Asmara: A Fierce yet Compassionate Human Rights Defender

by David Cohen

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been 10 years, but it’s also hard for me to believe that my friend Asmara is no longer here. His phone number is still in my mobile because I can’t erase it.  My memories of him are still so vivid, in Jakarta, at the East-West Center, at ELSAM, at Komnas HAM, having a meal together or at some  workshop. I met Asmara through his daughter, my dear friend Aviva, when we started working together in 2003 on the trials at the Jakarta Ad Hoc Human Rights Court. So much of what I learned about Indonesia and issues of human rights came from my discussions with him. It was so inspiring to see someone so strong and so committed, a man with such amazing integrity, intelligence, and determination.  

In workshops or discussions of human rights, with Asmara there was no “beating around the bush.’ He always came straight to the real point— directly and forcefully. As someone new to the Indonesian context I learned so much from seeing the force that his style of advocacy could have. At the same time, though he could be so fierce when confronted with excuses and shabby justifications for human rights abuses or inaction, he was also a person with such a deep sense of humanity and capable of such kindness. Among all the individuals I have met in the world of human rights he stands out as the person I admired most.

Penulis: Professor David Cohen, Direktur Center for Human Rights and International Justice di Universitas Stanford, AS.

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