TIME World

Indonesian Woman Who Offered to Wed Whoever Bought Her Home Finds Groom Is Already Married

For sale: House (and wife) in Indonesia
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Wina Lia, 40, poses at her home in Sleman, in Indonesia's Yogyakarta province, on March 12, 2015

A publicity stunt that could eventually turn into a soap opera

Perhaps it was always too good to be true. Indonesian homeowner Wina Lia, who offered to marry whoever agreed to purchase her house, has now discovered that the man of her dreams is in fact already married.

Redi Eko agreed to wed Wina as well as buy her home, and had admitted that he was once married, but another woman has since stepped forward, claiming she is still his legitimate wife, Indonesian media reports.

Wina, a 40-year-old single mother, is ostensibly surprised. “He never told me,” she said, as quoted by Kompas daily. “Yes, I am shocked when I read from mass media that he already has a wife. I am disappointed.”

Redi’s alleged wife, Endang Titin Wapriyustia, who, like Wina, who earns a living by running a beauty salon, also said that she was “surprised” when she heard her husband wanted to marry another woman.

Endang said she and Redi were married on March 8, 2014. They had known each other since they were teenagers and they reconnected after Redi’s first marriage ended and Titin’s husband passed away, leaving her with three children. The couple don’t see each other often because he lives in Lampung, in Sumatra, while she resides in the central Javanese town of Solo — not far from Yogyakarta, where Wina lives.

Endang said she wouldn’t stop her husband from marrying Wina, as long as they get divorced first.

But she hopes Wina would reconsider her plan to marry Redi. “He gave me many promises before, from buying me a luxurious house, a car for my child and taking me for an umrah [minor pilgrimage to Mecca], but until now, nothing,” Endang said. “Since we married [in March 2014], he didn’t give me money apart from 300,00 rupiah [$23] for Eid al-Fitr and 10 million rupiah [$760] for the wedding.”

Whether any of this has influenced Wina is unclear, though she has put her marriage plans on hold, saying: “I am postponing it, until this matter is taken care of.”

TIME indonesia

Indonesia’s ‘Virginity Tests’ Obsession Highlights Its Truly Rotten Armed Forces

Indonesian Air Force female soldiers par
AFP/Getty Images Indonesian air-force female soldiers parade during a ceremony in Jakarta on April 9, 2007

Institutions grounded in sense and equality would never employ such a ghastly procedure, say activists

For decades, Indonesian women wishing to join the armed forces and police force, and also those planning to marry military officers, have had to quietly undergo a humiliating procedure known as the “virginity test.”

It’s a dirty secret that wasn’t made public — until Human Rights Watch began highlighting the practice. In a report released last week, the New York City–based advocacy group called for Indonesia’s military to stop imposing virginity tests on female recruits and fiancées of military officers — six months after revealing that Indonesia female police candidates were required to take the test.

“They argue that they want the physically and mentally best candidates to join the armed forces,” Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at HRW, tells TIME. “It’s the same logic in seeking military wives. They consider a virgin is mentally healthier than a nonvirgin. They reportedly often say, ‘How could you defend the honor of our nation if you cannot defend your own honor?’”

General Moeldoko, the military commander, sees nothing wrong with the practice. “It’s a good thing, why criticize it?” he told journalists last Friday. The virginity test “is a measure of morality. There’s no other way,” he added.

His reaction echoed that of a high-ranking police officer. The head of the national police law division, Inspector General Moechgiyarto, said the test was necessary to maintain the police force’s moral standards. “If she [a candidate] turns out to be a prostitute, how could we accept her for the job?” he said last November. (Other police officials denied the practice, though. Then national police chief General Sutarman said that same month that female recruits were required to undergo medical examinations, not virginity tests.)

The invasive two-finger virginity test, which the World Health Organization slams as having “no scientific validity” and which Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence Against Women condemns as a form of sexual violence, is a recurring topic in Indonesia. Public officials and legislators frequently float an idea to impose virginity tests, particularly on schoolgirls.

