A Fragment of a Story:
Gerwani and Tapol Experiences
This is only a fragment of a story
Although it is only a fragment
this story comes from
appalling horror as boundless as the ocean
The wretched tortured deaths of people
who must bear
victimisation without end
Is now what I’ve written about.
How could I not.
The children of humankind
hundreds of thousands tortured to death,
hundreds of thousands locked away,
cast ashore on the island of exile,
to wrestle with forested land
Threatened by pythons.
Mothers dead fathers dead too,
Mothers locked up fathers locked up too,
Children left to crawl alone.
Young girls raped,
Snarled at by those accursed children
Thrown out of schools!
Ini hanya sepenggal cerita lega rasanya
Meski hanya sepenggal,
cerita ini datang dari
kengerian yang melaut.
Duka siksa mati manusia yang
pengorbanan yang tiada habisnya
Kini telah kutulis.
ratusan ribu mati disiksa,
ratusan ribu masuk penjara,
terdampar di pulau buangan,
bergulat dengan tanah hutan
Di bawah ancaman ular sanca.
Ibu mati ayah pun mati,
Ibu dibui ayah pun dibui,
Anak-anak melata sendiri.
Anak gadis diperkosa,
Hamil tak terjaga,
Dihardik anak keparat,
Keluar dari sekolah!
The year nineteen seventy-nine
Mother and father return from jail,
but the dead cannot come home,
Lost without a trace,
dead without witnesses,
tried under the law of the jungle.
Is that democracy?!
Is that Pancasila?!
Is that human rights?!
The grandchildren can say:
The fierce god
Still searches for his prey,
for those who hunt for human rights.
Freedom to have an opinion,
To write and be creative
Those are his prey.
Sulami. (Former Third Secretary of
Gerwani, imprisoned 1967-84.)
Tahun satu sembilan tujuh delapan
Ibu dan ayah pulang dari bui,
tetapi yang mati tak kembali
Hilang tanpa rimba,
mati tanpa saksi,
hukum rimba mengadili.
Itu hak azasi?!
Anak cucu bisa berkata:
Masih mencari mangsa,
di mana pemburu hak azasi.
Menulis dan kreasi -
Sulami was one of the thousands of victims caught up in the Suharto regime’s (1966-98) rise to power following the 1 October 1965 alleged attempted coup. Unlike an estimated half a million other victims, she managed to survive the bloody massacres of suspected communists that swept across the Indonesian archipelago in the latter part of 1965 and the initial months of 1966. She was, however, one of at least 580,000 people imprisoned during Suharto’s New Order for her alleged involvement in the coup. The majority of these people were detained without trial on a blanket charge of ‘direct or indirect involvement in the 30 September Movement/ PKI’. Those detained, known as tapol (an abbreviation of tahanan politik —political prisoners), suffered greatly during their imprisonment and were subjected to interrogation, deliberate or capricious torture, starvation and brutal forced labour in overcrowded, substandard prisons and detention centres. Throughout these arrests following the coup, Gerwani women (members of Gerakan Wanita Indonesia, the Indonesian Women’s Movement) became special targets as a result of their demonisation through the Indonesian military’s propaganda campaign which depicted Gerwani members as immoral whores who had prostituted themselves for the Indonesian Communist Party and betrayed the nation through their (alleged) involvement in the coup. To examine the experiences of tapol , particularly women, after arrest, during trial and detention, and then after their release as ex-tapol, I will draw upon the testimonies and responses of several former Gerwani members gathered as part of my field research in Indonesia as well as the autobiographical works by two leading members of this organisation, Sudjinah and Sulami. Examining detainees’ testimonies and the writings of their efforts to transmute those experiences into text and oral history may help to understand something of their victimisation and repression during Suharto’s New Order.
There has, over the years, been great contention over the events surrounding the coup, both within and outside Indonesia. The official Suharto government’s version, however, is essentially as follows: on the night of 30 September 1965, disaffected members of the presidential guard, together with members of various communist organisations led by a number of middle-ranking officers and allegedly masterminded by the Indonesian Communist Party, kidnapped and assassinated six generals and a general’s aide. The victims were then taken to the Halim Air Force base which happened to be near the training grounds for Gerwani and Pemuda Rakyat (Communist Youth Organisation) volunteers for the government’s anti-Malaysia military campaign. At Halim, the Gerwani women purportedly stripped naked and danced the lascivious ‘Dance of the Fragrant Flowers’ in front of the rebels, then tortured the generals by slicing them with razors, gouging out their eyes and slicing off their genitals. After the bodies were dumped in a deep well (the infamous Lubang Buaya or ‘Crocodile Hole’), the Gerwani women abandoned themselves to an orgy with all those present. At the same time, the rebels, who proclaimed themselves as the 30 September Movement, captured a number of important buildings around Jakarta and announced on radio that they were taking power in order to protect President Sukarno from the alleged Council of Generals which was conspiring to overthrow the President on Armed Forces Day, 5 October. Within twenty-four hours, the movement had been crushed, primarily by the military unit headed by General Suharto.
Arrests, ‘trials,’ categorisation and numbers
The successive waves of arrests carried out en masse by local military commanders under the supervision of KOPKAMTIB officials began in Jakarta within hours of the collapse of the coup and rapidly extended throughout Indonesia. Although KOPKAMTIB was not officially formalized as an entity until 11 March 1966, it was established by General Suharto, under his command, on 10 October 1965. Virtual martial law included the right to arrest any person for whom there were ‘indications of involvement’, either ‘direct or indirect…in the 1965 coup attempt/Communist Party’. Some warrants were issued against victims whose neighbours, as a result of land disputes, denounced them to the military as communists, and in other cases, people were arrested who happened to be in a house where someone else was detained at the time.
In 1966, following the initial arrests of at least half a million people, a three-tier system of categorisation, A, B and C, was developed for detainees. Those in the 'A' category were supposedly 'hard core Communists who played a major role [in the coup],' or, more realistically, those against whom there was 'sufficient evidence' to enable 'their cases to be brought to trial.' Assigned to the 'B' category were 'those people who played a secondary role in the coup' but for whom there was insufficient evidence to bring to court, while 'fellow travelers,' or people who had previously been members of the PKI or any of its affiliated organisations were classified as 'C' tapol.
