Bearing Witness

Bearing Witness

All around town houses were burning. We heard gunfire all the time. On the 5th of September [1999] the police came to us and said that if we wanted to stay alive, we had to come to the police station. We went. It was packed with people, hundreds were there. We just wanted to stay alive. We stayed there for three days. Then we left and went to a nearby town to stay with my husband’s relatives. Soon, though, the militia came there too.

On the 13th of September, the militia came to the house and said my husband needed to go to the house of the Liurai [a village leader]. We thought he would be safe there. It was dark and I didn’t want him to go by himself, so I went with him. When we arrived, there were so many people. My husband’s brother was there too. They told me they only wanted men, not women. They said I had to leave. I said I wouldn’t go, that I wouldn’t leave him. One man threatened to stab me. I had to go, but I was so afraid for him.

I waited all night, awake. Each hour I kept telling myself he’d come home. He must be on his way now. At four in the morning, I was shaking, I could not stand waiting anymore. I went back to the house, back to where the militia were, where I had last seen my husband. I asked them where he was. They said they couldn’t tell me. They said, “Now it’s war.” I kept asking, and they told me that if I didn’t leave, I’d be killed too. I knew he was dead. I knew they had killed him. I came back again in the morning and they confessed. They said all of the men were dead. They were proud.

On September 20 [the date Indonesia agreed to let a UN peacekeeping force enter East Timor], we were forced to go to West Timor. They told us if we didn’t leave we’d be killed. I stayed in the camp there till the end of October. When I came back the people investigating the killings told me what had happened that night. After they killed my husband, they put his body in a rice sack. They did the same with all the men. Then they took their bodies to a house, threw them inside, and burned it down.