Last February, a city councilor of Jember, in eastern Java, suggested that graduating middle-school students should be required to take virginity tests. “If she is not a virgin, she can’t graduate,” he said. In late 2013, the education chief of Prabumulih, in South Sumatra province, proposed the test as a requirement for female students to enter high school. Both ideas, as with others, were shelved following public outcry.

But why is Indonesia so enamored of the idea of virginity? The authoritarian New Order regime may be gone, but its idea of women as a symbol of the nation’s moral guardian is still very much alive, says Lies Marcoes, a women’s-rights activist and medical anthropologist. In the democratic reform era, the rise of religious conservatism and the sense that moral values are under siege have made the idea even stronger. “Virginity has become more sacred,” Lies says. “For state institutions like the military, virginity test is a ‘moral’ symbol to cover up what is rotten.”

It is estimated that female officers comprise just 3% and 2% of the police and the armed forces, respectively. Male police and military officers far outnumber their female counterparts, but no officials have ever mentioned what test is required to gauge the men’s morality.

The use of virginity testing has been documented in several other countries. In Afghanistan, women and girls accused of “moral crimes,” such as running away (often from an abusive home or forced marriage) or extramarital affairs, are often subjected to the test. Despite a court ruling condemning the practice, virginity tests are still illegally used in Egyptian detention facilities. India has not yet systematically put in place a new protocol banning the test on rape survivors across the country.

It is unclear when Indonesia’s police and armed forces began conducting the virginity test, but HRW interviewed women who took the tests from as far back as the 1960s. Female military candidates are usually tested en masse at military hospitals, in large halls that are divided into curtain-separated examination rooms. “Those who defend the virginity test believe in junk science,” says Harsono of HRW. “They believe if [a woman’s hymen] is torn between 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock, it’s due to accidents. If it’s torn at 6 o’clock, they believe the woman has had active sexual activities.”

Irawati Harsono, commissioner at the women’s commission and a retired police officer, had to take the test when she joined the police force three decades ago. “As a woman who experienced it, I felt the test was very discriminatory and degrading,” she says. “Nobody could forget it, which means it is a traumatic experience.”

One retired air-force officer recalled she couldn’t have sex with her newlywed husband during their honeymoon, four years after she took the test. “My body was so stiff. I couldn’t open my legs,” she said, as quoted by HRW. “It was because of the trauma that I had with that ‘virginity test.’”

Following the HRW report last week, several lawmakers called for an end to the virginity test, saying there is no connection between virginity and morals. Interior Minister Tjahjo Kumolo had promised in December that he would scrap virginity tests for women joining the civil-service colleges.

Activists urge President Joko Widodo to abolish it, but the Indonesian leader, a social conservative, has so far been reticent on the issue. And there is little expectation of a major reversal on the attitude or policy. “The more the public thinks the nation’s morals are in disarray,” Lies says, “the stronger is the pressure on women to guard the symbol of purity, which is measured with the most ancient parameter that lies in the subconsciousness of patriarchal men: ‘virginity.’”

TIME World

Woman Who Offered Herself Along With Her House Finds a Buyer (and Husband)

For sale: House (and wife) in Indonesia
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Wina Lia, 40, poses at her home in Sleman, Indonesia, on March 12, 2015

The asking price was $76,500

An Indonesian woman who offered her hand to a suitable buyer of her house has found a man willing to both buy the property and marry her, local media reports.

“His name is Redi Eko,” Wina Lia, 40, told Kompas daily this week. “He is also looking for a wife.”

Like her, Redi is also a single parent. When he heard about Wina’s financial difficulties, the 46-year-old state-owned company employee offered his assistance. “He will sell his house in Lampung [in Sumatra] and will use the money to help me,” she said.

Wina put her two-bedroom, two-bathroom house, which comes with a fish pond and spacious backyard, in Sleman, in Yogyakarta province, up for sale two months ago. The asking price was around $76,500. Her online ad went viral, thanks to the tagline: ‘Buy the house and marry the owner at the same time.’

Redi said that he had already planned to move to Yogyakarta to be closer with his children, who go to university there. “Whether with Wina or somebody else, I will still live in Yogya,” Redi told Kompas.

