A Not-So-Distant Horror: Mass Violence in East Timor

Demographic, Indonesia

A Not-So-Distant Horror: Mass Violence in East Timor

On August 30, 1999, in a United Nations-sponsored ballot, East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia and for an end to a brutal military occupation. Upon the announcement of the result, Indonesian troops and their paramilitary proxies launched a wave of terror that, over three weeks, resulted in the murder of more than 1,000 people, the rape of untold numbers of women and girls, the razing of 70 percent of the country’s buildings and infrastructure, and the forcible deportation of 250,000 people.

In recounting these horrible acts and the preceding events, Joseph Nevins shows that what took place was only the final scene in more than two decades of atrocities. More than 200,000 people, about a third of the population, lost their lives due to Indonesia’s 1975 invasion and subsequent occupation, making the East Timorese case proportionately one of the worst episodes of genocide since World War II.

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