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Inside the West Papua Resistance

 
 

The Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) was first created in the 1960s by a group of comrades who called themselves West Papuan Freedom fighters. The organization was created to fight the Indonesian Army, which had occupied large parts of West Papua after the Dutch colonialists withdrew.

The movement grew rapidly in the late 1970s with fighters joining its ranks in all major provinces of West Papua. Their operations mainly consisted of attacking Indonesian patrols. Over the years it started to carry out more sophisticated  attacks on foreign mining companies, such as blowing up pipelines in the Grasberg mine in Freeport.

It carried out assaults on civilian aircrafts in Timika, targeted foreign migrant workers, and kidnapped foreigners and journalists during the infamous Mapenduma incident.

The militant wing of the OPM allegedly had ties to former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddaffi, who had also supplied weapons to the group. Some senior OPM Commanders underwent training in Libya in the 1990s.

The diplomatic wing of the OPM also received support from the government of Senegal in the 1990s and were permitted to open a mission in Dakar.

Today, the military wing has many splinter groups who operate independently.

Some factions have agreed to a truce with the Indonesian government; others continue to wage their guerrilla campaign.

Photojournalist Rohan Radheya  was allowed to follow elements of the military wing, visiting their headquarters deep within the jungles of West Papua.

Inside the West Papua Resistance
OPM soldiers pose during a military drill.
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
The OPM commander cuts sago trees in the jungles of West Papua. Along with coconuts, sago is critical to survival in the jungle.Sago is the main ingredient of many Papuan dishes, including the famous papeda.
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
An OPM soldier poses during a military drill.
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
An West Papuan woman cries while singing the outlawed West Papuan independence song, "Hai Tanahku Papua" ("Oh My Land Papua"). Singing the anthem is forbidden under Indonesian law. Openly singing it is considered an act of treason, and can result in prison terms of 15 to 20 years.
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
Senior OPM commanders sing the outlawed West Papuan independence song, "Hai Tanahku Papua."
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
A senior OPM Commander salutes his superior during an military drill.
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
OPM soldiers sing the outlawed West Papuan independence song, "Hai Tanahku Papua."
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
OPM soldiers stand guard during a military drill at one of the several OPM headquarters in the jungles of West Papua.
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
TPN-OPM commanders cross the rivers on the way to their headquarters deep inside the Jungles of West Papua.
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
Jos N., a former bodyguard of the late Brig.General Seth Rumkorem, founder of the military wing of the OPM
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
Chief Commander Richard Joweni posing with his bodyguards. Joweni is one of the most senior commanders within the OPM. He has been leading a guerrilla campaign against the Indonesian army for more than 40 years. His demands are a withdrawal of Indonesian troops and a transition of power back to West Papuan leaders.
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
Inside the West Papua Resistance
The morning star symbol on the uniform of an OPM soldier.The morning star, better known as the West Papuan independence flag, is banned under Indonesian law.Displaying the morning star can carry prison terms of 15 to 20 years.
Image Credit: Rohan Radheya
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