The pair have yet to meet in person, but they have been talking on the phone and exchanging text messages daily, and will meet face to face soon. “The plan is, we will go on umrah [minor pilgrimage to Mecca],” Wina said. “If everything goes smoothly, we will get married next month.”

TIME indonesia

How Indonesia’s Migrant Workers Helped Save the Life of Mary Jane Veloso

Indonesia Executions
Tatan Syuflana—AP Marites Veloso, front center, sister of Filipina migrant worker on death row for drug offenses Mary Jane Veloso, is surrounded by media at Wijayapura port in Cilacap, Indonesia, after visiting her sister on April 29, 2015

The Filipina maid was walking toward the execution ground when she was told she was granted a temporary reprieve

Some minutes after the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, eight men walked to the execution ground on the Indonesian island of Nusakambangan. The prisoners, who belonged to different faiths, all chose not to be blindfolded and reportedly sang the Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” until the executioners’ bullets were fired, killing them.

Pastor Karina de Vega, who was with the condemned drug convicts until the last moment, told the Sydney Morning Herald, “They bonded together. Brotherhood.”

The world had joined together in pleading to Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who vows not to grant clemency to drug convicts on death row, to spare the prisoners’ lives. Their pleas fell onto deaf ears: the Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the Bali Nine pair who had outwardly repented during the decade they spent at a Bali prison; the four Nigerians who included the so-called Death-Row Gospel Singer; one poor Indonesian laborer; and one mentally ill Brazilian died at around 12:25 a.m. local time on Wednesday. Some of them still had ongoing legal appeals.

Jokowi decided to spare the life of the ninth drug convict, however. At literally the last minute, as Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina migrant worker, was walking out from her cell to the execution ground, she was told she was granted a temporary reprieve.

The delay came after a woman who allegedly recruited Veloso surrendered to the Philippine authorities on Tuesday afternoon. (Veloso maintains she was a victim of human trafficking and duped into carrying 2.6 kg of heroin into Indonesia.) Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, who had met Jokowi on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, made another appeal to his Indonesian counterpart to spare the 30-year-old Filipina the next day, saying she could be a key witness in prosecuting drug syndicates.

“The execution of Mary Jane has been postponed because there was a request from the Philippine President related to a perpetrator who surrendered herself in the Philippines,” Tony Spontana, spokesman for the Indonesian Attorney General’s Office, told reporters on Wednesday morning. “Mary Jane has been asked to testify.”

Manila’s diplomatic pressures aside, Indonesian migrant activists and women’s-rights activists also played a big role in actively lobbying on behalf of Veloso and helped spark a social-media campaign in Indonesia. The National Commission on Violence Against Women says Veloso was a victim of domestic abuse who, driven by poverty, went to work as a helper in Dubai to support her two sons, but returned home after she was nearly raped by her employer. Driven by desperation, she accepted a job offer in Kuala Lumpur, which led to her arrest in Yogyakarta in 2010. It’s a story that resonates in Indonesia, where millions of women seek work abroad as domestic helpers to support their families, frequently falling victim to ill treatment, exploitation and abuse.

Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a former Indonesian helper whose severe abuse in the hands of her Hong Kong employer made international headlines, called Veloso a “friend” and, just hours before the scheduled execution, joined other Indonesian citizens in pleading to Jokowi to save Veloso’s life. Sringatin, a migrant worker and activist in Hong Kong, took part in rallies in Jakarta; her fellow worker-activist Eni Lestari led protests in front of the Indonesian consulate general in Hong Kong. Two female legislators from Jokowi’s party, Eva Sundari and Rieke Diah Pitaloka, also voiced their support to the Filipina prisoner.

Anis Hidayah, executive director of Jakarta-based Migrant Care, is among workers’-rights activists who have been campaigning for Veloso. When she attended Jokowi’s emergency meeting to discuss Veloso’s case on Tuesday afternoon, she tells TIME, “I told the President that [Indonesian] migrant workers on death row overseas are in the same position like Mary Jane, they are all victims. As I spoke, I couldn’t help crying.”

