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Woman’s Leadership in a Conflict Area


Focus 42nd Edition

Woman’s Leadership in a Conflict Area

By : AD. Kusumaningtyas

“Gajah bertarung sama gajah, pelanduk mati di tengah-tengah.”(Elephant fights against Elephant, small deer died in the middle).The sound of this  Indonesian proverb is very popular, especially when we are learning proverb in Indonesian at Elementary School. If the leaders fight, then the employees or members will be the victims. It seems that the expression is not profuse to describe conflict situation, military war, or dispute among the society nuanced violence that caused victims from ordinary people, invariably the women and children. 

Conflict and the Impact toward women : An Illustration

Wherever armed conflict occurs, it can be preconcerted that the number of sexual violence towards women increased. The reason is simple. Women are persecuted, raped, because the perpetrators want to humiliate self-esteem of their family and tribes, even their country. An action that also makes anxious the responsible parties of Security Council in the United Nations ( U.N ), so that in October, 2000 Security Council decided a resolution number 1325. Since then, for the first time internationally all countries in the world notice particular situation for the women in armed conflict. The resolution of United Nations number 1325 defined two points. The first is women should be participated widely in the negotiation of peace. The second is the women in an armed conflict should get better protection.

Besides armed conflict in the context of military war, form of the other conflicts are mass conflict or horizontal conflict occured in the community. Record of the violence occured since the begining till the end of Daerah Operasi Militer (DOM) or Operation Military Area in Aceh, even nowdays it found a new format by its “ Syari’at Islam”, conflict among Islam and Christian Community in Ambon and Poso, or others violence nuanced religion as occured in Ahmadiyah Community in Cikeusik Banten, Manis Lor Kuningan, and Mataram NTB,or Syiah Community in Sampang, even in a minority context occured in Christian HKBP Philadelpina Bekasi or GKI Taman Yasmin in Bogor, women also had discrimination and double discrimination. 

One of the discrimination form and double discrimination that is afflicting to the women and children at evacuation area daily. Masruchah, vise chairman of National Women Commission mentioned an example that there are 7 children followers of Ahmadiyah in Transito Mataram Homestead could not study at school because they have no birth certificate to register for school. Their parents can not make birth certificate because they do not have Identity card, and their marriage can not be noted in the registry office. About 138 people from 34 families Ahmadiyah Community evacuate in Transito Mataram Homestead since expelled from their hometown in Ketapang village, dorp of Gegerung, district Lingsar, West Lombok, in the early of February 2006. Up to now, noted at least 20 babies born during the time of evacuation. 

In general, form of the violence experienced by women in conflict area occured while the conflict is happening or when they are on the way to the evacuation camp ( including evacuation in the local area ) is a phisycal violence, such as ; striked, slapped, kicked, threw food or something to them, trampled, injured by bare hands or with tools or weapons. It is often done by the perpetrators to the women who fight back or rebel. Meanwhile psychics  violence are ; screaming, threatening, cursing, humiliating, controlling, harassing, stalking, spying, and other actions that can caused frightened  ( including towards the people who close to the victims, for instance the family ( children, husband, parents, relatives, and close friends ).

Not only those kind of violences, but also sexual violence intimidating the women who live in the conflict area everyday. In this context, women become shield by their  family or community. In the conflict situation women also made as tools of terror. It means that the women’s body used as tools to frightened and weaken the enemy by the acts of sexual violence, such as sexual harassment, raping, or trial of rapping. After conflict, the economic condition usually stuck in difficulty and poverty increased. This time the women who still had been comodity forced to be sex workers. Documentation of Women’s Commission in 1998 – 2010 noted 1.503 cases of sexual violences from 3.283 violence cases towards women in conflict area such as in Aceh, Poso, Maluku, Papua, Timor Leste, tragedy 65, and May 1998.

Excavating the History of Women in a Conflict Situation 

Various conflict and war often associated to the women, so there is a proverb stated that “ wealth, position, and woman “ is a temptation of life. Continuously the folktale related to be told, one of the most popular is the story about Bubat War in Sunda Land. 

