Thailand resmi legalkan pernikahan sesama jenis – Apa dampaknya ke komunitas LGBT di Indonesia?

Perayaaan RUU pernikahan sesama jenis di Thailand
Keterangan gambar,Komunitas LGBTQ+ di Thailand merayakan pengumuman disahkannya RUU kesetaraan pernikahan oleh Senat pada Selasa (18/6)

Thailand selama ini dianggap sebagai tujuan wisata di Asia Tenggara yang ramah bagi mereka dengan identitas gender dan orientasi seksual yang beragam – termasuk dari Indonesia. Dengan disahkannya pernikahan sesama jenis di Thailand, apakah orang-orang LGBTQ+ di Indonesia terdorong untuk pindah ke negara itu demi mendapat ruang yang nyaman?

“‘Ya, sudah, kita nikah saja, yuk?’” kata Langit (bukan nama sebenarnya) menirukan candaan teman kencannya yang orang Thailand menyusul diloloskannya rancangan undang-undang (RUU) kesetaraan pernikahan oleh Senat Thailand.

Di bawah UU ini, orang-orang dengan identitas gender dan orientasi seksual yang beragam dapat menikah – termasuk pasangan homoseksual.

“[Cuma bercanda] tetapi dengan [dia] bilang begitu aku kepikiran mungkin dengan dilegalkan aku jadi punya jalan yang lebih mudah untuk dapat permanent residence [izin tinggal permanen].”

Langit, 26 tahun, sudah menetap di Bangkok selama 1,5 tahun terakhir. Laki-laki gay asal Bandung, Jawa Barat, itu bekerja di sebuah perusahaan bidang media sosial di Thailand.

Sebagai bagian dari komunitas LGBTQ+, Langit mengaku sudah mengalami perundungan terkait identitas seksualnya sejak masih remaja yang masih membekas di pikirannya sampai sekarang.

Teman kencannya tahu akan hal itu.

Langit mendengar kabar RUU kesetaraan pernikahan diloloskan saat tengah bersantai di sebuah kafe di Nonthaburi – kota di luar Bangkok pada Selasa (18/6).

“Aku senang… tapi enggak terlalu kaget karena sudah mendengar desas-desusnya sejak lama,” ujarnya kepada wartawan Amahl Azwar yang melaporkan untuk BBC News Indonesia pada Rabu (19/6).

Di Thailand, Langit mengaku merasa lebih terlindungi, bahkan sebelum Senat melolos RUU kesetaraan pernikahan. Dia mengaku bisa lebih mengekspresikan diri di negara itu dan dapat dengan lugas menyebut identitasnya ke orang asing sekalipun.

“Kalau boleh jujur, perbandingan 180 derajat. Sebagai gay jauh lebih tenang, tenteram, nyaman, dan aman dibanding Indonesia,” ujar Langit yang juga sempat mengikuti parade LGBT Pride di Bangkok.

Gagasan untuk pindah secara permanen ke Thailand dengan diloloskannya RUU kesetaraan pernikahan ini memang ada di benaknya, tetapi Langit mengaku lebih memikirkan nasib teman-temannya di Indonesia.

“Aku merasa bersyukur [karena privilese tinggal di Thailand], tapi di satu sisi juga merasa bersalah. Sampai sekarang kalau ada lowongan kerja di kantorku, aku langsung membagikannya ke teman-teman LGBTQ+. Kalau bisa sih semua teman-teman queer di Indonesia pindah ke Thailand,” ujar Langit.

Salah satu teman Langit yang sedang berupaya untuk pindah ke Thailand adalah Krisan (juga bukan nama sebenarnya), 27 tahun. Dia adalah perempuan lesbian asal Bandung, Jawa Barat.

Krisan mengaku berasal dari keluarga Muslim yang konservatif. Sejak 2021, dia sudah memutuskan hubungan dengan keluarganya yang hingga kini masih berusaha mencarinya untuk ikut terapi konversi.

“[Keluarga] sampai-sampai mencari aku ke tempat mantan [pacar] aku dan bawa-bawa tukang pukul,” tutur Krisan dengan suara pelan.

Langit sangat mendukung perjuangan Krisan supaya bisa pindah.

“Aku tahu latar belakang. Aku berusaha biar dia bisa pindah ke sini,” ujarnya.

Thailand jadi tujuan bagi LGBT asal Indonesia?

pasangan LGBTQ+ di Thailand merayakan pengesahan RUU kesetaraan pernikahan dengan berparade menaiki tuk-tuk (moda transportasi tradisional setempat)
Keterangan gambar,Bagi komunitas LGBTQ+ Thailand, disahkannya RUU kesetaraan pernikahan adalah sebuah “kemenangan”

Direktur Eksekutif Koalisi Pasifik Asia untuk Kesehatan Seksual Pria (APCOM), Midnight Poonkasetwattana, yang berbasis di Bangkok, mengatakan komunitas LGBTQ+ di Thailand sudah menanti pengesahan RUU kesetaraan pernikahan selama satu dekade.

“Rasanya luar biasa menyaksikan pemungutan suara Senat kemarin mayoritas mendukung pernikahan LGBTQI – apalagi ini terjadi pada bulan Pride. Saya harap negara-negara lain juga mengambil langkah berani untuk menjamin setiap orang dapat memperoleh akses yang sama, termasuk LGBTQI,” ujar Midnight dalam surat elektronik yang dikirim kepada BBC News Indonesia.

Midnight pun mengakui bahwa dari segi ekonomi, Thailand banyak diuntungkan karena dipandang sebagai negara yang menerima orang-orang LGBTQ+, bahkan sebelum RUU kesetaraan pernikahan disahkan.

Dengan adanya UU kesetaraan pernikahan ini, Midnight mengatakan akan ada peningkatan tajam wisatawan LGBTQI dari Indonesia, serta negara-negara lain di kawasan ini, yang datang ke Thailand “untuk mengeksplorasi kemungkinan hidup autentik sesuai jati diri mereka tanpa harus bersembunyi, malu, atau takut akan hukuman, dibandingkan dengan negara asal mereka.”

Bella Aubree, Koordinator Nasional Inti Muda Indonesia dan pegiat isu-isu sosial, menyebut Thailand sering dianggap sebagai destinasi yang ideal dan ramah bagi teman-teman LGBTQ+, termasuk untuk orang-orang transgender yang ingin melakukan terapi penggantian hormon ataupun tindakan bedah untuk mengubah alat kelamin.

“Saya sering berbincang dengan kawan LGBTQ+ yang ingin menikah. Mereka berangan-angan untuk dapat pindah, tinggal, dan menikah di Belanda. Saya rasa Thailand akan menjadi negara tujuan menggantikan Belanda karena Thailand juga cukup dekat dari Indonesia,” ujar Bella.

“Jika situasi di Indonesia sudah benar-benar tidak aman bagi teman-teman LGBTQ+, kemungkinan LGBTQ+ yang mampu dapat berpindah ke sana.”

Warga Banda Aceh dihukum cambuk karena melakukan seks sejenis pada 23 Mei 2017
Keterangan gambar,Di Indonesia, komunitas LGBTQ+ masih mendapat persekusi. Di Aceh, hukuman cambuk sebanyak 85 kali menanti mereka yang ketahuan berhubungan seks sesama jenis.

Walaupun begitu, Bella mengingatkan bahwa tidak semua orang-orang LGBTQ+ di Indonesia mampu ataupun berdaya untuk berpindah ke negara lain.

“Bagaimana dengan mereka yang masih harus berjuang untuk mencari makan? Kita tetap harus bersama-sama memperjuangkan hak-hak LGBTQ+ karena sejatinya hak yang kita tuntut adalah hak sebagai manusia dan hak sebagai warga negara. Oleh karena itu, negara harus hadir untuk memenuhi hak tersebut,” ujar Bella.

Orang-orang LGBTQ+ Indonesia yang saat ini tinggal di Thailand pun tidak semua berpikir untuk pindah secara permanen.

Reno (bukan nama sebenarnya), pria gay 28 tahun asal Sumatera Barat yang sudah tinggal dan bekerja di Bangkok hampir dua tahun belakangan, mengaku masih memikirkan keluarganya.

“Walaupun orang tua dan keluarga besarku tidak menerimaku [sebagai gay], tapi aku masih merasa punya tanggung jawab terhadap mereka,” ujarnya.

Potensi diskriminasi baru

Protes anti-LGBT di Indonesia
Keterangan gambar,Di Indonesia, komunitas LGBTQ+ masih mendapat protes atas keberadaan mereka

Pemberitaan diloloskannya RUU kesetaraan pernikahan oleh Senat Thailand mendapat reaksi dari warganet Indonesia.

Berdasarkan penelusuran BBC News Indonesia, komentar-komentar negatif bermunculan di media sosial dan kolom komentar di berbagai laman berita seperti Kompas.com.

“Negara rusak yang akan hancur dengan sendirinya,” tulis seorang warganet.

“Paling nanti datang tsunami sama gempa bumi dahsyat,” tulis satu orang lainnya.

Dede Oetomo, sosiolog Universitas Airlangga yang juga pencetus GAYa Nusantara – organisasi pegiat hak LGBT pertama di Indonesia – menyebut komentar-komentar negatif sudah bisa diantisipasi.

“Komentar sebagian warganet Indonesia yang jahat-jahat dan menunjukkan ke-bigot-annya [kefanatikan] diikuti argumentasi agama yang sudah usang banget seperti ‘Thailand akan kena azab bencana alam’ atau dikaitkan dengan menyebarnya HIV,” ujar Dede.

“Sebagai pendidik saya sedih, tapi, ya, begitulah kualitas sebagian pendidikan kita.”

