Jakarta (AsiaNews) - An international conference of gays and lesbians, scheduled to run from 26 to 29 March in Surabaya (East Java) has been cancelled due to protests by a group of Muslim extremists, despite the approval of local authorities. The protest took place yesterday in front of the Grand Mercure Hotel in Surabaya hosting the meeting organized by the International Association of gay, lesbian and transgender (ILGA). The police have asked 200 participants to stay at the hotel until the conclusion of the unrest, especially to ensure the safety of foreigners. The conference should have been completed on 29 March. It is the first event for gays and lesbians to be held in Indonesia and the fourth in Asia.
"We are very sorry for the way things went - said Rafael Dakosta, Indonesian ILGA coordinator – we had already prepared everything when the police asked us to stop the conference for security reasons." Dakosta says he had several discussions with the protesters in an attempt to stop the protest and ensure the safety of foreign participants.
The members of ILGA had chosen Surayaba as the site of the event because of its atmosphere of tolerance. For over 30 years the city hosts a number of appointment houses (Dolly Bordellos) in the suburbs, authorized by the local government. In recent days, even some democratic party leaders defended the right of gays and lesbians to organize the meeting, saying the country's constitution allowed citizens to express their rights.
In recent days, the local Muslim community had already shown signs of discontent. Extremists of the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) and the Islamic Communication Forum (FUI) had in fact put pressure on the police for the cancellation of the event, considered an offense to the Islamic religion. "Gays and lesbians are moral terrorists - said Aziz Abdulrrahman a member of FPI - these people should be banned from the East Java province”.