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 Burma

U.S. Condemns Burma’s Treatment of Rohingya as Migrant Crisis Intensifies

Nearly 4,000 people remain stranded at sea with dwindling supplies

Washington called on the nations of Southeast Asia to marshal their forces to help thousands of Burmese and Bangladeshi migrants who have been marooned on the high seas for weeks.

UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, warned on Tuesday “that time was running out” for the migrants fleeing sectarian violence in Burma and poverty in neighboring Bangladesh.

“We estimate that nearly 4,000 people from [Burma] and Bangladesh remain stranded at sea with dwindling supplies on board,” Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR spokesman, told journalists in Geneva. “Unconfirmed reports suggest the number could be higher.”

On Wednesday, fishermen from the Indonesian province of Aceh helped rescue more than 430 stranded migrants, many of whom were suffering from dehydration and starvation after spending months on rickety trawlers.

Indonesian, Thai and Malaysian officials held an emergency meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday to address the desperate plight of the migrants, who were abandoned by traffickers following a crackdown on their smuggling networks in Thailand. Following the meeting, both Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to stop pushing boats back to sea and provide temporary shelter to thousands adrift at sea. (Thailand made no such guarantee.)

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department lambasted Burma, officially called Myanmar, for failing to address the root cause of the crisis, which observers say stems largely from the government’s refusal to recognize the Muslim minority as lawful citizens.

“What needs to change here is that the Rohingya need to feel welcome in the country of their birth, in the country of their parents’ birth, of their grandparents’ birth,” Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor, told CNN during an interview on Tuesday.

“They need to be treated as citizens with dignity and human rights.”

Within Burma, the Rohingya are widely discriminated against by the country’s Buddhist majority and are commonly viewed as interlopers from Bangladesh, despite overwhelming evidence that they’ve lived in the country for generations.

The Burmese government has even refused to discuss the migrant issue with other nations who used the term Rohingya instead of Naypyidaw’s preferred, and racially loaded, term of Bengalis.

“If we recognize the name, then they will think they are citizens of Myanmar … Myanmar cannot take all the blame for these people who are now at sea,” Zaw Htay, a director in the office of Burmese President Thein Sein, told CNN.

The Rohingya were effectively rendered stateless after being stripped of their citizenship by the former ruling junta in 1982 and have been systemically excluded from Burmese society since.

Following a rash of ethnosectarian rioting in 2012, more than 120,000 Rohingya have been forced to reside in squalid displacement camps, bereft of adequate food or medical supplies, which has been instrumental in pushing thousands to flee by boat with the hopes of reaching Malaysia.

In a bulletin published on the front page of the state-backed daily the Global New Light of Myanmar on Wednesday, Burma’s Foreign Ministry promised to begin providing humanitarian assistance to “anyone who suffered in the sea.”

Read next: The Rohingya, Burma’s Forgotten Muslims by James Nachtwey

However, analysts argue that little will change in the long run until Burma and neighboring countries address the systemic conditions that prompt this wretched community to risk their lives at sea rather than live in the country of their birth.

“The governments need to pull Myanmar to the table regardless of whatever excuses they try to come up with,” Lilianne Fan, co-founder of the Indonesia-based Geutanyoe Foundation that works to assist the refugees and migrants in Aceh, tells TIME.

According to the statistics compiled by the International Organization for Migration, more the 88,000 people have made the dangerous voyage across the Bay of Bengal since 2014, including 25,000 who arrived during the first quarter of this year.

At least 1,000 are believed to have died at sea because of “the precarious conditions of the voyage, and an equal number because of mistreatment and privation” wrought by human traffickers.

TIME indonesia

Over 430 Migrants Taken to Indonesia After Months at Sea

Migrants sit on their boat as they wait to be rescued by Acehnese fishermen on the sea off East Aceh, Indonesia, May 20, 2015
S. Yulinnas—AP Migrants sit on their boat as they wait to be rescued by Acehnese fishermen on the sea off East Aceh, Indonesia, on May 20, 2015

More than 430 migrants stranded at sea were brought ashore to safety by Indonesian fishermen

(SIMPANG TIGA, Indonesia) — A flotilla of Indonesian fishermen rescued more than 430 migrants who were stranded at sea and brought them ashore to safety Wednesday, the latest victims of a humanitarian crisis confronting Southeast Asia. Hoping to find a solution, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia held an emergency meeting to address the plight of the migrants who are fleeing persecution in Burma and poverty in Bangladesh.

