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Punk’s Not Dead - But It’s Under Arrest In Indonesia
December 15, 2011
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The news that police in the Aceh province of Indonesia recently arrested a group of young punk music fans and sent them to a forced program of "moral rehabilitation" - which involves shaving off their Mohawks and submitting them to a cleansing purification wash - has shone a light on some of the conservative strains of Islamism that exist in the world's most populous Muslim country.

But it has also revealed the existence of a perhaps little-known sub-culture in the Pacific nation: Indonesian punk rockers.

The arrests happened on Sumatra island at a concert in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. Police took 59 males and five females into custody and have sent them to a 10-day moral rehabilitation camp in order to teach the youths to avoid "deviant" behaviour. The following images, by Chaideer Mahyuddin for AFP and Getty Images, show some of the initial arrests and the subsequent "cleansing."


"We need to fix them so that they will behave properly and morally. They need harsh treatment to change their mental behaviour," said Aceh police chief Iskandar Hasan.

Aceh is the only Indonesian province where strict Islamic laws are enforced. It is a semi-autonomous state, the result of a peace deal between the restive, conservative province and the central government following the tsunami in 2004. Now it is the only region of Indonesia where adultery is punishable by stoning to death and homosexuals can be thrown in jail.


Hasan rejects the notion that by arresting music fans, the Aceh authorities are violating their rights. "We're not torturing anyone," he said. "We're not violating human rights. We're just trying to put them back on the right moral path."

Fauzan, one of the detained fans, disagreed, telling an AFP reporter, "we didn't hurt anyone. This is how we've chosen to express ourselves. Why are they treating us like criminals?"

What seems particularly galling to the police chief was the punks' lifestyle - "They never showered, they lived on the street, never performed religious prayers," he complained - but those elements are part of an Indonesian punk scene that recalls the genre's early days in late 1970s Britain.

In 2007, reporter Maria Bakkalapulo documented the country's punk movement, a scene that didn't arrive in Jakarta until the mid-1990s, well after the genre's initial rise elsewhere in the world. Originally a response to the authoritarian rule of former President Suharto, punk became a popular form of expression among Indonesian street kids, and maintains a strong adherence to the style and imagery of early punks like the Sex Pistols and the Exploited.

Here is an excerpt from a film Bakkalapulo made with Ayumi Nakanishi, called "Why Indonesian Kids Are Crazy For Punk." You can also follow a link to her 2007 story for Time Magazine below.


Maria Bakkalapulo's TIME Magazine story on Indonesian punk

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