'All Eyes on Papua' campaign generates interest in deforestation cases

'All Eyes on Papua' campaign generates interest in deforestation cases

Representatives of the Awyu and Moi Indigenous tribes protest in front of Indonesia's Supreme Court
Representatives of the Awyu and Moi Indigenous tribes protest in front of Indonesia's Supreme Court. Photo: BAY ISMOYO / AFP
Source: AFP

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A campaign seeking to drive support for Indigenous tribes fighting palm oil plantations in eastern Indonesia is spreading widely online after taking inspiration from an AI-generated image of Gaza.

Mimicking the 'All Eyes on Rafah' graphic that splashed across social media last month, the 'All Eyes on Papua' image has been shared nearly three million times on Instagram since last week.

The campaign comes as Papua's Awyu and Moi Indigenous communities battle palm oil companies in court over massive tracts of land.

The Awyu tribe -- reportedly made up of 20,000 members who rely on the land for their subsistence -- is appealing an Indonesian court's decision to allow palm oil firm PT Indo Asiana Lestari (PT IAL) to clear large swathes of forest for plantations.

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The company has been issued a 36,000-hectare (89,000-acre) government concession, more than half the size of the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

In southwest Papua, the Moi tribe has filed a lawsuit against the PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo (SAS) company, which plans to clear 18,160 hectares of forest for palm oil plantations.

"I believe the support we're seeing reflects a shared concern with the Awyu and Moi tribes in their resistance," Tigor Hutapea, a lawyer for the tribes, told AFP about the online campaign.

"This is a call to action, to save ourselves. As the forests continue to diminish, we are already feeling the consequences."

Both tribes are fighting their ongoing legal cases in the country's Supreme Court and members of both staged a protest in Jakarta last month.

"We are fighting for our land... where will we go? We are protecting this for our future generations," Awyu tribe plaintiff Hendrikus Woro told AFP.

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Papua lost 2.5 percent of its tree cover between 2001 and 2023, according to Global Forest Watch.

In November, a Papuan court ruled that PT IAL's permit was valid, rejecting the Awyu tribe's argument that the concession had been granted based on a flawed environmental impact assessment.

The tribe and environmental NGOs also claim opponents of the palm oil firm's plans have faced intimidation.

PT IAL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Palm oil is a billion-dollar industry in Indonesia, which is the world's largest producer and exporter of the commodity used in everything from chocolate spreads to cosmetics.

The European Union agreed in 2022 to ban palm oil imports linked to deforestation.

Source: AFP

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