Aceh: Where?



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Aceh is located in the Northwestern of Sumatra Island with the area of approximately 57,365.57 km square or 12.26 % of size of Sumatra Island. It consists of 119 islands, 73 major rivers and 2 lakes. Aceh is surrounded by Malacca Strait in the north, North Sumatra Province in the east, Indian Ocean in the south and the west. The capital of Aceh is Banda Aceh or previously known as Kutaradja.

The first Islamic Kingdom in Aceh was Perlak, established in 804. Under the reign of Sultan Iskandar Muda (1607-36), Aceh was the most powerful state in the region. On that time, Aceh was dominance in trades and politics. Since the death of Sultan Iskandar Thani in 1641, unfortunately, Aceh influence gradually decline. This initiated British and Dutch to occupy the area. Aceh war against the Dutch from 1873 - 1942 was the longest and the most expensive (in money and human life victims) fought ever for the Dutch, costing them more than 10,000 lives.

After Indonesia declared its independent in 1945, Aceh became part of this country. Aceh had a big role in building the country. But only eight years after that, Aceh under Teungku Daud Beureueh fight against the "centralized" government. Aceh was immersed into North Sumatra Province. The result, huge protest by Acehnese people against central policy in Jakarta requested Aceh to become a special and autonomy province. This movement was known as DI/TII Aceh.

In 1976 Hasan Tiro declared independent for Aceh. This movement believed that Acehnese people will not be able to actualize their specific identity in the country where ideology and the government system are wrong. Once again, the government under Soeharto regime face this movement repressively by military approach.

Started in 1989 until 1998, Aceh province totally under military operation. The operation was known as Operasi Jaring Merah or Red Net Operation. Under the military operations there were so many human right abuses. Killings, disappearances, rapes, torture and forced displacement are the examples of the abuses. A number of mass graves were found. These actions not only against human right but also become crimes against humanity. Some people also believes that these acts could be classified as the crime of genocide.

Today, Acehnese people cried for REFERENDUM with two options, still to be part of Indonesia or independent become a free country. The people believe that REFERENDUM is the one and only best solution to solve a long and bloody conflict in Aceh. Approximately two millions people gathered together in Banda Aceh on November 8, 1999 declared for a REFERENDUM, one of the evidence that REFERENDUM is supported by most of Acehnese people.

For more information on Aceh, please click here.

Sources: and Research Paper by Aceh Study Team, 1999

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Last modified: May 18, 2000