What a city feels like after ISIS attacks it: voices from Jakarta

15 Jan 2016   lucyejwoods

On Thursday the 14th January, the so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for suicide bombings and shootings in the centre of the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

According to Reuters, the attack killed seven, five of which were the attackers themselves, with twenty more people from various nations wounded from the multiple blasts and gunfight. The attack took place in central Jakarta, near Jakarta’s oldest department store, Sarinah and a Starbucks café.

But what does it feel like to study, work and live in Jakarta, one day on from the attacks?

Talking to Ahmad Rizal Aditya Rodhi Putra, a 23-year old student of Bina Nusantara University (BINUS) – a university campus down the road from the site of the attacks – he said the local area “just looked like something from the theatre or a Hollywood film set” shortly after the attacks.

Putra was at a mall within 1km of the attacks when explosions were first reported. Security checks were increased at the mall but Putra says when he found out about the attacks on his city he “did not feel like there was a threat.” He saw “shooting from the side of the road” along with “many ambulances and armoured vehicles” heading towards the city centre.

Elsagina Wiranti Putri, also a student at BINUS University, was training for a new job at one of Jakarta’s tallest office towers, the Sahid Sudirman Center, about 4km from the attacks when concerned friends rang to make sure she was OK. “I panicked, because Sahid Sudirman Center is not that far from the attacks.”

“People in the Sahid Sudirman Center went home immediately” Putri adds.

Citra Cempaka, who works for Batavia Tour and Travel in Kemang, South Jakarta – about 5km from the attack site – was in her office when she heard the news, “I just felt afraid.”

Both Cempaka and Putri say they know someone that was hurt in the attacks.

Out of the seven fatalities two have not been identified; one fatality was Canadian and four were Indonesian. Out of the wounded being treated in local hospitals, ten are police and seventeen are civilians. Thirteen of the wounded are Indonesian citizens, one is Dutch, one Algerian, one German and one Austrian.

Shortly after the attacks a message for US citizens from the US embassy in Jakarta told citizens to avoid the area around Sari PanPacific Hotel and SarinahPlaza on Jalan Sudirman Thamrin due to “an explosion and gunfire”.

“Yesterday [Thursday 14th] a lot of work activities were stopped and all the Starbucks outlets in Jakarta were closed” says Putra.

However, one day on from the attacks, Putra says Jakarta feels like it “is back to normal.” He says this is “because of the nature of Indonesian people, we are smiling and relaxed, we think it is a minor threat because of how stupid the terrorists look.”

“Now we do our activities as normal and there is nothing special for the terrorists. Do not hesitate to go to Indonesia because our country is beautiful”, adds Putra.

“After the bomb attack people are now doing activities and routines just as well” says Cempaka.

Putri says that straight after the attack “everything was already back on track I suppose.”

The governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has said CCTV will be tightened in several places in Jakarta as a response to the attacks.

When asked if the attacks will change how the city feels, Putri says “I do. I think it will…”

Whereas Cempaka thinks not. “No, I don’t [think so] because it’s not the first time we have suffered a bomb attack and citizens know how to solve it, and solve it well.”

Asked if they are worried about a repeat attack, both Cempaka and Putri seem certain of one.

As well as ‘catastrophe tourism’, some locals have used entrepreneurial initiative, as the attack site “is now where people go and take selfies, there are even many impromptu booths selling goods on the edge of the area,” describes Putra.

Isis claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after it happened with the statement: “A group of soldiers of the caliphate in Indonesia targeted a gathering from the crusader alliance that fights the Islamic State in Jakarta.”

Putra says in regards to Isis: “I really hate the terrorists; they are not Muslim, but, they are still just saying that they are Muslim.”

Indonesia “has 250 million people who are ready to fight against the threat, we will work together to fight it,” says Putra. “If we work together we will easily defeat [Isis].”

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation. According to the Pew Research Centre, in 2009, 88% of the Indonesian population, some 202 million people, are peaceful followers of the Muslim faith.

“We hope this will never happen again in our country and in other countries, because such incidents harm our country in the eyes of the world, and I hope for all the people in the world to help each other,” adds Putra.

Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo has gone to the site to denounce acts of terror and to announce that those in Jakarta “must not be afraid of the terrorists.”

Responses on social media have reflected the people of Jakarta’s resilience and bravery, with the ‘we are not afraid’ #KamiTidakTakut and the ‘brave Jakarta’ #JakartaBerani hastags being used.


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