Vol. 5, No. 1
|About East Timor and the East
Timor Action Network
Estafeta is the Portuguese word for messenger. In East Timor, it is used for the young people who, with great courage and ingenuity, carry messages throughout the resistance and civilian underground.
East Timor is a half-island the size of Massachusetts located 400 miles northwest of Australia. It was a Portuguese colony for four centuries, and its 600,000 people briefly tasted independence following the anti-fascist Portuguese revolution in 1974. But peace and nationhood was short-lived.
On December 7, 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor after getting the "green light" from President Ford and Secretary Kissinger. Indonesian armed forces still occupy East Timor, with essential military and diplomatic support provided by the United States.
More than 200,000 East Timorese people (one-third of the pre-invasion population) have been killed by massacre, forced starvation and disease. But the people of East Timor continue to struggle for their legal and moral right to self-determination.
Systematic campaigns of rape, murder, torture and arbitrary arrest have terrorized the population, and natural resources (including oil, coffee and marble) were pillaged by Indonesian dictator Suhartos military-business complex. Massive human rights violations persist: during 1997, the East Timor Human Rights Centre documented 771 arbitrary arrests, 52 deaths, and 155 incidents of torture, in spite of increased attention following the award of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize to two East Timorese leaders. So far in 1998, even after a popular uprising in Indonesia forced Suharto from power, the pattern of human rights abuses continues unabated.
Heightened international awareness of the horror of East Timor arose after November 12, 1991, when Indonesian soldiers acting under high-level orders killed more than 270 nonviolent demonstrators at Santa Cruz Cemetery in Dili, East Timor. Unlike many previous such massacres, this one was witnessed by foreign journalists, whose video footage and photographs documented the incredible courage of the demonstrators and the horrific inhumanity of the Indonesian army.
The East Timor Action Network was created in response to the Dili massacre. ETAN is a grassroots movement of more than 8,000 members, with local chapters in 20 cities and states. We work for human rights and political self-determination for the people of East Timor. Changing US government policy is key to ending Indonesias occupation. We in the US have the freedom to engage in peaceful protest with (to say the least) much less risk than East Timorese and Indonesians; its a privilege we shouldnt take for granted.
East Timor is not essential to Indonesia - Foreign Minister Ali Alatas has called it "a pebble in our shoe." ETAN embraces tactics from public education to protest, lobbying to local organizing, resource production to media work. We helped stop US military training aid to Indonesia in 1992, and have maintained limitations on such aid ever since. Our grassroots pressure led to cancellation of several major weapons sales to Indonesia, including F-5 and F-16 warplanes, and helped to achieve a prohibition on US exports to Indonesia of small arms, riot control equipment, armored vehicles and helicopter-mounted equipment. Last November, we pushed into law an effective ban on the use of US weapons in East Timor, and we are now working to stop all US military support for the Indonesian army.
Suharto ruled Indonesia brutally for 32 years (and committed genocide in East Timor for 23), but he was forced out by the Indonesian people in May. Vice-President B.J. Habibie, who ascended to power with support from the ubiquitous army, is a transitional figure who could allow real democracy or could return Indonesia to blatant military rule. ETAN continues to work with Indonesians who are struggling for democracy in their country, especially with groups and individuals who support self-determination for East Timor.
ETAN is made up of people like you who contact their representatives in Washington, protest, and educate others about the situation in East Timor. We survive on your generous donations of time, talent and money. Please join us, and thank you.