Australian aid and the radicalisation of Aceh


Following the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami which killed more than640px-Muslim_woman_in_Yemen 170,000 alone in Aceh province, the Australian Government pledged $1 billion towards the recovery and rebuilding operation.

Since 2005, a radical form of Islam has spawned and taken root in Aceh, and Sharia law is rapidly being rolled out.

The question needs to be asked, ‘has Australian aid supported the radicalisation of Aceh and contributed to the oppression of women in the province’?

Today the ABC reported:

“the capital of Indonesia’s Aceh province has banned women from working or attending entertainment venues late at night, legally requiring them home by 11:00pm… unless they are accompanied by a husband or male family member.”

Furthermore, “Aceh is the only Indonesian province that implements Islamic law and makes homosexuality, gambling, and drinking alcohol punishable by caning. It also reprimands women for wearing form-fitting clothing.”

How sad indeed, that despite good intentions, Australia’s $1 billion aid package has supported the Aceh regime which is increasingly hostile to the West and is clamping down particular on the rights of women.

It is entirely right for the Australian government to be more discerning about where its foreign aid dollar goes, and utterly inappropriate for Australian funds to support oppressive regimes.

Furthermore, the Australian public needs to be more discerning about where tax payer funded foreign aid goes and the consequences of that funding. It is too much of a cop-out for Australians

to outsource their compassion to the government, expecting it to pick up the tab, whilst being uninformed and personally unresponsive to the needs around the world.

The situation in Aceh is not isolated, and it is not news to anyone that a great deal of government funded foreign aid goes to line the pockets of corrupt officials.

Australians ought to inform themselves, and take responsibility for their own giving, rather than continually demanding that the government do it for them. Especially when we end up with Australian dollars supporting corruption and oppression in places such as Aceh province.

  • Chooie

    Can you provide any evidence that there is any cause and effect here? This is just speculation.

  • One more point to add to the mix – In recent years, countries that have introduced these and similar laws restricting the movement and activities of women have tended to become MORE restrictive over time (the only recent exception I can think of is Mali and that took 18 months before the French intervened).

    Limiting women’s freedom isn’t something that we can stand back from – when women’s participation in public life is limited, the evidence is that over time their lives become more restricted. We should be Angry and Vocal.

    There is growing evidence that many young people under these regimes (Iran is perhaps the clearest example) are sick of the system (I’ve read some articles about a correlation here with secret conversions to Christianity) – but I still don’t think we can just wait decades for things to shift.
    That effectively condemns a generation of women to unfair and frankly immoral marginalisation.

  • Konstantin

    If that kind of money is sent to Aceh, it is obvious that it is used by the government in some way. Even if the last dollar is invested exclusively in the recovery and rebuilding provinces affected by natural disasters. That would be enough for government to gain a positive image among the citizens. Whatever happened with that money, in some way it supports Sharia law and other customs that “the western” world believes are repressive.

  • It also seems to be such a massive change in a short period of time.

    It’s difficult to get my head around it!