Out of the vast numbers of people detained in Indonesia under the New Order in connection with the coup, those in the 'A' category represented only the tip of the iceberg. People in this category were the only ones brought to trial; those in the 'B' and 'C' categories were denied even the semblance of legal assessment or judicial process. Yet even for those who were brought to trial, these processes proved to be 'rituals used by the government for political and public relations ends… [in which] the defendants [were] invariably convicted.' Some of the trials, particularly those conducted in the late 1960s, were held at special military tribunals and were what Amnesty International termed 'publicity stunts' designed to reinforce the guilt of the PKI, with defendants being sentenced to death on the basis of very questionable evidence. Although never brought to trial herself, one informant, remarking on what she called the 'absurdity of the situation,' commented that her friend, presumably a category 'A' tapol, only met her defence counsel on the day of her trial and that 'the charges, the evidence…all of it…were preposterous.'
Women on trial
When cases in which women were defendants are examined, an incongruity appears. Not one of the women arrested in connection with the killing of the generals at Lubang Buaya was ever brought to trial. Yet had these Gerwani members been involved in killing the generals, as the military’s media campaign widely asserted, these women would have ‘played a major role [in the coup]’ and there would have been ‘sufficient evidence’ to enable ‘their cases to be brought to trial.’ The Indonesian government presumably had the opportunity to ‘prove’ its claims about the atrocities carried out against the generals beyond any doubt yet these women were never brought to trial. Many of them had signed confessions about their involvement in the killings, and their trials would only have served to reinforce their—and the PKI’s—guilt in the public mind. Yet the Indonesian government never attempted to establish the validity of its allegations in the courts.
Of the few Gerwani members ever brought to trial, the most famous case was held in 1975; the four accused being Sulami, the main defendant, Third Secretary of Gerwani; Sudjinah, who was on the staff of Gerwani’s Educational and Cultural Board and one of the editors of the organisation’s magazine, Api Kartini; Sri Ambar Rukmiati, not actually a member of Gerwani but the head of the women’s section of the leftist trade union SOBSI; and Suharti Harsono who was on the staff of the PKI’s peasant organisation, the BTI (the Indonesian Farmers’ Front). From the autobiographical writings of Sulami and Sudjinah who both describe their trial in some detail, it becomes apparent that their court hearings were used as a way of further discrediting Gerwani and the PKI.
The indictment against the four was based on their alleged collective and individual participation in the coup and their involvement in underground activities in the hope of reviving the PKI after it was banned in 1966. However, only Sulami was accused of having recruited women to go to Lubang Buaya—to help in sewing and cooking; this, in the Prosecution’s view was sufficient proof of her involvement in the coup. The evidence presented against all four was only in relation to their activities after 1 October 1965. The charges included their involvement in publishing and distributing an illegal bulletin, obtaining false identity cards and giving aid to the children of political prisoners. Sulami recounts how, on the first day of their trial, a defence counsel had not yet been selected and the trial was postponed for a few days for counsel to be appointed. She then describes their trial with varying degrees of disbelief and humour, recounting the experience as ‘such a funny situation,’ recalling how ‘the [Prosecution’s] witnesses often contradicted one another in that circus of a subversive court.’ She then angrily relates her feelings at being tried in such circumstances, commenting ‘how arrogant this nation’s courts were, smeared with the blood of so many innocent Indonesian citizens.’ Sudjinah, on the other hand, recounts their trial quite poignantly. When she first entered the court and recognised one of the judges as an old school friend, she was filled with hope. She ‘had done nothing wrong’ and believed she might have been able to convince her old friend of their innocence. But this hope was in vain and ‘the gavel struck the desk, and [they] were all sentenced’.
Figure 1. 'Women on Trial, Jakarta, February 1975. From left to right: Suharti Harsono, Sri Ambar Rukmiati, Sudjinah and Sulami.' From Tapol, Indonesia: The Prison State, p. 12.
All were found guilty and sentenced by the Central Jakarta Court to terms varying from fifteen years for Rukmiati and Harsono to eighteen years for Sudjinah and twenty years for Sulami. The sentences were passed based on the ‘evidence’ presented that not only had the accused ‘participated’ in the coup ‘movement’ and in the PKI—although it is difficult to discern exactly what roles they had allegedly played—but also had ‘made criminal agreement to overthrow the ideology of the Pancasila, had caused ‘splits among the people,’ had ‘committed deliberate slanders, whether directly or not,’ and, following the coup, had held meetings in ‘various places of concealment’ in order to ‘discuss the continuation’ of the PKI.
Although a large number of members of the Central Council of Gerwani were imprisoned after 1965, including its chairperson, Umi Sardjono, and vice-chairpersons, Mrs Mudigdio and Charlotte Salawati, none of these women was ever brought to trial. Very little is known of other Gerwani members being brought before the courts. There is mention of a Mrs Munadi’s trial in Sulawesi, yet there is no indication of when the trial took place or of her sentence, only that she was described as a local Gerwani leader ‘directly involved in the 1965 events.’
Of the women respondents and informants from whom I received information, only one had been brought to trial, while one other mentioned that two of her Gerwani friends arrested at the same time as she was were taken before the courts. What is striking among all their testimonies is their shared resentment at having been detained for many years, mostly until the late 1970s, without ever having been brought to trial.
Interrogations and torture
In the interval between persons being arrested and their categorisation into either 'A,' 'B' or 'C,' detainees were subjected to interrogation. These interrogations were carried out by army intelligence units with the aid, in some cases, of civilians recruited by KOPKAMTIB because of their known strong opposition to the PKI. For many prisoners, 'interrogation' was synonymous with 'torture,' a great number being subjected to frequent brutal and inhumane treatment with the aim of demoralising, intimidating and terrorising them. Torture was also used either to extract information and confessions or to coerce the detainees into giving information concerning others—a process to which no lawyers were ever allowed to attend, although the information gained was often used as evidence in later court proceedings.
