Dozens of members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) stormed a human rights training program intended for transgender individuals at a hotel in Depok, West Java, on Friday.
The program, organized by the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM), had just begun when dozens of FPI members forced their way (past police) into the room.
Nancy Iskandar, a participant, said after a coffee break at around 10:30 a.m, a number of police officers had come into the room.
The committee had then asked participants to take a snack break in the training room.
“Several people then suddenly banged on the door and shouted the name of God,” she said.
Nancy, who is also the head of the Transgender Communication Forum, said the group verbally assaulted participants disgracefully.
The commission immediately moved the participants to its headquarters in Menteng, Central Jakarta, in the afternoon to ensure their safety.
Lupi, another participant from Bali, sobbed when she said it was really sad and ironic that their right to hold social activities were deprived when they were learning about human rights.
“Transgender people are not trash.
“We earn a living in a decent way for our families and send our brothers and sisters to school,” she said.
Depok Police questioned five security officers as witnesses following the sabotage.
Depok Police detective unit chief Comr. Ade Rahmat said they summon members of the FPI who were involved in the attack.
“If it is proved they attacked the event, we will take legal action against them,” he said.
Police said the attackers thought the workshop was a beauty pageant.
Ade said police were already on site when the group had entered the hotel to protest the event, but failed to stop them entering the room.
“We were outnumbered. We did not expect them to attack, so [the event] had to be stopped,” Ade said.
The event’s trustee, Hesty Armiwulan, criticized Depok Police for its sluggish response in safeguarding the event, allowing attackers to enter the room.
“Transgender people are marginalized and vulnerable. This training program was meant to make them feel safer and empowered, and this incident only made them more afraid,” she said.
Hesty said the three-day program, which was initially scheduled to end Saturday, was solely for educational purposes.
“On Friday night, we were planning to hold a little ceremony to give an award to the best participant,” she said, adding that there was no pageant.
Twenty-five people were at the workshop.
Hesty said that despite the incident the commission was committed to resuming its training program.
She said she had worked with Depok Police to assure their safety at the hotel on Saturday.
“The topic of this program should be taught thoroughly to provide its participants with a thorough understanding of human rights,” Komnas HAM education and training member Hesty said.