Post D: Punks Fight For Freedom.

The arrest of sixty four punks attending a benefit gig in December 2011 bought global attention to one of the biggest and most politicised punk scenes in the world (Munn. K, 2014). To identify in the punk subculture means to dress, act and fashion your body in a particular way. For Indonesians the consequence of this identity holds a uniquely heavy burden. The current and historical turmoil between citizens and the governing power has redefined what it means to be a punk within an Indonesian context (MacDougall. J, 2015).

Sixty four punks arrested while attending a gig in Aceh. (Image sourced:
Sixty four punks arrested while attending a gig in Aceh. (Image sourced:

The Petrus executions of the mid eighties saw suspected criminals violently killed without warning. Former president Suharto ordered the murders of suspected criminals, regardless and irrelevant of actual guilt. Tattoos held a strong association to criminal involvement and often served as an indicator for Petrus victims. The fear drove some to remove tattoos from their skin with razor blades, hot irons and caustic soda. The implications of this horrific time means those displaying tattoos are still linked to criminal involvement and fear.

The social disorder evident through President Suharto’s brutal dictatorship created a perfect landscape for the punk subculture to manifest. We can see this dynamic in more recent punk arrests. Sixty-four men were arrested while attending a punk gig in Aceh, a fiercely religious province within Indonesia. Aceh operates under Sharia Law that encompasses all aspects of day-to-day life. The contrasts in religious compliance and punks anti-authority nature saw people who identified as punk labeled a ‘Social Disease’. In the hope of gaining popularity by mainstream citizens the government arrested sixty four punks during a benefit gig. They were detained without charge for ten days. During their detention the prisoners had their clothes burnt and heads shaved. They were forced to wear military uniforms and participate in military training. The detention was said to be ‘moral rehabilitation’ against the punk way of life. Prisoners were exposed to brutal beatings and striped of their freedoms and punk identities. This stunt by the government saw a global backlash as the Aceh arrests made headlines across the world. Punks took to the streets across Asia, Europe and North America in support of the prisoners and Indonesian’s rights to participate in the punk way of life (Munn. K, 2014).

Indonesian Punks. (Image sourced:
Indonesian Punks. (Image sourced:

After a decade of violence, oppression and protest within the context of a low socioeconomically situated country the punk subculture reached its peak. In 1998 President Suharto was put out of power attributed partly to the pressure created by young people participating in the punk movement (MacDougall. J, 2015).

This movement has allowed Indonesian citizens a platform and means to fight back against the violent and oppressive nature of their political landscape. This stand has come at a huge risk to their safety and social acceptance, however highlighted in this is the gravity of what they have been fighting for.


MacDougall. J, 2015, Jackarta preman report for ICG, online research papers,, viewed 16th April 2016, <>

Munn. K, 2014, Indonesia’s radical underground punk scene, ABC, Australia, viewed 16th April 2015, <>

Munn. K, 2014, Indonesia’s radical underground punk scene, ABC, Australia, broadcast 28th November 2014, viewed 16th April 2015, <://>

Punks Vs. Sharia, 2014, video recording, Vice Media Inc, Indonesia, viewed 16th April 2015 <>

One thought on “Post D: Punks Fight For Freedom.

  1. The lengths that those who identified as Punks in the 80’s had to go to in order to remove their tattoos is chilling, it’s concerning that again the Aceh government is again acting out against the sub-culture and holding the individuals without legal charge.

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