KOPKAMTIB also made a distinction between the initial interrogation undergone by prisoners following arrest, which was called 'operational,' and any subsequent interrogations, referred to as 'judicial.' The difference between the two was that the 'operational' interrogations were directly related to KOPKAMTIB’s operations against political opponents, aimed at routing any resistance to the New Order, whereas 'judicial' interrogations were used to establish detainees' guilt and to determine into which category they would be placed.
The buildings used for these interrogations were not always obvious and had no official designation; many looked like private dwellings, shops, schools or offices. The exceptions were some, such as certain military bases, which were regularly and exclusively used as interrogation centres, for instance, the facilities in Jl. Tanah Abang and Jl. Gunung Sahari in Jakarta during the late 1960s and 1970s. Described most aptly by Sudjinah as ‘sardine cans,’ these centres, particularly during the late 1960s, were often jammed full with detainees in dark, unsanitary and substandard conditions.
Interrogations varied by length, frequency and intensity. An estimated 90 per cent of prisoners subjected to interrogations experienced torture and inhumane treatment, both physical and mental. In the description of the brutalities that took place, I include the testimonies of two former Gerwani members, Sulami and Sudjinah, who both describe some of the inhumane treatment political prisoners were subjected to during interrogations. I include these accounts to present the individual and specific experiences of only two of the hundreds of thousands of tapol tortured under the New Order in Indonesia. By doing so, I hope to avoid the collating of atrocities perpetrated against political prisoners into distinct categories of abuse, such as compartmentalising victims into those who were raped, those who were beaten, etc. the effect of which can, at times, make acts of violence read somewhat like shopping lists.
The first account is taken from Sulami’s autobiographical work Perempuan—Kebenaran dan Penjara (1999). In this excerpt she describes some of the extreme and brutal methods employed by interrogators to extract confessions from detainees. In Sulami’s case, however, her interrogators carried out their vicious work in vain.
I arrived at the [military] post where all the detainees were being heavily tortured… There were people being tortured in the yard behind the building—completely naked, blood flowing from their heads and other parts of their bodies, forced to walk around the yard, men and women. Whatever the soldiers wanted, they did while they watched and laughed… I was stripped naked… I could not count the number of hits I received all over my body from the rattan canes. The cane left cuts on my breasts, arms and torso. My whole body was beaten black and blue. But that was not enough, for I would not confess that I had been involved in the 30 September Movement… I stood completely naked before [my] bloodthirsty and harsh [interrogators]. I stayed like that for about an hour. I was so utterly furious that my teeth crackled, my lips shut tightly, my eyes closed, and my heart beat loudly… My clothes were thrown in front of me. I put them on. I was ordered to sit. I sat. Silence speaks a thousand words. I muffled all my curses and protests. I suspected worse torture was to come. I waited… A number of finger-length pieces of rattan were thrown down on the table in front of me. Why? Not long after two…torturers came in. I was threatened in order that I would confess. I refused to do so. With a nod of [the commander’s] head, he gave an order to the two torturers who were standing either side of me. My arms were extended. The rattan pieces were put in between my index, middle and little fingers. Four pieces of rattan for two hands. Then [the torturers]…pushed hard upon [the pieces of rattan]. Pain racked my body, right down to my bones. The sweat poured off me. My two eyes were shut, and my teeth crackled. The pain caused me to involuntarily urinate, but I did not cry out… Finally they stopped. My fingers wouldn’t move and I couldn’t even feel them. The skin turned blue. Perhaps the bones were fractured. I was ordered to stand by the wall. Once again I was ordered to confess. I did not answer. Without warning, a knife was stabbed in behind each of my ears and on the top of my head. This continued for a few minutes…and I fell to the floor in pain.
Besides physical torture, such as that described by Sulami, which also included being subjected to electrical shock, beaten with hard objects, having finger and toe nails pulled out or limbs crushed, being dragged behind a car, being put into an oil drum which was then beaten upon, and many other forms, there were psychological tortures. These included indirect torture, meaning a detainee being forced to witness the torture of another such as a loved one and parents forced to watch their children tormented or their spouses beaten or raped.
This second account is taken from Sudjinah’s work Terempas Gelombang Pasang (2003). In it she describes not only her own torture but also that of others that she witnessed. She gives an account of the places where she and other detainees were held in appalling conditions, depicting the bloodstained rooms filled with prisoners, all starving and subjected to frequent beatings.
[We arrived] at a former Chinese school which appeared to have been converted into a detention and interrogation centre. As soon as I arrived, I suddenly understood, why this building which had once been a place for children’s learning was called the ‘Devil’s House’ by the detainees… I was put into a small cell where the walls were stained with blood. I could hear cries and moans coming from the interrogation room. My friend Lami [Sulami] was interrogated first, then it was my turn… ‘Oi, open your mouth or else…’ [said the interrogator] and they hit me with long sticks of rattan all over my body. There were about eight of these ‘devils’ dressed in green and yellow-stripped shirts who attacked my body with blows and curses. I shut my eyes as I felt the blows all over my naked body; my stomach, chest, face and arms. I could feel the blood oozing from my mouth. When I opened my eyes, I could see others who had already been beaten lying on the floor, some of them unconscious. Then they dragged me to the yard behind the ‘Devil’s House.’ ‘Look at that,’ [they said], ‘you will be thrown into that hole if you don’t tell us who your friends are, we’ll bury you alive!’ But I only kept my mouth shut… [Later] I was put into a large room with a number of other women prisoners, of course all of them had been beaten and suffered severe torture. There were drops of blood all over our sleeping mats… There were more than thirty women and girls in that place, among them young Chinese girls…one was still unconscious. She had been interrogated. When she had refused to answer any questions, they had electrified her. That’s what her friend said anyway… Besides the physical torture, other torments were perpetrated against the detainees, among them in the amount of food [we were given]. We were only given a little bit of food once a day which, of course, was not enough to fill a starving belly, especially with the added burden of repeated beatings.