The migrants were rescued early Wednesday by more than a dozen fishermen’s boats, said Herman Sulaiman, from East Aceh district’s Search and Rescue Agency.

It was unclear if the migrants were on one boat or had come from several, but an initial batch of 102 people were the first brought to shore in the village of Simpang Tiga in Indonesia’s eastern Aceh province, Sulaiman and other rescuers said.

“They were suffering from dehydration, they are weak and starving,” Khairul Nove, head of Langsa Search and Rescue Agency in Aceh province. Among the 102 passengers were 26 women and 31 children, he said.

One of the migrants, Ubaydul Haque, 30, said the ship’s engine had failed and the captain fled, and that they were at sea for four months before Indonesian fishermen found them.

“We ran out of food, we wanted to enter Malaysia but we were not allowed,” he said.

One of the fishermen who led the rescue was 40-year-old Razali Puteh. He said he spotted a green wooden trawler crammed with people who were screaming, waving their hands and clothes at him to get his attention.

As he neared the trawler, people aboard began jumping into the water, trying to reach his boat. He said he asked them to stay on their boat, which apparently had no motor, and promised to return with help. He then returned with other fishing boats and brought the migrants to shore.

The rescue after Indonesia’s foreign minister said late Tuesday that the country had “given more than it should” to help hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded on boats by human traffickers.

The foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, was meeting Wednesday with his counterparts from Malaysia and Thailand in an emergency meeting called to discuss how to solve the migrant problem. Representatives from the U.N. refugee agency and the International Office for Migration were also expected to attend the meeting.

“This irregular migration is not the problem of one or two nations. This is a regional problem which also happens in other places. This is also a global problem,” Marsudi told reporters after a Cabinet meeting at the presidential palace.

Marsudi said Indonesia has sheltered 1,346 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants who washed onto Aceh and North Sumatra provinces last week. The first batch came on May 10 with 558 people on a boat, and the second with 807 on three boats landed on Friday. Even before the crisis, nearly 12,000 migrants were being sheltered in Indonesia awaiting resettlement, she said, with most of those Rohingya Muslims who have fled persecution in Buddhist-majority Burma. No more than 500 of those migrants are resettled in third countries each year, she said.

“Indonesia has given more than it should do as a non-member-state of the Refugee Convention of 1951,” she said.

The crisis emerged this month as governments in the region began cracking down on human trafficking. Some captains of trafficking boats abandoned their vessels — and hundreds of migrants — at sea. About 3,000 of the migrants have reached land in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, but all three countries have pushed some ships away. Aid groups estimate that thousands more migrants — who fled persecution in Burma and poverty in Bangladesh — are stranded in the Andaman Sea.

Burma’s cooperation is seen as vital to solving the crisis, but its government has already cast doubt on whether it will attend a conference to be hosted by Thailand on May 29 that is to include 15 Asian nations affected by the emergency.

Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta contributed to this report.

TIME indonesia

Over 100 Migrants Taken to Indonesia After 4 Months at Sea

26 women and 31 children among those rescued

(LANGA, Indonesia) — Indonesian fishermen have rescued more than 100 migrants who were stranded at sea for more than four months.

The 102 are the latest in a stream of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stuck on boats off Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

“They were suffering dehydration, they are weak and starving,” said Khairul Nove, head of Langsa Search and Rescue Agency in Aceh.

He said there were 26 women and 31 children among those rescued.

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

Up to 6,000 Rohingya, Bangladeshi Migrants Stranded At Sea

Illegal immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh arrive at the Langkawi police station's multi purpose hall in Langkawi, Malaysia on May 11, 2015
Hamzah Osman—AP Illegal immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh arrive at the Langkawi police station's multi purpose hall in Langkawi, Malaysia on May 11, 2015

They remain trapped in crowded, wooden boats without food or clean water

(JAKARTA) — Hundreds of migrants abandoned at sea by smugglers in Southeast Asia have reached land and relative safety in the past two days. But an estimated 6,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from Burma remain trapped in crowded, wooden boats, migrant officials and activists said. With food and clean water running low, some could be in grave danger.

