Subject: FRETILIN: Organizacao da Mulher Timor (OMT)
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 1998 07:51:11 +0100 (BST)
From: (TAPOL)

This paper was presented by a OMT's representative at the National Conference of FRETILIN in Sydney, Australia, (14-20 August 1998). Please note that this document belongs to the Department of External Affairs of FRETILIN.

Thank you,

Estevao Cabral


A reflection in silence, a sigh, tears of suffering for the souls of our
heroines who lost their lives during the struggle for our self-determination
and independence and in the light of the truth, here we report about the
everyday life experiences of [East] Timorese women.

The feudal and patriarchal system that lasted for five hundred years in
East-Timor created numerous, complex forms of violations of Women’s rights.
Women had a specially passive and submissive life, not only due to the norms
set up by the government, the Church and traditional rituals but also due to
the perilous relationship they had with Men. Based on the Women’s biological
inheritance, as the opposite sex to Men, with their reproductive organs and
their maternity functions, society created socio-economic and cultural norms
which minimised their active participation in almost all aspects of life:
cultural, social and political. They were classified as powerless and they
were ideologically and psychologically repressed. Timorese Women gave to Men
in special ways, being their companions in procreation and respecting them
as the Head of families; Timorese Women were also considered as objects for
exchange in the practices of "barlaque", prostitution, polygamy, and also in
the so-called ‘act of buying slaves’ or ATAN, as known by ILHORIS.

During these five hundred years, the above norms of the social system
never protected or defended the most elementary human rights of Women.

Since 1975, the conflict in East-Timor has made Timorese Women the victims
of major massacres and violence, causing deaths, misery, widowhood and
ultimately total genocide of the [Timorese] People. During the confrontation
between political parties, which descended into extreme hostilities, the
population had to resort to various forms of protection to stay alive; some
had to take refuge in Atambua, the neighbouring territory of Indonesia,
creating a critical opportunity for the illegal annexation which has lasted
until today. Others took refuge in the mountains under the control of
FRETILIN. Others stayed in the capital Dili and other regions of the territory.

Of the people who stayed in the capital and other regions, it was the
Women, particularly those in the families of political leaders who were the
victims of innumerable forms of suffering: imprisonment and physical
torture, inhuman treatment of mothers and rape often leading to unwanted
pregnancies. Nocturnal intimidation, forced prostitution and others forms of
systematic violence took away Women’s dignity.

People who took refuge in the mountains under the control of FRETILIN had
a more stable situation. They were organised in the "bases de apoio"
[support bases] to raise political awareness and implement fundamental human
rights: the right to livelihood, the freedom to participate and take an
active role in the building of social institutions; the right to act and to
express; the right to cultural activity, education and information; the
right to have access to health services and to participate in the concrete
and pressing activities associated with the mobilisation of the masses in
order to meet the basic needs of the struggle.

Timorese Women, through the Organização Popular da Mulher Timor (OPMT),
advocated by the Political Manifesto of FRETILIN, managed to take part
efficiently in the struggle for the liberation and independence of the
People of East-Timor. Bearing in mind that half of the Maubere population
are Women, their participation and contribution to the struggle was
indispensable. It helped to build a just, healthy and solid society.

Another section of the population were evacuated to Portugal, Australia
and other parts of the Globe. They went as refugees or under the Family
Reunification Programme and today they are still living in exile. They have
also made an eloquent contribution to the diplomatic front of our struggle.

A revolution was needed in order to transform the time-worn structures
inherited from the dying colonial system to lead the Women in the struggle
for their emancipation, in defence of their inalienable human rights,
independent of their social conditions, ethnic background and religion.

We should remember and pay tribute to our heroines, namely, the Women of
Tapó de Bobonaro, who died in battle in defence of our land, on November 3,
1975. This date was later proclaimed by the Democratic Republic of
East-Timor (RDTL), as Women’s Day. Our heroines include our sisters Muky
Bonaparte, Isabel Barreto, Maria Goretti, Silvina, Maria Lobato and many
other sisters whom we cannot name individually, whose destiny and heroic
actions stand as a example of self-denial to the National Cause. Peace to
their souls. May the new generation immortalise them in the annals of
contemporary history.