For women detainees, there were often the added torments of violent sexual assault. In many cases, women were forced to strip naked and were then raped or had various implements inserted into their vaginas and had their breasts subjected to vicious punches. In Sudjinah’s account, she goes on to talk about one of her friends, Sri, who, although it is not clear what exactly happened to her, it appears, was raped. ‘[After I was moved to another camp, I met up with] those with whom I had been captured in September 1966. Sri had been thoroughly beaten. She was quite sexy with her golden skin and large breasts, so when she had had to stand naked in front of her soldier interrogators at the ‘Devil’s House’, she was truly ‘insulted’ and her womanhood degraded’. Stories about the tortures suffered by the alleged Gerwani members who had supposedly been part of the Lubang Buaya killings are especially horrific. Many of these women were brutally tortured to coerce them into signing confessions. Some were said to have been gang raped, had sticks, whip handles or bottles forced into their vaginas, were forced to have sex with male detainees while electrical shock was applied to their genitals, were made to crawl around like goats, and were very badly beaten.
Almost all informants with whom I talked and respondents from whom I gathered information attested either to being tortured themselves during interrogation, having witnessed another prisoner being tortured or knowing others who had been subjected to torture. Among their testimonies, there are stories of gang rape, and of women being forced to walk naked in front of male prisoners and/or guards, having pubic hair burnt and being chained naked to male prisoners upon whom they were forced to sit, being severely beaten and forced to watch others being tortured. Occasionally, an informant was reluctant to speak of these experiences, especially if the torture involved sexual abuse. One woman, with whom I conducted a phone interview, was unclear whether it had been either her friend or she who had been gang-raped by four of her interrogators. Others simply did not include any details of their interrogation or changed the subject, only mentioning that they were tortured.
Figure 2. 'Map of Detention centres across Indonesia,' ca. 1976. From Tapol, Indonesia: The Prison State, pp. 10-11.
With the initial waves of mass arrests bringing hundreds of thousands of people into detention, the existing prison centres were unable to process or accommodate such vast numbers. As a result, when the prisons were full to overflowing, temporary detention centres and ad hoc installations were created or adapted. Camps were hastily erected and sites used during the Second World War by the Japanese were re-used to hold the detainees. Over the years, as some tapol were released and others arrested, the number of detention sites grew. Besides being held in regular prisons—which had been reallocated for political prisoners or in which there were segregated sections made available for them—detainees were also kept at interrogation centres. These centres were used not only after a person’s initial arrest but also at any time during detention when intensive re-interrogation was thought necessary. Detainees were also housed at regular military detention encampments. In addition, prisoners were held at specially created labour camps where they were expected to be ‘made useful,’ including being used by local military commanders at their offices and command headquarters for various tasks. Prisoners were also ‘hired out’ for a fee by military personnel to plantations and other labour centres. There were also tempat tahanan gelap [illegal detention centres], presumably named because their existence was never formally acknowledged by the Indonesian New Order government and because civilians in the area were not aware of these centres.
The Indonesian government repeatedly claimed that its treatment of tapol was humane and that the conditions in which they were held were reasonably adequate. The conditions of these prisons and camps, however, particularly before the early 1970s, were in reality appalling; most were severely overcrowded, the detainees suffering from inadequate food and medical care, very poor sanitation, brutal treatment, only limited contact with friends and relatives and almost complete isolation from the outside world. Prisoners were not permitted to even read newspapers or have access to radio or television news items. Up until 1972, a number of foreign journalists were permitted to visit these camps and prison installations. The reports on the conditions in which the journalists found the political prisoners were, however, highly critical. Thus, after 1972, the Indonesian government put a stop to further investigations by the foreign press into the matter.
In addition to these conditions, the prisoners, particularly those who did not co-operate with the authorities, were subjected to further arbitrary ordeals. For example, if a tapol refused to give information at subsequent interrogations, that person may have had to undergo long-term torture. One particularly horrific case was of a man who, after being severely beaten was subjected to a torture called diplentong, or crucified without nails—chained in a cell by one hand and one foot so that he could neither stand nor lie down for eleven months. Other forms of long-term torture included starvation, repeated beatings or various forms of sensory deprivation, such as being placed in solitary confinement in cells which had no access to light and were too small for lying down. Those who failed the regular Pancasila indoctrination exams were also punished.
It was the general conditions of these prisons, which varied from case to case, however, about which my informants and respondents commented mostly. Physical deprivations most often described were those of starvation, overcrowding, inadequate medical care, poor sanitation, clothing and bedding. The totally inadequate diet can be partially explained by the fact that the official monetary allocation for each tapol until the mid-1970s was as little as Rp65 per day, or roughly $US0.15 at that time. This small amount was also used to feed the prison guards who often appropriated large amounts of the food before the tapol were given their share. All my informants and respondents spoke of starvation in the prisons and camps, describing the tiny portions of food they were given and the poor, occasionally spoiled, condition in which it was served.
The other issues which the informants spoke of mostly were those of inadequate bedding and clothing and poor sanitation. Comments included having to sleep on straw mats with no covering or pillow on either cold stone or concrete, the lack of clothing—in general, tapol were never supplied with any clothing or sleeping equipment—and the lack of soap. The women described how, if they wanted any of these amenities, they mostly had to rely on family members to provide them To make up for the lack of food, clothing and bedding, some women in the prisons, such as at the Bukit Duri Women’s Prison in Jakarta, were able to make and sell—with the help of relatives—small handicrafts. Sudjinah herself describes how, after ten years she was able to buy a mattress but that, having slept on the cold floor for so long, it took her back a while to get used to it. In addition to these deprivations suffered by tapol, there was also the complete ban on any reading or writing materials—with the exception of copies of the Bible and the Qur'an. Given this restriction, it is quite remarkable that Sudjinah was able to have some of her works, written in prison under a pseudonym, smuggled out for publishing.
To illustrate the conditions which most of the women described to me, I have chosen part of Ibu Ayu’s testimony. Her response gives a description of the prison and the conditions under which she lived for more than eleven years. In her account, Ibu Ayu talks of such matters as the inadequate sleeping provisions, the isolation of tapol from their families, their starvation and inadequate medical attention, as well as their attempts to overcome these difficulties.
