Jun 05, 2019

Apilena Sapioper, West Papua

Get to know Apilena

 Who is Apilena?

On 11 February 1984, Apilena was five years old and her family fled their village in West Papua as political refugees. The day before, the indigenous people of West Papua had revolted in Jayapura. The uprising was triggered by the shooting of a member of a local community after he raised the morning star flag, the flag of West Papua, close to a government building. To crush the revolt, the Indonesian army launched a violent military campaign, which resulted in the flight of around 10,000 Indigenous West Papuans.

Apilena is currently living in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

Who is Apilena standing for?

Apilena is representing West Papua and its inhabitants.

In 1828, with the establishment of Fort du Bus, the western half of New Guinea was officially named the Netherlands New Guinea by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, through the Proclamation of Delden. West New Guinea therefore officially became a colony of the Netherlands. This colonisation came to an end on 1 May 1963, when the Indonesians took control of the territory, in accordance with the New York Agreement dated 15 August 1962. The New York Agreement specified “The eligibility of all adults, male and female, not foreign nationals to participate in the act of self-determination”. Instead, the Act of Free Choice, a vote by 1,025 men selected by the Indonesian military in Western New Guinea, took place. It was contrary to the United Nations (UN) Charter, the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, as well as the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (1960).

The West Papuan People responded with a Unilateral Proclamation of Independence on 1 July 1971 in Markas Victoria, West Papua.

Apilena believes that the West Papuan issue is not known enough in the world. West Papuans’ fight for self-determination has to be heard.

What is Apilena’s main motivation?

When she was young, she had to flee West papua and she became a refugee. She grew up in a refugee camp, surrounded by people who were also victims of the Indonesian colonial system. The fact that she was a refugee triggered her in activism at a very young age.

Those West Papuans who settled in other countries, such as the Netherlands, enjoy better life conditions, but still recognise themselves as refugees who cannot return to their motherland. Apilena identified with those West Papuan refugees who have to endure difficult life conditions and are making an effort to bring recognition and dignity to the life of their fellow West Papuans around the world and in West Papua itself.

The right to self-determination, the country’s dream of independence and its international recognition are the motivations that keep Apilena going.

What are the challenges Apilena faces?

Apilena says that sometimes, being a refugee is a very heavy burden to carry. “Sometimes, people don’t respect you, your origins or what you stand for”, she explained to us.

Do West Papuan women face discrimination?

Apilena does not feel discriminated against in the Netherlands. However, in West Papua, there is a  difference. Men are always given preference, according to her.

Watch Apilena's video here!