Indonesia has yet to address its painful and violent past. Courageous writers are among those calling for a public debate to challenge the consensus of silence. Meet three of these writers who make great sacrifices to give the people a voice.
With its 17,000 islands, 800 languages and 300 ethnic groups, Indonesia is a country of superlatives. Yet this vast diversity is still searching for a common identity. After 350 years of Dutch colonial rule, decades of regional wars of independence and a military regime that claimed the lives of a million people, there has still been no attempt to come to terms with the past. But Indonesian writers have been calling for this for years: courageous writers trying to dispel the silence. They include Linda Christanty from Jakarta, who was part of the student movement that overthrew Suharto in the 1990s; Azhari Aiyub from Banda Aceh, who writes about the freedom struggles of the past and is still struggling with the aftermath of the tsunami; or Oka Rusmini in Bali, who writes about the constraints of the Hindu caste system. Deutsche Welle’s Ulrike Sommer and Sabine Kieselbach went to the world’s fourth most populous country to meet the writers who make great sacrifices in order to give a voice to the powerless.