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Reuniting Timor-Leste’s “Stolen Children”

In May 2015, AJAR reunited fourteen of an estimated 4,000 ‘stolen children’ with their families, after up to 35 years apart. These children were taken from East Timor to Indonesia by Indonesian military forces during the military occupation, when most were five to ten years old. The survivors were gathered from many areas of Indonesia, and AJAR staff in Timor-Leste gradually identified and contacted their families. Some of the parents in Timor had erected gravestones for their lost children, believing them to be dead.

Throughout the entire week-long program, people approached with letters and photographs asking for help in finding their children. The Prime Minister met with the group in his office, where he emotionally stated that his own sister had also been taken. The program was front-page news, covered by television and other media in Timor Leste, as well as in Indonesia and internationally.

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The saying “Chega Ba Ita” underlines our belief that the CAVR report was written based on the experiences and voices of the people, for the people. It is not a document that should be shelved and forgotten. It is a living document to be understood, debated, and re-invented for generations to come.

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