It was just an ordinary Saturday night, and young people were doing what young people do, in this case, attending a punk-rock concert. Suddenly baton-wielding police descended and before the concert-goers knew what was happening, their mohawks were being shaved off, their body piercings were pulled out and they were thrown into pools for "spiritual cleansing".
These bizarre scenes unfolded in Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia's most conservative province, where police periodically mount blitzes aimed at protecting Islamic values. "The punk community's existence has caused unrest and disturbed society," the city's Deputy Mayor, Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal, said yesterday.
Forcibly shaved and divested of their dog-collar necklaces and chains, dozens of young music-lovers were then loaded into vans and taken to a police centre in the hills outside Banda Aceh for "rehabilitation". They are now undergoing military-style training and religious instruction.
The police chief, Iskandar Hasan, said they would be detained for at least 10 days, then returned to their parents. "We're not torturing anyone," he told Associated Press. "We're not violating human rights. We're just trying to put them back on the right moral path."
But Nur Kohlis, deputy chairman of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, challenged police to state what laws the concert-goers had broken. "Otherwise they violated people's right of gathering and expression," he said.
Most of Indonesia's 200 million Muslims are moderates, but Aceh won the right to implement sharia law in 2001. In recent years, the law has been enforced with increasing vigour, with dozens of people publicly thrashed with rattan canes.
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