Bubat War occured in 1279 Saka Year or 1357 BC in the reign of King Majapahit, Hayam Wuruk. The tragedy of Bubat War began from the intention of King Hayam Wuruk who wanted to marry princess Dyah Pitaloka Citraresmi from Sunda Land. Purportedly, the interest of Hayam Wuruk to the princess caused by appearing the drawing of the princess in Majapahit; which was painted secretly by an artist in that time named Sungging Prabangkara. However, another version stated that the marriage of Dyah Pitaloka thrusted by political reason to align with Sunda Land, the result of insistence from vice king Gajah Mada who wanted to his Palapa Swear made by him before Hayam Wuruk become a King.

In short story, there was a misunderstanding caused the two motivations which was repelled. Gajah Mada forced to the King of Sunda to come to Bubat together with the bridegroom and a few soldiers who guard them to give statement of surrender and confess of Majapahit superiority to Sunda in the archipelago. This missunderstood continued to the conflict even a war also killed Dyah Pitaloka who chose to suicide for the purpose to maintain the honor of her land. The values regarded as a symbol of heroism and courage that inherite by the people in Bali’s culture through “ puputan “ tradition that is action of war till die done by the men followed by ceremony of suicide by the women.         

The story above is only a reflection of how the women situation related to the conflict. However, armed conflict definitely contribute violence which is potentially occured by women, as well physical violence, psychic, or sexual violence. They will always face the situations such as : (1) Women as an identity of a group that always set up them as target violence of warring group, (2) Women as shield for the warring group, (3) Women as the object of sexual violence, (4) Women are going to bear double affliction, (5) Women are forced to be the perpetrators of violence towards women from other group in a conflict, and (6) Women should be a peace maker always forgotten their role.

The women situation in every war on conflict certainly diverse. Indonesian history noted that women also involved in war, such as done by Tjoet Njak Dhien and Laksamana Malahayati from Aceh, Nyi Ageng Serang from Mataram, Martha Christina Tiahahu from Maluku. Meanwhile, in the era of Japanese occupation, the girls gathered in a female group called by Fujinkai. They had a job at the back line to administer the public kitchen, treating the war victims, planting cotton tree, jatropha tree, rice, and other works related to women’s working. They are also trained to do march. Even playing weapons like sword, and Sharp bamboo. This organization involved in semi military activity. Moreover, many women are forced as Jugun Ianfu or prostitute to satisfy sexual needs of Japanese’s soldiers in Indonesia and also in the other colonies of Japan in 1942 – 1945. 

In the time of conflict 1965 or well known as New Government Era as an incident of G 30/S PKI, women imaged involve as perpetrators of killing the Generals after the Generals kidnapped and exiled to Lubang Buaya. Women Organization fight against Poligami judged very proggressive at the time, known by Gerwani, imaged as inhuman women showing naked dance in the name of “scent flower dance “ while cutting sex organ of the generals. A hesitant occasion at once criticized by historians. It is not impossible, the stories deliberately exposed with the purpose of demoralization which eventually weaken the passion of women struggling.         

Meanwhile, in the new government era while Aceh people live in military operation area, the women in Aceh had dark period. Humanity crime that can not be forgotten by the history. In the book of Dari Maaf ke Panik Aceh, Otto Syamsudin Ishak wrote Aceh women become victims of killing, persecution, raping, and sexual intercourse by New government soldiers. Happening nudity in public, raping in turns, even her sex organ electrocuted. Actually, in the time of conflict women also struggle and take strategic role to defend themselves, their family, and their community. During peace, the Aceh women, in the community or social politics, actively empower themselves to contribute in the development of peaceful. Unfortunately, the women’s  strategic role is not appreciated even forgotten. Even in the formulation of politics concencus process in Aceh in the last resulting peace agreement in Helsinki, women are not involved actively. Even the agreement is successful, perspective and women’s agenda do not get any significant places.     

Women as Peace Agent 

Apparently women also involved in a negotiation directly to resolve conflict. El-Bushra (2003) wrote that in Sierra Leone, for example, a state in Africa the women also take a part in a political campaign, demonstration, and conferences to pressure the government and the insurrectionists to converge in the negotiating table. They are also repressing the government to arrange the election immediately and return to the civilian government. In Somalia, the women are very persistent in demonstrating to pressure the both sides are in battle willing to have negotiations for peace. 