Menurut Dede, masalah yang paling mendesak bagi komunitas LGBTQ+ Indonesia saat ini masih merujuk kepada hal-hal yang mendasar seperti masih adanya diskriminasi di bidang pendidikan dan pekerjaan.

Koordinator Nasional Inti Muda Indonesia, Bella Aubree, mencemaskan pengesahan RUU kesetaraan pernikahan justru akan membuat para pembuat kebijakan di Indonesia menanggapinya dengan membuat rancangan peraturan yang diskriminatif sebagai bentuk pencegahan agar hal itu tidak terjadi di Indonesia.

“Hal ini mungkin saja terjadi mengingat beberapa tahun kebelakang cukup banyak rancangan peraturan daerah yang diskriminatif terhadap LGBTQ+,” ujarnya.

Berdasarkan data Arus Pelangi, ada sekitar 45 regulasi anti-LGBTQ+ di Indonesia mulai tahun 2006 sampai 2018. Jumlah regulasi ini cenderung meningkat menjelang Pilkada dan Pemilu seperti terlihat di tahun 2016, 2018 dan 2023.

Andreas Harsono dari Human Rights Watch Indonesia menyoroti RUU Revisi Kitab Undang-Undang Hukum Pidana (RKUHP) Tahun 2022 yang mengkriminalkan orang-orang LGBTQ+.

“Semua peraturan ini perlu ditinggalkan dan tentu perlu dicabut,” tutur Andreas.

Akan tetapi, Hidayat Nur Wahid, anggota Komisi VIII Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat yang membidangi isu agama dan sosial dari Fraksi Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS) dalam keterangan resminya menyebut “perkawinan sejenis” di Thailand justru harus diwaspadai.

“Seluruh pemangku kepentingan di Indonesia, baik pemerintah, DPR, ormas-ormas keagamaan dan masyarakat luas, harus waspada agar penyimpangan laku seksual dengan pernikahan sejenis semacam ini tidak dijadikan dalih untuk diperbolehkannya nikah sejenis di Indonesia, yang menjadi pintu penyebaran penyimpangan LGBT secara lebih luas lagi,” ujar Hidayat yang juga Wakil Ketua Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat.

“Meski Thailand memiliki kedaulatannya sendiri, Raja Thailand perlu mempertimbangkan RUU itu dengan bijaksana. Karena apabila itu disahkan, maka itu dapat berdampak buruk dan mencoreng kawasan Asia Tenggara atau ASEAN,” tuturnya lagi.

Hidayat menyebut salah satu yang dapat dilakukan adalah dengan segera menyiapkan dan membahas RUU Anti-Propaganda Penyimpangan Seksual untuk masuk ke Program Legislasi Nasional (Prolegnas) 2020-2024

“Ini yang harus kita siapkan di DPR bersama dengan Pemerintah. Apabila tidak bisa pada DPR periode ini, ini bisa diteruskan untuk diperjuangkan hingga sah di DPR berikutnya,” jelasnya.

Kepada BBC News Indonesia, Hidayat mengatakan aturan-aturan anti-LGBT bukanlah sesuatu yang diskriminatif. Menurutnya, tindakan yang tidak sesuai dengan hukum dan konstitusi apabila dibiarkan malah bisa disebut sebagai “diskriminasi”.

“Karena perilaku lain yang tak sesuai dengan Konstitusi dan Undang-Undang seperti judi online larangannya juga diatur dalam peraturan perundangan,” ujarnya.

Bella Aubree dari Inti Muda menyebut para pegiat saat ini sedang bersama-sama melakukan advokasi, mendesak pemerintah Indonesia untuk segera mengesahkan UU Anti Diskriminasi yang dapat menjadi peluang bagi kelompok rentan termasuk teman-teman LGBTQ+ untuk mendapatkan perlindungan dari diskriminasi yang terjadi.

“Harapannya melalui UU Anti Diskriminasi ini dapat menjadi langkah awal untuk menciptakan lingkungan aman bagi kelompok rentan termasuk LGBTQ+,” ujarnya.

Kembali ke Thailand, RUU kesetaraan pernikahan membutuhkan persetujuan Raja Maha Vajiralongkorn dan berlaku 120 hari setelah dipublikasikan surat kabar resmi kerajaan – artinya pernikahan sesama jenis pertama yang resmi di Thailand bisa jadi dilakukan tahun.

Meski begitu, Langit mengingatkan hal ini bukan berarti komunitas LGBTQ+ di Thailand 100% terbebas dari diskriminasi.

“Jangan terlalu terlena sampai ngelupain kalau sebetulnya masih ada orang-orang queer di Thailand yang terdiskriminasi,” ujarnya.

Direktur Eksekutif Koalisi Pasifik Asia untuk Kesehatan Seksual Pria (APCOM), Midnight Poonkasetwattana mengakui hal ini.

“Banyak orang tidak tahu bahwa kami tidak memiliki undang-undang anti-diskriminasi. Komunitas transgender kami gendernya pun tidak diakui dalam dokumen legal,” ujarnya.

Meski begitu, secara keseluruhan Langit tetap merasa lebih aman berada di Thailand.

“Kantor aku sangat ramah terhadap queer, tapi orang-orang Indonesianya [yang bekerja di sini] enggak, aku masih dengar gunjingan homofobik dari mereka,” ujar Langit.

“Tapi aku sudah tidak peduli. Kalau misalnya hal ini bereskalasi juga tinggal dilaporkan. Karena sekarang aku di Thailand, aku lebih terlindungi.”

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Euro 2024: Jadwal pertandingan, ‘grup neraka’, dan favorit juara

Italia, Euro 2024
Keterangan gambar,Juara bertahan Italia akan berada di Grup B Euro 2024 bersama Spanyol, Kroasia, dan Albania.

Penantian para pecinta sepakbola hampir berakhir. Sebanyak 16 tim sepak bola nasional papan atas Eropa akan mulai berkompetisi di Piala Eropa 2024 atau Euro 2024 dalam waktu kurang dari 10 hari.

Ketika 16 negara telah terbagi ke dalam empat grup dan jadwal pertandingan telah ditentukan, berikut rincian lengkap untuk Euro 2024.

Kapan turnamen akan dimulai?

Digelar di Jerman, Euro 2024 resmi dimulai pada 14 Juni mendatang di Allianz Arena, kandang Bayern Munich.

Skotlandia akan menjadi tim yang menghadapi tuan rumah pada pertandingan pertama turnamen tersebut.

Akan ada dua hingga empat pertandingan setiap hari di babak grup hingga 26 Juni dan babak 16 besar akan dimulai pada 29 Juni.

Dari empat grup, terdapat dua ‘grup neraka’ yang masing-masing dihuni setidaknya dua tim kuat. Kedua grup itu adalah Grup B dan Grup D.

Grup B berisi Spanyol, Kroasia, Italia, Albania. Sedangkan Grup D berisi Polandia, Belanda, Austria, Prancis.

Anda bisa mengunduh kalender Euro 2024 melalui tautan ini

kalender Euro 2024

Ajang ini akan berakhir pada hari Minggu, 14 Juli di Olympiastadion, Berlin.

Euro 2024 akan menjadi turnamen pertama yang diselenggarakan Jerman sejak reunifikasi. PIala Eropa edisi tahun 1988 diadakan di Jerman Barat.

Kapan tiket pertandingan mulai dijual?

Tiket pertandingan awalnya dijual untuk umum dari tanggal 3 hingga 26 Oktober 2023 lalu dan dialokasikan melalui undian.

Fase penjualan utama tiket UEFA EURO 2024 sekarang telah berakhir.

UEFA memperingatkan para penggemar bahwa penjual tiket tidak resmi berupaya mengeksploitasi tingginya permintaan dengan menawarkan tiket palsu di pasar sekunder.

Siapa difavoritkan menjadi juara?

Inggris adalah favorit semua bandar taruhan di Inggris pada saat artikel ini disusun, dengan peluang 3/1.

Prancis di urutan kedua dengan peluang 4/1 dan tuan rumah Jerman di urutan ketiga dengan 5/1.

Georgia, Albania, Slovenia dan Slovakia dianggap sebagai tim dengan kemungkinan juara paling kecil, masing-masing antara 200/1 hingga 900/1.

Bagaimana pembagian grup Euro 2024?

Grup A: Jerman, Skotlandia, Hungaria, Swiss

Grup B: Spanyol, Kroasia, Italia, Albania

Grup C: Slovenia, Denmark, Serbia, Inggris

Grup D: Polandia, Belanda, Austria, Prancis

Grup E: Belgia, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraina

Grup F: Turki, Georgia, Portugal, Republik Cekohttps://flo.uri.sh/visualisation/18266670/embed?auto=1

Bagaimana cara menonton pertandingan di Indonesia?

Grup MNC memegang hak siar tunggal Euro 2024 di Indonesia. Publik memiliki opsi menyaksikan tayangan pertandingan secara gratis dan berbayar melalui siaran yang mereka sajikan.

Bagaimana performa tim peserta Euro 2024?

Menjelang turnamen, enam tim tidak terkalahkan selama kualifikasi. Mereka adalah Prancis, Inggris, Portugal, Belgia, Romania, dan Hungaria.

Portugal adalah satu-satunya tim yang memenangkan setiap pertandingan. Mereka mengakhiri kualifikasi dengan mencetak 36 gol dan hanya kebobolan dua kali.

Spanyol dan Skotlandia hanya kalah satu kali, sedangkan Turki dan Austria juga lolos dengan rekor tak kalah impresif.

Meskipun Portugal memenangkan setiap pertandingan kualifikasi, mereka tidak memiliki pencetak gol terbanyak dalam fase kualifikasi.

