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Indonesian Police Shave, Detain, and Cleanse Punk Concertgoers

Geo·dissonance: the metal movement is proliferating to all corners of the globe. In its relentless display of vitriolic truths and the ugliest questions of existence, we can hear the resounding riffs of heavy metal in the most conservative pockets of society. As your Punjabi, riff-worshiping correspondent, I've created Geodissonance to report the controversy: as metal unveils dissonance in cradles of brutality around the world.

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Personal expression clashed with “morality” this past Wednesday, when Indonesian police officers raided a punk rock show, detained fans, and forcibly shaved off their mohawks. In a coercive and unrelenting display of big-brother conformity, body piercings were stripped off, while dog-collars and chains of concert-goers were dumped into pools of water for "spiritual cleansing.” The justification for this violent, borderline masochistic line of action? A politically identified “threat” to Islamic values, and the social order. Ironically, their “solution” may just be planting deeper seeds of hostility, in the youth of Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

The province has made continuous efforts to reestablish the social order, by enforcing strict moral conduct; this crackdown was among the most pronounced, in a city that is predominantly Muslim, yet claims secularism. Given their religious demographic – we're talking about a nation of approximately 240 million Muslims – the imposition of Islamic values and laws has become relatively commonplace. With the growth of punk rock, metal, and subcultures in Aceh, at large, the voices of opposition have only recently begun to surface. In this society, deviation from the religiously charged status quo is entirely noticed, and publicly punished; homosexuals are sent to jail, or beaten by the public, and infidels, stoned to death. Females who wear tight jeans are socially condemned, and instructed to bear no skin before the public.

Thus, in a society whose equilibrium is governed by the suspension of identity, and preservation of dogma, it should come as no surprise that government officials feel little remorse for their repressive tactics. When interviewed about the concert crackdown, police chief Iskandar Hasan expressed, "We’re not torturing anyone. We’re not violating human rights. We’re just trying to put them back on the right moral path.” Meanwhile, concertgoers were assembled in droves, and individually shaven. One atteendee expressed, in terror, “Why? Why my hair?! We didn’t hurt anyone. This is how we’ve chosen to express ourselves. Why are they treating us like criminals?” A valid question, but not a new complaint: the event itself was the succession of many recent busts, though it had the greatest turnout.

Indonesian Police Shave, Detain, and Cleanse Punk Concertgoers

More than 100 Indonesians punk rock fans had attended the event, many of which had recently complained of police-delivered harassment. The charges were all relatively similar: body piercings, tattoos, and less than holy music. Fans were dispersed by the baton-clad police, who loaded up their vans with many concertgoers. These teens were taken to a police detention center – a solid 30 miles away from Banda Aceh, for military style disciplining, and religious instruction.

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Despite things looking rather grim for personal liberties in Aceh, Nur Kholis – a national human commissioner – has spoken out, in defense of the concertgoers. In addition to demanding that the police state the exact laws that had been broken by the concertgoers, he warned that “otherwise, they [will have] violated people’s right of gathering and expression." Kholis has dedicated himself to investigating the recent crackdown. Given the nation's decade long race towards modernization, and tangible economic growth, perhaps Kholis' efforts, alongside the voices of Aceh youth, will serve to eliminate "repression" from the national formula for sociopolitical progress and harmony.

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