Filep Karma 23053

Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins


The nation of West Papua is mourning the loss of their most-famous political prisoner Filep Karma. According to news outlet The Guardian, Mr Karma was found on a beach in Jayapura this week.

Known for his influential human rights activism and campaigning for West Papuan independence and liberation from Indonesian occupation, Filep has been at the forefront of the decades-long struggle that dates back to the 1960s.

West Papua was a Dutch colony and forcibly annexed by the Indonesian government. Indigenous West Papuans have been fighting for independence ever since.

Jailed twice for his non-violent activism, Filep raised the Morning Star flag in 1998, a symbol of Papuan identity outlawed by their Indonesian occupiers. The demonstration resulted in the Biak massacre, where scores of peaceful West Papuans were killed by Indonesian security forces.

Imprisoned alongside many other West Papuans, Filep raised the flag again in 2004, and served an 11-year sentence. He was finally released in 2015.

Speaking to the media Benny Wenda, head of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua, says Filep was equivalent to Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or Martin Luther King in the eyes of West Papuans. Benny also called for a national day of mourning.

RNZ news reported that autopsy results indicate his death was caused by a diving accident. He is survived by his children Audryne and Andrefina Karma.