Only mentioning a few examples, another woman who has a significant role in terminating the conflict situation is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, The first female president in Liberia who won the Nobel of peace award in 2011. Besides Ellen, there are 2 (two) women of hers as the receivers of Nobel Peace Award, they are Leymah Gbowee from Liberia and Tawakkul Karman from Yemen. Gbowee is the founder of Moslem and Christian Women Organization to fight against the landlord of Liberia, because of her kindness trasforming brave female character, in 2009 she had awarded profile in Courage awards, an award for audacity. While Tawakkul Karman is an activist and also a journalist who do struggling non violence to women salvation and women’s rights to work fully in the working of developing the peace. 

In Mindanao Philippine, Yasmin Busran Lao through her organization named A-Mujadilah, had welded dialogue between Moslem and Christian community. With the purpose is to understand each other and to avoid the conflict. Yasmin through this organization also support women’s role in attempting to create peace. 

In our own country,  there are many examples, such as, peace activities carried out women organization in Ambon, Poso, Pontianak, Aceh, Papua, and in other areas in the past when the conflict occured. Their activities generally came so naturally, coming up spontaneity to the surface based on moral humanity consciousness and deeply political ethics to respond survival life’s needs and preserving life. Yet, after the conflicts subside or cease, suddenly the naturality of their peace activities subside back and lost from the surface. Whereas, in the context now entered after conflict and wading political democratic life, the activity of peace still important to be implemented. 

According to Lian Gogali, the women are truthfully the best peace agents because they have capability to see further the historical facts about conflict and consider from perspective based on community. As an example, she noted that during the conflict in Poso the women warn each other when the dangerous situation occured,even while the husband and children are in conflict and in an opposite position. Therefore, Lian who established The Institute of Mosintuwu expect that the women can lead the main role in negotiation in the family and influence decision-making process to get peace solution when a conflict re-occure.

Women’s Leadership in the Conflict Transformation 

When the violence is on going on, the women may be considered as the most most concerned parties to end the conflict immediately. Violence is very disturbing in daily life, functioning and the on going of family reproduction, starting from reproduction function especially related to the birth time and parenting the children up to the family function in general meaning,as well as running the economic activity and community life in general. In this function, women occupy the main position. Violence conflict occured really disturbing and inhibiting the function of social and family reproduction as well as it can be understood why the women naturally take a part in peace action as a form of survival needs and continuing life. 

Conflict resolution is one of the main component of the effort in developing peace, which includes all efforts to create peace, prior to the beginnig of conflict, in the conflict period, and when the conflict has over. Therefore, the effort of developing peace is still needed after the conflict. Since, at the time of conflict ended peace does not exist itself. Even, while the belligerents attend to the negotiating table together and agreed an amicable settlement, there are a lot to do to stave off armed conflict. The are three main components of developing peace, those are (1) Preventing the conflict: consist of the whole of efforts  to prevent the armed conflict caused by distinction in society, ethnicity, and faiths; (2) Conflict resolution: includes of the whole efforts to encourage the belligerents to have conflict resolution in ending the conflict; (3) Restoration or Reconstruction after conflict : involve all efforts of politics, economic, culture, and psycological to recreate a community freed from conflict in the future. 

Need to be concerned that somewhile there is something missed from the people’s attention that the people who participating in the halting of conflict efforts, such as occure in Ambon. It is a local initiatives through the relation and interaction of the people in the lowest level, for instance the truck drivers, jibu-jibu ( fish sellers ), street vendors, they initiate to establish the special zones to interact (Baku Bae Zone), and processing to the reconciliation. 

Other efforts also implemented through Sekolah Perempuan (School for Women) for learning media together related to the reconciliation. Lian Gogali, receiver of Coexist Prize from London, also founding  Sekolah Perempuan which become the place for Poso’s female education. In the school the subjects to be taught are tolerance and peace, gender and politics issue up to economic development. Women School for Peace also initiated and developed by Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) Indonesia, in some regions such as Pondok Bambu and Kampung Sawah (Jakarta), Loji (Bogor), Pamona and Malei Lage, women as peace activists also need to share various experiences about how they perform conflict transformation to peace. 

