A hushed audience listened Tuesday as Carmel Budiardjo recounted her years as a political prisoner in an Indonesian detention camp. Students, staff and several members of Women Against Military Madness gathered in a small room in the West Bank’s Social Sciences Building and sat transfixed as Budiardjo told them about human rights abuses in Indonesia.
Budiardjo was at the University to describe the political situation in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. She was also promoting her book, “Surviving Indonesia’s Gulag.”
The current Indonesian regime, led by army general Soeharto, seized power in 1965 after a series of attempted coups. Several years of political unrest and suppression followed, in which several hundred thousand Indonesians were killed. Hundreds of thousands more, including Budiardjo, were held in detention without ever being charged with a crime.
“You’re arrested when you’re arrested,” Budiardjo said, “and you’re released when you’re released. There is no particular logic about it.”
In 1968 Budiardjo was arrested under the Soeharto regime for alleged membership in the Indonesian Communist Party. When she was released in 1971 she formed the dissident group Tapol to campaign against human rights abuses in Indonesia. Tapol is the Indonesian word for political prisoner.
Budiardjo’s visit to the University was sponsored in part by Women Against Military Madness. The group was founded in the early 1980s when former President Ronald Reagan took office.
The women’s group is a feminist organization that seeks to create equality and justice through the education and empowerment of women. In its mission statement, the group proposes to “dismantle systems of militarism and global oppression.”
The organization has had a long history on campus. In 1989 it protested a closed meeting between Pentagon officials and University representatives and in 1990 the group organized a rally protesting the United States’ involvement in the Persian Gulf.
The group has been less visible on campus in recent years, but staff member Jennifer Leazer said a lot of groups at the University are supporting many of the same causes that the organization supports.
Sarah Standefer, a member since 1984, was pleased with the lecture and the turnout of about 30 students and faculty. She said feedback concerning the speaker has largely been positive.
Leazer said the organization has more than 100 members who are affiliated in some way with the University. “We never focused our work at the University per se, but when we have big events like Carmel’s visit we tend to be more visible,” she said.
Later this month the organization is sponsoring a discussion with Daniel Berrigan at Willey Hall about human rights violations.