After three years of solid resistance in the mountains political
awareness-raising and mass mobilisation were exceptionally advanced and
successful. These political programmes were carried out without any
antagonism, internal conflicts could have exterminated the struggle of the
Resistance. All this was achieved despite the misery, the hunger and
illnesses originating from the continuous military operations and the
permanent occupation of the Territory affecting people in each zone of
action (and with each zone of action becoming more limited).

The Indonesian armed forces had to resort to a new strategy of war. The
new tactic, the Circle of the Annihilation, was designed to crush the
Resistance. Thus people in all different ranks of the leadership of the
entire Resistance were captured. Civilians were also caught up in this.

The Women in the Resistance who had become more aware and more emancipated
during their three years in the mountains of East-Timor, now had to endure
the harshest treatment: most of the them were assassinated or sent to
prison; many were raped in front of the Indonesian military by members of
their families or men who were captured with them. These Timorese men were
threatened with murder [by Indonesian officers] if they refused to rape the
women. Despite all these inhuman acts inflicted on them, Timorese Women
never gave up their clandestine work and still keep it up to day.

In 1982, the Indonesian government inflicted another form of genocide on
the People of East-Timor. They began using a contraceptive product on women
without previously explaining the reasons for using it and the consequences
that it would have. Later on, however, this was justified, in machiavellian
fashion, with the statement that it was a medicine used to recover women’s
energy/strength in the post-natal period. This experience [the birth control
campaign] caused deaths and also led to the spread of other diseases:
anaemia, beriberi and also to venereal disease.

Many of those women who were members of or had a function in the
clandestine network were forced to report to the military command or to the
Intelligence Service on a monthly basis or, in many cases, on a weekly
basis. If by any chance, there was an attack [carried out by FALINTIL] and
any Indonesian soldiers were killed, these women were detained immediately
in the military headquarters where they regularly reported. Unfortunately,
others were just kept in these headquarters and were forced to take on the
function of "sex suppliers" to the Indonesian forces in town and in the
militarised areas. Yet, others were forced to become prostitutes because of
their desperate economic conditions, as widows and or as orphans without any
form of protection from the government or other institutions.

[During the years of the occupation there have been massacres with
devastating consequences for the women involved. For example,] in 1983 all
the men and young physically able people in the village of Krarás-Viqueque
were massacred. This was a traumatic experience for the Timorese Women in
this village. Now, a new tragedy has unfolded in East-Timor. In 1998, we
have witnessed another form of genocide. Children from a few months to five
years old were victims of an ongoing cholera epidemic. Many children went
for medical treatment and were hospitalised. Hospitals and emergency
services were filled up with sick children. The medical staff carried out
their jobs. However, to meet with the requirement of the physical genocide
programme, they gave excessive dose of medicines. As a result, 8 to 10
children died everyday throughout the Territory. This form of physical
genocide was introduced because Timorese Women rejected the Family Planning
Programme. This form of genocide only ceased after an international outcry
based on the information sent out of East-Timor by parents.

Nightly arrests and assaults on youth have continued and intensified.
Husbands and sons are subjected to illegal trials in Indonesian Courts and
sentenced for 10 to 15 years in prison and even for life. The Women have
been forced to take on the double functions of bread winner and carer to
sustain their families. When resources are depleted, they are forced to
become concubines.

The Indonesian transmigration programmes have also increased. The
transmigrants are given all the facilities and conditions necessary for
their livelihood. The apologists of the integration borrow money in every
way and their offspring get grants to ensure they have a better education.
Timorese Women, now know how to feign conformity and to appear to be
resigned to this disastrous destiny, conforming to overcome all these deep
bitternesses while still being committed to their altruistic ideas.

