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Raising the flag for West Papua

The Bintang Kejora, or Morning Star, is an important symbol of West Papuan identity. However, in Indonesian occupied West Papua it’s strictly illegal to display the Morning Star. In fact, many indigenous Papuans have been killed, beaten or tortured for trying to raise or even just carry the Morning Star flag. Papuan activist and political prisoner, Filep Karma, has already served 12 years of his 15 year jail term for organizing rallies where the Morning Star was displayed.

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Despite these cruel restrictions, every December 1st West Papuans gather to celebrate the day they were granted independence from the Dutch and risk their lives raising the Morning Star flag in remembrance. The celebration is bittersweet however, as West Papua was occupied by Indonesian forces almost immediately after they were granted independence.

As in previous years, a harsh response is expected from the Indonesian authorities along with arrests and brutality against indigenous Papuans. In a press release from the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA), Joe Collins made the following statement.

Every year the West Papuan people celebrate the 1st of December risking jail terms for raising their banned national flag. AWPA is concerned that at the planned rallies to take place this year the security forces will again crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. The West Papua National Committee (KNPB) has called on the West Papuan people to celebrate their national day.

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Each year more and more cities organize Morning Star flag raisings in solidarity with West Papua. You can find a list of cities holding flag raising events this year here on Reddit. The Melanesian nation of Vanuatu even recently declared December 1st a national holiday in support of West Papua.

This year, the Free West Papua Campaign have put out a call for people around the world to submit photos of themselves holding or raising the Morning Star flag. Check out a few of the submissions so far.

The Free West Papua Campaign has a protest planned outside the Indonesian Embassy in London. The Pacific Media Centre also have an event planned in Auckland with Nick Chesterfield speaking about West Papua Media’s Safe Witness Journalism training.

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