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Hundreds of interviews across Indonesia contributed the making of "Which Way to the War?" Please click on an image to read the bios of our biggest contributors who were able to bring the story of Poso to you.
Ustad Abdul Gani Israel"As for Muslims, including me and some other religious figures, [the local Muslim militants] are wrong because some [actions] were contradictory. I state this because they allowed burglary, robbery, homicide, burning houses to the ground, and accusing other Muslim brothers as being infidels, etc. I disagree with it and strongly oppose it."Chairman of the Poso Ulama Council as well as Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) for Poso, as well as head of an Islamic boarding school and charity, Abdul Gani Israel is a well established moderate Islamic community leader. He is in strong disagreement with Adnan Arsal and men from Tanah Runtuh, who he believes abused Islam to commit violent and immoral acts. He is a strong supporter of the police and military presence in Poso, and was part of the effort to get the men in Tanah Runtuh to surrender peacefully, which failed. He supports reconciliation and has never encouraged revenge. He remains in competition with Adnan Arsal for control over the Islamic community in Poso. He lives in Poso City.
Adeni Muhan"Because of our approach, the communities started to accept that the situation was not engineered by the policemen; it’s what the communities want."The current head of police in Poso, Adeni has strong control over Poso, which is now mostly peaceful. Placed there after the crackdown on Tanah Runtuh in 2007, Adeni Muhan is a gregarious, friendly leader who has managed to successfully work with all communities in the Poso conflict, as well as setting up a number of economic rehabilitation programs. He has overseen a generally successful transfer to peace while staying free of corruption or brutality charges, a rare occurrence for police in Indonesia. For most of the Poso conflict, the police remained highly distrusted by the communities for their apparent lack to control the conflict, possible involvement in it, immoral behavior, brutality, and illegal side businesses. This remains a major problem through all of Indonesia. Adeni was extremely welcoming and helpful to the film crew while in Poso.
Ustad Adnan Arsal"We didn’t even know the parties who came to assist us, neither the individuals nor organizations. But, they did come willingly and gladly, all of those individuals and organizations. And I don’t know if Jemaah Islamiya was part of that or not."One of the most important, enigmatic, and controversial figures in the Poso conflict, Adnan Arsal emerged as a leader of the militant Islamic community after the brutal massacre in 2000 and made his neighborhood, Tanah Runtuh, a center for alleged jihadi activity from 2001-2007, which is believed to be linked to Jemaah Islamiya, a regional terror network. He is a key signatory of the Malino Accords which ended communal fighting in 2001. He remains in steadfast denial that he knew that Jemaah Islamiya was in his neighborhood, or that he allowed them to use his religious schools to plan revenge attacks. His son-in-law, Hasanuddin, is currently serving a prison sentence for the 2005 beheadings of the schoolgirls and was the alleged leader of the Jemaah Islamiya base in Poso. After the crackdown on his neighborhood in 2007, the police were quick to court Adnan Arsal and he was sent on an all-expense paid vacation to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. His neighborhood is no longer a base for Jemaah Islamiya.
Andi Bocor"I would like to be cooperative and in the future, if I will be given aid, the future will probably be brighter..."Brown sugar trader and the first man on the Most Wanted List of 29 to turn himself in to police, Andi Bocor was released quickly by the police for lack of evidence in 2006. He was sent to persuade other men on the Most Wanted List in Tanah Runtuh and Kayamanya to turn themselves in, but he said most refused to listen to him. Andi says he was happy to cooperate with the police in hopes of a brighter future. He is now in a rehabilitation program run by Udin Objobolo and has been given a tuna boat to start a small business.
Artus Papiobo"When the conflict happened, there was no attack. When the situation was getting better, they started to attack the village."A villager who was unaffected by the fighting from 1998-2001, Artus’ village came under attack in the beginning of a new wave of violence in 2003 after a relatively peaceful period. Late one night unknown assailants shot two people in Artus’ village and burned down all of the buildings. The survivors of the village became Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and Artus had no intentions on returning to Poso. But they were later told by the military to return home, where they resettled their destroyed village. They continue to live an impoverished life with little infrastructure. This is typical of many resettled victims of the Poso conflict, Christian, Muslim, or Hindu. He remains hopeful that Poso will remain peaceful and trusts the authorities while he waits for running water to be installed in his village. He still has no idea who attacked the village.
