, Sarjanawiyata Tamansiswa University and Sanata Dharma University.


The reason that the screening was successful was certainly not because the police had been guarding the eastern gate. It was also not thanks to the Rector, who was clearly against the event. The military – the police in this case – were also not in favour of the event. This was clear as the police searched the LPM Rhetor office after the event, and Rhetor leaders were asked to do speak with the police.


Clearly, the screening was successful thanks to the courage and strength of the students’ united front for democracy. The large number of people that gathered to watch the film proves that students have become increasingly anxious, and that more and more people are interested in knowing the truth about history. The organisers continued to prepare for the event despite intimidation by campus security officials. There was even a physical scuffle between organisers and the security about the movie screen. Security officials also attempted to lock up the centre. It was the unity and courage of FGM Yogya that kept the event secure and urged the spectators to stay and participate that day.


The organisers had the following commitment: if the event were to be disbanded, then the crowd would remain at the event and go against the authorities. The organisers had prepared themselves should the masked men, using the name of Islam, attack them.


The successful screening of Senyap today in Yogya has further strengthened our self-confidence in defending democracy. The key is organising a united front in countering anti-democratic forces. The people’s struggle for democracy and prosperity must prevail.


The writer is a journalism student at UIN Sunan Kalijaga, a member of Pembebasan Yogyakarta, and was one of the event organisers of the film screening.




First photo caption:

The audience watching Senyap during the film’s screening at UIN Sunan Kalijaga, Yogyakarta, March 11, 2015. Photo by Fullah J.