Six million Indonesian migrant workers remitted $8.55 billion to their families last year — a record high — according to the World Bank (in contrast, the Philippines’ 12 million workers remitted $28.4 billion back home last year, the biggest in Southeast Asia). But there’s a grim fact: there are hundreds of Indonesians currently on death row overseas (the Indonesian government says there are 229, but Migrant Care puts the number at 290). Jokowi has vowed to fight for their lives, despite his hard-line approach to drug convicts on death row back home.

The latest executions “will have a big impact,” says Anis, whose organization opposes the death penalty. “It will create an obstacle and narrow down the Indonesian government’s room for diplomacy to free migrant workers from death row overseas.”

It isn’t clear yet what will happen to Veloso: if her alleged recruiter is found guilty, whether she would have a new trial. On Wednesday, Jokowi said Veloso’s execution “is only delayed, not canceled.” But Anis vows that migrant-workers’-rights groups from Indonesia and the Philippines will keep on fighting for Veloso.

And, after all the controversy surrounding the latest round of executions, the activist says, “I hope it can be a valuable lesson for the law enforcement that death-penalty decisions should not be made carelessly.”

TIME indonesia

Indonesian Media Says 8 Foreign Drug Smugglers Executed

PHILIPPINES-INDONESIA-CRIME-DRUGS-EXECUTION
Ted Aljibe—AFP/Getty Images Activists hold candles and placards with portraits of Mary Jane Veloso in front of the Indonesian embassy in Manila, Philippines on April 28, 2015.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected clemency appeals

Eight drug convicts, all foreigners, were reportedly executed by firing squad in Indonesia on Wednesday, after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rejected pleas from foreign governments and thousands of his own citizens to halt the executions.

The inmates, four Nigerians, two Australians, one Brazilian and one Indonesian, were killed on the Nusakambangan prison island early Wednesday, the Jakarta Post reports. But another condemned prisoner, Filipina domestic helper Mary Jane Veloso, was spared at least temporarily after new evidence came to light confirming her claim she was tricked into smuggling drugs.

The executed inmates included Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Australians who were part of the Bali Nine drug-smuggling group. Their former lawyer, Mohammad Irfan, has alleged to the Sydney Morning Herald that judges asked for more than $77,000 in bribes to give the pair a lighter sentence, and he also accuses Jakarta of political interference — once again putting a spotlight on Indonesia’s judicial system, which is largely seen as corrupt.

A Frenchman, Serge Atlaoui, was earlier given a temporary reprieve pending a legal appeal, which was granted after French President François Hollande warned: “If he is executed, there will be consequences with France and Europe.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (and former East Timorese President) José Ramos-Horta, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, British tycoon and adventurer Richard Branson and iconic hard-rock guitarist Tony Iommi were among the chorus of foreign leaders, fellow celebrities, local and overseas activists and ordinary people asking that the convicts’ lives be spared.

Families of the condemned came to Nusakambangan to spend the last hours with their loved ones, as police and military stepped up security there and in Cilacap. Chan, who was ordained as minister in the decade he spent at a Bali prison, asked to go to church with his family during his last days, said his brother Michael. As his last wish, Sukumaran, who began painting while incarcerated in Bali, has asked “to paint as long and as much as possible,” his brother Chinthu said. One of his latest self-portraits shown to journalists depicts a harrowing image of the artist shot through the heart.

Read next: Inside Indonesia’s Islamic Boarding School for Transgender People

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME indonesia

The Internet Is Begging the Indonesian Government to Spare a Filipina Single Mother’s Life

A protester holds a placard urging the Philippine and Indonesian government to save Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina facing execution in Indonesia, during a protest in front of the Indonesian embassy in Makati city
Romeo Ranoco—Reuters A protester holds a placard urging the Philippine and Indonesian governments to save Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina facing execution in Indonesia, during a protest in front of the Indonesian embassy in Manila on April 24, 2015

"Is my President a murderer?”

As the executions of 10 drug convicts loom in Indonesia, a massive social-media campaign has kicked off in support of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina maid set to face the firing squad.

The hashtag #MaryJane was the No. 2 trending topic on Indonesia’s Twittersphere on Friday morning, hours after Veloso was transferred to the execution island of Nusakambangan. As her family flew to the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, where Veloso was held, Indonesians rallied to urge President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, to spare the life of the 30-year-old migrant worker.

