TheIndonesia.id - Women, men, and children were all crushed before the exit gate of Kanjuruhan Stadium. From the pitch, police continued to fire tear gas while the gate was locked. At Gate 13, lives were lost.
Eko Arianto had yet to finish his black coffee when a booming noise was heard from inside Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang on Saturday, October 1, 2022.
It wasn’t that late at night, but during a football match day in Indonesia, 10 p.m. would be considered as such.
Inside the stadium, a classic derby between Arema Malang and Persebaya Surabaya had just ended. The home team lost the match 2-3.
Eko was startled. He knew the sound was coming from tear gas guns, usually used by police whenever clashes between supporters happened.
But he was hesitant because there were no Persebaya supporters inside the stadium as only Aremania (Arema supporters) were allowed to attend the match.
Eko had actually bought a ticket for that night’s derby, but he decided against watching from the tribune and spent the night drinking his coffee at a stall near the stadium’s Gate 10.
His curiosity creeped up when he heard people screaming for help from the gate.
Eko hurried to Gate 10, and the first figure that caught his eyes was a woman who was already weak. Amid her screams, she then fainted.
“Mas [brother]… help me, Mas. We can’t get out,” someone shouted from the other side the gate.
“There’s tear gas in here,” screamed another.
A number of Aremania rushed to help the people who were stuck and unable to exit Gate 10.
Relieved that help was already present at Gate 10, Eko took his friends to check other gates.
And what he saw at Gate 13 was beyond horrifying: women, men, even children—all of them were Aremania—were caught in a stampede.
The gate was locked. And from the pitch, tear gas continued to be fired towards them.
Someone told them to head to the tribune to avoid being crushed near the gate. However, police also fired tear gas to that direction. They were hopelessly stuck.
Amid the commotion, Eko witnessed people who were stuck trying to break the concrete wall to escape.
With what they had on their hands, Aremania tried to knock the wall down while Eko and his friends went and tried to find security officers who can open the door.
“Sir, please help us. There are many people stuck at Gate 13. It is locked, and they can’t get out,” Eko told an officer.
Instead of helping, the officer in uniform lashed out at him.
“Jancok [you fucker], my friends were also attacked!” the officer said.
He tried to hit Eko, but it was dodged.
Eko refused to give up and headed outside the stadium to find help where he found the match’s stewards.
However, it was all too late. When Eko and the stewards got to Gate 13, many of the Aremania were already dead.
Around the gate, Eko saw many women and children being piled up, lifeless.
Eko suddenly went silent and stopped telling his accounts of the tragic night. His body slumped to Yuli’s lap, who sat beside him.
“I can’t do this, Mas,” he said.
The Aremania from Dau district then wailed while Yuli Sumpil rubbed his back and tried to soothe Eko.
“Be strong… it’s fine, just tell the story,” Yuli told him.
Eko and Yuli were summoned as witnesses during the press conference held by the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence in Malang on Monday, October 3, 2022.
They were survivors of the Kanjuruhan tragedy that took place two days prior and claimed the lives of hundreds of Aremania. The tragedy itself started when police fired tear gas to the tribune.
“Gate 13 was like a mass grave—there were many women and children.”
Eko cried again.
Sacrifice Made for Grandchild
Cheers and shouts echoed in the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Krajan, Kedungpedaringan, Kepanjen subdistrict, Malang regency, when Arema Malang met their eternal rival Persebaya.
Ahmad Wahyudi and his wife Sulastri were part of the crowd—along with their three nephews, child-in-law, and grandchild.
But the joy turned to horror when police and military blocked some Aremania who invaded the pitch and tried to talk to their players.
Forty-year-old Wahyudi told his wife and family members to leave before the situation got worse.
“Let’s leave,” he said.
“Why?” his wife asked.
“It’s not okay for the kid to see this. Let’s leave and find something to eat instead of letting our grandchild witness this,” Wahyudi persuaded.
Sulastri and the rest followed Wahyudi and headed to the exit of Tribune 12.
“Bu, hold onto the rails, so you don’t fall,” Wahyudi told his wife.
Sulastri did as told. She is almost 50 years old, and she gets easily exhausted whenever she climbs stairs.
While climbing down the stairs, she saw a smoking object flying above her head, and she suddenly felt soreness in her eyes.
That object was fired by police from the pitch’s sideline.
She couldn’t open her eyes, but she was still able to see her husband taking her hand.
“Everyone, hold on,” Wahyudi ordered.
He led the group, followed by Sulastri, child-in-law, grandchild, and his three nephews.
Other Aremania at Tribune 12 screamed in horror while the police continued to shoot them with tear gas.
To save themselves, supporters had to get to Gate 12 through the stairs, so Wahyudi had to move against the crowd to reach Gate 12.
Amid the hundreds of people trying to find a way out, only half of Gate 12 opened.