The condition of the jail itself wasn’t too bad. It was an old jail left over from the Dutch era. The floor tiles were still pretty good, there was a big window made of glass, half open, because at night it was very cold. The place where we were was for a mixture of us [political prisoners] and criminal prisoners… As political prisoners we were treated inhumanely, we were only valued at one third when compared to the criminals. For two years we stayed in our cell, sleeping on small mats without pillows or blankets. You can imagine how cold the nights were in -----, added to the fact that our families were forbidden to visit. Thus you can guess the health conditions of the detainees at that time… All that we did was to preserve our lives, not to die of starvation. In fact there was a yard out the front of our cell where a few plants grew, thus we ate some of the leaves… Talking about the problem of food, the allocation for the tapols was very different from that for the criminal prisoners, they got salted fish, sometimes a salted egg, green beans and bananas whereas the tapols got a little boiled corn for breakfast. Each person got seventeen to eighteen grains of corn, if you got twenty, that was the most. At lunch we got a little rice with watery vegetables and at dinner we got rice with some tempe (but only a very little bit). But things changed and we were allowed out [of our cells] for half an hour [a day]. We used that time to plant vegetables in the garden…and thus we could eat the produce… A couple of years later we were given the opportunity to work for the jail, for example, we could embroider, sew…and crochet for a very small amount…and [we could use the money] to buy sugar and cassava. Then our families were allowed to visit and we could ask them to bring us things. After that, if family members visited someone, the things they brought…like milk and vitamins…would be shared about. [The jailors] didn’t really pay attention to our health, the whole time I was in jail, a doctor visited only once. The Church gave us glasses.. and other things like food...and vitamins.... We really needed water, each day we got an allotment that was not enough for a whole day and night… Not long before I was released, we got a visit from the International Red Cross…on their first visit we got mattresses, linens, pillows, cutlery and sports equipment for ping-pong. And a television even though the news broadcasts had to be turned off.
Although Ibu Ayu’s testimony gives an insight into the daily lives of women tapol, there were other, shocking accounts given by my informants and respondents. One informant, after much discussion, said that while she had been in prison, she saw ‘many [guards/soldiers] raping and impregnating a number of the female prisoners.’ Although none of the other informants mention this issue, given the sexual abuse suffered by some female detainees during interrogation, it is quite possible that it continued during their incarceration. In fact, it was my general experience while speaking with my informants that each woman tended to distance herself from any sort of sexualized violence that she or others experienced while in detention; if mentioned, very few details were given. The women instead focused on their day-to-day lives, their relations with other women in the cells, their collective efforts and identities. This obscuring of personal, traumatic experiences may mean, that when listening to these women’s accounts, we must not only hear their voices, but also their silences.
Released but not free: ex-tapol under the New Order
We ex-tapol are second-class citizens. We have been robbed of our fundamental human rights…our identity cards, the police…all of it! We’re not true citizens of this country.
During the New Order, political detainees who had been released from prison (termed ex-tapol) often, after many years of wrongful imprisonment, were one of the most oppressed and stigmatised groups within Indonesia. Haunted by the spectre of the PKI’s alleged involvement in the 1 October 1965 coup, the government would not permit those detained for their past involvement with the Communist Party to be successfully reintegrated into society. Far from attempting to facilitate the social integration of the released tapol, the New Order government imposed severe restraints on employment, movement, speech, residence and political participation, all without legal process, and justified these restrictions as social inoculation against the 'latent danger' of a communist revival.
These warnings of Indonesian society being endangered by the imminent peril of subversive communist elements were frequently repeated throughout the New Order period. This 'latent danger' was spoken of in official statements, books, school history lessons, even movies, all of which culminated in the creation of an environment of apprehension, mistrust and fear in Indonesian society of a putative communist threat. Even those associated with ex-tapol could be subject to this suspicion, reflecting the government’s view that those closely related to former PKI members or sympathisers were influenced by them. Thus not only ex-tapol were subjected to restrictions under the New Order but their close family members could also be tainted by association and face constraints on their fundamental human rights.
In the 1980s, seminars held at the Institute for National Defence examined this 'latent danger' of communism, resulting in its advice to be 'clean' and 'clean in one's surroundings,' the latter an inference to a person's relationships with former members or sympathisers of the PKI or associated organisations. As a result of the government's stance on this issue, 'certificates of non-involvement in the 30 September Movement/PKI,' created in 1966, were required of any person seeking employment in the government services, military and some major corporations as well as for admission into school or university, or of anyone wishing to move to a new district.
These certificates were required because all released tapol were barred from these important services and, in the early 1980s, the list of professions closed to them was expanded to include any in which one could possibly shape public opinion, such as journalists, teachers, clerics, lawyers, judges, dalangs, or heads of local government. Their freedom of movement was also severely limited. Before release, all tapol were obliged to sign a pledge not only to refrain from any political activity and to renounce all compensation claims arising from any wrongful imprisonment and mistreatment, but also to report at regular intervals to the security authorities. In addition to this, all former political prisoners had their identification cards stamped with the initials 'E/T' (meaning ex-tapol), an act of blatant labelling for releasees. For many, these markings were the equivalent of a 'brand,' marking them out for stigmatisation.
Ex-tapol were also subjected to restraints on writing, speaking in public, and were the targets of heightened surveillance. Former political prisoners were often the victims of corrupt or vindictive government and military officials and during the many purges and crackdowns in search of communist elements in various institutions, they were commonly summoned for further interrogation about their own and others’ activities.