Indonesian celebrity chef Rahung Nasution launched a tweet storm on Friday morning, detailing how Veloso ended up in an Indonesian prison and how the Indonesian government handled her case. “Jokowi is not battling drugs. He is executing poor women, like the migrant workers in Saudi Arabia!! #MaryJane,” Rahung tweeted, referring to the two Indonesian domestic workers executed in the Middle East country last week.

Dewi Candraningrum, the chief editor of feminist magazine Jurnal Perempuan (Women’s Journal), uploaded her charcoal-on-paper drawing Mary Jane and tweeted, “She is a victim of trafficking. Is my President a murderer?” The National Commission on Violence Against Women also posted a series of tweets on why the government should not execute Veloso.

One Twitter user wrote, “I agree with death penalty for drug cases, as long as it’s for big-time drug dealers, not couriers or duped victims like #MaryJane.”

Another tweeted, “Sorry for #MaryJane how is it possible for a victim of a drug dealer is sentenced to death. As if people’s life is a plaything.”

While local support for other foreign drug convicts has been muted, there is a wider sympathy toward Veloso, a single mother of two, who said she was not a drug dealer but a victim of trafficking and was duped into carrying narcotics into the country. She was initially promised a job in Malaysia, but upon arrival there, she was told her job was in Indonesia. While in Malaysia, the drugs were secretly sewn into a suitcase she was lent, her family said. She was arrested at Yogyakarta airport in April 2010 after authorities found 2.6 kg of heroin in her suitcase. She was found guilty and sentenced to death later that year.

Veloso launched her first appeal in March, questioning the competence of the translator provided to her during the trial, but it was rejected by the Indonesian Supreme Court. She was transferred from Yogyakarta’s prison to Nusakambangan execution island at 1 a.m. on Friday.

On Friday, the Philippine government filed a second appeal for judicial review on behalf of Veloso in another attempt to save her life.

TIME indonesia

A Student Got Prosecuted in Indonesia for Moaning About Her College Town

INDONESIA-ISLAM-MEDIA-CULTURE
ROMEO GACAD—AFP/Getty Images A picture taken on June 27, 2009, shows an lndonesian Facebook patron looking at her page at an internet shop in Jakarta

Anything from complaints about service to criticisms of a spouse's employer can, and is, being prosecuted under Indonesia's shockingly harsh Internet defamation law

Last year, a 26-year-old Indonesian law student, angry with her experience at a petrol station in her university town, Yogyakarta (or Yogya), wrote this on the social-media site Path: “Yogya is poor, stupid and uncultured. Friends in Jakarta and Bandung, please don’t stay in Yogya.”

A few years before that, in the Indonesian city of Bandung, a mother of three had a private chat with a friend on Facebook, confiding about her then husband’s alleged domestic violence.

Those two women were later taken to court.

The student, Florence Sihombing, was found guilty on April 1 by the Yogyakarta District Court of defaming the city of Yogyakarta and given a two-month jail sentence, a $770 fine, and six months’ probation — even though she had apologized profusely to the Sultan and citizens of Yogyakarta. The mother, Wisni Yetty, 47, was found guilty of defaming her ex-husband by the Bandung District Court on the same day and given five months in prison and ordered to pay a $7,700 fine. The judge overlooked the fact that her husband had hacked into her Facebook account.

What’s even more shocking is that there is nothing exceptional about these cases or the punishments given. Scores of Indonesian netizens are landing themselves in legal trouble because of what they say online. It belies the image of Indonesia as the world’s third biggest democracy, whose citizens are not only prolific users of social media but also enjoy greater Internet freedom, especially compared with their Southeast Asian neighbors.

Communicating across social networks is everything in Indonesia. The country is the world’s biggest market for Path, fourth largest for Facebook and fifth for Twitter. It is also a huge market for messaging apps, from WhatsApp to BlackBerry Messenger.

