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‘135 lives. And now, it’s like nothing happened at all’


Malaysia, Indonesia – After Surabaya District Court sentenced a police officer to 18 months in prison – and acquitted two others – for their role in the crush at Kanjuruhan Stadium last year, residents of the Indonesian city of Malang say they feel frustrated and disrespected .

Many decided to stay away from this week’s court proceedings, saying they were too traumatized by what they had experienced and too disenchanted with what they called a lack of accountability from the authorities.

Two match officials were also jailed last week over the October 2022 crush, which was triggered by police firing dozens of tear gas grenades at the end of a match between local clubs. Fans rushed to the exits, only to find many of the gates locked. About 135 people died in what was one of the worst stadium disasters in history.

Nearly six months later, the community is still in mourning.

Al Jazeera met with some of the survivors and relatives of those who died that night in Malang to ask them how the tragedy has shaped their lives.

Wiyanto, father of 21-year-old victim Septian Ragil Syahputra Wiyanto

Wiyanto, his daughter and Septian’s friends pray together at his grave, which is located near their childhood home (Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera)

We were so close. We spent time together every day. Praying, hanging out after work, smoking cigarettes together and talking about all sorts of things.

I still miss him so much. It’s so hard, I can’t get rid of this trauma. I just can not. I can’t put this behind me. I always think of him. My family is traumatized.

His fiancé’s family is also in shock. Three days before the tragedy, I went with him to their house, as it is the Javanese custom to propose in this way, to ask the family. His betrothed often cries, even now.

Forty days after he died, I couldn’t go to work. I just couldn’t. My office wouldn’t allow it, so I lost my job. More than five months later, there is no real punishment. What I wanted was for the people involved in the tear gas shooting to be given the punishment they deserved. It concerns the lives of 135 people. Even just an accident or assault can get higher penalties.

I’m just so tired. There is no justice for the victims of the Kanjuruhan tragedy. The families of the victims must put it in God’s hands.

Andik Harianto, Survivor whose wife and two daughters died

Andik Harianto is stuck outside with his two-year-old son Rian.
Andik is now a single parent to Rian, who is two years and three months old. He has started farming fish in their backyard to sell so he can work from home and take care of Rian (Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera).

It’s a very messy situation. But what can we do now? I now do everything for our son Rian (aged 2 years and 3 months) – changing diapers and cleaning. Some people have asked me to go talk to the mayor or talk to the governor. But there is no outcome.

Our loved ones are already gone. If we want to keep trying to sue people, it will only cause us more pain.

The verdict is not fair. If I hit someone on the road and he breaks his bones, I would get more time in jail than the people in this case. And in this case, many people died.

My biggest concern is about my son. I’m afraid he’s less intelligent than he should be. When his mother was alive, he could count to 10. Now he’s confused. He learned a lot from his mother and sisters, who were very smart children. I don’t know how to teach him. He just wants to be close to me.

Nanda Rizky Kurnia Sandi, Survivor

Nanda Rizky Kurnia Sandi outside the stadium.  He wears a black puffy jacket.  He stands next to a banner in tribute to the fans who died in the stadium.
Nanda Rizky Kurnia Sandi said he thinks about the tragedy at the stadium in October every night, including the faces of those who died at the stadium (Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera)

I am still traumatized. It still gives me chills. I well remember the sound of tear gas being fired. And the sound of people calling for help. And the bodies are laid out. Their faces – I remember them clearly.

I haven’t seen football in a stadium since Kanjuruhan. My friends asked me to watch football in other cities. But I do not want to.

I followed the case closely because it involves 135 lives. And now it’s like nothing happened at all.

The football clubs are playing again. The handling of this case proceeded peacefully. So quiet. The punishment is not enough. We still want justice. Why did the committee sell more tickets than the capacity of the stadium? And the police, why would they use tear gas? It was so wrong.

In May, Indonesia will host the FIFA Men’s Under-20 Tournament. How do security forces deal with foreigners? And how will the Indonesian spectators behave? I’m afraid the same could happen.

Galih Wahyu Prakoso, Survivor, Member of the Arema Apache Fan Club

Galih Wahyu Prakoso with his friends Farel Izha Mahendra (left) and Cheva Octatista (right), who are members of a local soccer fan club.  They wear black coats and stand outside the stadium where their friends were among the 135 dead.  There are tributes to the dead behind them.
Galih Wahyu Prakoso with his friends Farel Izha Mahendra (left) and Cheva Octatista (right), who are members of a local soccer fan club. Three of their friends died on October 1, including Roni Setiawan, 23, Muhammad Bintang Pratama Sekitar, 18, and Mayang Agustin, 20 (JHessica Washington/Al Jazeera)

I sometimes have flashbacks of the incident when I’m about to go to sleep.

I was injured that night, I sprained my knee falling down the stairs. My eyes burned for two weeks and my knee was injured for almost a month.

The most horrible thing was when I saw a small child being trampled. I can’t think about it now. And to see my friends, dead in the hospital.

For me the outcome is not justice. Even much lesser offenses can lead to eight or nine years in prison.

I hold the organizers responsible and the police. Less than two years in prison is nothing. Why did they shoot with tear gas? The fans only showed their feelings. The outcome means that they do not respect the victims. We lost our friends, how come the punishment is so light?


Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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