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Punk not dead

December 18, 2011

In Indonesia, Punk’s not dead – it just needs a haircut and a bath.

A few days ago, in the province of Aceh (north-west Sumatra), a local punk concert was raided by some baton wielding Sharia police. They rounded up about 59 males and 6 females, stripped them of their dog-collars and body piercings, shaved their heads and threw them in a pool for ‘spiritual’ cleansing. After this, they were all trucked off to religious boot-camp for a 10 day program of ‘re-education’.

Chief of police, Mr Hasan said: “We’re not torturing anyone. We’re not violating human rights. We’re just trying to put them back on the right moral path.”

Fauzan, a 20-year-old punk, was mortified. “Why my hair?!’ he said, pointing to his cleanly shaven head. ‘We didn’t hurt anyone. This is how we’ve chosen to express ourselves. Why are they treating us like criminals?”

Aceh is the most fanatically Islamic part of Indonesia and the only region with legalized ‘Sharia law’. Adultery is punishable by stoning to death; homosexuals have been thrown in jail or lashed with canes in public; and all women must wear headscarves.. also any public affection (kissing) is totally banned.

Historically, Islam first entered Indonesia over 700 years ago through the province of Aceh, brought in by Arab and Indian traders. Islam eventually spread across the entire country, with Indonesia now the largest Muslim nation in the world.

The Acehnese people have always been a fiercely independent and hostile to outside control. Even the Dutch never gained a total hold of this region during their 350 year reign. When Indonesia finally achieved independence in 1949 the Acehnese didn’t want to participate – they demanded to be an independent state – they’d already been fighting for centuries and weren’t about to assimilate. This was never accepted by the powers that be, mainly because of the region’s rich mineral deposits and oil and gas. Aceh has suffered greatly the last decades – with death, social oppression, wars… while the establishment has profited and kept the region isolated from social development or infrastructure.

The Free-Aceh Movement (GAM) struggle finally ended in 2005, with Aceh receiving a degree of ‘semi-autonomy’ – recognized by both the European Union and the Indonesian government. This basically gave Aceh the right to self-govern, while remaining technically part of  Indonesia. Aceh also got the right to retain up to 75% of any of government mining profits from their region. This is a historical deal, considering for the previous decades, they got almost nothing.

So… back to these Acehnese neo-punks. When I first read this story something struck me as quite interesting…

The original 70’s Punk subculture came out of a period of severe economic recession and deep pessimism about governments. It was always strongly anti-establishment and continually at odds with mainstream order… just like with these kids.

If you consider the social oppression these Acehnese youths currently live under… it’s not surprising this neo-Punk movement evolved. In fact… considering the level of brutality being fought here… one could argue these kids are actually more Punk than the originals ever were… or perhaps could ever be.

So… punk is not dead… it’s just been born – and in all places – Aceh Indonesia.

images sourced from: Agence France-Presse

11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2011 7:45 am

    I totally agree, punk is definitely not dead and never will be either. As long as we all live in scarcity and have corrupt social structures, all over the world, the punk mentality will live on…Great post:))

    • December 18, 2011 9:09 am

      Cheers Wartica… Yes, ideals are immortal.. particularly those that promote freedom…

  2. borborigmus permalink
    December 18, 2011 9:05 am

    Great post. As with all underground movements borne of repression, the punk movement can only be energised by additional repression. Using the same ‘logic’ as they have shown here, the Saudi-inspired Sharia lunatics of this failed region would probably attempt to douse wildfires with petrol – but rational thought has never been their strong point.

    • December 18, 2011 9:28 am

      Yes… putting out the fire with gasoline… questionable policy

    • yuanita atmadjaja permalink
      December 18, 2011 2:26 pm


  3. January 4, 2012 5:23 am

    Great opening shot.

  4. February 28, 2012 1:31 pm

    Great post, brought back memories, of a trip i did in 1990 and ended up in Ache looking for surf. After a week or so we I was at the local Bus station about to leave and I was approached by a man and he started to ask me what I thought of Surharto and the Govt. I was wary at first as at the time you could not say much, against the party. Anyway it turned out he was representing the Free Ache movement, and wanted to tell me of there struggles and looking to get the word out to outside world.He wanted to get uncensored information from the western media and books for the children, it was an educating conversation that had to be kept out of earshot of others,

    • February 28, 2012 5:11 pm

      Cheers James… Aceh is definitely an intriguing part of Indonesia..

  5. April 23, 2012 7:15 pm

    Really Valuable post. I’m researching the Sumatran Punk scene for a potential documentary from our production film company Banyak productions in London. Any chance I would be able to discuss these issues further with you via email or perhaps a phone call? it would be greatly appreciated. cheers


  1. A whole lot of Jimbo « bukitbear

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