Pencetak gol terbanyak adalah penyerang Inter Milan, Romelu Lukaku, yang mencetak 14 gol dalam delapan pertandingan untuk Belgia.

Stadion mana saja yang akan menggelar laga?

Allianz Arena dan Olympiastadion akan terlihat sepanjang turnamen. Total ada 10 kota tuan rumah, termasuk Cologne dan Dortmund.

Signal Iduna Park, kandang klub Borussia Dortmund, akan menjadi tuan rumah pertandingan di Grup B, D dan F, sekaligus terpilih sebagai salah satu venue babak 16 besar dan semifinal.

Berikut daftar lengkap tempat penyelenggaraan turnamen tersebut:

  • Berlin: Olympiastadion (70.000 tempat duduk)
  • Cologne: Cologne Stadium (47.000)
  • Dortmund: BVB Stadion Dortmund (66.000)
  • Dusseldorf: Dusseldorf Arena (47.000)
  • Frankfurt: Frankfurt Arena (48.000)
  • Gelsenkirchen: Arena AufSchalke (50.000)
  • Hamburg: Volksparkstadion Hamburg (50.000)
  • Leipzig: Leipzig Stadium (42.000)
  • Munich: Munich Football Arena (67.000)
  • Stuttgart: Stuttgart Arena (54.000)

Siapa pesepakbola populer yang tak akan berlaga di Euro 2024?

Penyerang Manchester City, Erling Haaland, dan gelandang Arsenal, Martin Odegaard, tidak akan ambil bagian dalam kompetisi ini karena Norwegia gagal lolos.

Di grup kualifikasi yang sama dengan Spanyol dan Skotlandia, mereka tidak mengumpulkan cukup poin untuk mendapatkan tempat otomatis dan juga tidak bisa lolos melalui babak play-off.

Swedia adalah negara penting lainnya yang tidak akan ambil bagian di Jerman, karena gagal lolos untuk pertama kalinya sejak tahun 1996.

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Hamas seeks ‘complete halt’ to war in Gaza proposal response

Getty Images A boy walks through rubble in Gaza

Hamas says it has submitted its response to a US-backed plan for a ceasefire in Gaza, with a senior group official telling the BBC that it still requires an Israeli commitment to a permanent ceasefire.

In a statement, the group, and its Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) allies, expressed “readiness to positively” reach a deal.

The proposed ceasefire plan – which was endorsed by the UN security council on Monday night – calls for a six-week ceasefire that would eventually become permanent.

Qatar and Egypt – who, along with the US, have mediated negotiations between Israel and Hamas – confirmed that the Palestinian group had submitted its reply.

In its statement on Tuesday evening, Hamas called for a “complete halt” to fighting in Gaza.

“The response prioritises the interests of our Palestinian people and emphasises the necessity of a complete halt to the ongoing aggression on Gaza,” Hamas and the PIJ said.

The groups added that they were ready “to engage positively to reach an agreement that ends this war”.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said it was “helpful” that Hamas had submitted a response and that US officials were “evaluating” the group’s requests.

Earlier on Tuesday US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “reaffirmed his commitment” to the Gaza ceasefire plan and the world was waiting for the Hamas response.

The proposal set out by President Biden last month involves an initial six-week ceasefire, with Hamas releasing some hostages in exchange for Israel releasing an undefined number of Palestinian prisoners.

A second phase would see the remaining hostages released by Hamas and a total withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza as part of a “permanent” ceasefire, but the latter would still be subject to negotiations.

The actual Israeli proposal – reportedly lengthier than the summary presented by Mr Biden – has not been made public and it is unclear whether it varies from what the president conveyed in his statement on 31 May. It was presented to Hamas days prior to Mr Biden’s speech.

Mr Netanyahu has acknowledged his war cabinet has authorised the plan but has not voiced unequivocally support for it. Far right members of his cabinet have threatened to quit his coalition and trigger its collapse if the deal goes forward, seeing it as surrender to Hamas.

As Mr Blinken met Israeli officials in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, protesters outside his hotel held American flags calling for an agreement. Many held pictures of hostages and chanted: “SOS, USA”, and “we trust you, Blinken, seal a deal”.

Vicki Cohen, the mother of Nimrod Cohen, 19, an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas on 7 October, held a banner showing his picture.

She told the BBC: “We come here to ask Blinken and the USA government to help us, to save us from our government. Our prime minister doesn’t want to bring our loved ones back, we need their help to pressure our government.”

He then travelled to the Dead Sea for a conference of Arab leaders calling for greater aid access into Gaza, where he said Israel “can do more”. He also announced $404 million in new aid for Palestinians, urging other countries to also “step up” assistance.

The war began after Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking 251 others back to Gaza as hostages. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 37,000 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive since then.

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The impact of recognising a Palestinian state

Reuters A Palestinian girl carries cans to collect water in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on 22 May
Many countries say they will only recognise a Palestinian state as part of a long-term political solution

As fighting and suffering continues in Gaza, and violence grows in the West Bank, prospects of the Palestinian people gaining their own state might seem further away than ever.

The decision by several European countries to formally recognise the existence of a Palestinian state will not overcome the reality that such ambition still faces huge obstacles.

But the declarations by Ireland, Spain and Norway will put pressure on other countries in Europe – including the UK, France and Germany – to follow them in supporting Palestinian self-determination.

“This is extremely significant,” one Arab diplomat said. “It reflects European frustration with the Israeli government’s refusal to listen.

“And it puts pressure on the EU to follow suit.”

But Israeli ministers insist this will encourage Hamas and reward terrorism, further reducing the chances of a negotiated settlement.

Most countries – about 139 in all – formally recognise a Palestinian state.

On May 10, 143 out of 193 members of the United Nations’ general assembly voted in favour of a Palestinian bid for full UN membership, something that is only open to states.

Palestine currently has a kind of enhanced observer status at the UN, which gives them a seat but not a vote in the assembly.

It is also recognised by various international organisations including the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

A minority of European countries already recognise a Palestinian state. They comprise Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bulgaria which adopted the position 1988; and others including Sweden, Cyprus and Malta.

But many European nations – and the United States – say they will recognise a Palestinian state only as part of a long-term political solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

This is often referred to as the ‘two-state solution’ where both Israelis and Palestinians agree to have their own states with their own borders.

European countries and the US differ over when they should recognise a Palestinian state.

Ireland, Spain and Norway say they are doing so now to kick-start a political process. They argue there will be a sustained solution to the current crisis only if both sides can aim at some kind of political horizon.

These countries are also responding to domestic political pressures to show more support for Palestinians.

In the past, the position of many Western countries was that Palestinian statehood should be a prize for a final peace agreement.

But Lord Cameron, the UK Foreign Secretary, and some other European countries have in recent months shifted their positions, saying the recognition of Palestinian statehood could come earlier, to help drive momentum towards a political settlement.

In February, President Macron of France said: “The recognition of a Palestinian state is not a taboo for France.”

And earlier this month, France supported Palestinian membership of the UN in the general assembly vote.

The US has privately discussed this issue with European allies but is more cautious and wants a clearer sense of what the policy would mean in practice.

So the key debate behind the scenes is about when these holdout countries should recognise a Palestinian state: when formal peace talks begin between Israelis and Palestinians, when Israel and Saudi Arabia normalise diplomatic relations, when Israel fails to undertake certain actions, or when the Palestinians take certain actions.

In other words, they want recognition of the state of Palestine to be a big moment designed to achieve a diplomatic outcome.

“It is a big card that Western countries have to play,” one Western official said. “We don’t want to throw it away.”

The problem is that recognising a Palestinian state is largely a symbolic gesture if it does not also address the vital concomitant questions.

What should the borders be? Where should the capital be located? What should both sides do first to make it happen?

These are difficult questions that have not been agreed – or even answered – satisfactorily for decades.

As of today, a few more countries in Europe now believe there should be a Palestinian state.

Supporters will cheer the move, opponents will decry it.

The grim reality for Palestinians on the ground is unlikely to change.

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Domestic tourism soars in China but foreigners stay away

BBC/KATHERINA TSE A popular thing to do in Wuzhen is to pose for photos dressed in traditional hanfu clothing
A popular thing to do in Wuzhen is pose for photos dressed in traditional hanfu clothing

With the Chinese economy facing massive challenges, there have been concerns over its growth potential, at least in the immediate future.

Yet a key exception is emerging in the form of domestic tourism.

Last week’s five-day public holiday to mark labour day saw 295 million trips made within China, according to figures from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. This was 28% higher than pre-pandemic figures recorded in 2019.

The Transport Ministry’s figures are also staggering: 92 million rail trips; almost 10 million air trips and 1.25 billion highway journeys.

However, this comes as international arrivals continue to lag, with foreigners currently entering China at barely 30% of 2019 levels. Why the disparity?

The beautiful historical river town of Wuzhen, a short drive from Shanghai, is considered one of China’s top visitor sites for travellers of all types. When we arrive the little pathways and old bridges which cross narrow waterways are filled with visitors.

A popular thing to do in Wuzhen is to pose for photos dressed in traditional hanfu clothing – as if you have really been transported back hundreds of years.

Two women in their 20s, friends since high school, are visiting from Jilin Province in the north east. After arriving, they spend an hour getting their hair done in an elaborate imperial-era style – and they are full of praise for Wuzhen’s classical beauty.

We ask if, following the post-Covid opening up, many of their family and other friends have been travelling much? “Of course, after the pandemic, we’re all visiting other places.”

Nearby a local man who is selling ice-creams also says tourist numbers are “not that bad lately”.

