Fitria Sumarni is a lawyer and a women human rights defender of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Indonesia. She is the President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Lawyers Association (AMLA) in Indonesia, and from 2016 to 2022 she was the Head of the Ahmadiyya Legal Committee. Fitria joined the Ahmadiyya while at Senior High School.
Ahmadiyya Muslim communities are among the most persecuted in Indonesia and other countries including Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Malaysia and Pakistan. They face religious intolerance, discrimination and violence by state officials and non-state actors.
Fitria was motivated to be a lawyer to advocate for cases of discrimination and persecution against the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Her advocacy led to her being targeted herself:
“In 2016‚, I was involved in handling the case of the expulsion of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Bangka Belitung Province. I experienced violence as a women’s human rights defender in that case. The house where I was staying was attacked in the middle of the night by a group of people.”
Fitria was selected to participate in a special online training program for Indonesian rights advocates, funded by DFAT’s Australian Awards Program, with one aim being to develop collaboration between human rights defenders in Indonesia and Australia. The program was developed with the Australian Human Rights Institute and the UNSW Institute for Global Development. COVID meant it had to take place online over six months of interactive sessions in 2021/22. Fitria reflected that the training was very helpful for building new networks and enhancing knowledge of international human rights mechanisms.
“As an advocate and women human rights defender, having knowledge and skills in advocating human rights is essential. DTP’s training empowered and strengthened me and connected me with other human rights defenders in Indonesia and Australia. The materials on regional and United Nations human rights mechanisms benefited me and motivated me to be directly involved in these mechanisms.”
Since her participation in the DTP course, Fitria has used her new knowledge to take her advocacy for the human rights of the Ahmadiyya community to the UN. Fitria was the main speaker at a side event during the Universal Periodic Review (human rights review) of Indonesia on November 9, 2022.
“I was able to highlight the human rights violations against the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Indonesia. This was my first experience visiting the United Nations in Geneva. The second opportunity came for me to attend the 15th session of the UN Forum on minority issues and talk about the urgent situation of minorities, including religious minorities in Indonesia.”
Fitria’s work on the ground in Indonesia also continues. She is currently working together to with human rights defenders on a legal case responding to an attack on an Ahmadiyya mosque in West Kalimantan.
“My vision is to continue advocating in Indonesia and internationally for my community, and for other communities experiencing attacks, discrimination and other human rights violations.”