Outside a West London pub, Serogo repeated my name. I’ve been asked about it many times before but I’ve never got this reaction: “Ah Wales – freedom fighters!”
I had just watched fellow West Papuan and opposition leader in exile Benny Wenda speak and sing the story of his country – of the torture, murder and rape of his people and the trashing of his green and sacred mountain land by the Indonesian military. These two men are true freedom fighters – fighting through voice and song for the freedom of the Papuans whose 40-year colonial oppression has to be one of the most outrageously unreported ongoing atrocities of this century and the last.
Having been denied a fair democratic choice to opt for their freedom from Indonesian rule, West Papuans have been bombed for their land, tortured and imprisoned for raising their flag and murdered for singing of freedom or opposing the Indonesian government.
And all this remains largely unknown in the West – or anywhere else for that matter – even in another small green hilly land of long time freedom fighters inching its way ever closer to political and cultural autonomy and dignity. Serogo knew my name, but does the land of my name and the people of these islands more generally know his?
Well perhaps slowly people are taking notice. You can take even further notice by visiting Wenda’s Free West Papua website, or by reading the wonderful Wild – by Jay Griffiths who hosted the evening alongside the filmmaker Dominic Brown. Brown’s film, bravely shot in the never-before-filmed camps of the underground Papuan resistance movement, is available here.