Post D: Indonesian Punks of Banda Aceh

The sub-culture of Punk has always interested me. From the clothing style, people, music and core ideologies involved, Punk sub-cultures can be seen around the world raising their middle fingers at a variety of social, cultural and political contexts.

In the Vice documentary Punk Vs Sharia (2014), elements of the Indonesian Punk scene are explored. In Banda Aceh, a city located on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Islamic Sharia law is enforced. Sharia “is the moral, legal and religious code followed by all Muslims” (Taylor 2014), and with the implementation of Sharia law in Aceh, alternative Punk groups have become the target of police and authoritarian figures. “Punk is seen as a threat to the authorities and those who are power hungry” (Vice 2014, 4:10) states a street punk of Banda Aceh.

On the exterior, the interviewed Indonesian Punks are clad in military style boots, ripped jeans, customised biker jackets and anti-establishment patches. However, the punks are quick to point out their connection to punk ideals are deeper than clothing and music. “Punk is not just fashion.” (Vice 2014, 3:47) states one of the members, alluding to the deeper political motivations for their way of life. In 1998, for example, Indonesian dictator Suharto was driven out of office after 32 years as the country’s leader accused of political corruption, among other factors (Berger 2008). The changing political scene in Indonesia and years of oppression, combined with religious laws and a conservative society has fuelled the punk movement across areas of Indonesia.

Edited screen shot
“Punk is not just fashion.” (Vice 2014, 3:47)

In recent years, the continued presence of the authorities in Banda Aceh and the tension between punks can be highlighted through the events of December 2011. During a benefit concert for orphans, 65 punks were arrested and detained for 10 days and were forced to undergo ‘moral training’ (Vice 2014). At the time of the arrests, Banda Aceh deputy mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal was quoted as describing punks as a ‘new social disease affecting Banda Aceh’ (Balowski 2012). This incident gathered international media attention and emphasised the ongoing power of Indonesian authorities. In a contemporary society, it is eye opening to discover acts of discrimination against individuals and groups simply for personal views, opinions, clothing and music choice.

In current and future years, individual ideas of expression are critical in ensuring the Punk sub-culture lives on throughout Indonesia, and the world.



Balowski, J. 2012, The Mohawk Crusade, Inside Indonesia, viewed 10 April 2016, <;.

Berger, M. 2008, Suharto Dies at 86; Indonesian Dictator Brought Order and Bloodshed, The New York Times, <;.

Taylor, L. 2015, Explainer: What is Sharia law?, SBS News, viewed 10 April 2016,<;.

Vice 2014, Punk Vs Sharia, videorecording, viewed 2 April 2016,<;.

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