Sunday, February 22, 2015


Exhibition : "Timorese  women sharing  from  their heart ! "

Following the outbreak of war in the Pacific after the sudden attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on 7 December 1941, Australia, as an ally of America, feared that Japan would invade the island of Timor in order to attack Australia. So on 17 December 1942, the allied forces of Australia and the Dutch Indies moved into Portuguese Timor in order to arrest the Japanese advance. At that time, the Portuguese Governor, Manuel de Abreu Ferreira de Carvalho, did not consent to the presence of allied troops in Portuguese Timor but  he  was powerless to do  anything  to  prevent  them. 

Due to the defensive presence of the allied troops, the Japanese no longer considered Portuguese Timor to be neutral so on 20 February 1942, the Japanese military invaded the territory of Portuguese Timor. The primary forces were Regiment 228 (Regiment Commander, Colonel Sadaschi Doi) from Infantry. The regiment split into two. The first group attacked Kupang and the second conducted a daylight attack on Dili. 

With the Japanese invasion, the Australian allied forces retreated into the mountains to the west and south. But gradually the Japanese Forces made ground on the Australians until, on 10 February 1943, the remaining Australian forces withdrew from the south coast and retreated back to Australia.  

At the beginning of September 1942, Division 38 was replaced by Division 48 (Commanded by Lieutenant Yuitsu Dobashi and Infantry Division Commander, Major-General Koiche Abe). Division 48 was composed of a number of units, including the 47th Infantry Regiment Formosa 1 and 2, followed by the 48th Artillery Regiment Mount Formosa, 48th Machine Regiment Formosa, etc. In some areas, two units of the Special Operations Forces were also deployed, namely the ‘Tomiki Organ’ (infantry forces) and ‘Othori Organ’ (naval forces). In total, there were 12,000 soldiers from the 48th Division deployed throughout Timor, with the General Command of the 48th Division based in Dili. There were also three regional commands in Lautem, Ossu and Dili.  

Portugal protested against the Japanese invasion as a contravention of Portuguese sovereignty and neutrality. However, Japan accused Portugal of potentially supporting the enemy (allied forces) of the Portuguese people through its behaviour. Due to long-standing oppression from the Portuguese, many Timorese took advantage of the opportunity to retaliate against the Portuguese, with manipulation by the Japanese Special Operations Unit. This insecurity led to the Portuguese Governor accepting the Japanese presence, handing over all weapons to the Japanese, and gathering together all Portuguese people in one camp (deconcentration camp).  

The three and a half years of the Japanese invasion inflicted enormous suffering on the Timorese people, including widespread destruction, forced labour and servitude, starvation, execution of all those suspected of supporting the allied forces and violence of a level that traumatised the whole generation. Of all the suffering inflicted on the people of Timor, the one violation that is rarely if ever spoken of, is the sexual slavery and sexual abuse inflicted on numerous Timorese women.
 Lanfu” is a Japanese word that is used to describe women who forcibly become ‘wives’ of the military. During the Second World War, the Japanese forces, which were spread across many Asian countries, including Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste, systematically forced women into military houses to attend to the sexual needs and desires of the Japanese military. These women were forced into slavery by threats and deception. Some women were forced to become ‘provisional wives’ to the senior commanders, other women, who were required to attend to the needs of numerous soldiers, were known as ‘ianfu’ (comfort women).
They weren’t able to escape due to the strict security and threats the Japanese used to scare them. Some ianfu forced to travel with military units, when they were redeployed, for example from Korea to Java or from Java to Timor. Ianfu that were taken with the military units were known as “Jugan-Ianfu”. Houses for the Ianfu were known in Japanese as ‘Ianjo’.  

They were not prostitutes, they were victims of sexual violations. They lost their freedom and were violated on numerous occasions in many locations over the course of three years. According to International Law, provisional wives and ianjo are sexual slaves. This is concerned a war crime and a crime against humanity.  

In Timor-Leste, during WWII, Japanese forces also took provisional wives or used ianfu/sexual slaves. They targeted both young girls who had yet to hit puberty and those who already had husbands. Parents were threatened with death or arrest if they didn’t allow their daughters to become provisional wives or ianfu. 

 The suffering inflicted on these women didn’t end when the Second World War ended. They continued to suffer severe social discrimination from their communities because they dignity as women had been destroyed. Many victims continued to suffer trauma from their experiences as sexual slave and refused to share their stories to anyone, including their families. 
February 20 is the anniversary of the Japanese military invasion in Timor-Leste, now 73 years ago. Our intention is to share publicly the facts that we have discovered through research conducted from 2005-2007 between the HAK Association and the Japan Coalition for Timor-Leste. We were able to interview 85 people and 15 survivors of sexual slavery (ianfu) who were still alive. Today just 11 are alive. In 2006, two passed away, Marta Abubere no Esmeralda Boe from Bobonaro. In 2007, Clementina Cardozo from Suai passed away. And in 2009, Mariana de Souza Freitas from Baucau Fatumaca also died. There are a number that don’t wish to be identified as victims, therefore during the research no one was obliged to share their experience, but we requested their understanding of speaking out about things they have kept deep in their hearts.  

This Jugan Ianfu exhibition is an opportunity to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese invasion, and our objectives are as follows: 1.   Inform the public about the reality of the Japanese occupation in Timor-Leste from 1942-1945. 2.    Awaken public consciousness to the abhorrence of war and the repulsive behaviour that happens during wars, particularly to vulnerable members of society (women and children)  . 3.  Increase survivors’ solidarity amongst the victims, particularly those former slaves (“comfort women”) in Timor-Leste. 

At the Sydney Conservatorium of  Music yesterday (Saturday) , a  special concert  was staged  to mark  the 70th birthday  of  Martin Wesley-Smith and  his  contribution  to  Australian  music , which will be broadcast on ABC Classic FM  at 8pm on  the  25th.   Many of  the pieces to be heard  were inspired by passionate causes such as freedom for East Timor and West Papua, or some social  issues closer  to   home.