The families of former prisoners also faced many difficulties both when the tapol were in jail and after their release. Many wives of male prisoners found it very difficult to find employment, often having not only to support themselves and any children but also to take supplies to their husbands in prison if they were interned nearby. As Carmel Budiardjo, herself a former tapol, recalls in her writings about her time spent in what she termed the ‘gulags,’ ‘the hardship and suffering of the wives and children of detainees are a story in themselves. The vast majority of these women had no means of support or regular income and were cold-shouldered even by close relatives, who were afraid of being tainted by contact with prisoners and their families. Some women managed to survive by setting up foodstalls and selling home-made cakes…but few were able to earn enough to keep hunger from the door. Some, in desperation, handed their children over to relatives or neighbours.’ Sulami also discusses this problem of the hardship the children of tapol suffered. ‘When only the father or mother was detained, it wasn’t so bad. When it was both, everything went wrong. Children were thrown out of schools, those who weren’t thrown out were hassled left and right. Even though their parents had had nothing to do with what is called the 30 September Movement of Lubang Buaya… How many children of tapol became victims of circumstance cannot be known. Only human kindness could help those children, so that they might eat, drink, have clothing, be healthy and continue their schooling.’
Tapol and ex-tapol also experienced the pain of being separated from their children. One respondent wrote, ‘I was forced to leave my three children with their grandmother and aunt. I was then in prison for twenty-one years, and during that time, not once was I able to see my children. Thus my children feel that I have no love for them.’ Commenting on the separation from loved ones, Sulami writes, ‘It was as if there was no sweetness left in the world. There was only the bitterness of life. The political issues, slanderous accusations and abuse could end…but what of the needs of the body and soul? Who can separate the love between husband and wife? The love between parents and children?’ Families of ex-tapol, all of whom suffered the stigma of association with former communists, often blamed the former detainees for their situation. Children, taught the New Order’s version of history and reminded of the ‘latent danger’ of communist elements, occasionally came to hate their parents and grandparents who had been detained. As one former Gerwani member recounted, ‘What really makes me so sad is that my children at school learn such ugly things about Gerwani. I realised my son was holding something back from me. Finally he came to me and asked, ‘Ma, why did you become a member of such a group, so morally depraved, bringing ruin to the country? Were you a whore too? Everybody said that all Gerwani members were whores and bad women.' How can I explain to him what we lived for, what our ideals were? I still see the confusion and shame in his eyes. How will he ever understand my life?’
As Sulami began in her poem, this is only a fragment of a story; a story in which more than half a million people have suffered from the denial of their fundamental human rights under the New Order, both in and out of prison. For more than thirty-two years under President Suharto’s military regime, Gerwani women’s stories, as with the stories of other members of former communist-aligned organisations, were repressed in Indonesia. For their alleged involvement in the coup, women in this organisation were depicted as sexually perverted betrayers of their nation and immoral whores for the Indonesian Communist Party. Gerwani women’s own stories have been omitted from New Order historical accounts. It may be possible, through the recovery of these stories, to challenge Indonesian modern history and provide a counter-version, subversive and oppositional, to the official histories.
 This paper is a revised version of two chapters from my Honours thesis, ‘The Demonisation of Gerwani and the Repression of its Members under the New Order in Indonesia,’ University of Queensland, 2003.
 From her poem ‘Gugatan Anak Manusia’ published in the prologue of her autobiography, Sulami, Perempuan—Kebenaran dan Penjara, Jakarta: Cipta Lestari, 1999, pp. ix-xii.
 The 1 October 1965 Coup has been referred to by many names, such as the ‘Aborted Communist Coup,’ or simply, ‘the Coup.’ Questions remain as to the conspirators and co-conspirators behind the events of the night of 30 September 1965 but for some analyses of the coup and its aftermath, see Benedict R. Anderson and Ruth T. McVey, A Preliminary Analysis of the October 1 1965 Coup in Indonesia, Cornell: Cornell University, 1971; W.F. Wetheim, ‘Whose Plot?—New Light on the 1965 Events,’ in Journal of Contemporary Asia vol. 9 (1979): 197-215; and Harold Crouch, The Army and Politics in Indonesia, Ithaca and New York: Cornell University Press, 1978.
 Justus M. van der Kroef, ‘Indonesia’s Political Prisoners,’ in Pacific Affairs, vol. 49 (1976): 625-647, p. 625.
 Tapol, Indonesia: The Prison State, London: Tapol, 1976, p. 1.
 Patrick Flanagan and Julie Southwood, Indonesia: Law, Propaganda and Terror, London: Zed Books, 1983, p. 3.
 Tapol, ‘Women on Trial,’ in Tapol Bulletin, vol. 9 (1975): 1-4, p. 4. For excellent analyses of the Indonesian military’s propaganda campaign against Gerwani and other leftist organisations following the 1 October 1965 coup, see Saskia Wieringa, The Politicisation of Gender Relations in Indonesia, Amsterdam: Universiteitsbibliotheek, 1995; The Birth of the New Order State in Indonesia: Sexual Politics and Nationalism, The Hague: Institute of Social Studies, 2001; and Sexual Politics in Indonesia, New York: Palgrave and MacMillan, 2002. Steven Drakeley’s Lubang Buaya: Myth, Misogyny and, and Massacre, Clayton: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, 2000, also provides an exceptional addition to Wieringa’s works by examining the misogynous undertones present within the campaign.
 Testimonies collected by interview in 2002 and by questionnaire in 2003. The names of all informants and respondents, excluding Ibu Sudjinah who wished for her own name to be used, have been changed to ensure their anonymity.
 Jacques Leclerc, ‘Girls, Girls, Girls, and Crocodiles,’ in Outward Appearances: Dressing State and Society in Indonesia, ed. Henk Schulte Nordholt, Leiden: KITLV Press, pp. 291-305; Arswendo Atmowiloto, Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI, Jakarta: Pustaka Sinar Harapan, 1986, which was the novel version of Arafin Noer’s film of the same name; Djanwar, Mengungkap Penghianatan/Pemberortakan G30S/PKI: Dalam Rangka Mengamankan Pancasila dan UUD 1945, Bandung: Yrama, 1986, pp. 5-6; Staf Pertahanan Keamanan, Lembaga Sejarah, 40 Hari Kegagalan G30S, Jakarta: PUSSEDJAB, 1966, pp. 33-46; and KOPKAMTIB, G.30.S./PKI, Jakarta: KOPKAMTIB, 1978, pp. 134-36. This version of the events of 1 October 1965 is, as stated above, greatly contested. For other versions and speculations of these events, see the references listed in footnote 3.