As good as before Covid? “Almost the same,” he replies.

Shopkeeper Wang Ying, who sells traditional snacks, echoes this sentiment with a big smile on her face. “Business is going well, and it’ll only get better.”

BBC/KATHERINA TSE Wuzhen is considered one of China's top visitor sites
Wuzhen is considered one of China’s top visitor sites

All this will be seen as good news for the Chinese government. It’s been saying that a push on domestic consumption can counter the significant faltering portions of the economy.

Major players in the once-mighty property sector are struggling to stay afloat, local government debt continues to rise, and persistent youth unemployment has left highly qualified university graduates uncertain of their future.

Amid all these challenges, the Communist Party has set a target of “around 5%” GDP growth for this year. Apart from the fact that analysts have long questioned the veracity of the country’s official growth figures, economists are also asking how such a target can be reached, in any genuine sense, in 2024 without significant extra stimulus.

One lifeline could be a more buoyant travel scene which could bring broader business opportunities and greater service industry employment.

Schubert Lou, chief operating officer at travel agency Trip.com, told the BBC: “We’ve seen very strong domestic travel demand with search volumes in hotels up 67% compared to last year, and flight volumes up 80%.”

Tourism industry consultant Peng Han from Travel Daily is following the investment trail to see how the business community really views the possibilities in the sector.

“With famous international hotel brands – like Intercontinental, Marriott and Hilton – you just have to look at their growth in China in 2023,” he says. “Then check the performance goals for these large hotel groups in 2024 which have also been set relatively high. This shows that they are very optimistic about the growth potential of the Chinese market.”

But, while the volume of local travellers might be up, Mr Peng does point to the problem of per capita consumption which remains persistently low.

He says general uncertainty about the Chinese economy is putting more emphasis on saving, so people are looking for good value options. They are going on holidays and paying for things but doing so much more frugally.

This is where an increase in big-spending foreigners could help. But they are simply not travelling to China in the numbers they used to.

In 2019, nearly 98 million international visitors came to the country. Last year it was only 35 million – including business trips, students and the like. Mr Lou describes the domestic versus international market as “uneven”.

For many in the tourism industry here specialising in services for foreign travellers, “uneven” would be an understatement. Three years of harsh Covid prevention measures drove down arrivals from other countries, but that alone can’t account for the current situation.

Huang Songshan, the head of the Centre for Tourism Research in the School of Business and Law at Australia’s Edith Cowan University, blames this weakness in part to “the shifting geopolitical landscape globally”.

Getty Images Chinese performer
China’s culture and heritage has traditionally been a big draw for tourists

In the peer-reviewed East Asia Forum, he pointed to a 2023 survey carried out by the Pew Research Centre, writing that, “Most individuals in Western nations hold unfavourable views towards China. The Chinese government’s tightening grip on societal regulations could potentially cause discomfort for foreign travellers in China.”

Official travel advice from some governments echo this sentiment, at times quite harshly.

Washington warns potential travellers to “reconsider travel to Mainland China due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, including in relation to exit bans, and the risk of wrongful detentions”.

Australia advises “a high degree of caution” warning that “Australians may be at risk of arbitrary detention or harsh enforcement of local laws, including broadly defined National Security Laws”.

The political environment has also taken a toll on flight availability and price. This is especially the case with connections to and from North America. Last month’s 332 scheduled round trips between China and the US contrasts with 1,506 in April 2019.

As a result, finding a seat on a direct flight can be extremely difficult and those that are available are very expensive.

President Xi Jinping made a speech at a dinner on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in San Francisco last November addressing this point. “Today, President Biden and I reached important consensus,” he told the crowd.

“Our two countries will roll out more measures to facilitate travels and promote people-to-people exchanges, including increasing direct passenger flights, holding a high-level dialogue on tourism, and streamlining visa application procedures. We hope that our two peoples will make more visits, contacts and exchanges and write new stories of friendship in the new era.”

Washington has since increased the number of Chinese airline flights permitted to land – but only from 35 per week to 50. It is still well short of the 150 weekly trips pre-Covid.

The Biden administration is coming under pressure from unions and US airlines to not increase this any further because, they argue, Chinese airlines have an unfair advantage over them as they have state support; don’t face the same onerous Chinese regulations; and, crucially, can fly over Russian airspace, making trips shorter and cheaper.

A letter to the US government from the Chair of the House Committee on China, Mike Gallagher, and the committee’s top Democrat representative, Raja Krishnamoorthi, reads: “Should the US-China passenger carrier market expand without the US government addressing these significant issues, US aviation workers, travellers and airlines will pay a hefty price tag.”

Mr Lou says the frequency of international flight connections is definitely having an impact.

“What we are seeing right now, based on civil aviation data, is that inbound flight capacity won’t get back to even 80% of 2019 [levels] by the end of 2024.”

Then there are other potential turnoffs for those considering travelling in China, like the country’s state-of-the-art phone app payment and booking systems which work very smoothly for Chinese citizens and residents, but which can be an enormous headache if you have just arrived.

There are certain sites, transport options, and purchases which can only be accessed via Chinese electronic apps which are, at times, only available in Chinese.

Professor Chen Yong at Switzerland’s EHL Hospitality Business School is an authority on the economics of tourism in China. He thinks that hurdles relating to payment and booking apps can pose a real problem.

“Technologies such as social network websites, online maps, payment apps, among others, which foreigners have long been accustomed to using, are either unavailable or inaccessible when they travel to China,” he says.

“On the other hand, there are Chinese alternatives to these technologies that remain inaccessible to foreigners due to language barriers and differences in user habits. We need to bridge this divide because it affects the tourist industry badly.”

Back in Wuzhen, the presence of international travellers is much smaller than in years gone by, but there are still a few foreign faces in the crowd.

An Italian couple says the process of linking up to and using China’s payment apps was a challenge but that it was not insurmountable, though they add, with a laugh, that it is “much, much, much easier” if you have a Chinese friend to help you.

BBC/KATHERINA TSE Woman and child pose for selfies
Chinese officials have acknowledged that the foreign traveller numbers have been low but they are trying to turn this around

Eliseo, from California, says he has had problems making payments to small vendors who don’t accept credit cards and really no longer deal with cash. Another hurdle for him has been his bank at home which has blocked some payments, flagging them as potentially fraudulent coming from China.

Chinese officials have acknowledged that the foreign traveller numbers have been low but they are now trying to turn this around.

One way they’re attempting to attract more foreign visitors is by increasing the number of countries whose citizens don’t need a visa to enter. Trip.com says this resulted in an almost immediate increase in passenger arrivals from Southeast Asia.

In 23 Chinese cities, transit passengers from more than 50 countries are also able to stay for a few days visa free if they have an onward ticket. In Shanghai, hotels above a three-star level have been told that they should prepare to deal with international credit cards and an initial batch of 50 taxis have also started accepting them.

However, Professor Chen says “it would be too optimistic to envision a long-term growth in China’s inbound tourism”.

“The key is to establish a culture that puts service providers in the shoes of foreign tourists. They should imagine themselves being a foreigner who can’t speak or read Chinese and who doesn’t have a Chinese mobile number, payments apps and so on.”

He says that the culture around this can’t be changed overnight.

Yet, in places like Wuzhen – where the local travellers have already returned – the tourism companies are hoping that incredible sites like theirs will eventually be too much for foreigners to resist as well.

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UN rights chief ‘horrified’ by mass grave reports at Gaza hospitals

Reuters Palestinian civil defence workers dig mounds of earth in the grounds of Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip (21 April 2024)ReutersPalestinian workers are exhuming bodies at Nasser hospital with shovels because they have no heavy machinery

The UN’s human rights chief has said he is “horrified” by the destruction of Gaza’s Nasser and al-Shifa hospitals and the reports of “mass graves” being found at the sites after Israeli raids.

Volker Türk called for independent investigations into the deaths.

Palestinian officials said they had exhumed the bodies of almost 300 people at Nasser. It is not clear how they died or when they were buried.

Israel’s military said claims that it buried bodies there were “baseless”.

But it did say that during a two-week operation at the hospital in the city of Khan Younis in February, troops “examined” bodies buried by Palestinians “in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages”.

Ten hostages who have now been released have said that they were held at Nasser hospital for long periods during their captivity.

Prior to the Israeli operation at Nasser, staff there had said they were being forced to bury bodies in the hospital’s courtyard because nearby fighting prevented access to cemeteries. There were similar reports from al-Shifa before the first Israeli raid on the hospital took place in November.

The Israeli military has said it has raided a number of hospitals in Gaza during the war because Hamas fighters have been operating inside them – a claim Hamas and medical officials have denied.

The war began when Hamas gunmen carried out an unprecedented cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and taking 253 others back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 34,180 people – most of them children and women – have been killed in Gaza since then, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

A spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office said it was currently working on corroborating reports from Palestinian officials that 283 bodies had been found in Nasser hospital’s grounds, including 42 which had been identified.

“Victims had reportedly been buried deep in the ground and covered with waste,” Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

“Among the deceased were allegedly older people, women and wounded, while others… were found with their hands tied and stripped of their clothes.”

Mr Türk called for independent, effective and transparent investigations into the deaths, adding: “Given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators.”

“Hospitals are entitled to very special protection under international humanitarian law. And the intentional killing of civilians, detainees, and others who are hors de combat [not participating in hostilities] is a war crime.”

On Monday, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Civil Defense force told BBC Arabic’s Gaza Today programme that it had received reports from local Palestinians that the bodies of a “large number” of people who had been killed during the war and buried in a makeshift cemetery in the hospital’s courtyard were moved to another location during the Israeli raid.

