Massacre at Dili

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

In 1991, Indonesian soldiers massacred three hundred or more people in the East Timorese capital of Dili. The Dili massacre was different from the many other such attacks by the Indonesians because it was videotaped by foreigners. The foreigners were arrested and deported; one of them was killed.

John Pilger in The Nation reported accounts of the massacre by two survivors:

"After the killings in the cemetery," said Mario, "I escaped being hit. So I pretended to be dead. The soldiers came and searched all the bodies and me, and hit me on the head so that I bled. They threw me with the other bodies onto a pickup truck. They took us to the mortuary, locked the door and went upstairs. Some of my friends were still alive, crying. They were calling out for water. I told them the only water was dirty, so we must pray together. I saw with my very own eyes that among the bodies were children and old people. Suddenly I heard steps approaching and I lay down again, pretending to be dead. Two soldiers came in. One of them picked up a big stone, and the other got a tablet from a jar. They then said out loud that if anyone was able to walk they had to stand up. When some of my friends got up, one of them was hit on the head by the soldiers with the stone; he died later. I heard the blows, and it sounded like coconuts cracking as they fall from trees. As they got close to me I stood up so suddenly that the soldiers were taken aback. I told them I was an informer, that I really worked for them. I didn't want to lie, but this saved my life."

Abilio, a Timorese orderly at the military hospital in Dili, took up the story. "I was at the hospital receiving the dead and wounded," he said. "Most of them were dead, but some were pretending to be. The soldiers didn't unload the bodies one by one; they just pushed them down on the ground. If they spotted one that was alive they killed him by running the van over him. Some of the soldiers were afraid of killing more. So they ordered the Timorese who were there to kill them. People said no, or they ran and hid in the toilets. The Indonesians then tried to inject them with sulfuric acid. But the soldiers stopped doing this as the people screamed too loudly."

For many years, Western nations turned a blind eye to the Indonesian violence, and the U.S. even gave Indonesia military aid, weapons which were used against the East Timorese.

Source: "Journey to East Timor: Land of the Dead," by John Pilger, in the April 25, 1994, issue of [WWWThe Nation.