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20 September 2008

The Kraras Massacre of 1983 in East Timor

Massacre at Kraras, East Timor - Indonesia in 1975 invaded and forcibly annexed East Timor, beginning a campaign of violence that killed 200,000 East Timorese.

One element of this campaign was the massacre of entire villages. During the summer of 1983, nearly three hundred residents of Kraras, thereafter known as "the village of widows," were killed by Indonesian troops.

John Pilger reported on one of the East Timorese resisters, identified only as Domingos:

Domingos is 40 and has been in the jungle since 1983. "My wife was tortured and burned with cigarettes," he said. "She was also raped many times. In September [1993] the Indonesians sent the population of her village to find us. My wife came to me and said, `I don't want to see your face because I have been suffering too much.' At first I thought she was rejecting me, but it was the opposite; she was asking me to fight on, to stay out of the village and not to be captured and never to surrender. She said to me, `You get yourself killed and I shall grieve for you, but I don't want to see you in their hands. I'll never accept you giving up!' I looked at her, and she was sad. I asked her if we could live together after the war, and she said softly, `Yes, we can.' She then walked away."

Domingos and his wife came from Kraras, now known by the Timorese as the "village of the widows." During the summer of 1983, 287 people were massacred there. Their names appear on an extraordinary list compiled in Portuguese by the church. In a meticulous, handwritten script, everything is recorded: the name and age of each of the murdered, as well as the date and place of death and the Indonesian battalion responsible.

Every time I pick up this list, a testimony of genocide, I find it strangely compelling and difficult to put down, as if each death is fresh on the page. Like the ubiquitous crosses, it records the slaughter of whole families, and bears witness to genocide: Feliciano Gomes, 50; Jacob Gomes, 50; Antonio Gomes, 37; Marcelino Gomes, 29; Joao Gomes, 33; Miguel Gomes, 51; Domingos Gomes, 30; Domingos Gomes, 2 -- "shot."

So far I have counted forty families, including many children: Kai and Olo Bosi, 6 and 4, "shot"; Marito Soares, 1, "shot"; Cacildo Dos Anjos, 2, "shot." There are babies as young as 3 months.

Source: 'Journey to East Timor: Land of the Dead' by John Pilger in The Nation 25 April 1994

Read more accounts of crimes against humanity and human rights abuses committed in East Timor in 1999.

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