“After research and investigation, we learned that the occupation [Israeli] army had established a mass grave, pulled out the bodies that were in Nasser hospital, and buried them in this mass grave,” Mahmoud Basal said.

Gaza Today also spoke to a man who said he was searching there for the bodies of two male relatives which he alleged had been taken by Israeli troops during Israel’s recently concluded offensive in Khan Younis.

“After I had buried them in an apartment, the [Israelis] came and moved their bodies,” he said. “Every day we search for their bodies, but we fail to find them.”

Hamas has alleged that the bodies include people “executed in cold blood” by Israeli forces, without providing evidence.

Contains some violence and disturbing scenes.BBC Verify authenticates video from key moments in the story of Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement on Tuesday: “The claim that the IDF buried Palestinian bodies is baseless and unfounded.”

“During the IDF’s operation in the area of Nasser Hospital, in accordance to the effort to locate hostages and missing persons, corpses buried by Palestinians in the area of Nasser hospital were examined.

“The examination was conducted in a careful manner and exclusively in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages. The examination was carried out respectfully while maintaining the dignity of the deceased. Bodies examined, which did not belong to Israeli hostages, were returned to their place.”

The IDF said that its forces had detained “about 200 terrorists who were in the hospital” during the raid, and that they found ammunition as well as unused medicines intended for Israeli hostages.

It also insisted that the raid was carried out “in a targeted manner and without harming the hospital, the patients and the medical staff”.

However, three medical staff told the BBC last month that they were humiliated, beaten, doused with cold water, and forced to kneel for hours after being detained during the raid.

Medics who remained at Nasser after the Israeli takeover said they were unable to care for patients and that 13 died because of conditions there, including a lack of water, electricity and other supplies.

Reuters Palestinian officials tape off the courtyard of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City as workers search for human remains (8 April 2024)ReutersThe UN Human Rights Office said it had received reports that 30 bodies were buried in the courtyard of al-Shifa hospital

On 1 April, Israeli troops withdrew from al-Shifa hospital, which is in Gaza City, following what the IDF said was another “precise” operation carried out in response to intelligence that Hamas had regrouped there.

The IDF said at the time that 200 “terrorists” were killed in and around the hospital during the two-week raid. More than 500 others were detained, and weapons and intelligence were found “throughout the hospital”, it added.

After a mission gained access to the facility five days later, the World Health Organization (WHO) said al-Shifa was “now an empty shell”, with most of the buildings extensively damaged or destroyed, and the majority of equipment unusable or reduced to ashes.

It also said that “numerous shallow graves” had been dug just outside the emergency department, and the administrative and surgical buildings, and that “many dead bodies were partially buried with their limbs visible”.

The IDF also said it had avoided harm to patients at al-Shifa. But the WHO cited the acting hospital director as saying patients were held in abysmal conditions during the siege, and that at least 20 patients reportedly died due to a lack of access to care and limited movement authorised for medics.

Spokeswoman Ms Shamdasani said reports seen by the UN human rights office suggested that a total of 30 bodies were buried in the two graves and that 12 of them had been identified so far.

Gaza’s civil defence spokesman told CNN on 9 April that 381 bodies had been recovered from the vicinity of al-Shifa, but that the figure did not include people buried in the hospital’s grounds.

The UN human rights chief also deplored as “beyond warfare” a series of Israeli strikes on the southern city of Rafah in the past few days, which he said had killed mostly women and children.

The strikes included one on Saturday night, after which a premature baby was delivered from the womb of her pregnant mother, who was killed along with her husband and other daughter.

Mr Türk also again warned against a full-scale Israeli ground assault on Rafah, where 1.5 million displaced civilians are sheltering, saying it would lead to further breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

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Di balik aksi demo di depan kantor ICW, Kontras, dan LBH – Rasisme atau intimidasi terkait tuduhan kecurangan pemilu?

Massa Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI membakar ban dan membawa poster saat aksi unjuk rasa di Kantor Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Jakarta, Senin (26/2).
Keterangan gambar,Massa Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI membakar ban dan membawa poster saat aksi unjuk rasa di Kantor Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Jakarta, Senin (26/2).

Beberapa unjuk rasa yang digelar sejumlah orang yang menyebut diri mereka ‘Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI’ di depan kantor lembaga swadaya masyarakat Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Kontras, dan LBH Jakarta, diduga terkait dugaan kecurangan Pemilu 2024. Kubu Prabowo Subianto membantah pihaknya berada di balik unjuk rasa tersebut.

Mereka juga sempat berencana melakukan demo di depan kantor Lokataru, namun batal setelah dibubarkan aparat kepolisian.

Dalam aksi-aksinya, massa yang menyebut diri mereka sebagai ‘Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI’ itu menuduh LSM-LSM itu melakukan apa yang mereka sebut sebagai “rasisme”.

Dilaporkan pula bahwa mereka mengutuk apa yang mereka klaim sebagai “gerakan pemakzulan Jokowi” dan meminta warga Indonesia untuk menerima hasil Pemilu 14 Februari 2024.

Soal tuduhan adanya rasisme, aktivis ICW mengaku tidak pernah melakukannya. Mereka juga menganggap para pendemo tidak dapat membuktikan tudingan itu.

Adapun pimpinan Lokataru Foundation menduga aksi tersebut berhubungan dengan sikap Lokataru yang selama ini sering menyuarakan dugaan kecurangan pemilu.

Siapa di balik unjuk rasa di depan kantor LSM?

Delpedro Marhaen, Direktur Eksekutif dari Lokataru Foundation, mengatakan tujuan utama dari aksi tandingan berhubungan dengan apa yang telah dilakukan oleh LSM seperti Lokataru, ICW, dan Kontras.

Alasannya, mereka sering menyuarakan isu kecurangan pemilu dan mengkritik situasi politik saat ini.

Wana Alamsyah, Koordinator Divisi Pengelolaan ICW, mengatakan bahwa pihaknya menduga ada pihak yang dengan sengaja ‘mengorkestrasi’ gerakan mahasiswa tersebut dengan dalih rasisme.

“Kami menduga bahwa memang ada upaya untuk membenturkan antar-kelompok warga. Karena kalau sebelumnya intimidasi dan teror itu selalu dilakukan oleh aparat keamanan. Yang mana sangat mudah untuk dideteksi dan sangat mudah untuk dikritisi.

“Tapi ketika ada kelompok warga yang berseberangan, substansi yang disampaikan serta maksud dan tujuannya belum terlalu jelas,” ungkap Wana kepada BBC News Indonesia.

Hal ini ia katakan karena ketika forum mahasiswa mendatangi kantor ICW pada Senin (26/02) siang dengan membawa spanduk-spanduk, menyampaikan orasi dan membakar ban, mereka tidak mampu memberikan bukti pernyataan rasisme tersebut dan menutup diri dari ajakan berdialog.

“Karena menurut mereka ICW enggak perlu klarifikasi. Padahal, tuntutan utamanya mereka adalah ICW harus klarifikasi, jadi kami pun juga mempertanyakan maksud dan tujuan mereka kemari,” ungkapnya.

Apa reaksi kubu Prabowo Subianto?

Tak hanya ICW, kelompok mahasiswa tersebut juga sempat mendatangi sejumlah LSM, seperti LBH Jakarta dan Kontras. Bahkan mereka berencana melakukan demo di depan kantor Lokataru, namun batal setelah massa dibubarkan aparat.

Dalam salinan pernyataan sikap tertulis Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Indonesia Timur Cinta NKRI disebutkan salah satu tuntutan mereka adalah meminta pihak LBH, Kontras, dan Lokataru agar segera mengklarifikasi pernyataan rasisme.

Kelompok itu juga mengutuk gerakan pemakzulan dan meminta warga Indonesia untuk menerima hasil Pemilu 14 Februari 2024.

Sementara, TKN Prabowo-Gibran mengaku demo mahasiswa tersebut tidak ada hubungannya dengan mereka serta menyatakan bahwa perkara pemilu sebaiknya diserahkan pada lembaga-lembaga berwenang, seperti Bawaslu dan Mahkamah Konstitusi.

“Jadi produk perundang-undangan itu sebagai sebuah lembaga negara ditaati saja. Dialihkan ke sana [lembaga berwenang]. Kalau kemudian beberapa mahasiswa melakukan demo, apa maksudnya karena saya juga tidak mengerti,” kata Direktur juru bicara Tim Kampanye Nasional (TKN) Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka, Viva Yoga Mauladi

Menurut catatan Amnesty International Indonesia, sejak masa kampanye hingga sehari sebelum pemilu pada 14 Februari, terdapat sekitar 16 kasus serangan yang menyasar setidaknya 34 pembela HAM yang kritis terhadap pemerintah, baik berupa laporan ke polisi, intimidasi maupun serangan fisik.

Ketua Badan Pengawas Pemilihan Umum (Bawaslu), Rahmat Bagja, mengatakan bahwa segala tindakan yang “mengancam kebebasan berbicara, berekspresi dan menyatakan pendapat di Indonesia” merupakan tindakan pidana dan tidak boleh dibiarkan.

‘Pesannya sama, agar kami tidak kritis’

Delpedro Marhaen, Direktur Eksekutif dari Lokataru Foundation, salah satu LSM yang disebut oleh kelompok mahasiswa Timur, membantah tuduhan bahwa pihaknya mengeluarkan pernyataan rasisme.

“Tidak ada satupun aktivitas atau kegiatan baik pernyataan publikasi atau apapun yang disampaikan Lokataru yang mengarah pada kata-kata atau tindakan rasis kepada kelompok mereka ataupun kepada masyarakat Indonesia Timur secara luas,” katanya.

