It was a solemn Idul Fitri for the 33 Ahmadiyah families who spent the holiday living at the Haj Transito dormitory in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara.
The Ahmadis were forcibly displaced from their homes in West Lingsar, West Lombok, in February of 2006. Local residents told the members of the beleaguered Islamic sect to convert to mainstream Islam if they want to return.
Seven years later, 128 men, women and children were still sleeping at the dormitory. Dozens of others have moved in with friends and families in Lombok. They share a large open hall separated into smaller cubicles by curtains hung from the ceiling.
The shelter has no electricity or running water.
On Idul Fitri, the only signs of the holiday were a row of plastic jars containing dry cakes in a window. The Ahmadis prayed at a dilapidated mosque at the complex.
But hopes among the displaced families remained high.
“Our children are very happy on this Lebaran,” Syahiddin, a local leader, said. “They are increasingly convinced that they will get their own independence and hope that this year will be the last year we will have to stay in this shelter.”
The children raised the red and white Indonesian flag during Friday’s Independence Day celebration. The children ran races while balancing a marble on a spoon and plucked coins from the surface of sticky fruits.
“This is our seventh year here, where we have lived since we were expelled from our village,” Syahiddin said. “We are hoping that this year we will leave this shelter.”
The Ahmadiyah sect has been labeled a “deviant” form of Islam in Indonesia over the belief that there was a prophet after Muhammad. Its members face discrimination and violence across the archipelago where Indonesian Muslims have vandalized Ahmadiyah mosques or homes and attacked Ahmadis without fear of arrest.
Children living at the shelter seemed at home in the spartan conditions. Cinta, a young teenage girl, was neatly dressed in a faded blue “mukena” (“prayer robe”) embroidered with pretty orange flowers.
“This is an old mukena,” Cinta explained. “No one here bought new ones. Mother said that this can still be used.”
Munikah, her mother, said the she cannot afford to buy her children new clothes for the holiday.
“The children are used to this, that they will have no new clothes for Lebaran,” she said. “Every Ahmadiyah child hopes for nothing more than being able to return home.”