With the Peace Plan put forward by our celebrated leader, Xanana Gusmão,
there is now a new phase in the struggle. FALINTIL, re-organised under the
command of the Conselho Nacional da Resistência Maubere (CNRM), gave great
strength to the diplomatic front and to Timorese endeavours in diplomacy
lobbying, giving rise to new forms of struggle within international fora.
Within the Clandestine Front, the people who had a patriotic and
nationalistic spirit gave even more and made a positive contribution in this
next step of the struggle. The new generation of the Timorese Women have
participated more decisively in the campaign for mass mobilisation,
political awareness raising etc. showing considerable courage and audacity,
though in more secret way. However, some of their clandestine networks have
been penetrated. Some have been imprisoned again and some have been taken to
Court and put on trial. [These women have included]:

1. Domingas Coelho, from 1983 to 1986;
2. Felismina dos Santos da Conceição from 1990 to 1995;
3. Olga and Celina from 1996 to 1998 and many, many others whose names
cannot be remembered.

Today, many [married] women live alone, because their husbands are in
prison, others are objects of sexual pleasure for the men holding power in
East Timor at present and others are ‘war widows’, without any institutional

However, women’s work [in the Resistance] only began to be reorganised
from last year, through the movement known as the Organização da Mulher
Timor (OMT). This is still a clandestine movement and in this phase of the
struggle, the activities they will focus on include:

1. Raising political awareness;
2. Providing logistical support to the Resistance Forces;
3. Campaigning and mobilising, to support the hygiene and health of women
in the Resistance
4. Fund-raising to sustain the war effort, and
5. Disseminating information.

As Women are a specific group of war victims, in July 1997, a Forum for
Communication among Women was formed by a group of Women activists. This
Forum was established because there is no institution which takes care of
women victims or acts to improve the conditions of Women. The Forum is
concerned with:

1. War widows;
2. Women prisoners and ex-prisoners;
3. Women who have been victims of rape; and
4. Wives of political prisoners.

The activists are volunteers and work with an NGO, which aims to combat
discrimination against Women following the UN Convention on Women’s Rights
(Law No7, 1987). Their activities were facilitated after Indonesia signed
and ratified the UN Convention.

In the light of the above information, and with a view to promoting peace
and tranquillity, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
Timorese Women make the following demands:

1. We propose that all Developed Nations should suspend all military aid
to Indonesia, in order to halt the oppression, particularly of Timorese Women;
2. We propose to the European Union that a cease-fire should be called for
between warring parties: the Guerrillas Forces and the Indonesian Armed Forces;
3. We propose a cease-fire overseen by the UN, with the participation of
multi-national forces for peace and with the participation of international
organisations such as the Commission for Human Rights, Amnesty International
and other related organisations;
4. We propose that with the cease-fire, Indonesian troops should withdraw
within different phases and eventually there could be a decommissioning of
arms by the Guerrillas Forces.
5. We propose that all political prisoners should be released and
conditions should be created for them to take part in the political process
in East-Timor.
6. We propose that conditions should be established for peaceful dialogue
between all parties involved, leading to a peaceful and a just solution between:

n Timorese of different political allegiance;
n The Portuguese and Indonesian Governments
n The Portuguese, Indonesian Governments and the People of East Timor;

7. We express our solidarity and unconditional support for the creation of
the Conselho Nacional da Resistência Timorense (CNRT). We welcome it as an
absolutely necessary step and the will of the People of East-Timor to move
towards a rapid solution for the liberation of our country. Consequently we
congratulate and honour all those involved in its creation, and especially
its President, our historic leader Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão. We salute him.

And finally, to the Portuguese government, to the governments of
Portuguese Speaking Countries and to all countries which are dedicated to
peace and liberty, we appeal to you for your support for the cause of the
Maubere People.

To all, many thanks,

Dili, East-Timor, August 15, 1998.
On behalf of the Organização da Mulher Timor (OMT)

LAA@ Department of External Affairs of FRETILIN.
TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign
111 Northwood Road, Thornton Heath,
Surrey CR7 8HW, UK
Phone: 0181 771-2904 Fax: 0181 653-0322
Campaigning to expose human rights violations in
Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh

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