Ia mengatakan Lokataru menduga ada upaya pergeseran yang dilakukan kelompok yang mengaku Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI.

Sebab, mereka mengidentifikasi tiga anggota yang pernah melakukan pembubaran diskusi Tolak Pemilu Curang di Universitas Trilogi awal Februari lalu.

“Kemudian setelah peristiwa tersebut, kelompok ini juga yang melakukan unjuk rasa di LBH dua kali dan juga di Kontras dua kali. Jadi total kalau di Kontras tiga kali, di LBH sudah empat kali. Kemudian di ICW sekali,” ujar Delpedro.

Sejumlah orang yang mengatasnamakan Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI hadir di depan kantor ICW yang dijaga oleh polisi.
Keterangan gambar,Sejumlah orang yang mengatasnamakan Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI hadir di depan kantor ICW yang dijaga oleh polisi.

Menurut Delpedro, tujuan utama dari aksi tandingan berhubungan dengan apa yang telah dilakukan oleh LSM seperti Lokataru, ICW dan Kontras. Karena mereka sering menyuarakan isu kecurangan pemilu dan mengkritik situasi politik saat ini.

“Setelah kami identifikasi, ternyata ada tiga orang simpatisan atau pendukung dari Prabowo Subianto dan Gibran Rakabuming Raka. Kami menemukan video dan juga dokumentasi-dokumentasi soal dukungan mereka,” jelas Delpedro.

Direktur juru bicara TKN Prabowo-Gibran, Viva Yoga Mauladi, menegaskan bahwa demo mahasiswa tidak ada hubungannya dengan TKN. Ia juga menyatakan LSM tidak boleh dibungkam karena mereka berperan dalam proses peningkatan kualitas demokrasi

“Makanya saya tidak mengerti juga demo-demo begitu. Biarlah nanti kalau itu memang menganggu ketertiban biar polisi. Tapi kemudian jangan membuat framing bahwa itu dikaitkan dengan TKN Prabowo-Gibran, tidak benar itu,” ujarnya kepada BBC News Indonesia.

Wakil Koordinator Kontras, Andi Rezaldy, mengatakan bahwa tekanan-tekanan yang mengarah pada pihak-pihak kritis dapat dimaknai sebagai upaya melemahkan LSM dengan cara membuat “narasi antagonistik” terhadap organisasi masyarakat sipil.

“Rentetan peristiwa dalam beberapa waktu belakangan, menunjukan sepertinya secara psikologis ada kekhawatiran dari penguasa sebab ditemukannya berbagai masalah dalam penyelenggaraan pemilu,“ kata Andi kepada BBC News Indonesia.

Ia mengatakan bahwa ini bukan pertama kalinya Kontras menghadapi perlawanan akibat upaya mereka dalam mengangkat isu. Pada 2013, Kontras pernah didemo terkait advokasi HAM di Papua.

Pada 2003, kantor Kontras pernah diserang oleh sejumlah massa terkait penolakan kebijakan pemerinah soal darurat militer di Aceh.

“Saya menduga pesannya sama, agar kami tidak kritis atas berbagai sejumlah persoalan, namun demikian hal tersebut tidak akan menghentikan kami untuk terus berusara kritis dan mengungkap berbagai ketidakadilan yang terjadi,“ tuturnya.

Saat unjuk rasa di depan kantor ICW, Koordinator Lapangan Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI, Abdul Aziz Fadirubun, menuding bahwa lembaga nirlaba seperti ICW, YLBHI, dan Lokataru melontarkan kata-kata bernada rasisme.

Hal tersebut, kata Aziz, berakar dari respons para aktivis LSM terhadap video dirinya yang viral karena tidak setuju dengan permakzulan.

“Kalau ditanya namanya siapa, saya enggak tahu namanya. Karena ICW masuk dalam hal pernyataan-pernyataan yang rasis dalam hal mendiskreditkan kami orang Timur, makanya harus minta maaf dalam 1×24 jam,” katanya, seperti dikutip oleh Tempo.

Intimidasi terhadap pihak kritis menimbulkan ‘kemunduran demokrasi’

Pengamat politik dari Badan Riset Inovasi Nasional (BRIN), Devi Darmawan, mengatakan dalam sejarah pemilu diselenggarakan sejak 2014, belum pernah ada aliansi mahasiswa yang justru memprotes organisasi masyarakat sipil.

Sebab, menurut Devi tindakan seperti itu “salah sasaran”, karena LSM bertugas untuk menyuarakan aspirasi masyarakat.

“Jika memang tidak terbukti [rasisme], motivasinya memang hanya untuk melemahkan ICW sebagai bagian dari masyarakat sipil yang kritis terhadap dugaan-dugaan pelanggaran. Ini sudah jadi alarm bahaya bagi demokrasi kita,” ujar Devi.

Lebih lanjut, ia mengatakan bahwa serangan itu membuat gerakan organisasi masyarakat sipil dipersempit dan kebebasan berekspresi terancam.

“Organisasi masyarakat sipil ini menjadi terancam, semakin tereduksi hari demi hari. Padahal sebenarnya, organisasi masyarakat sipil itu membuat akuntabilitas bekerja, membuat demokrasi semakin bekerja,” kata Devi.

Dandhy Dwi Laksono, jurnalis pendiri rumah produksi Watchdoc Documentary, 19 September 2017.
Keterangan gambar,Dandhy Dwi Laksono, jurnalis pendiri rumah produksi Watchdoc Documentary, 19 September 2017.

Oleh karena itu, ia memperkirakan jika insiden serupa terulang lagi, maka masyarakat akan semakin takut untuk menyuarakan aspirasi dan mengkritisi berjalannya proses demokrasi di Indonesia.

Ia mengambil contoh ketika film Dirty Vote dilaporkan ke polisi menjelang Pemilu 2024.

“Ketika ada intimidasi atau bentuk mematahkan upaya -upaya yang dilakukan oleh organisasi masyarakat sipil ini, di situ sudah terjadi kemunduran demokrasi yang sangat besar,” jelasnya.

Sutradara Dirty Vote, Dandhy Laksono, mengatakan bahwa kru dalam film tersebut sempat mengalami beberapa tindakan intimidasi, salah satunya upaya untuk meretas akun media sosial.

Bahkan, ia sebut ada yang menerima pesan-pesan yang mengancam dan merujuk ke ranah personal.

“Beberapa bintang film kami itu di-hack telegramnya dan macam-macam itu,” kata Dandhy.

Selain dilaporkan ke pihak kepolisian dan Bawaslu, Dandhy mengatakan bahwa acara penayangan film Dirty Vote di UIN Sunan Gunung Djati Bandung sempat terkendala karena lampu dipadamkan saat diskusi.

Pihak Dewan Eksekutif kampus itu juga mengatakan bahwa menjelang acara diskusi mereka telah menerima “pesan mencurigakan dari oknum-oknum” serta kehadiran orang-orang yang mereka duga ingin mengintervensi dan mengintimidasi mereka.

“Kualitas demokrasi dan kebebasan berpendapat kita semakin terancam. Jadi alat legitimasi baru untuk lebih represif dan semakin jauh dari demokrasi,” kata Dandhy.

Feri Amsari, salah satu ahli hukum dan tata negara yang hadir dalam film Dirty Vote mengatakan bahwa apa yang dialami mereka ‘tidak ada apa-apanya’ dibandingkan apa yang dirasakan para aktivis LSM.

“Jadi ini hanya upaya untuk menyebarkan rasa takut. Mudah-mudahan sebagaimana kita ketahui, ICW dan Lokataru sudah teruji dalam upaya mereka melindungi kepentingan publik,” ujar Feri.

Apa kata Bawaslu soal demo mahasiswa di kantor LSM?

Ketua Bawaslu, Rahmat Bagja, menyampaikan temuan Bawaslu terkait pelanggaran pemilu pada Selasa (27/02).
Keterangan gambar,Ketua Bawaslu, Rahmat Bagja, menyampaikan temuan Bawaslu terkait pelanggaran pemilu pada Selasa (27/02).

Pada konferensi pers terkait temuan pelanggaran pemilu, Ketua Bawaslu, Rahmat Bagja, mengatakan bahwa ia baru mengetahui tentang aksi yang dilakukan Forum Masyarakat Pemuda Mahasiswa Timur Cinta NKRI.

Namun, ia mengatakan tindakan seperti itu melanggar hukum pidana dan tidak diperbolehkan.

“Tidak boleh orang mengancam kebebasan berbicara, berekspresi dan menyatakan pendapat di Indonesia ini. Bisa dilaporkan ke Pak Bareskrim di samping saya. Karena termasuk tindak pidana umum itu,” kata Bagja pada Selasa (27/02).

Lebih lanjut, ia mengungkatpkan bahwa sampai dengan 26 Februari 2024, Bawaslu telah menerima 1.271 laporan pelanggaran pemilu, baik yang bersifat administratif, pidana maupun pelanggaran hukum lainnya.

Meski begitu, Bagja menyatakan Bawaslu belum menemukan dugaan pelanggaran pemilu yang bersifat Terstruktur, Sistematis dan Masif (TSM).

Ia juga menyebut ada hal-hal yang harus dibuktikan mengenai dugaan pelanggaran yang bersifat TSM.

“Kita akan lihat misalnya apa yang dilakukan, ada command responsibility, ada perintah tertulis, ada kemudian terbukti pidananya, itu yang harus dibuktikan dalam pelanggaran terstruktur, sistematis, dan masif,” sebut Bagja. https://juswortele.com/

Nigerian economy: Generosity of strangers stuns struggling mother

Shamsiyya Abubakar with her donated rice
Image caption,Strangers have been dropping bags of food off at Shamsiyya Abubakar’s house

Shamsiyya Abubakar had begun to lose hope – Nigeria’s grave economic downturn meant she was scrambling each day to feed her family of nine.

