Political prisoner sends greetings on IWD

March 10, 1999


Political prisoner sends greetings on IWD

Following is the text of an International Women's Day message to Australian activists from Indonesia's only woman political prisoner, DITA SARI. Sari, a leader of the People's Democratic Party, is serving a five-year sentence in Tangerang Women's Prison in Jakarta for daring to struggle for workers' rights in her country.

Dear sisters,

This is the third time I have written to you from my prison cell. Three years have passed suddenly, and many changes have taken place. Even though the form and method of our struggle also changes, I'm completely sure we keep the same high spirit alive in our hearts.

On this historical event, I would like to share with all my sisters around the world who search for freedom and justice for the oppressed groups in their society.

My country, as you may know, is going through a hard and deep crisis. The distressed economy has affected not only families in the city, but also millions of children, women and men in the rural area. Millions of workers have lost their jobs. Almost 20% of Indonesian children have dropped out of school. The prices of basic commodities have increased day by day.

I read in the newspapers about all the suffering from behind the prison wall. I read about riots, killings and criminal actions.

I also read about the political dynamic which is intensifying — the hundreds of political parties announced every week. In this kind of situation, what is women's position and what role can they play in my country?

For years we have tried to open the door that leads to a more democratic state. For years we have fought for better wages and respect for the political rights of the working people. For years also we've lived in terror, fear and under the traumatic shadow of violence. Now the door is finally open; this is not a gift from heaven, but the gift of long struggle and sacrifice.

In my cell, I often think about the women workers of my union. I finally realise that this is the time for Indonesian women to take up every space and opportunity that comes during the democratic process.

Every opportunity that is produced by our historical fight must be fulfilled by women. We need lots of strength and power to overcome the crisis and I believe women should be the main part of this strength, play decisive roles in the political field and start to take the leadership in every sector they are involved in.

Democracy without the equal treatment of the sexes is only democracy in appearance. Equal treatment will also be a gift of the continuous fight against all kinds of discrimination around us.

Now, women have to chose whether to become a victim or a fighter. Sisters, three years in prison has made me learn my lesson well.

In the middle of various political issues, women's prison seems to be a silent community. It is not isolated from the world, but it's not completely part of our surroundings. But, still messages of solidarity from many parts of the world reach my cell. It feels like every time a letter of solidarity arrives the rose in my cell blossoms. That is a very warm feeling, that is what I would like to share with you, through this letter.

I wish I could be there, like I was four years ago. I miss being at the IWD rally with sisters in Perth and Sydney. Thank you for all the solidarity you have given to me. I hope to see you in the next, better, time.

Dita Sari
Indonesian Centre for Labour Struggle

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