Basri"Before our teachers came to Poso, many relatives were killed. But we never wanted revenge. Only because they indoctrinated use and told us to kill Christians we felt we had to do it. Their indoctrination was so strong."Considered to be one of the main actors in the ensuing jihadi violence from 2001 onwards and the number one on the Most Wanted List of 29, Basri, a heavily tattooed, short rock musician and petty thug, remained a mysterious character while he continued to terrorize Central Sulawesi with his expert shooting skills. He lived in Tanah Runtuh. He claims more than 20 of his family members were killed in the 2000 massacre and that members from Jemaah Islamiya brainwashed him into carrying out violent revenge attacks. He was caught in 2007 after the police raids. Basri quickly became a star of the media, doing interviews with anyone who would listen, and is now in prison in Ampana on a number of charges, including the beheadings of the schoolgirls. Basri’s wife claimed she did not know he was involved in the violence and that he spent his time gardening.
Boki and Misra"The situation is getting back to normal. My husband is going back to work at the field and nothing has happened. I hope this will continue."Boki and Misra live in the Gebangrejo neighborhood of Poso City. In 2000 they fled Poso for their safety, and returned in 2003 when Poso was becoming safer for Muslims. But instead of finding peace, they discovered a new form of violence—shootings and bombings, with some of it being planned in their own neighborhood. When the police attempted a crackdown on some of the men behind this violence, Boki and Misra endured yet another round of violence in their neighborhood that they were not prepared for. But their spirits remain positive for the future of Poso, and were happy that the militants had left their neighborhood.
Daud Somba"We know that since the Poso riots, there has been lots of assistance, lots of money coming in to Poso to help the victims of the Poso conflict. This has been misused by people, by parties in Poso who at the time moved to assist the victims. These were misused, corrupted, partly taken, the people’s rights didn’t fully reach the communities…"A community rights activist and former AP photographer, Daud has worked in Poso for nearly a decade with NGOs that promote permanent peace, public assistance programs, and transparency in the local government. He is strongly committed to bringing justice to the Poso conflict, uncovering the real masterminds of the conflict, exposing local corruption, and defending victims rights. Well liked, trusted, and respected, Daud has managed to make himself an expert on the local dynamics of the conflict. In 2005, a bomb went off outside of his office, damaging his eyesight. The perpetrators remain disputed and the incident is still controversial. When asked if he is Christian or Muslim, he says “in between.” Daud and his wife are the proud new parents of a baby boy.
Dina Sawuwu"I know very well that our people in Poso are fed up with the situation, and they would like to change it."Dina was initially hired to be the translator in Poso. But along the way, the directors became more and more interested in her own story.Originally from Poso City, Dina is one of the few women in still living in the Poso Regency who can speak English. Before the conflict she worked as a tourist trekking guide in Tentena, in the lush jungles around Poso. When the conflict erupted in her neighborhood of Poso City, it was up to her to rescue her family, who now live, like many, as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). Dina was excited to talk about community reconciliation with every person she translated for, both Muslim and Christian. She plans to remain in Tentena with her husband and son.
Fabianus Tibo"We have come here because I have been informed by Yanis Simangunsong that this church will be burnt down and all of you will be murdered."A poor rubber farmer, the name most commonly associated with the Poso conflict, Tibo was an uneducated Catholic transmigrant from Flores. He was known as a local healer and leader. Living eight hours from Poso City, Tibo was accused of being the leader of the Protestant militias that massacred Muslims in 2000, along with two friends, Marinus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva. Upon their arrest, they immediately became the symbol of the violence against Muslims. They were sentenced to death in a poorly managed and corrupted trial, where evidence remained weak against them. During the trial, Tibo listed 16 names that he believed were the real masterminds of the violence against Muslims. This was never looked into by the authorities and it became many people’s justification for the ensuing violence against Christians from 2001 onwards, arguing justice had not been served. After being denied a stay of execution, Tibo and his two friends were executed by firing squad on September 22, 2006. The incident sparked riots in Poso, Flores, and Timor, and set off a new round of violence in Poso. It is still widely believed that the execution of Tibo was an attempt to cover up the masterminds of the massacre who have remained above the law, as well as appease public sentiment.
Jafar Bua"I always told many people, I am a journalist, my religion is journalism"TransTV video journalist correspondent and resident of Central Sulawesi, Jafar has witnessed the entire Poso conflict. Based out of Palu, Jafar is a member of the Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFC), where he works to promote balanced and fair reporting, which was sorely missing for much of the Poso conflict, often furthering the violence. In 2006 Jafar came to Ohio University to participate in an Indonesian Broadcasting Journalist Program. He believes that the conflict is likely over now, but the issues of social justice and welfare remain a priority often overlooked by the authorities. During his time reporting on the Tibo case, he became close with Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwu, and Dominggus Da Silva while interviewing them in prison in Palu, before they were executed in 2006.
