1999 Photo Contest, Spot News, 2nd prize

James Nachtwey

Magnum Photos for Time

01 May, 1998

When Muslim residents of Pembanguan 1 district in Jakarta woke up to find their mosque damaged, a group of men reacted by lynching six Christians. Despite pleas from the head of the mosque for them to hold back, the two dozen attackers of this man were resolute. The victim, suspected of having a hand in damaging the mosque, was chased down an alley, cornered, and set about with sticks, knives, stones and machetes. After he was dead, the ringleader cut his throat. Police intervened only at the end of the lynchings to remove the bodies.

Indonesia was the country hardest hit by the Asian economic crisis of 1997. The economic meltdown of the country was accompanied by increasing political tension. Violent ethnic clashes preceded the riots that broke out in May 1998 in cities across Sumatra and Java. The riots were extremely violent and were directed both to government targets and to Chinese and Christian minorities in predominantly Muslim Indonesia. On 16 May 1998, thousands of university students demanded President Suharto's resignation. Having lost the confidence of his government and military chiefs as well, Suharto resigned on 21 May after being in office for 31 years.

About the photographer

James Nachtwey

Photographs of the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights movement inspired him to become a photographer. While teaching himself photography, he worked as truck driver and as ...

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