The story of Irene Waromi: I always support my husband in defending human rights, though I know his job is risky


Human rights lawyer Gustaf Kawer and his wife Irene Waromi. – Jubi/Facebook Iren Waromi

Makassar, Jubi – Irene Waromi, the wife of Papuan human rights lawyer Gustaf Kawer, says she is fully aware that her husband’s profession risks their family safety. But she never asks her husband to quit from the job that he has done for years.

However, she admits that sometimes she feels worried about the safety of her husband and family.

“I am also involved in humanitarian work, so I understand this kind of situation. I never ask my husband to quit his job though I know his profession is too risky,” says Waromi on Tuesday (9/6/2020).

“I always give my support to my husband and be his discussion partner. I always motivate him to keep strong in any situation,” she says.


She always believes that no matter how hard the risks that her husband encountered, if he’s done it sincerely for the truth and for helping others, God will protect her husband and family.

“Sometimes, the thought about how dangerous this profession comes, but the sense of humanity has defeated these feelings. The mission to help other people embedded in our heart. We only need to increase our alert,” she says.

To avoid unprecedented incidents towards her and her family, Irene Waromi and her husband say they must be careful in many things, including the school choice for their children to shop for daily groceries.

“We even grew vegetables in our yard. Besides it can save our money, we do it because we avoid buying vegetables outside, because we do not want to (buy any food ingredients) eat out at any places,” she says.


She also tells her experiences of being terrorised by strangers. But she accepts it as a part of the risk of her husband’s job.

“If feeling worried, yes we are worried because there are several times we saw strange cars passing around our house. But it is the risk of a humanitarian worker,” says Irene Waromi.

Nonetheless, she always reminds her husband, Gustaf Kawer, to be careful because his job is not an easy one. Whatever risk can happen to her husband anytime.

It is not a simple job. (Sometimes) we (have to) encounter the state. We must be careful because we do not know what the country can do to us. We must be aware what about if the target was not my husband but my children,” she says.

One day in 2015, she went home from Jayapura riding a motorcycle with his brother to her house at Expo Waena, Jayapura City. It was 10 p.m. While around the terminal at Expo; someone came approaching them. This stranger tried to grab her bag. The guy pushed her until she and her brother fell off their motorcycle. The attacker went away, taking her bag.

“Two days after the incident, I went to the police because my belongings were in the bag. The police asked me to make a loss report. But they then said the guy must be a criminal and for that reason, the police would be difficult to reveal the perpetrator,” says Irene Waromi.

She also felt her family in terror when a member of judges in Jayapura State Administration High Court reported her husband in August 2014. At that time, Kawer, who represented his client in the trial, protested against the panel of judges who he thought were not fair during the trial. But, then the judge accused him of attacking a public official in the court on 12 July 2014.

“At that time (my husband) Gustaf Kawer was reported to Papua Police, and the police came to our house several times. Until we got a fight with them,” she says.

Then she told Jubi that several days ago she felt terrorised once again after many mysterious numbers calling her, but she just ignored it.

These calls occurred when Kawer became a speaker in a discussion related to law and human rights enforcement in Papua via teleconference with other activists.

“Yesterday during the discussion there were a lot of not nice words that came to the speakers,” he said.

Terror does not only target the human rights activists or advocates working in Papua. Human rights activists who work outside of Papua but always talk about Papua are also not immune from the terror.

For instance, the incident happened during an online discussion about Papua organised by Amnesty International Indonesia on Friday (5/6/2020).

Director Executive Amnesty International Usman Hamid who was a speaker in that forum said he got phone calls from several unknown numbers while he was delivering his presentation.

“The calls were not from Indonesia’s numbers, and they kept changing. Some called from Canada, others from the federal states of America. This is similar to what happened on [public policy researcher] Ravio [Patra] whose phone got hacked,” said Usman Hamid last week. (*)


Reporter: Arjuna Pedemme

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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