One vessel that reached Indonesian waters early Monday, was stopped by the Navy and given food, water and directions to Malaysia.

Worried that boats will start washing to shore with dead bodies, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the United States and several other foreign governments and international organizations have held emergency meetings, but participants say there are no immediate plans to search for vessels in the busy Malacca Strait.

One of the concerns is what to do with the Rohingya if a rescue is launched. The minority group is denied citizenship in Burma, and other countries have long worried that opening their doors to a few would result in an unstemmable flow of poor, uneducated migrants.

“These are people in desperate straits,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch in Bangkok, calling on governments to band together to help those still stranded at sea, some for two months or longer. “Time is not on their side.”

The Rohingya, who are Muslim, have for decades suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Buddhist-majority Burma, which considers them illegal settlers from Bangladesh even though their families have lived there for generations.

Attacks on members of the religious minority, numbering at around 1.3 million, have in the past three years left up to 280 people dead and forced 140,000 others from their homes. They now live under apartheid-like conditions in crowded camps just outside the Rakhine state capital, Sittwe, where they have little access to school or adequate health care.

The conditions at home — and lack of job opportunities — have sparked one of the biggest exoduses of boat people since the Vietnam War.

Chris Lewa, director of the non-profit Arakan Project, which has been monitoring boat departures and arrivals for more than a decade, estimates more than 100,000 men, women and children have boarded ships since mid-2012.

Most are trying to reach Malaysia, but recent regional crackdowns on human trafficking networks have sent brokers and agents into hiding, making it impossible for migrants to disembark — in some cases even after family members have paid $2,000 or more for their release, she said.

Lewa believes up to 6,000 Rohingya and Bangaldeshis are still on small and large boats in the Malacca Strait and nearby international waters.

Tightly confined, and with limited access to food and clean water, their health is deteriorating, she said, adding that dozens of deaths have been reported.

“I’m very concerned about smugglers abandoning boatloads at sea,” said Lewa.

In the last two days, 1,600 Rohingya have washed to shore in two Southeast Asian countries.

After four boats carrying nearly 600 people successfully landed in western Indonesia, with some migrants jumping into the water and swimming, a fifth carrying hundreds more was turned away early Monday.

Indonesia’s Navy spokesman, First Adm. Manahan Simorangkir , said they were trying to go to Malaysia but got thrown off course.

“We didn’t intend to prevent them from entering our territory, but because their destination country was not Indonesia, we asked them to continue to the country where they actually want to go,” he said.

Those who made it to shore aboard the other boats on Sunday were taken to a sports stadium in Lhoksukon, the capital of North Aceh District, to be cared for and questioned, said Lt. Col. Achmadi, chief of police in the area, who uses only one name.

Some were getting medical attention.

“We had nothing to eat,” said Rashid Ahmed, a 43-year-old Rohingya man who was on one of the boats. He said he left Burma’s troubled state of Rakhine with his eldest son three months ago.

A Bangladeshi man, Mohamed Malik, said he felt uncertain about being stranded in Aceh, but also relieved. “Relieved to be here because we receive food, medicine. It’s altogether a relief,” the man said.

Police also found a big wooden ship late Sunday night trapped in the sand in shallow waters at a beach of Langkawi, an island off Malaysia, and have since located 865 men, 101 women and 52 children, said Jamil Ahmed, the area’s deputy police chief. He added many appeared weak and thin and that at least two other boats have not been found.

“We believe there may be more boats coming,” Jamil said.

Thailand has long been considered a regional hub for human traffickers.

The tactics of brokers and agents started changing in November as authorities began tightening security on land — a move apparently aimed at appeasing the U.S. government as it prepares to release its annual Trafficking in Persons report next month. Last year, Thailand was downgraded to the lowest level, putting it on par with North Korea and Syria.

