November 12 – Youth Day in East Timor

Posted on November 12, 2018

The name "Youth Day" makes me think of a happy holiday of sports and entertainment. But this particular Youth Day has a tragic origin: On this date in 1991, brave people - including many young people - demonstrated in Dili, in East Timor. They were both demanding independence and honoring an independence leader who had been murdered.

But, when the young people began to sing and wave patriotic banners, Indonesian troops shot into the unarmed crowd! 

I checked three sources, and I cannot find any sources that say that the protesters started the violence. As a matter of fact, a British and two American journalists all report that it was the soldiers who began assaulting the crowd. Both of the American journalists were beaten when they tried to protect the unarmed protesters by standing in front of them!

At least 250 East Timorese were killed in the massacre - and I'm sure many were injured. At the time, the Indonesian government defended the use of force against people they called "delinquents" and "agitators."

It was of course a lose-lose situation. The protesters who died lost their lives, the people of East Timor lost their loved ones - and certainly many who died were among the most passionate and principled, I imagine! - and Indonesia itself lost even more worldwide respect for its violent suppression. Less than a decade later, East Timor won its independence!

Today is the day to solemnly honor the martyrs who died in that senseless massacre.

Here are some beautiful photos of East Timor to help us get through the tragic history of Youth Day:

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