Yogor Telenggen: a tale of an ex-child soldier

To free his homeland is all Yogor Telenggen has ever wanted in his life. He was born in Pilia Village in 1988, right in the heart of the war of national liberation in West Papua’s central highlands region. Having no school to go to, Telenggen spent his childhood helping in his family garden, and following his family’s footsteps as members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat, TPNPB).

Since he was ten, he had practiced wielding a wooden weapon; by twelve, he had witnessed his entire village being burnt to the ground and its livestock slaughtered by the Indonesian Army. Many of his family members were killed during the raid and died during the displacement in the forest afterwards. He had to pull his uncle’s dead body from a latrine. He helped to rebuild his village after he returned from the forest.

Yogor Telenggen was never interested in going to school, partly because there was none in his village, but mainly because he felt that it was more urgent to free his people from brutal Indonesian colonial rule. He is semi-illiterate, having taught himself to read and write a bit. His village only finally saw a school built a few years ago.

Yogor Telenggen was first convicted in 2014, for an attack on a police station which killed three police officers, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He escaped from prison in 2016 and immediately joined the TPNPB again. He was rearrested in 2018. Prosecutors sought a death sentence for him in 2019, over his past crimes and for killing an Indonesian soldier in 2018, but he was again sentenced to life imprisonment. In both his arrests and trials, criminal procedural law was violated.

He was transferred to detention facilities outside West Papua in 2018 and is spending time in prison in Makassar. Cut off from his family, friends, community, and roots, everyday Yogor Telenggen longs to see his homeland again.