The 32-year-old had resorted to cooking afafata – the rice grain millers normally throw away at the end of the sorting process because it is too tough.

Ms Abubakar, mother to a newborn baby, told BBC Pidgin that her struggles had taken her mind to dark places.

“Sometimes I say to myself: ‘Instead of living like this, wouldn’t it be better to be dead?'” she said in the Hausa language interview, which was widely shared in Nigeria.

But since it was published on Tuesday, strangers have been filing in and out of her house with offers of food and money.

This unexpected response has “changed her life”, she said when the BBC caught up with her for a second time.

“I have never seen such huge amounts of money in my life… I am really grateful.

“I got cash from several people, while others brought bags of good rice and maize, so we have enough good food to eat now,” she added.

Her husband Haruna Abubakar also expressed delight at their change of fortune.

“On the day of the BBC video, we had nothing to eat, I struggled to get them 500 naira (£0.25; $0.32) to buy cups of rice,” he said.

“Today, I am a happy man as our lives has changed and we have enough to eat.”

Ms Abubakar with a dish of broken, tough rice grains
Image caption,A video of Ms Abubakar telling the BBC about her struggle sparked an outpouring of help

Sani Isah, one of those who took supplies for the family, said Ms Abubakar’s story made him cry. Mr Isah added that he felt compelled to help with the little he had.

“I think her case is a shame to our leaders, I actually wept after watching her video. How can someone pray for death instead of wanting to live just because of food?” he asked.

“I pray that others in her type of situation will also get the help they need that will change their lives.”

Nigeria is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in a generation, which has led to widespread hardship and anger.

On Tuesday, thousands took to the streets in a nationwide protest against the government’s handling of the economy.

The steep price of food has been a major source of frustration.

Rice, a staple in Nigeria, has more than doubled in cost over the past year. Ms Abubakar is far from alone in turning to the broken, dirty and tough afafata grains – its relatively low price has helped many struggling families in the north survive. Several others have been forced to go hungry or ration the food they have.

Ms Abubakar feels that thanks to the kindness of strangers, she can now look forward to the future.

She told the BBC that in order to sustain her family in the long-run, she wants to start a business with some of the food she has received. https://juswortele.com/

The year the Australian Dream died

An aerial landscape view of Sydney
Image caption,The average price of a home in Sydney is over A$1m (£535,000, $678,000)

At the age of 31, Justin Dowswell never imagined he’d be living in a shared room in his childhood home.

He had a full-time, well-paying job in Sydney, and had rented for a decade before an unprecedented housing crisis forced him to upend his life and move back in with his parents, two hours away.

“It’s humbling,” he says. But the alternative was homelessness: “So I’m one of the lucky ones”.

It’s a far cry from the promise of the Great Australian Dream.

Where the American Dream is a more abstract belief that anyone can achieve success if they work hard enough, the Australian version is tangible.

For generations, owning a house on a modest block of land has been idealised as both the ultimate marker of success and a gateway to a better life.

It’s an aspiration that has wormed its way into the country’s identity, helping to shape modern Australia.

From the so-called “Ten Pound Poms” in the 1950s to the current boom in skilled workers moving from India, waves of migrants have arrived on Australia’s shores in search of its promise. And many found it.

But for current generations the dreams proffered to their parents and grandparents are out of reach.

After decades of government policies that treat housing as an investment not a right, many say they would be lucky to even find a stable, affordable place to rent.

“The Australian Dream… it’s a big lie,” Mr Dowswell says.

A perfect storm

Almost everything that could go wrong with housing in Australia has gone wrong, says Michael Fotheringham.

“The only thing that could make it worse is if banks started collapsing,” the head of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute tells the BBC.

Underpinning it all is that buying a house is astronomically expensive – the average property now costs about nine times an ordinary household’s income, triple what it was 25 years ago.

It’s particularly dire for the three quarters of Australians who live in major cities. Sydney, for example, is the second least affordable city on Earth to buy a property, trailing only Hong Kong, according to the 2023 Demographia International Housing Affordability survey.

Australia has made home ownership virtually unattainable for almost anyone without family wealth. Last month the boss of a major bank, ANZ, said home loans had become “the preserve of the rich”.

Chelsea Hickman and Justin Dowswell
Image caption,Chelsea Hickman and Justin Dowswell feel let down

That’s left people like Chelsea Hickman questioning their future. The 28-year-old fashion designer always imagined she’d become both a homeowner and a mother, but now worries that may be impossible.

“Financially, how could I ever afford both? The numbers just do not add up,” she says.

She tells the BBC from her Melbourne shared house that despite working full-time for almost a decade, she can’t even afford to rent an apartment by herself. Her friends are in a similar boat.

“Where did it go wrong?” she says.

“We did everything that everyone said we should do, and we’re still not reaching this point where we’re going to have financial independence and housing security.”

Tarek Bieganski, a 26-year-old IT manager, laughs when asked if he thinks he’ll ever own property.

“It’s just so obviously out of reach that it’s not really even a thought anymore,” he says. “And this is coming from someone that, really, has got it pretty good.”

But with interest rates rising faster than at any time in Australia’s history, even many of those who have scraped their way on to the property ladder now live in fear of falling off it.

Foodbanks are being overwhelmed by mortgage holders struggling to keep their heads above water. Hordes of people are picking up extra jobs. Many pensioners have been forced back into work.

It’s not doom and gloom for everyone though.

A woman runs past an auction sign in Sydney
Image caption,Many existing homeowners do not want to see house prices stabilise

The level of home ownership across the nation – while significantly dropping for young people – has overall stayed around two-thirds.

And those Australians are quite content to see house prices climb and their wealth grow.

That’s difficult to stomach, Ms Hickman says, especially given how many homeowners – one in three – now own a property other than the one they live in.

“I understand that people are like ‘Well, I worked hard to get these millions of houses’ and blah, blah, blah, and I’m like, ‘Okay, well, good for you. I work hard too and I just want one house’.”

‘Grapes of Wrath stuff’

As a result, millions of people are trapped in the rental market, seeking to create a watered-down version of the Australian Dream as tenants.

But that’s no paradise either.

Vacancies are at unprecedented, prolonged lows – to the point that councils across the country are begging people with empty holiday homes and short-term rentals to move them on to the long-term market.

And, with the greater demand, rents are skyrocketing.

Australian news has been awash with stories of massive rent increases and images of desperate people queuing to inspect properties riddled with defects and – in some cases – obviously covered in mould.

“It’s Grapes of Wrath stuff,” Dr Fotheringham says, referring to the famous Great Depression-era novel about a family struggling to build a life.

A line of people waiting to inspect a house
Image caption,A line of people waiting to inspect a house in Adelaide

Social or subsidised housing – once a safety net for those on low or moderate incomes – is not an option for most Australians either. The number of homes available is less than half of what is needed to meet immediate demand and wait lists are years long.

And all of this is happening at a time when natural disasters and climate effects are wiping out swathes of housing stock, making even more parts of the vast Australian continent effectively unliveable.

The crisis is tipping people into homelessness or overcrowded living conditions. Demand for housing support is so high that some charities say they’ve been handing out tents.

One Tasmanian woman told the BBC she and her four kids spent over six months crammed into her mother’s spare room after the family was knocked back for more than 35 properties while languishing on the social housing wait list.

Melbourne woman Hayley Van Ree told us her rental prospects were so bleak that her mother raided her own retirement fund to buy an apartment and is now Ms Van Ree’s landlord – eliciting what she describes as a confusing mix of relief, embarrassment and guilt.

“Friends who have parents who are in property have this kind of morbid knowledge that when their parents die, they might be ok,” Ms Van Ree says. “I hate that it’s my reality.”

Hayley surrounded by boxes
Image caption,Ms Van Ree says she knows plenty of people with “just fine” jobs who can’t secure a home

Mr Dowswell is now back in Sydney, having finally secured an apartment after six months, but says the ordeal has been a massive tax on his finances and mental health.

“It was just demoralising… the more you think about it, the angrier you get,” he says.

Investment or right?

In 2023, the national conversation shifted from how expensive it is to buy a home, to how difficult it is to secure any kind of affordable home at all.

An end to pandemic-era rent and eviction freezes, record migration, rapidly escalating interest rates and construction delays conspired to leave housing in Australia in the worst state it has ever been, experts warn.

But the crisis is the result of “50 years of government policy failure, financialisation and greed”, wrote leading finance journalist Alan Kohler in a recent Quarterly Essay.

Particularly critical was what happened at the turn of the millennium, he argues. Until that point house prices in Australia had kept pace with income growth and the size of the economy – but this began to shift when the federal government introduced tax changes which incentivised the buying and selling of homes for profit.

Australian house prices increasingly dwarf disposable income. .  Indexed to 2015.

A sharp spike in immigration and government grants pushed up house prices in that era too, but Mr Kohler says it was these tax breaks that forever changed the way Australia thinks about housing.

“It will be impossible to return the price of housing to something less destructive… without purging the idea that housing is a means to create wealth as opposed to simply a place to live,” he wrote.

Doing so will upset a large class of voters, which will take courage and innovation from policymakers, he adds.

And that’s something critics say successive governments at federal, state and local levels have struggled to muster.

Some point to decades of neglect for social housing, or the persistence with grants for first homebuyers, which are popular but don’t work as they should and actually drive up prices further.

Others argue planning and heritage laws have been too easily abused to limit developments, often by existing residents reluctant to see changes to their suburbs and investments.

