Violent Image as the Justification of Exclusion
The feelings of exclusion by “locals” that youth experience somehow influence their stronger sense of belonging to Timor Leste than to Indonesia. In general, the East Timorese have been labeled as a violent and harmful community. This prejudice still exists today because of past violent occurrences in the area. Following the violent riot between East Timorese and “locals” over land disputes, there have since been riots between youths from both groups. For example, there were serious violent riots in 2000, triggered by local youths’ mockery of the dialects spoken by East Timorese youths, resulting in the burning of traditional markets in Oesao in Kupang District (Fraga, interview on July 14, 2014).
Such violent acts somehow help inform the stereotype of East Timorese, especially among students. This violence is related to an often repeated story about the East Timorese in the initial years of their arrival in Naibonat when a school was burned down after some of East Timorese children did not pass the national examination and failed to continue to a higher level. Although their classmates and teachers perform less discriminatory actions these days, the violent stereotype of the East Timorese remains. As a consequence, the youths even now encounter difficulties interacting with locals because the division of “us” and “them” still exists.
The separated residential location from locals’ housing area has a significant effect on the feeling of being excluded. Those who stay in the camp area or in the East Timorese homogenous neighborhood encounter more serious challenges to mingling with local peers. Girls who live inside ex-refugee camps told me that their local friends still address them as pen- gungsi, a refugee, behind their backs. A 13-year-old girl said: “Sometimes, they yell “pengungsi” at me when we fight or when they gossiped about me. They actually are scared of me. We are known as excellent fighters” (Group interview, July 10, 2014). Often the physical conditions of their houses inside camps are very poor because they are made from plaited geuwang leaves and wood. Through evaluating the youths’ conditions, it is clear that local integration has not been conducted successfully and the principle of safety and dignity has not been fulfilled.