The appetite for online discussion and debate, meanwhile, is ferocious. Long before tech venture capitalist Marc Andreessen made popular a Twitter genre known as tweetstorm, Indonesia’s Twittersphere already had kultwit, or Twitter lectures, on everything from religious doctrine to political gossip. A tweet on then presidential candidate (now President) Joko Widodo became the world’s No. 2 most recirculated tweet last year, second only to the star-studded Oscar selfie.

The Indonesian constitution guarantees freedom of expression. However, as the cases of Sihombing and Wisni attest, anyone can be punished harshly under the draconian Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE) Law for a throwaway remark online. Since the Indonesian parliament passed the legislation in 2008, more than 70 people have been reported to police, arrested, taken to court and even jailed. Last year alone, there were 44 cases prosecuted under the ITE Law, according to Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network.

Among the targets were ordinary citizens who wrote thoroughly mundane things. There was a housewife who criticized the management staff of the company where her husband once worked. A patient who complained about the service she got at a private hospital. A blogger who engaged in a Twitter war with a former lawmaker that ended in a suspended jail sentence for the blogger. An anticorruption activist accused of defaming a politician on BlackBerry Messenger, who spent 100 days in prison before he was freed by a court in South Sulawesi province. And a civil servant who faced trial because he criticized a local district head on the Line messaging app.

Critics dub the ITE legislation “rubber law” because its ambiguous wording makes it open to broad interpretation, and they warn it could be used to muzzle journalists and activists

Cases of supposed defamation — like Sihombing’s and Wisni’s — are prosecuted under Article 27 of the law. Abdullah Alamudi, senior lecturer at Dr. Soetomo Press Institute who was a member of Indonesia’s Press Council from 2007 to 2010, calls it the “ghost article” because its inclusion took many people by surprise. “That particular article was practically inserted at the eleventh hour,” he says. “Not a single member of the Press Council then, including myself, knew about it until the next day, after the bill was passed into law.”

In response to mounting criticism, Minister of Communication and Informatics Rudiantara promises that a revision of the law is on the parliament’s agenda this year. But Alamudi is skeptical.

“People in parliament like Article 27 because it makes journalists and members of the public cautious about criticizing them,” he tells TIME, calling for the the legislation to be reviewed instead by the Constitutional Court, and pointing out that many of the cases being prosecuted are over matters of opinion.

“If people can’t express their opinion,” Alamudi says, “one day they won’t be allowed to think.”

TIME World

This Indonesian House Is for Sale and Comes With a Pond, a Backyard and … a Wife

If you don't talk the price down, you can marry the owner

A homeowner in Indonesia has put her house on the market, and herself with it.

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Sleman — a sleepy district near the Javanese city of Yogyakarta — comes with a fishpond, spacious backyard and a chance to ask 40-year-old owner Wina Lia for her hand in marriage.

The asking price is the rough equivalent of $76,500. “Buyers who don’t negotiate the price,” the sales literature says, “can ask the owner to marry (terms and conditions apply).”

Wina’s online ad went viral, prompting a local news outlet to track her down and confirm that the offer was genuine. “Indeed it’s true, Wina is ready to be married by a house buyer,” the headline says, as tweeted by Sleman’s unofficial Twitter account.

Dian Purna Dirgantara, the realtor who concocted the plan, tells TIME that his advertisement is working.

“Since yesterday morning there are continuous calls, I don’t count how many, there must be dozens or even hundreds.” He clarifies that marriage isn’t a must. “If someone just wants the house, they can have that,” he said.

Wina, a single mother, told news outlet Kompas.com that the idea was dreamed up when she mentioned her desire to once again find a partner.

“Dian suggested I put up the tagline ‘Buy the house and marry the owner at the same time.’ And I said O.K. to it. I’m looking for a husband anyway,” she said.