Then there’s the fear of overhauling those lucrative tax incentives for property investors – with the most recent promise of reform rejected at an election in 2019 and now abandoned.

“Housing needs to be seen as an essential service and right before an investment,” Mr Dowswell says. “There is definitely a moral imperative to act… [but] selfishness will get in the way.”

People march through Sydney in a housing rally
Image caption,People have rallied in cities across the country

National Housing Minister Julie Collins told the BBC there are “challenges” to tackle, but that her government – elected 18 months ago – is delivering “the most significant housing reforms in a generation”.

It has created or expanded schemes to help prospective buyers, though they have strict requirements and limited places. It has also promised to build thousands of new social and affordable houses – a small dent in the waiting list – and set up an investment fund to support future projects. Alongside state governments, it has pledged to create a National Housing and Homelessness Plan and beef up protections for renters.

The government is pulling other levers too: it announced earlier this month that it would halve Australia’s immigration intake and triple the fees for foreign homebuyers, both things they argue should help ease the strain.

Advocates support these changes but say they are just more tinkering around the edges of a system that needs heavy reform.

Those the BBC spoke to say that the Australian Dream has been demolished, eroding the foundations of the nation’s identity.

Australia has long thought itself the land of a fair go.

“[But] education and hard work are no longer the main determinants of how wealthy you are; now it comes down to where you live and what sort of house you inherit from your parents,” Mr Kohler says.

“It means Australia is less of an egalitarian meritocracy.”

Or as Ms Hickman sums it up: “It’s rigged.” https://juswortele.com/

Taylor Swift: Inside a world-first ‘Swiftposium’ academic summit

A pair of glittery cowboy boots and Brittany Spanos
Image caption,Scores of sequinned scholars are exploring Taylor Swift’s impact at an academic conference

From the moment she slipped the Fearless record into her CD player as a 14-year-old, Georgia Carroll has been fascinated by Taylor Swift.

A decade and a half on, she’s now touted as the only person in the world with a PhD on the superstar.

Her assessment? “At the moment, it wouldn’t be going too far to say [Swift] is one of the most powerful people in the world.”

That’s why Dr Carroll is among scores of experts who have descended on Melbourne this week for an international academic symposium attempting to explain just how Swift has become so influential.

The event – the first of its kind – is a curtain raiser to the Eras Tour in Australia, and has attracted more than 400 submissions from dozens of study disciplines and academic institutions around the world – sparking a flurry of excitement and global headlines.

‘Started as a joke’

The idea for the ‘Swiftposium’ was born last July as a half-joking tweet with just a few dozen likes. But when organisers quietly announced the event months later it went internationally viral overnight.

Organisers woke up to coverage on the BBC, in Rolling Stone Magazine, CNN.

“I was like, I’ve got to email my boss,” Dr Eloise Faichney says with a grin. “Our little conference suddenly became this juggernaut.”

Fans were also desperate to take part, and on Sunday, hundreds of people – walking advertisements for rhinestones, cowboy boots and Swift’s signature red lip – flocked into Melbourne’s iconic Capitol Theatre just to hear lectures about the megastar.

At a sold-out friendship bracelet-making workshop beforehand, 19-year-old Soumil says the event – run by RMIT University – is helping heal the wounds left by the ticketing bloodbath of last year.

“It’s fun to still be part of it all,” he tells the BBC.

Fans pose with a cut out of Taylor Swift
Image caption,Tickets to fan events were snapped up at lightning speed

But the organisers are quick to clarify the conference – backed by seven universities across Australia and New Zealand – is not a fan convention.

“Although some of us are fans, it certainly – for us – is about trying to take somebody like her seriously in academia,” Dr Emma Whatman says.

“This is not an uncritical celebration.”

‘Godlike’ influence

There’s no denying ‘Taylor Mania’ has swept the world this past year – she was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2023 – and it’s unclear when that might fade.

On Monday, the 34-year-old again dominated the headlines with pictures of her and footballer boyfriend Travis Kelce winning at the Super Bowl. Last week she cleaned up at the Grammys, taking home her fourth album of the year accolade.

Even her cats, her publicist and her childhood friends have name recognition and a loyal following.

“[Swift] has somehow become the most godlike superstar on the planet, bigger than I thought was even possible,” keynote speaker Brittany Spanos – a Rolling Stone reporter who in 2020 taught the first ever university course on the idol – told the conference.

But Swift has long found herself at the centre of huge cultural moments and debates, ever since shooting to stardom as a teenager.

Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift onstage at the 2009 VMAs
Image caption,Her infamous run in with Kanye West in 2009 was one of those moments

She has become one of the highest-earning and most-celebrated artists of all time – all while igniting conversations about everything from streaming royalties and music ownership to misogyny and cancel culture.

The summit obviously has a whole panel dedicated to “Swiftonomics” – a trend coined to explain her mammoth effect on economies, and one which has left world leaders begging her to tour their countries.

But there are also experts detailing how her bops are being used to train young people in CPR and excited discussion about the way her romance with Kelce is helping girls feel at home in traditionally male-dominated sports fandoms.

Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce kiss after the Super Bowl
Image caption,Swift’s attention has resulted in a massive increase in NFL revenue too

There’s even a lyrical analysis of her attitudes towards public transport (ironically, as her real-life private jet use has increased, so have songs referencing trains and buses, Harrison Croft says).

And when the audience tired of listening to speeches, they were treated to a duet between a musician-turned-academic and an uncomfortably accurate AI clone of a younger Swift’s voice – to contrast how her sound has changed over the past 17 years.

For the literature fans, the conference had a mother-daughter duo read spoken-word poetry about the contempt society shows for the interests of young women – an item which drew an adoring reaction from the crowd. And for the politics nerds, an academic presenting on how Australian MPs use Swift to seem relatable.

Madeline Pentland, 27, found more than 30 speeches citing her most iconic lyrics – including a shameless performance by the treasurer of New South Wales, who racked up 20 references in a single speech.

Men were more likely to quote the singer, she discovered, but they tended to use the lyrics in political attack or mockery, whereas women were far more likely to use them to support topics of debate.

But Ms Pentland was most amused to find them wielded during one of Australian politics’ favourite past times – the disposing of leaders.

Madeline Pentland
Image caption,Swift’s popularity amongst politicians surprised historian Madeline Pentland

She laments, though, what she thinks are some missed opportunities: “I would have thought that there would be a bit of Bad Blood here and there, but I didn’t find any references!”

Another duo has explored how Swift has become such a magnet for conspiracy – from “delulu” fans reading into her strategic hints to right-wing characters reading into almost anything.

In the past few days alone, US President Joe Biden has joked off conjecture that Swift’s love life is part of a plot to rig the Super Bowl and help get him get re-elected, while her fans were convincing anyone with an internet connection that the re-record of the Reputation album was imminent.

Clare Southerton is interested in what all that can teach us about growing conspiracy communities.

“There’s a world of difference between being like, ‘Oh, look, the blue dress means 1989 is next’… and being a domestic terrorist, but it’s helpful for us to understand, why do people enjoy this?” the 35-year-old told the BBC.

There have also been uncomfortable debates about how terrifyingly unforgiving Swift’s fanbase can be, how her music reflects colonialism, and her controversial casting as a transport-emissions villain.

Singaporean academic Aimee-Sophia Lim – who studies how the artist is inspiring political activism in South East Asia – says she’s a huge fan, but she is often disappointed by Swift’s “US-centric, white brand of feminism”.

“Perhaps people of colour and those from the Global South should be the ones advocating for themselves and their communities… but Taylor’s outreach is undeniable,” the 23-year-old tells the BBC from Singapore.

“It would be great if she manages to expand her activism, so perhaps she could give a platform to other people who are able to speak on behalf of themselves.”

How did she become so powerful?

Not everyone is buying into the hype though.

Sabrina – who is literally fleeing the city the weekend the Eras Tour comes to town – says she can’t comprehend the insane levels of Swift’s appeal or influence.

“I don’t understand the whole fuss… like, I really don’t understand what’s happening here,” she tells the BBC.

But Dr Carroll says it comes down to the broadly relatable brand Swift has built, and the “intense connection” she’s managed to cultivate with her base – many of whom feel like they’ve grown up with her.

“Taylor has spent her whole career making her fans think they could be her friend,” she tells the BBC.

“And she’s done all of these things that make fans want to act in a way that makes her like them back,” adding that can at times lead to concerning behaviour – like mobbing her friend’s wedding, spending tens of thousands on merch and tickets, and obsessing over her every move.

Dr Georgia Carroll
Image caption,Dr Carroll knows Swift’s power first hand

All throughout the symposium – hosted by the University of Melbourne – people have been likening Swift to Elvis, Michael Jackson, Madonna and Beyoncé.

It’s hard to compare her to those artists of a different era, keynote speaker Ms Spanos tells the BBC, but she’s certainly the hottest thing on the planet right now.

“She’ll be considered the greatest songwriter of her generation… and also one of the greatest songwriters of all time.”

Dr Carroll argues Swift has indeed been able to take her fame to another level though – thanks to that broad, incredibly motivated fanbase.

“[For other artists], their sphere of influence doesn’t extend too far out of their fan base. But that’s no longer true of Taylor.”

And it’s nice – and long overdue – that people are taking an interest in that, she says.

A year ago, when receiving her doctorate people laughed at the topic of her studies. Now she’s giving a keynote speech at one of the most publicised academic conferences in the world.

“It’s kind of like, oh my God, everybody gets it!” she says. “It’s that feeling of being seen, and recognition that my research does have a value.

“We are not just gonna be sitting around at this conference fangirling – that will occur – but there’s so much that studying her can tell us about the world.” https://juswortele.com/