In a video segment entitled “Punk Rock vs Sharia Law”, Vice Media. Inc’s Nosiey music channel explores the deepening cultural rift currently developing between the authorities and the underground punk community in the city of Banda Aceh in Sumatra, Indonesia. The mini-documentary, presented by Swedish journalist Milène Larsson, provides a startling glimpse into the civil rights abuses and oppressive regime that the citizen of Aceh face in Indonesia’s only Sharia province.
The film tells the story of the arrest and persecution of 65 punks by the local authorities in December, 2011. Their clothes burnt and hair shaved, these young men were forced, for 10 days, to undergo ‘moral rehabilitation’ in the police barracks, where they were beaten and abused. Perhaps most tellingly, the punishment had no rehabilitative affects, reflecting a broken social systems that ignores the rights of its own people in favour of autocratic and oppressive rule. However it was not always this way.
Punk has been part of the culture and lifeblood of Aceh since the 1990’s, when punk band Superman is Dead, headed by revered punk rocker Jerinx, made waves with their politically charged musical style and unique voice. Although he does not agree completely with the punk youth movement of today, Jerinx tells of local government that shirks its responsibility towards its citizens and offers no social welfare support for the disillusioned younger generations. “You know, they (the youths) forget that in western countries if you don’t have a job, the government gives you money. Here, if you are jobless the government, they don’t even know your name.”
Further exacerbating the situation in Banda Aceh, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami destroyed nearly 60% of the city and killed some 160,000 people (Vice Media Inc. 2014). The punks have successfully rebuilt their community, but the casualties are felt nonetheless. Banda Aceh’s only pro-punk journalist, Chaideer Mahyuddin, says that although many have lost most or all of their relatives, and most are now homeless, “they are now more solid.”
The conclusion of the video is perhaps a perfect summation of the situation in Banda. As the the Vice team prepare to leave, they are told of a local punk gig that night downtown. As the punks explain, it is a very rare occasion that authorities would allow this sort of gathering to occur, however it comes to light that the organiser is well connected and therefore the police will turn and blind eye. The band is foreign and the concert is held indoors, but nonetheless the enthusiasm of the young punks is evident as the concert kicks off. Nevertheless, the experience seems bittersweet. Are the punks really free to revel in their music and lifestyle if the circumstances are to be so tenuous and controlled? Its seems that their freedom hangs in the balance, somewhere between a corrupted government and an oppressive religious regime.
Vice Media Inc. 2014 (Noisey), ‘Punk Rock vs Sharia Law – Music World – Episode 5’ , video recording, YouTube, viewed 18 April 2015, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Sbne-qCNzU&spfreload=10>
Associated Press in Banda Aceh 2011, ‘Indonesian punks detained and shaved by police’ , The Guardian, 14 December, viewed 18 April 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/14/indonesian-punks-detained-shaved-police>
Melville K 2014, Indonesian punk: PUNK’S NOT DEAD!, Audio Recording, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Radio National), 30 November, viewed 19 April 2015 <http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/360/indonesian-punks/5909858>