Ustad Jamil Arsal"The massacre in 2000 was a bitter pill for the Muslim community in Poso."Jamil Arsal, the son of Adnan Arsal, is a spokesperson for the Tanah Runtuh community and currently runs the Islamic schools for children, one of which is across the street from their house and is accused of being the planning center for many attacks from 2001 onwards. Jamil denies that the schools are involved in any wrong doing. While he says his community hopes for peace, he continues to talk in a divisive manner about the riots from 1998-2001. Jamil allowed the film crew to enter Tanah Runtuh, an area hostile to most media. A neighbor eventually threw the crew out.
Lian Gogali"...In my research, I found that the military is here to backup investors, and backup political interests, this time I mean national political interests, and investors who will come here, because when the military backs up investors, people who live in conflict zones cannot organize themselves to fight the investors, or have a bargaining position..."Highly educated, Lian is one of the few female activists in Poso. She was studying Poso City’s urban gang culture when the initial fighting broke out between two drunk youths. She believes the initial riot in 1998 was an attempt for the local government to cover up a corruption scandal, but it spun out of control as Muslims and Christian groups were pitted against one another. She strongly blames the machinations of local politicians for the continuation of the conflict for profit, as well as the police and military for continued human rights abuses, including the alleged rape of villagers in the Poso Regency, a topic rarely discussed. Lian remains a woman’s rights activist in Poso and lives in Tentena.
Noviana Malewa"In my opinion, I can only pray so that Poso can be safe as before. And for people to have no fear of going anywhere…"Tiny in stature, Novi is the sole survivor of the much publicized brutal decapitations of the Protestant school girls perpetrated by militants from Tanah Runtuh in 2005. While walking to school on a path in the jungle, Novi and her friends Yarni, Alfita, and Theresia were suddenly attacked by men with machetes dressed in black. Novi managed to escape, but not before she was hit with a machete. Novi was left with terrible machete scars on her face along with other injuries, making her face and story the symbol of the violence against Christians from 2002 onwards. The incident caused an international outcry that led the central government in Jakarta to get serious about the violence in Poso. She is a strong advocate of peace even as she recovers from the severe trauma and has since left Poso, saying she is too afraid to stay there but wishes she could return. She said the hardest part of the whole ordeal was losing her three friends. Novi was recently married.
The Family of Noviana Malewa"So we got there, when we got there we asked around, and people said someone got away. I didn’t know, but one of the children got away."The family members of Novi, the sole survivor of the schoolgirl beheadings in 2005, have been favorite interviewees of the media since the incident. Still living in Bukit Bambu, they can barely afford to visit Novi, who is too afraid to live there. Her big brother David became Novi’s defacto press agent, but they remain suspicious of media who film their lives and stories but then give nothing back in return. They were brought to Jakarta for the trial of the men who attempted to kill Novi and murdered her friends, where they directly asked for forgiveness. The family was very disappointed when these men were given only 14-19 year sentences for their roles in the beheadings. They hope that the government will continue to help them, but so far have been disappointed.
PADMA Indonesia"Tibo was not the murderer."PADMA Indonesia is the advocacy ministry of justice and peace in Indonesia, based in Jakarta. A motivated legal advocacy group, PADMA took over the defense of Tibo when it became clear that his original lawyers were doing little to help him. PADMA documented the whole trial of Tibo and made a documentary to help explain the case, of which some of the footage can be seen in “Which Way to the War?”. Besides the case of Tibo, PADMA does plenty else to increase justice in Indonesia, as well as humanitarian projects. PADMA was extremely helpful in the creation of "Which Way to the War?". It is currently headed by Norbert Betan.
The Families of Alfita Poliwo, Theresia Morangke, and Yarni Sambue"We are grateful even though these three students died. Not grateful because of the incident…as human beings we are grieving, but after these students died, all of the criminals, including the terrorists in Poso were finally revealed. It was all exposed not long after the incident."These three families went through an unimaginable atrocity. But instead of revenge, representatives from the families of each of the three schoolgirls who were decapitated by militants from Tanah Runtuh in 2005 all came together for a call to peace. Almost immediately after the incident, the families were public in their calls for unity, and although the perpetrators remained mysterious, community restraint was strong and police action was surprisingly swift. These families became sought after interviewees by the media, receiving foreign journalists from all of the world in their village Bukit Bambu, which overlooks Poso City. They remain close with Novi, the one girl who survived the attack.
