Last weekend, the Indonesian police took 43 West Papuan students into custody for allegedly disrespecting the Indonesian flag during an independence day celebration (an allegation the students deny).
Police stormed the students’ dorm and used teargas to force them out, while bystanders and officers called them “monkeys”, a derogatory term for ethnically Melanesian Papuans.
West Papuans have long been cast by Indonesians as primitive people from the Stone Age, and this racist treatment continues to this day. West Papuan author Filep Karma described the extent of racism against West Papuans in his 2014 book, As If We Are Half-Animal: Indonesia’s Racism in Papua Land, saying he often heard Indonesians call West Papuans monkeys.
This latest episode of discrimination builds on more than five decades of racism, torture, summary executions, land dispossession and cultural denigration of West Papuans by Indonesian security forces.