History, Resistance to Indonesian Rule
Xanana, Indonesian armed forces, Indonesian military, Ramos-Horta, Organized resistance
Organized resistance to Indonesia’s administration in East Timor grew out of existing anticolonial nationalist organizations, particularly Fretilin. Under the leadership of Jose Alexandre (“Xanana”) Gusmao, Fretilin mounted guerrilla attacks against the Indonesian forces, inflicting serious damage. Between 1977 and 1979 the Indonesian government resettled villagers in hamlets that were easier to control than the previous disparate rural communities. The resettlement program, which removed people from their land, caused widespread famine. As many as 100,000 Timorese died between 1975 and 1979 as a result of the civil war, the Indonesian invasion and occupation, and famine. Fretilin activist Jose Ramos-Horta, who fled the island after the Indonesian invasion, spent more than two decades traveling the world as a spokesman for East Timorese autonomy, representing Fretilin at the UN from 1975 to the mid-1980s. Catholic bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo used the power of the Catholic Church to defend East Timorese interests and to remain a visible proindependence figure in East Timor. In 1983 Gusmao initiated talks with the Indonesian military designed to plan the peaceful liberation of East Timor. However, violence flared, a state of emergency was declared, and resistance increased. East Timorese people were resisting not only Indonesian rule, but also the “Indonesianization” of East Timor, as the government resettled thousands of Indonesians from the crowded western areas of the archipelago in Timor.
In November 1991 a huge crowd attending the funeral of a proindependence activist marched through Dili, demonstrating in favor of independence. The Indonesian military fired on the marchers, killing between 100 and 180 mourners and arresting hundreds more. Timorese groups claimed that as many as 100 of the arrested demonstrators and other witnesses of the massacre were subsequently executed. The Dili massacre was a critical turning point in the resistance against the Indonesians, and it attracted widespread international condemnation.
Gusmao was captured by the Indonesian armed forces in 1992 and imprisoned in Jakarta. Bishop Belo and Ramos-Horta continued to push for a peaceful settlement between the Indonesian government and the East Timorese. For their nonviolent efforts at bringing peace to East Timor, Belo and Ramos-Horta were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996.
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