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Birth of a nation

Ending a failed 24-year occupation that culminated in a rampage of destruction, the last 900 Indonesian soldiers remaining on this island territory pulled down their red-and-white flag and departed from East Timor on October 31, 1999. An estimated 200,000 East Timorese were killed or died of disease and starvation with tens of thousands of Indonesian soldiers also losing their lives here since Indonesia invaded this land as its 27th province. The troop departure was the final step in a painful separation that began with a referendum on August 30 in which 78 percent of those voting chose to break away from Indonesia.

The vote was followed by a rampage of terror and destruction by militias backed by the Indonesian military that destroyed or damaged an estimated 70 percent of the buildings in the region and forced most of its 800,000 people to flee. As a result, an international peace-keeping force of 7,500 troops was deployed here on September 20. Even though the Indonesian parliament voted in October to accept East Timor’s vote for independence fewer than half of this new country’s residents have returned to their homes from refugee camps and mountain hideaways.

Military and humanitarian officials estimate that 240,000 East Timorese are still in camps in Indonesian controlled western Timor, where they are being intimidated from returning by armed militiamen who roam through the encampments at night. More than 200,000 others are believed to be camping in the hills of East Timor, either unaware of the security forces or worried that their towns are not yet safe.

close informations

Rosalina Pinto and Brother Abel Soares Alves infront of Viqueque church, East Timor 11/1999. “After shooting into the car the militia dragged those that were still alive out, they severed their hands and feet with machetes then they chopped their heads off, only then did they threw them into the gorge. The last one was Sister Anna, she was shot in the back of the head then sent to the bottom of the gorge followed by the car.” Brother Abel Soares Alves referring to his lost friends on the road to Los Palos. “The Indonesians treated us like animals, I will never forget seeing them put chairs on top of the young students protesting against the indonesian authorities, the soldiers then sat on the chairs to watch the students’ intestines burst out of their stomach.” Rosalina Pinto referring to indonesian exactions.