Read next: Watch This Guy Propose to His Girlfriend 365 Times Without Her Knowing

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME indonesia

Bali Nine Arrive at Indonesian Execution Island as Jokowi Spurns Clemency Pleas

Australian death row prisoners Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are seen in a holding cell waiting to attend a review hearing in the District Court of Denpasar in Bali
Antara Photo Agency/Reuters Australian death-row prisoners Andrew Chan, center, and Myuran Sukumaran, left, are seen in a holding cell waiting to attend a review hearing in the District Court of Denpasar, on the Indonesian island of Bali, on Oct. 8, 2010

Despite taking a hard-line stance with foreigners on death row in Indonesia, President Joko Widodo has vowed to save the lives of his compatriots facing execution abroad

In the darkness of early morning hours Wednesday, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were woken by the Kerobokan prison guards in Bali. It took them 10 minutes to wash and dress for the transfer to Nusakambangan, the prison island in Central Java, where death-row prisoners are set to face the firing squads.

Chan and Sukumaran, sentenced to death in 2006 for drug trafficking, are among a group of 10 prisoners slated to be executed in Indonesia. Despite numerous and repeated pleas from across the globe to spare them — some of whom, like the two Australians, say they have reformed behind bars — Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, stands firm on his decision not to pardon drug convicts on death row.

On Thursday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop offered to swap three Indonesian prisoners held in Australia in a last-ditch attempt to save her compatriots. Although no official response has so far been received, Jokowi told al-Jazeera that the foreigners’ executions would at least not take place this week.

Many, including local rights activists, have criticized Jokowi’s blanket rejection of clemency and called on the 53-year-old carpenter’s son to consider each case on its own merits. Foreign leaders from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as musicians from Black Sabbath and Napalm Death (Jokowi is a big heavy-metal fan), have asked him to show mercy.

Jokowi announced in December that he wouldn’t give clemency to 64 prisoners on death row for drug-related crimes because Indonesia is in a state of “drug emergency.” He said 4.5 million people need rehabilitation and 18,000 people die every year because of illegal-drug use — a claim that, research analyst Claudia Stoicescu of Harm Reduction International points out, is based on “questionable statistics.”

Todung Mulya Lubis, lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran, questions the government’s decision to proceed with transferring the pair, known as the Bali Nine duo, to Nusakambangan while they are still waiting for the legal appeal process. “We still have hope, but we realize it’s only a miracle that can fulfill it,” Todung tells TIME. “They are now in Nusakambangan, and that means it’s just a matter of time [before the executions], likely to be days.”

Other drug convicts awaiting judicial reviews include a Filipina mother of two and a French citizen. Lawyers said Brazilian citizen Rodrigo Gularte should be exempted from the death penalty because he suffers from severe mental illness, but Indonesia’s Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo rejected this plea.

There are few public figures who openly criticize the death penalty in Indonesia, including Jakarta Governor Basuki T. Purnama, who was Jokowi’s deputy. Overall, however, Jokowi enjoys considerable public support for being “tough” on drug traffickers. On Dec. 24, weeks before six drug convicts were executed in January, he visited the headquarters of Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the two biggest mass Islamic organizations in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and received official blessing for his death-penalty policy.

Between 1999 and 2014, democratic Indonesia executed a total of 27 people, of whom seven were foreigners. In contrast, five of the six people executed on Jan. 18 were foreign citizens, and nine of the 10 set to be put to death this month are non-Indonesians. All of those executed or slated to be executed so far this year are drug convicts, while only seven of the 27 people executed in 1999 to 2014 were drug convicts. “With the focus on narcotics crimes, foreigners are likely to be executed,” says Dave McRae, senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute.

Under the presidency of Jokowi’s predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia didn’t carry out any executions from 2009 to 2012, or in 2014. As Yudhoyono pushed a policy to save Indonesian citizens on death row abroad, he gave clemency to drug convicts, including Schapelle Corby of Australia, a decision that stirred a firestorm of public hostility against foreign drug traffickers.

The Jokowi administration has announced 20 executions scheduled for this year — that doubles the existing record number in the post-Suharto-dictatorship Indonesia: in 2008, 10 prisoners were put to death, including the Bali bombers. “It is ironic,” Todung says, “that so many executions happen in democratic Indonesia.”

Notably, Jokowi’s hard-line stance jars with his repeated pledges to save the lives of Indonesians on death row abroad. On Feb. 27, Ajeng Yulia, a 21-year-old Indonesian, was sentenced to death in Malaysia for drug trafficking. Her case adds to the long list of Indonesian citizens facing execution outside their homeland — according to the Foreign Ministry’s count on Feb. 24, a total of 229 Indonesians have been sentenced to death overseas, including 131 for drugs cases. Jokowi, however, doesn’t appear to register the contradiction between vowing to save the lives of Indonesian citizens abroad while dismissing pleas from foreign governments on behalf of their citizens.

