Papuan protesters attacked and arrested for demanding pro-independence leader’s release

Victor Yeimo, a pro-independence leader, was arrested under charges of treason earlier this month for his role in the anti-racism Papuan protests of 2019. Civil society groups and West Papuan activists have been demanding his release ever since

May 26, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
West Papua protests
More than 130 protesters were arrested in Manokwari in West Papua province, Indonesia, on May 25. (Photo: Veronica Koman/Twitter) 

As demands for the release of Papuan pro-independence activist Victor Yeimo grow in Indonesia, protesters face repression and mass arrests. As per reports, amid nationwide protests on Tuesday, May 25, protesters were violently dispersed by security forces and faced attacks from right-wing groups.

According to reports from Indonesian and West Papuan activists, 135 people, mostly students, were arrested from a peaceful demonstration in Manokwari in West Papua. Papuan students and pro-Papuan activists in other parts of Indonesia faced similar repression and violence from right-wing vigilante groups.

In the national capital Jakarta, right-wing ultra-nationalists held a violent counter-protest attacking and forcibly dispersing a rally led by Papuan residents in the city. A video shared by Veronica Koman, an Indonesian rights advocate based in Australia, shows that the attack took place despite heavy police presence.

A similar case was reported in Malang in East Java, where a hostel housing Papuan students was attacked and vandalized by vigilantes. Two students were injured in the attack. 

Some students were pre-emptively arrested on their way to join a demonstration in Ternate in Melaku.

Demonstrations were held in major cities like Yogyakarta and Bandung, and in major Papuan cities like Sorong in West Papuan province and Jayapura in Papua province, which has been under a region-wide internet shutdown since April 30.


Victor Yeimo is the general secretary of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). He was arrested earlier this month for his role in the anti-racism protests of 2019. He was among several activists arrested under charges of treason and other high crimes for their participation in the protests which the government continues to label as “riots.”

The protests demanding his release are taking place at a time when Indonesian forces and militants of the West Papuan Liberation Army have been engaged for months in armed skirmishes in the two Papuan provinces.

The government of president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has mobilized more than 21,000 military personnel on the island, with the latest addition of over 500 troops made last week. The conflict has swept the hinterlands of Indonesia-controlled Papuan territories, and resulted in displacing over 50,000 people in the region.