Ahmadiyah refugees kept in misery, seek Jakarta help

Jakarta, Indonesia - West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) administration has reportedly dropped plans to buy assets of local Jamaah Ahmadiyah followers, forcing them to remain in refugee camps.

The cancellation sees the groups' plight continue, since they have been forbidden from returning home to the hamlet of Ketapang in Gegerung village, West Lombok, or allowed to move elsewhere.

At least 126 followers of the Islamic minority sect, who were violently evicted by a Muslim mob in 2006, have on numerous occasions been prevented by local authorities from returning home - the authorities citing security reasons.

As a trade-off, in March the provincial administration claimed it was planning to buy the refugees' assets so they could leave their refugee accommodation at the Transito dormitory in the NTB capital of Mataram, for safe areas outside Ketapang.

However, on Monday NTB's Ahmadiyah leader, Jauzi Djafar, said both the provincial and regency administrations had told the refugees that they lacked funds and were not interested in buying the land and houses in Ketapang.

Jauzi said information of the cancellation had been received late last month through Tuan Guru Haji Anwar, a special envoy to NTB Governor Zainul Majdi.

"Tuan Guru Anwar delivered the information through a verbal notification, and we recorded it. So far, all our official correspondence has been responded to verbally."

Jauzi blasted the local government for betraying the Ahmadiyah refugees saying the move to buy their assets was "merely camouflage" to delay the refugees' return.

The refugees had asked the government to pay Rp 500 million for their combined assets, comprising 20 houses and plots of land, Jauzi said.

Separately, NTB administration spokesman Andy Hadiyanto could not confirm or deny the decision on the purchase of refugees' assets. "I cannot explain this in detail yet. We have to coordinate with local administrations and the Religious Affairs Office. This issue is still being discussed," Andy said.

Jauzi further said that the refugees were now pinning their hopes on the central government to provide much-needed help.

They would write to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono concerning the decision against purchasing their assets and to tell him of their wish to return home.

"We don't want to allow the local administration to report to the central government that this asset issue is still being discussed, but *wish to state* the fact that it seems the local administration has deliberately neglected our fate," Jauzi said.

The local government had not provided aid to the refugees since January, Ahmadiyah refugee coordinator Syahidin said.

Last month, state electricity firm PT PLN cut power supplies to the Transito dormitory because the refugees could not afford the monthly bill. "How could we pay the electricity bill, when we even have difficulty getting enough food to survive?" Syahidin said.

The Ahmadiyah followers were several times attacked by their Muslim neighbors of different faiths in February 2006, forcing them to flee their homes in Ketapang.

In July 2005, an estimated 10,000 members of the Indonesian Muslim Solidarity group attacked the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation complex in Bogor, West Java.

The Religious Affairs Ministry had issued a circular in 2004, branding Ahmadiyah teachings as "heresy", based on its belief that its founder, Mirza Gulam Ahmad, was a prophet (after Muhammad).

The attackers claimed Ahmadiyah members had engaged in the practice of teaching local people about their sect.