“We don’t have moral strength when we try to defend our migrant workers who are sentenced to death,” Todung says.

Instead, Indonesia has stepped up its nationalistic rhetoric. Jokowi shrugged off diplomatic repercussions from countries like Brazil, whose President refused to receive the Indonesian envoy’s credentials. “Don’t try to interfere,” Jokowi said Monday. “This is our legal sovereignty.” Armed-forces chief General Moeldoko dispatched four fighter jets to escort Chan and Sukumaran’s chartered plane en route to Nusakambangan. Says McRae: “This has become a political theater that Indonesian can stare down political pressure.”

TIME portfolio

Meet the Sulfur Miners of Eastern Java

Photos reveal the hazardous work of sulfur miners at Kawah Ijen, a crater in eastern Java, Indonesia

Looming 2,799 m (9,183 ft.) above sea level, Gunung Ijen in Indonesia’s eastern Java is a volcanic wonder that attract hundreds of foreign and domestic tourists daily. During daytime, they climb the mountaintop to reach Kawah Ijen, the volcano’s crater lake famous for its mesmerizing turquoise hue. When darkness descends, hikers clamor to witness the glowing blue liquid fire that streams from the crater down the mountainsides. It isn’t lava, but the sulfur for which Kawah Ijen is renowned.

It is also sulfur that brings hundreds of miners to Kawah Ijen every day. They make the perilous journey climbing 9,000 ft. to the summit and then 3,000 ft. down into the crater. The miners descend to the womb of the volcano, defying scorching heat and rarefied air, in search of the precious material that is used to manufacture countless products — from matches, rubber, insecticides and fertilizer to cosmetics, batteries, sugar and film.

Rome-based photographer Luca Catalano Gonzaga traveled to Indonesia in late last year and spent 10 days at Gunung Ijen to capture the miners’ daily toil. Many of the photos were taken after dark, as many men prefer to work when the heat is more tolerable.

Gonzaga titles his project “Devil’s Gold,” a biblical allusion to hell as the fiery lake that burns with brimstone — the ancient name for sulfur. Sulfur mining at Kawah Ijen is certainly a hellish job. Not much has changed since mining officially began here in 1968. Every day, around 300 men leave the base camp carrying traditional equipment like torches and metal poles to break the sulfur slabs, though with little protective gear. Only a few men are given gas masks, while the rest rely on wet scarves or rags to cover their mouths, in a largely futile attempt to protect themselves from the caustic gas that singes the eyes, throats and lungs, and can even dissolve teeth.

Once the miners collect their sulfur, they haul the fully loaded baskets, weighing between 70 kg (150 lb.) and 90 kg (200 lb.), out from the crater, climbing 60-degree slopes, and then down to the base camp. They get 10,000 rupiah (78¢) for 10 kg (22 lb.) of sulfur. Suwono, 33, works four days a week, from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., to support his wife and son. Carrying 70 kg of sulfur twice a day earns him 140,000 rupiah ($11) — but it also comes with a price: Suwono has a disfigured back. Deformed spines and bent legs are disturbingly common among miners.

Such physically demanding and hazardous work means miners’ average life expectancy barely reaches 50 years. More than 70 people have died in work-related accidents at Kawah Ijen in the past four decades, many due to the toxic fumes that billow suddenly from the rock’s fissures.

Aware of the risks they face daily, the miners don’t want their children to follow in their footsteps. “They want to throw off the shackles of a destiny,” Gonzaga says, “for this reason, they push their kids to go to school and have an education.”

“Devil’s Gold” is part of a wider project called Invisible People, which is funded by Nando Peretti Foundation.

Luca Catalano Gonzaga is a photographer born in Rome. He co-founded Witness Image and focuses on covering human rights issues.

Michelle Molloy, who edited this photo essay, is a senior international photo editor at TIME.

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