The Dangerous Act of Raising a Flag

November 7, 2008

With all the patriotic spirit and flag-waving (and questions about lapel pins) that we’ve been seeing lately surrounding the Presidential election here in the United States, it can be easy to forget just how powerful a symbol a flag can be, and how heavy a price can be exacted for raising the wrong one. But as election season draws to a close and we in the Individuals at Risk Campaign prepare for the annual Global Write-a-thon, I’ve been thinking a lot about Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage, whose case is featured in this year’s Write-a-thon.

Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage
Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage

On December 1, 2004, some 200 people participated in a nonviolent ceremony outside Abepura in Papua, Indonesia, during which the Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence, was raised. Filep and Yusak were later charged with rebellion for allegedly leading the flag-raising event. In May 2005, a court sentenced Filep Karma to 15 years in prison and Yusak Pakage to 10 years on charges of treason for having “betrayed” Indonesia by flying the outlawed Papua flag. Amnesty International considers Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage to be prisoners of conscience who have been detained purely for the peaceful and legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

So whether you’re feeling good or bad about the results of the election in the United States, if you see a flag waving, think about Filep and Yusak, and do something to help them by signing up for the Write-a-thon. Write a letter, save a life!