Besides Lian Gogali,we also need to learn from Bai Hajar Tualeka, the receiver of Saparinah Sadli Award in 2010 which persistent expressing peace after the conflict in Ambon, as well as Suraiyya Kamaruzzaman, the activist of human right from Aceh, receiver of N-Peace Award in 2012 who constantly invite the women to firm against acts of violence, as occured in Aceh in conflict era or situation that afflict the women on behalf of “ Shari’a Islam “ which is still ongoing at this time. They are the women who always inspired by islam teaching about salam ( peace ), or Mahatma Gandhi’s thought about  ahimsa (Anti-violence ), and the affection that always done in daily life of Mother Theresa. 

Religion and the initiative in developing peace

Truthfully “ faith “ according to the definition of Sanskrit means “ well-ordered “, but in the reality there are a lot of people precisely make the chaos and violence on the earth on behalf of religion. Habit in this act of destructing, seemingly has already predicted by the angels before Allah The Almighty creating human being (Adam) on the earth. In Qur’an Chapter Al-Baqarah verse number 30 stated protest of the angels about this thing. 

Which means : 

“ Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “ I will create a vice-gerent on earth. “ They said” “ Wilt thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood ? Whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy ( name ) ?” He said: “ I know what ye know not.”

But, apparently Allah has different purpose. Through a faith “ Islam “ which we know, actually the message of “ salam “ which has basic word s-l-m ( Read : ‘sin, ‘lam, ‘mim ) the same as the name of the faith delivered. Besides that, Allah allso send his prophet Muhammad to make Islam as a religion that become mercy to all the World. Naturally, it will happen if the human being can overcome any conflicts occured in life. 

In the context of Islam history, after the death of The Prophet, women also have important noted in the early days of the presence of politics conflict Sunni and Syiah. One of the most popular war is the story of Jamal war wherein Sayyidah Aisyah r.a, the wife of Prophet Muhammad become the war leader against Ali bin Abi Thalib. Called by Jamal War because the Humairah valiantly rode the camel. The conflict continued with the presence of Shiffin War of Muawiyah against Ali and his followers. Another story, in the Prophet’s era there was a comrade’s wife named Ummu Salamah who has to seperated from her husband and children caused by war. From the time that she separated from her husband and children, everyday Ummu Salamah goes to the field and sits while crying. It has done for a year, untill one day, her cousin from Descedant of Mughirah looked at her and told to other Descedants of Mughirah, “ Didn’t you compassionate to the poor woman ? You had seperated her from her husband and children.” Both of the storeis above showed that in a conflict, women may have two position as well as the subject or victim. But, of course the position as victim leaving injury and seriously wounded. 

In several religion lectures, the teachers also quoted prophet’s hadith stated that fellow are prohibited to hostile and silence our brothers more than three days. Certainly, the teaching can not be separated from the important of communication to avoid misunderstanding and prolonged conflict.

Further, we need to review the message to do ta’aruf  as disclosed in Qur’an Chapter Al-Hujurat verse number 13

Which means 

“ O mankind ! We created you from a single ( pair ) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other ( not that ye may despise each other ). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is ( he who is ) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well-acquainted  ( with all things ). “ ( Qur’an Chapter Al-Hujurat verse Number 13 )

Hopefully, by continuing our friendship, we can be more understanding so that we can avoid every kind of disputes, dissension, or conflict on the earth. Thus, our effort to weave peace surely comes from our truth awareness,insya allah! {} AD. Kusumaningtyas


