Subject: CapTimes: Women Targeted in Timor
Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 07:59:26 -0500

Capital Times (Madison, WI.) March 29, 1999, Monday


By Karyn Saemann The Capital Times

Indonesia's control of East Timor has been to a great extent an attack on women, Isabel Galhos told a Madison audience.

An exile in Canada since 1994, Galhos recalled Sunday how as a student in East Timor, she was injected with the contraceptive drug Depo-Provera without her knowledge.

When she was 13, the girls in her elementary school were told to line up in a locked room and were given shots. They were told this was an immunization to keep them healthy.

Years later, she learned the truth -- the ''immunizations'' were an effort by the Indonesian government to force sterilization.

She said she suspected as a child that the government wasn't being forthright, but she had no choice.

''We were all afraid to go to school,'' she said.

She said she was injected two additional times as a student -- once in school and once at her home.

An estimated 95,000 women have received such injections since 1975, she said. On Sunday, Galhos spoke at Pres House on State Street about the oppression of women since the 1975 Indonesian occupation of East Timor, a tiny island off the northwest corner of Australia. About 30 people gathered to hear her speak at the invitation of UW-Madison's East Timor Action Network. Additional support was provided by the Campus Women's Center and A Room of One's Own bookstore, 307 W. Johnson St. Galhos will speak at the bookstore at 6:30 tonight. Galhos, who was 3 at the time of the occupation, spoke in hopeful terms of the change that could occur if East Timor regains autonomy. The Indonesian government has agreed to hold a July vote, putting that question before the East Timorese.

Galhos fled to Canada because she was a member of the underground Timorese resistance. She serves as the Canadian representative to the National Council of Timorese Resistance to the United Nations. She envisions returning home if East Timor is granted freedom, and setting up an education center where women will learn how to help rebuild their country.

Galhos said the prevailing East Timorese wisdom that women belong in the kitchen worsened in the years after the invasion. Forced marriages have been the rule, few women have access to higher education and even fewer are allowed to participate in politics, she said.

Only a handful of women are involved in the resistance movement, she noted. Women are said to have a ''short step,'' meaning that ''you cannot do what men do, that you stay behind.''

The Indonesian military used women to persuade their husbands hiding in the jungles to surrender, Galhos said. And women have been forced to sleep with members of the Indonesian military, she added.

''Many women say no, and many women are killed,'' she said. ---

March 29, 1999

Refugee describes oppression of East Timorese women in U. Wisconsin speech

By Julie Bosman, Badger Herald U. Wisconsin

Madison, Wis.

East Timorese refugee Isabel Galhos spoke Sunday about the brutal oppression of women living in Indonesian-occupied East Timor.

Since the Indonesian occupation began in 1975, East Timor has undergone what has been called the worst genocide, per capita, since the Holocaust. Amnesty International estimates that one-third of East Timor's native population has died at the hands of the Indonesian military.

Most heavily affected by the occupation, women in East Timor frequently suffer rape, torture and forced sterilization by members of the Indonesian military, according to the East Timor Action Network.

Galhos was a member of the East Timorese underground resistance while using the Indonesian Military Youth Corps as a means of escape. Galhos said she posed as loyal to the Indonesian government to gain her freedom. "I found it difficult to act as if I was supporting the military while convincing the East Timorese that I was not selling out my country," Galhos said. "You have to play the game in order to survive."

One of only three East Timorese to have escaped the country, Galhos fled to Canada in 1994 after witnessing decades of rape and torture of East Timorese women by the Indonesian military.

According to Galhos, women whose husbands are connected with the underground resistance are common targets of rape and abuse.

"Some women are tortured by being put in large holes with snakes for many days," Galhos said. "Others are pushed out of helicopters if they refuse to cooperate with the military."

In order to pressure the international community to intervene, Galhos serves as the Canadian representative of the National Council of Timorese Resistance to the United Nations.

The United States has supplied Indonesia with weapons and military education since 1975, said Diane Farsetta, coordinator of the Madison chapter of the ETAN.

"For decades, the U.S. knew of this brutality, but did nothing to address it," Farsetta said. "The U.S. even contributed to Indonesian military education."

According to Farsetta, the situation in East Timor is largely related to feminism and women's rights.

"There are a lot of women's issues involved because the women are most affected by the occupation," Farsetta said. "It's especially important because once East Timor is freed, women will play a big role in rebuilding the country." Farsetta said the issue of women's struggles in East Timor is rarely discussed internationally.

"It's basically seen through 'male filters,'" she said. "We don't talk about women and the incredible struggle they've had throughout the occupation, losing their husbands, sons and brothers."

Twenty-four years into their struggle, the people of East Timor continue to resist, Galhos said.

"We know in our souls that to resist is to win," Galhos said. "The young generation will carry on the struggle."

(C) 1999 Badger Herald via U-WIRE

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