 The Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order.
 Greg Fealy, The Release of Indonesia’s Political Prisoners: Domestic Versus Foreign Policy, 1975-1979, Clayton: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, 1995, p. 4.
 See Tapol, Indonesia: The Prison State, p. 2; and Crouch, The Army and Politics, pp. 160-161.
 van der Kroef, Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 629, quoted in Fealy, The Release of Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 5.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, London: Amnesty International, 1977, p. 21. Refer to this book for cases reported by Amnesty International of many victims of circumstance during the arrests.
 van der Kroef, Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 628. This system was created pursuant on the Presidential Instruction no. 09/KOGAM/1966, issued in May 1966 by General Suharto, on behalf of President Sukarno.
 Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, Stockholm, The Intolerable Tolerance: A Short Review of the Collapse of the Indonesian Communist Party and the Birth of the New Order in Indonesia, Stockholm: Brod, pp. 41-42 (Hereafter, called Embassy).
 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Indonesia, Indonesian Government Policy in Dealing with the G.30.S/PKI Detainees, Jakarta: Department of Foreign Affairs, 1978, p. 17, quoted in Fealy, The Release of Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 5.
 Embassy, The Intolerable Tolerance, p. 42.
 van der Kroef, Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 628.
 Fealy, The Release of Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 6. Fealy adds that in June 1975, the Indonesian government created a sub-classification system for category ‘C’ prisoners and ordered that all tapol in this category be assigned either ‘C1’, ‘C2’ or ‘C3’. For a breakdown of this additional three-tiered categorisation, see Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 38. Those in ‘C1’ were said to have been involved to only a slightly lesser degree than those in category ‘B’, while to be classified as a ‘C3’, one had only to have ‘shown sympathy for the PKI’ by one’s ‘attitudes and actions.’
 Flanagan and Southwood, Indonesia: Law, p. 48. According to Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 20, also, those assigned to categories ‘A’ and ‘B’ were not allowed to consult lawyers at any time during their incarceration.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 46.
 Such as the trials for Sukarno’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Dr Subandrio, for PKI leader, Njono, and for the General Secretary of the PKI, Sudisman. See Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, pp. 45-47 for some details of their individual trials.
 From an interview with Ibu Marto, September 2002.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 65.
 See references for footnotes 13 and 14, for a definition of the 'A' category.
 See Wieringa, Sexual Politics, pp. 296-98.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 103, makes the point that no one alleged to have been directly involved in the Lubang Buaya events has ever been tried.
 From the information collected from Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, pp. 60-66; Wieringa, Sexual Politics, p. 84; Tapol, ‘Women on Trial,’ pp. 1-4; and others, no more than a handful of Gerwani members were ever brought to trial.
 Tapol, ‘Women on Trial,’ p. 1.
 Wieringa, Sexual Politics, p. 85, makes the point that the trial was used as a way of justifying the discrediting of Gerwani, depicting them as dangerous Communist women, the antithesis of good mothers and wives.
 The bulletin, ‘Pembela Komando Presiden Sukarno,’ was an underground newsletter which was in support of President Sukarno. See Sulami, Perempuan—Kebenaran, p. 10.
 See Sudjinah, Terempas Gelombang Pasang, Jakarta: Pustaka Utan Kayu, 2003, pp. 75-81; Sulami, Perempuan - Kebenaran, pp. 43-64; and Tapol, ‘Women on Trial’, p. 3.
 Sulami, Perempuan - Kebenaran, p. 60. It must be noted that for all the testimonies given in this paper, be they from oral or written narrative sources, there is the possibility that the memories of the informants and participants of their experiences are not entirely accurate in the sense that they each offer only one person’s testimony of certain events. For detailed and exploratory discussions on the discourses of memory in relation to traumatic experience and testimony, I recommend the following works: Paul Antze and Michael Lambek (eds), Tense Past: Cultural Essays in Trauma and Memory, New York and London: Routledge, 1996; Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996; and Gerald Sider and Gavin Smith (eds), Between History and Histories: The Production of Silences and Commemorations, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.
 Sulami, Perempuan - Kebenaran, pp. 60-62.
 Sudjinah, Terempas Gelombang Pasang, pp. 78-80.
 Pancasila—the Indonesian State’s official ideology. For a brief discussion of this ideology, see Asia Watch, Human Rights in Indonesia and East Timor, New York: Human Rights Watch, 1988, pp. 41-43.
 van der Kroef, ‘Indonesia’s Political Prisoners,’ p. 639, quoting Angkatan Bersenjata, June 17, 1975.
 Tapol, ‘Women on Trial,’ p. 5.
 Tapol, ‘Women on Trial,’ p. 5.
 Ibu Sinta, who served a total of twenty-one years.
 Ibu Ayu tells that out of the seven friends arrested with her, only two ever faced trial.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 21.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 21; and Tapol, Indonesia: The Prison State, p. 5.
 Asia Watch, Human Rights, p. 142.
 Carmel Budiardjo, ‘Political Imprisonment in Indonesia,’ in Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (April 1974): 20-23.
 From various responses by informants.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 75.
 Sudjinah, Terempas Gelombang Pasang, p. 30.
 Flanagan and Southwood, Indonesia: Law, p. 107. It may be prudent, however, to question this estimate. Although it may appear crude to reduce the suffering of victims to various estimates, it could well be said that the figure for those who experienced some form of abuse (aside from the abuse inherent in detention) may well be greater than the 90 per cent quoted in Flanagan and Southwood. I do not believe that any definite percentage can be calculated as to the number of people who experienced some form of inhumane treatment while being interrogated.
 In my interview with Ibu Sudjinah in 2002, she discussed some of these experiences with me, but I have chosen to use my translation of her written text as her writings give a more in-depth account of her interrogation.
