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Acehnese Boys: A Cry In the Dark

As a boy, I used to play in a small forest near my home in Aceh. My friends and I explored that area to find woods or small bamboo which we could use as toys. Sometimes, in her spare time my granny brought me to a bigger forest a couple of minutes walk away from my village. She told me how to survive in that forest. Eat everything that is eaten by birds, she said; follow the stream if you cannot find your way, etc. Obviously, I grasped all ideas keenly and jumped around like a mule. She laughed happily looking at my behavior. Usually she would pick me up and put me at her back and we went home. On the way home she explained everything about what was wrong and what was good to do in the forest as well as in life. Especially how to become an Acehnese. I was so happy, and asked her a lot of questions. She answered all questions clearly. That was a very happy moment in my life. Most of Acehnese boys in my generation had similar experience to me. We were very close to our granny and grandpa, that was the feature of Acehnese children.

Now those kind of happy moments hardly ever found in the new generation of Acehnese boys. They loss those happy moments in their childhood because they couldn’t play around in the forest anymore. They loss not only their grandpa or granny, but also their parents. Some of them witnessed their parents executed with cold blood. They witnessed their grandpa pulled from their grasping hand under the M-16 pointed to them. They looked at their family killed without any cause. They saw how their neighbor stripped apart. They experienced the worst nightmare existed in the world, some even lost their own life. They couldn’t scream, they couldn’t say anything, their mouth numb. The only thing that they can do was crying in the dark, and that was worst enough.

Today, those children must have been grown up to become a man. All deep scars in his childhood becomes deeper every day. Those scars are the time bombs that exist among Acehnese new generation which can explode at anytime. This generation brings their own view, and their own way of life. They bring their worst nightmare.

The Indonesian government should take a good care on them, otherwise the government will find a lot of troubles in the future. For me the best approach to them is using cultural and religious matters. To do so the Indonesian government should form a special body who can take care of those children, including their education, jobs and their future. If it is successful you will find those generation can be adopted to become the main locomotive to build new Aceh and everybody will live happily ever after. However, if the government is very reluctant to resolve this matter, I am afraid that the new version of Aceh’s war will appear very soon. History has shown that Aceh’s wars were the longest and the most costly wars that ever existed. Let us join our hands together to avoid those wars.

Dr. Ary (Agam) Syahriar

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Last modified: June 22, 2000