Wahyudi tried to find a way to save six of his family members. While holding hands, they got nearer to the gate.
However, many Aremania pushed from the back, and they were separated.
Sulastri was trapped between the crowds and was pushed to different directions.
Her chest felt tight, and her eyes couldn’t see. In her mind, she’d accepted if she had to die at Gate 12. Afterwards, she lost consciousness.
When she was awake, she heard the news: her husband had died. Meanwhile, other family members managed to leave the stadium.
“Bapak died to save us and his grandchild,” Sulastri said on Monday.
Her voice was still hoarse. Sulastri and other survivors gathered at the office of Lowokwaru subdistrict and grieved the tragedy.
‘Why Were We Shot At?’
Given a choice, Aulia Rahman Maksum wouldn’t have returned to Kanjuruha Stadium just two days after being stuck in a stampede among Aremania.
On the afternoon of Monday, Aulia—still wearing school uniform—and friends came back to the stadium to send prayers for the victims.
Last Saturday night, Aulia and six friends went to watch the big match.
They sat in Tribune 14, and there were no incident during the match. No supporter clash because Bonek (Persebaya supporters) were not allowed to watch the match.
However, after it ended, a supporter entered the pitch and approached the officials of Arema.
“I stayed in the tribune, but after one person got into the pitch, the others followed,” Aulia recalled.
Police, with their tear gas guns, also entered the pitch and targeted on-pitch crowd.
However, the substance was also fired to Tribune 14 when there was no Aremania who tried to climb the fence and invade the pitch from that point.
“That's what I regret: why were we shot at while the people inside the pitch were safe?”
Tribune 12 and 14 became the target for tear gas, and that was the reason why Aremania in those areas panicked and rushed to exit the place.
At that time, Aulia was standing in the front—before the fence and near the police. In Tribune 14, tear gas already filled the air.
Aulia didn’t really pay attention to the surroundings. He couldn’t see: his eyes were sore, and it was hard to breathe.
Leaving the stadium was the only thing on his mind. Meanwhile, he still could hear screams as well as shouts directed at police who wouldn’t stop firing tear gas.
“Much of the voices I heard came from women and children. But I couldn’t see anything, so I kept walking by trying to touch and what was around me.”
The gate was still locked when Aulia got there. Many people were also there, and stampede couldn’t be avoided.
Aulia was already at the staircases, but there was a big push from behind, and everyone fell.
“We fell on top of each other. The ones at the bottom died, and there were many of them. I fainted, and when I woke up, I was at the VIP room,” Aulia remembered.
He woke up at the early hours of Sunday, at about 4 a.m., after his friends managed to save him.
No Attacks on Persebaya Players
Dadang Hermawan, an Aremania, swore that none of them attacked Persebaya players after they had invaded the pitch. And that’s why he questioned decision made by the police to immediately fire tear gas.
“After the final whistle, two friends from the east sector descended but didn’t attack Persebaya players because they’d already got inside the locker room.”
Dadang said those who entered the pitch didn’t have bad intention, let alone causing riot, even though Arema lost the match.
“Nawak-nawak [my friends] only shook hands and offered support to Arema players. Afterwards, they were escorted out by stewards.”
Those stewards asked Aremania to leave the pitch and return to the tribune.
However, Aremania from the north tribune also entered the pitch because they thought there had been friction between stewards and their fellow supporters.
“It was spontaneous because they thought there was a clash.”
Not long after that, the officers responded repressively.
“They used their shields and guns to disperse us. I thought that was only it, but then they fired tear gas.”
Aremania tried to flee and save themselves, and some of them even jumped from the stadium’s fence.
“They ran onto the pitch not to attack officers, but to save themselves from tear gas,” Dadang recalled.
The gas enveloped the tribune and attacked his eyes.
For Dadang, it wasn’t a substance used for crowd control, instead, it is one to use in war.
“The gas used [at Kanjuruhan] hurt my skin. Even until now, I still feel suffocated.”
He decided to run to the VIP tribune, and once he got there, he was shocked to find several Aremania lying dead, including his close friends.
“I found my friends already passed away,” Dadang said, crying.
Two days after the tragedy, chief of the National Police Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo dismissed Malang Police chief AKBP Ferli Hidayat.
President Joko Widodo also ordered law enforcers in the country to investigate the incident, but no one has been named suspect.
The National Commission on Human Rights said there might have been human rights violations committed by the police and the military during the handling of riot at the stadium. At the very least, there are videos of officers kicking and beating Aremania who was, simply, walking.
Military commander General Andika Perkasa said his soldier who was recorded kicking an Aremania did not do it in self-defense, and the general called it a criminal act. He promised to investigate and bring said soldier to court.
[The Indonesian version of this article is available on Suara.com with headline Kengerian di Pintu 13, yang Sebenarnya Terjadi saat Tragedi Kanjuruhan]