Rafiq Syamsuddin"The goal is to slowly try and mix friends from a few communities to be united here. Let’s build Poso like that."In 1996, Rafiq had the idea of setting up a radio station in Poso, which was abandoned at the start of the conflict. During the conflict, Rafiq joined a civilian militia under the banner of Islam, saying he did it to protect his family and neighborhood since the authorities could not control the situation during the riots. He was thrown in jail for weapons possessions where he renounced violence. In 2006 he realized his vision and did create a radio station, now the very popular and forward-thinking Radio Matahari (Sun Radio), which focuses on community reconciliation, peace building, education, and rehabilitation of militants, both Muslim and Christian, alongside pop music and news, local and global. He believes it is up to the youth to establish a permanent peace in Poso and encourages mixing youth from different communities as much as possible.
Reverend Rinaldy Damanik"We perceive reconciliation is not only about religious matters, reconciliation between Christianity and Islam, but also a reconciliation between the government and people, government and security officers, and the people with security officers."Head of the highly influential Central Sulawesi Protestant Church (GKST) from 1990-2006, based in Tentena, Reverend Damanik eventually stepped down in protest of the execution of Tibo, Riwu, and Da Silva, the three Catholic men accused of being the ringleaders of the Protestant militias in 2000. He is a key signatory of the Malino Accords in 2001. Allegedly caught with weapons, Reverend Damanik spent time in prison and was released when a Muslim leader requested he be freed. He remains highly suspicious of local politicians, the police, and military for their possible role in spreading of the violence in Poso, and was opposed to the way the police handled the crackdown in Tanah Runtuh in 2007. Committed to transparency, Reverend Damanik came to America and visited with senators to explain the Poso conflict, where he was surprised how little they knew about it. His replacement for the GKST, Reverend Kongkoli, was killed by militants from Tanah Runtuh in 2006.
Robertus Tibo"After this incident, we learned and experienced that this world still operates by the law of the jungle, especially in Indonesia. I have the courage to say this so the legal officials can hear that Indonesia still operates by the law of the jungle."Robertus, one of the children of Fabianus Tibo, spent the last years of his father’s life defending his innocence and living through the strong disappointment when the legal system failed his family over and over again. Married with one daughter, Robertus Tibo now lives in Tentena, and has decided to run for office with Yahya Aling, in what they say is to defend the rights of conflict victims. He remains thankful for the help given to his family and hopes that someone will continue to work to clear his father’s name.
Sidney Jones"...Poso was very much seen as an area where Jemaah Islamiya could establish a base and expand outwards."One of the most influential Indonesia experts today, Sidney is a highly respected and well-spoken American at International Crisis Group (ICG) in Jakarta, an independent policy think tank which tries to explain and prevent conflict. Under her direction, ICG has put out a series of reports highlighting violence and rehabilitation process in Poso since 2003 which are remarkably researched and detailed. Fluent in Indonesian and a favorite interviewee of the media in matters of conflict and terrorism, she remains a controversial figure in Poso. Many residents deny the reality of jihadi groups and believe ICG distorts the history of the Poso conflict by putting too much emphasis on Jemaah Islamiya and other radical groups, and not enough on the corruption and collusion of local politicians, police, and military. She lives in Jakarta.
Supriati"It’s better in your own country even if it rains rocks compared to other countries where it rains gold. Even if you can get more in other villages, it feels much better in my own village."A Javanese transmigrant farmer, Supriati is from the village Sintuwu Lemba (aka Kilo Sembilan) which became the sight of the worst massacre of Muslims in 2000 and whose events quickly became the rallying point for jihadi and revenge activites in Poso. Supriati, just twenty years old and pregnant at the time of the massacre, managed to escape with her husband who disappeared that night and whose body has never been recovered. Supriati and her family became internally displaced persons (IDPs) and thought they could never return to Poso, but later reconsidered and cautiously returned to Sintuwu Lemba village in 2005 to rebuild their lives and trust. They were surprised to find how quick reconciliation took place with members of the Protestant community. She does not put blame on anyone for the loss of her husband and now works in the fields picking water spinach for pig food, a sign of the strong cross-community economic ties in Poso. Supriati is proud to talk about her village, community tolerance, and pluralism. Her trust is in the security forces to keep them safe in her village. She has rashes on her hands from the pesticides used in the fields and hoped if someone heard her story, they would send her medicine.