 Rose Lindsey, ‘From Atrocity to Data: Historiographies of Rape in Former Yugoslavia and the Gendering of Genocide,’ in Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 36(4) (2002): 59-78, p. 63. In hoping to avoid the compartmentalising of victims into those who suffered different brutalities, I am also aware that I risk diminishing the ‘special’ horror of calculated torture by conflating it with other abuses.
 Sulami, Perempuan—Kebenaran, pp. 21-23.
 Flanagan and Southwood, Indonesia: Law, p. 108.
 Flanagan and Southwood, Indonesia: Law, p. 107.
 Sudjinah, Terempas Gelombang Pasang, pp. 20-25.
 Tapol, ‘Women on Trial,’ p. 4.
 Sudjinah, Terempas Gelombang Pasang, p. 27.
 See Wieringa, Sexual Politics, pp. 297-99, 337, Stanley, ‘Penggambaran Gerwani Sebagai Kumpulan Pembunuh dan Setan,’ in Munindo, vol. 1, (undated), URL: http://www.munindo.brd.de/artikel_02/art02_gambaran_gerwani.html, site accessed 5 November 2002; and Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, pp. 104-07.
 The three who did not mention specific occasions of torture simply said they were subjected to ‘inhumane treatment’ or described their captors as ‘brutal.’
 From responses by Ibu Eti and Ibu Eny.
 From responses by Ibu Eti, Ibu Eny and Ibu Marto.
 From a response by Ibu Marto.
 Almost all those who spoke of their interrogations mention brutal beatings with various implements, such as sticks or rattan canes.
 From responses by Ibu Marto and Ibu Nana.
 Interview with Ibu Eny, 2002.
 Responses given by Ibu Sri and Ibu Nani.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 76.
 Tapol, Indonesia: The Prison State, pp. 4-5.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 71.
 Fealy, The Release of Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 5 and Tapol, Indonesia: The Prison State, p. 6.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 15. The only exceptions were the conducted visits to Buru Island by Indonesian journalists accompanied by KOPKAMTIB officials and, until the late 1970s, a Dutch television journalist’s brief visit to the island in 1976. In the late 1980s, Asia Watch was also allowed to make observations at seven institutions in Java. See Asia Watch, Prison Conditions in Indonesia, New York and Washington B.C.: Human Rights Watch, 1990. These observations, however, were severely hampered by officials. The teams were not permitted to spontaneously interview inmates—they had to be accompanied by guards. Cells for inspection had been predetermined and the teams were not allowed to inspect others, etc. See Asia Watch, Prison Conditions, pp. 11-13.
 Flanagan and Southwood, Indonesia: Law, p. 107.
 Budiardjo, ‘Political Imprisonment,’ p. 20.
 Flanagan and Southwood, Indonesia: Law, p. 113.
 Tapol, Indonesia: The Prison State, p. 5.
 Tapol, Indonesia: The Prison State, p. 6.
 Such as Ibu Sinta.
 Tapol, Indonesia: The Prison State, p. 6, and information from Ibu Galih.
 Interview with Ibu Sudjinah, 2002.
 Interview with Ibu Sudjinah, 2002.
 Information from Ibu Galih, Ibu Sinta, Ibu Tari, Ibu Sri and Ibu Ayu, as well as from Sudjinah, Terempas Gelombang Pasang, p. 57 and Sulami, Perempuan - Kebenaran, pp. 76-77.
 Quote from Sudjinah in Wieringa, Sexual Politics, p. 299.
 Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 79.
 Sudjinah, In a Jakarta Prison: Life Stories of Women Inmates, Jakarta: The Lontar Foundation, 2000, p. xiii.
 Response to questionnaire by Ibu Ayu.
 Interview with Ibu Marto, 2002.
 From interview with Ibu Eny, 2002.
 Fealy, The Release of Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 43. It must be noted that although the New Order period is the only one dealt with in this chapter, this stigmation of ex-tapols has continued into the Reformasi period (1998-). See Helene van Klinken, ‘Coming Out,’ in Inside Indonesia, vol. 58, 1999: pp. 16-17, p. 17.
 Asia Watch, Human Rights, p. 5.
 Asia Watch, Human Rights, p. 5.
 Asia Watch, Human Rights, p. 63.
 Examples include: Atmowiloto, Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI, which was, as stated in footnote 9, the novel version of Arafin Noer’s film of the same name, Djanwar, Mengungkap Penghianatan/Pemberontakan G30S/PKI, Staf Pertahanan Keamanan, Lembaga Sejarah, 40 Hari Kegagalan G30S, and KOPKAMTIB, G.30.S/PKI. In the late Suharto period (1990s), there were further efforts made by the New Order regime to continue its propaganda against Gerwani and other former Communist organizations. These new forms took shape most noticeably in the building of the Museum of the Betrayal of the PKI, which was erected in the mid-1990s, along with the Sacred Pancasila Monument, situated not far from where the coup allegedly took place, Lubang Buaya, Jakarta.
 Fealy, The Release of Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 10.
 Asia Watch, Human Rights, p. 64.
 Quoted in Asia Watch, Human Rights, p. 64.
 van der Kroef, ‘Indonesia’s Political Prisoners,’ p. 643. See here for further discussion on the ‘Surat Bebas G30S/PKI.’ See also Amnesty International, Indonesia: An Amnesty International Report, p. 107.
 Asia Watch, Human Rights, p. 64.
 Fealy, The Release of Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 38.
 Tapol, ‘All Forms of Discrimination Must End,’ in Tapol Bulletin, vol. 130 (1995): p. 5.
 From interview with Ibu Eny, 2002.
 See Asia Watch, Human Rights, pp. 65-73, for specific examples of when ex-tapol were subjected to these restrictions.
 Fealy, The Release of Indonesia’s Political Prisoners, p. 43.
 Carmel Budiardjo, Surviving Indonesia’s Gulags, London: Cassell, 1996, p. 57.
 Sulami, Perempuan - Kebenaran, p. 90.
 Response by Ibu Sinta.
 Sulami, Perempuan - Kebenaran, p. 90.
 van Klinken, ‘Coming Out,’ p. 4.
 Taken from an anonymous extract, quoted in Wieringa, Sexual Politics, p. 15.