Syamsurniati, Lhok Seumawe, North
of the nature of her work – providing assistance
and counselling to torture and abuse victims and their
families in Aceh – Cut Syamsurniati is widely
perceived as a rebel sympathizer. In the strife-torn
and military-riddled territory, one would think that
would be tantamount to wearing a bull's-eye on your
chest. So, it amazed me to see how confidently and unselfconsciously
she moved about while I meekly followed her around.
photographed Cut in the burnt-out shell of a vocational
school – one of many heart-wrenching sites in
Lhok Seumawe, North Aceh – amidst a demolished
training kitchen, a foyer and stacks of pilfered and
soiled graduate diplomas. Cut Syamsurniati was chosen
as one of Asia's Heroes of 2002 by an international
news magazine. A distinction she truly deserves.