Udin Odjobolo"We all know that one of the potentials of those radical groups is militancy. Why don’t we drive their militancy to be a militant entrepreneur?"An insightful community NGO activist with broad visions for Poso, Udin Odjobolo runs Building a Self-Sufficient Nation Foundation (YB2M). He broke with his follow activists by offering to work with police in the rehabilitation process, who remain highly distrusted by most in the influential NGO community. Devoted to his idea of living peacefully in pluralism, he believes that one of the most essential ways to regain peace in Poso is to treat the militants on both sides of the conflict not as criminals, but victims, who need skills training to help rebuild the tattered economy, and make them instead “militant entrepreneurs”. Andi Bocor was one of the first to sign up for his program. YB2M is also running programs for wives of men who were involved in the conflict, including Basri’s wife.
Vincent Lumintang"We have learned a lot from this conflict. How religion was twisted to initiate conflict, how religion is exploited. We’re sure that this is not a religious-related conflict, but religion was distorted and exploited to draw us into conflict."Working with the NGO Nusantara, Vincent expresses his frustration with the authorities for failing to help alleviate poverty and the severe corruption seen in the misuse of funds that were supposed to be used to rebuild Poso after the fighting between 1998-2001. He believes that the conflict has been tolerated and followed up by the growth of the military-industrial complex, where businesses were able to move into Poso to exploit its natural resources while the military continued the unstable environment between communities in Poso. But his outlook for the future is a bright one for Poso, believing that there will be a permanent peace in Poso now, and that it will become a model region for religious tolerance in Indonesia. He lives in Tentena.
Wing Handoko"The situation is getting better, with the local government, police, and military acting as a catalyst and approaching the people."Head of the Military (TNI) base in Poso, Wing says the TNI is there to help the police and government keep control, rebuild, and give insights into nationality. The TNI has come under heavy criticism locally and internationally for their documented human rights abuses and profiteering military businesses that are often set up in conflict zones like Poso. The military has also done a poor job of managing the conflict in Poso, is accused by some of fueling it, is known to be involved in a number of illegal business ventures, and is also accused of gross human rights violations. Although the violent conflict has mostly ended in Poso, military infrastructure continues to be built.
Yahya Aling"We are a diverse, religious, peace-loving, prosperity-aspiring people. There was a time when people would say we Poso people are not different: we are one, and then there was a time of conflict. But today we are returning to what we used to be: a people aspiring for a true, eternal peace."A father of five boys, Yahya lost both legs and a finger in the bombing at the Poso Central Market in 2004, which killed six from his village and remains unsolved. Yahya got prosthetic limbs and an education, became an advocate and representative for the victims of the Poso conflict, and is currently running for office under a Christian political party. He hopes for a new future of Poso of pluralism and peace. Yahya is friendly and bubbly, speaks some English, and was happy to tell his story and his vision for Poso.
Freedom Land Foundation (Yayasan Tanah Merdeka)"The violence in Poso cannot be separated from the conflict over processing natural resources, in which the local people are always defeated."One of the most important NGOs in Central Sulawesi, YTM advocates for local residents control of their land, arguing with substantial evidence that the Poso conflict is not a religious conflict, rather a fight over natural resources, with the military, police, and government gaining control and defeating the local people. They believe that the issue of Islamic militants in Poso was a justification for the security apparatus to get more money for their own activities and that the military and police are the main instigators of violence for their own profit. YTM is also a strong advocate for bringing the main instigators of the violence from 1998-2001 to justice and campaigned to postpone the execution of Tibo.
Yoanes Litha"It gravely seems to me that religion is by some people used as a tool, an effective tool, to mobilize a huge number of people and to be used as a ground for the conflict."A stringer for the Voice of America (VOA) since 2005, Yoanes is an educated, balanced reporter, committed to finding the truth of the story of Poso. He remains highly trusted by all elements of society in Poso. Shy and sensitive by nature, Yoanes has proved himself as a brave and honest reporter working under difficult conditions. While many reporters have forgotten about Poso since the end of the violent conflict in 2007, Yoanes has stayed on to document what will be the most important part of the conflict: the rehabilitation process. While it may not be the most glamorous of stories and does not grab the headlines, Yoanes’ reporting reflects his maturity in understanding the importance of reporting on peace and unity, not just violence and division. On the side, Yoanes is learning English and is a computer whiz.