  1. Look at the writing entitled International Amnesty Demand of Women Protection in Conflict Area, as quated from the website http://www.dw.de/amnesty-international-tuntut-perlindungan-perempuan-di-daerah-konflik/a-3245458
  2. Look at the writing entitled National Women Commission Criticize Freedom as quoted from the website http://yahanayahanu.blogspot.com/2012/11/komnas-perempuan-kritisi-kebebasan.html
  3. Look at the writing by Diyah Irawati, Violence Against Women in Conflict Area as quoted from Republika Daily Newspaper, Tuesday 13th August 2002
  4. Look at the result of the interview with Desti Murdijana, vice chairman of national Commission on 5th August 2012, Sexual violence as a terror in every conflict, as downloaded from the website http://www.komnasperempuan.or.id/2011/08/kekerasan-seksual-menjadi-alat-teror-dalam-setiap-konflik/ 
  5. Refer to the writing about Bubat War as quoted from website http://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/perang_Bubat
  6. Refer to the writing entitled Women in the Conflict Situation quoted from Frame of reference activities serial thematic discussion National Women Commission in the Photo exhibition Jugun Ianfu ( August 12th – September 12th 2010 ), as downloaded from the website http://www.komnasperempuan.or.id/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Perempuan -dalam-situasi-Konflik.pdf
  7. Look at the writing, Djogdja Tempo Doeloe : Jogja’s Girl Joined Fujinkai 1944, September 7th 2010, as quoted from the website http://www.tembi.net/id/news/yogyakarta-tempo-doeloe/gadis-jogja-masuk-fujinkai-1944-3223.html
  8. Refer to the article about Jugun Ianfu as quoted from the website http://id.wikipedia/org/wiki/Jugun_ianfu
  9. Look at Asvi Warman Adam’s writing, historian from LIPI his book title is Ten Controversy of Lubang Buaya, which was issued by SINDO Newspaper, Monday 1st October, 2012, as downloaded from the website http://nasional.sindonews.com/read/2012/10/01/18/676015/sepuluh-kontroversi-lubang-buaya
  10. Look at the writing of Ema Arifah/Arwani entitled Mourning of Aceh Women, 23rd September 2012, as quoted from the website http://www.vhrmedia.com/2010/mobile/detailmobile.php?.e=6142
  11. Look at the writing entitled Voice of the Women http://forjusticeandpeace.wordpress.com/suara-perempuan-suara-perdamaian/
  12. Refer to the writing entitled The Concept of Gender Mainstreaming in Attempt to Create Peace, as quoted from the website http://wri.or.id/id/pengembangan kapasitasworkshop/Konsep Pengarusutamaan Gender dalam Upaya Menciptakan Perdamaian
  13. Refer to the writing entitled Three Winner Women of Peace Nobel 2011, Friday 7th October,2011, as qupted from the website http://dunia.news.viva.co.id/news/read/253646-nobel-perdamaian-tahun-ini-milik-3-wanita
  14. Refer to the writing entitled Women’s Role in Society, Saturday 28th August, 2010 quoted  from the website http://nur-ulfah-a2.blogspot.com/2010/08/peran-perempuan-dalam-masyarakat.html
  15. Refer to Lambang Trijono’s writing, Women’s Genuinity in Developing peace, quoted from http://amanindonesia.org/discourse/2010/09/30genuinitas-perempuan-dalam-pembangunan-perdamaian.html
  16. Refer to Devin E. Bramhall entitled Institute Mosintuwu: A Place for Poso Women, 12th July 2011, from http://thejakartapost.com/news/2011/07/12/institute-mosintuwu-a-place-poso-women-.html
  17. Refer to Lambang Trijono’s writing, Women’s Genuinity in Developing peace, quoted from http://amanindonesia.org/discourse/2010/09/30genuinitas-perempuan-dalam-pembangunan-perdamaian.html
  18. Refer to the writing entitled The Concept of Gender Mainstreaming in Attempt to Create Peace, as quoted from the website http://wri.or.id/id/pengembangan kapasitasworkshop/Konsep Pengarusutamaan Gender dalam Upaya Menciptakan Perdamaian
  19. Refer to the quotation writing of Toisuta et al., 2007)
  20. Refer to the writing entitled Spreader Peace Women in Poso, Thursday, 2nd May 2013, from the site http://lazuardi-biruu.blogspot.com/2013/05/perempuan-penyebar-perdamaian-di-poso.hhtml
  21. Directly visit the website AMAN Indonesia at http://amanindonesia.org/agenda.html
  22. Refer to Baihajar Tualeka’s writing : Voice for peace in Ambon Homeland, presented in Digital Edition Jakarta Newspaper, Wednesday 12th June, 2013, downloaded from the site http://koran-jakarta.com/index.php/detail/view01/114767
  23. Refer to the writing Human Right Women Activist Indonesia receiving award on their works against violence, quoted from http://www.undp.or.id/press/view.asp?FileID=20121014-1&lang=id                                      

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