Rohingya packing into ships in the Bay of Bengal have been joined in growing numbers by Bangladeshis fleeing poverty and hoping to find a better life elsewhere.

Up until recently, their first stop was Thailand, where they were held in open pens in jungle camps as brokers collected “ransoms” from relatives. Those who could pay continued onward, usually to Malaysia or other countries. Those who couldn’t were sometimes beaten, killed or left to die.

Since May 1, police have unearthed two dozen bodies from shallow graves in the mountains of southern Thailand, the apparent victims of smuggling rings, they say.

Thai authorities have since arrested dozens of people, including a powerful mayor and a man named Soe Naing, otherwise known as Anwar, who was accused of being one of the trafficking kingpins in southern Thailand. More than 50 police officers are also under investigation.

Spooked by the arrests, smugglers are abandoning ships, sometimes disappearing in speedboats, with rudimentary instructions to passengers as to which way to go.

Vivian Tan, the U.N. refugee agency’s regional press officer in Bangkok, Thailand said there is real sense of urgency from the international community.

“At this point, I’m not sure what the concrete next steps are or should be,” she said of a string of meetings with diplomats and international organizations. “But there doesn’t seem to be a clear mechanism in this region for responding to something like this.”

McDowell reported from Yangon, Burma; Associated Press writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Ali Kotarumalos and Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.

TIME indonesia

Endangered Cockatoos Found Stuffed in Plastic Bottles in Indonesia

Cacatua sulphurea that was successfully secured from illegal wildlife trading is seen into an empty bottle in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia
Suryanto—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images A Cacatua sulphurea that was successfully secured from illegal wildlife trading is seen in an empty bottle in Surabaya, Indonesia, on May 4, 2015

Authorities rescued about two dozen birds in Indonesia

Critically endangered cockatoos were found stuffed in plastic water bottles in Indonesia during an antismuggling operation.

Police arrested one man suspected of bringing the approximately two dozen birds from Makassar, Sulawesi, and customs officials freed the animals at Tanjung Perak Port in Surabaya, Indonesia, CNN reports.

“[It] shows the lengths that some people will go to try to smuggle birds,” said Richard Thomas, global communications coordinator for Traffic International, which monitors wildlife trade. Plastic water bottles are a common method of smuggling the birds in the region, where wildlife trafficking is widespread.

Authorities found at least two species of cockatoos in the water bottles, according to Indonesia’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA). One of them, the yellow-crested cockatoo — Cacatua sulphurea — has largely disappeared from mainland Indonesia, with the most significant population residing on Komodo island.

“[The yellow-crested cockatoos is] a breed that is at very serious risk because of excessive trafficking of wild populations,” Thomas said. “Most of those birds are destined to be trafficked to parrot collector and breeders, rather than the meat market. There’s a lot of demand for parrots and cockatoos in southeast Asia and Europe.”

[CNN]

TIME indonesia

Man Executed in Indonesia Did Not Know He Was About to Die

People hold candles to pray for death-row prisoners at Wijayapura port in Cilacap, Indonesia on April 29, 2015.
Himawan Nugraha People hold candles to pray for death-row prisoners at Wijayapura port in Cilacap, Indonesia on April 29, 2015.

He suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

Indonesia executed eight people Wednesday for drug smuggling, but one of them, a paranoid schizophrenic who also suffered from bipolar disorder, wasn’t aware he was about to be killed.

The priest who had been ministering to Rodrigo Gularte said the Brazilian inmate was “lost because he’s a schizophrenic,” the Guardian reports.

“He was hearing voices all the time,” Father Charlie Burrows said. “I talked to him for about an hour and a half, trying to prepare him for the execution. I said to him, ‘I’m 72 years old, I’ll be heading to heaven in the near future, so you find out where my house is and prepare a garden for me.’

But when Gularte was taken from his cell and put in chains, Burrows said he asked, “Am I being executed?”

Burrows explained, “I said, ‘Yes, I thought I explained that you.’ He didn’t get excited – he’s a quiet sort of a guy – but he said, ‘This is not right.’

Eight people were executed by a firing squad in Indonesia Wednesday for smuggling drugs into the country. One other was granted a stay of execution while her case is investigated further.

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.”

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