According to Human Rights Watch, Indonesia’s queer panic began in January 2016, when several prominent politicians, including the vice-president, issued strong anti-LGBT statements. They were reacting to queer student activism at the University of Indonesia but the discourse rapidly took on a life of its own. Indonesians went to the polls to elect a new president today. Neither the incumbent, Joko Widodo, nor his opponent has a significant track record of supporting LGBT rights. Queer activists have been at the forefront of the voter abstention movement. Early counting suggests Widodo will serve another five years in office.
Friday, 28 September was the first and, it turned out, only day of the Nomoni cultural festival in Palu, a city in the heart of Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. Nomoni means ‘resounding’ or ‘ringing’ in the indigenous Kaili language; Palu’s mayor revived the vaguely animist celebration three years ago to attract more tourists. Festivities include throwing live goats and food as offerings into the sea, boat races and live music. Last year, Nomoni was met with heavy rain and floods – a bad omen, but nothing compared to what happened this year, when the city was pulverised by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and the tsunami that followed it. They struck at around 6 p.m., when Muslims were performing the last of their day’s prayers and Nomoni festivalgoers were taking sunset selfies. The ground beneath their feet liquefied. The death toll is 2000 and rising.