Authorities in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta recently shut down the Islamic Al Fatah School for transgender students after residents allegedly lodged complaints.
“We decided to close down the transgender Islamic school considering security, order and public comfort issues,” said Banguntapan chief Jati Bayu Broto.
Security officers, local representatives, officials at Al Fatah and Yogyakarta Islamic Jihad Front (FJI) met on February 24 before reaching the decision, which was reportedly based on the school being located in a very crowded residential area.
“Whenever there are activities, motorcycles are parked on the street and disturb the public,” said Broto.
Public attorney Aditia Arief Firmanto, representing Al Fatah’s head Sinta Ratri, claimed that locals had used the meeting to cause psychological abuse to the region’s transgender community.
“There was no clarification in the meeting. Our clients could not defend against the accusations of alcohol, karaoke and other activities at the Islamic School,” he retorted.
Hardliners visited Al Fatah last month after the school promised not to shut down due to intimidation. At the time of the visit, FJI leader Abu Hamdan said they wanted to ensure that no transgender student was committing any deviant act inside the school. He reportedly threatened students to “return to the right path.”
Ratri immediately sought protection from the police, who guaranteed that the school would receive all the support it required.
“It’s my area; I will give a security guarantee,” said Banguntapan Police Chief Commissioner Suharno.
The Al Fatah School was founded in 2008 by an Indonesian waria or transgender, named Maryani, to receive other transgender Muslims and offer them a comfortable space to be themselves. She hit the headlines in 2013, after attempting a pilgrimage to Mecca that was called off due to “documentation problems.”
She followed through with her pilgrimage in 2015 however, visiting Mecca from April 26 to May 5 and performing all the pillars of umrah veiled from head to toe as a woman.
“They come to Yogyakarta just because they know about this school,” said Italian photographer Fulvio Bugani. “They know that there they can pray and live like a woman in a good atmosphere.”
The school was shut down in 2015 after Maryani’s death but it was opened once again at a property owned by Ratri. According to local administrators, no resident had complained about the school’s location or practices until this recent development.
“But I have never heard any negative reports on the transgender Islamic school. We would know if there were because village officials hold regular meetings,” said former Jagalan village chief Sholehudin.
Photo Credits: Citizen Daily