Vol. 3, No. 2 - Spring 1997

No F16's for Indonesia

Tensions Escalate in East Timor

ETAN Calls for Independent Observers

Victory for East Timor in Geneva

Elections, Suharto Style

Sanitized by the Nobel Prize

Massachusetts Closer to Indonesia Sanctions

New Resources from ETAN

ETAN's New Field Organizer

Support East Timor in Your Community

Academic "Roadshow" Raises Awareness

Estafeta Homepage

Isabel Galhos Tours the United States
By Kristin Sundell, ETAN National Field Organizer

Last February, ETAN and the San Francisco-based human rights group Global Exchange hosted East Timorese refugee Isabel (Bella) Galhos for an 18-day tour of the United States. Her talks drew large audiences in Colorado, California, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, and New Hampshire.

Bella, 25, is one of three East Timorese who have defected to Canada. She was only three years old when Indonesia invaded her country. Her two young brothers were beaten to death and her father was thrown into jail when the Indonesian military entered her home in January 1976. After the Dili massacre, her older brother was jailed and brutally tortured for having made a "Free East Timor" T-shirt worn by some of the demonstrators.

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Isabel Galhos and ETAN/US Field Organizer Kristin Sundell

Although she focused on her personal experience as a young survivor of the Indonesian occupation, Bella also addressed U.S. complicity in the invasion and occupation of East Timor and the United States government's continuing military and economic support for the brutal Suharto regime.

In her talks, Bella often recounted her experience with Indonesia's forced sterilization of Timorese women and girls. She was only thirteen years old when the military came to her school and asked all the young women to line up after forcing the boys to leave the room.

"They told us we needed to be injected to stay healthy," she explained. "I was frightened; I didn't trust them. Five of them had to hold me down, and they had a very hard time. Then they came to my home the same week and injected me again."

Much later, with the help of Bishop Belo, she discovered that she and her classmates had been injected with Depo-Provera (a birth control drug).

Bella also spoke of living under a constant fear of being raped: "Women in East Timor are raped all the time by the military. They just come into your home and force you."

Bella began to work with the underground resistance in 1989, helping to plan demonstrations and convincing other women to take an active role in the movement. In 1991, Bella helped to organize the peaceful march to the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili. When the Indonesian military opened fire on the demonstration, Bella managed to get herself and her pregnant aunt over the high cemetery walls to safety. More than 250 of her friends were not so lucky, being brutally killed in the massacre.

In the aftermath of the massacre Bella joined the Indonesian military youth corps to mask her involvement in the demonstration. For three years the Indonesian authorities trained her to fight against her own people. During this time, Bella secretly used her army salary to help the resistance movement.

In 1994, after months of interrogation and instruction, the Indonesian government selected Bella to represent East Timorese youth in the Canada World Youth program. She was well trained to speak to the Canadian media and to portray Suharto's propaganda machine's version of a "typical" young Timorese _ educated, successful, and pro-integration.

Bella defected after her arrival in Canada with the help of her uncle, Constâncio Pinto, who had escaped East Timor shortly after the Dili massacre. Since then, Bella has been perfecting her English and touring Canada to speak for her country's freedom. The tour sponsored by ETAN was her first in the United States.

Most stops on the tour included a talk at a local university and interviews with the local media. Many attending the talks had first heard about East Timor after the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to two East Timorese leaders last October. They came to learn more about the history and current status of East Timor and to find out what they could do to help.

During the tour, Bella was also able to testify at hearings held at the state legislature in Massachusetts on the "Act Regulating State Contracts and Investments with Companies doing Business with or in Indonesia." (See article, page 11.) Bella was also a panel speaker at a conference of East Timorese leaders and scholars at Columbia University, which was organized by ETAN in cooperation with Professor Antonio Barbedo of Portugal.

The tour was extremely successful in terms of both drawing large numbers of people and reaching out into areas of the country where ETAN's presence had been weak. Isabel Galhos is a powerful and passionate speaker and elicited a strong response from everyone who heard her.

ETAN is planning more speaking tours of young East Timorese and Indonesian activists this fall. Let us know if you'd like them to come to your community.