December 7, 2023


The Indonesia Police have been accused of firing tear gas into the spectator stands and blocking the gates of the football stadium during the stampede which killed at least 131 people and left hundreds injured.

The witnesses believe that had the police acted swiftly and not blocked the stadium’s exits, they could have minimised the casualties during the chaos.

Several fans who witnessed the riot spoke to Al Jazeera and revealed how the situation had already become tense 15 minutes before the end of the match as it became clear that the home team – Arema Football Club – was losing to arch-rivals Persebaya, a club from nearby Surabaya City.

“Police were 100 per cent to blame”, Fitria Rahmawati, who attended the match in Malang city with her husband and children, told Al Jazeera.

She claimed that the spectators, some of whom were drunk, broke the barricades and stormed into the match after the match ended, prompting the police to counter with the indiscriminate firing of tear gas.

The tear was not only directed at those who invaded the pitch but also at those people who were in the stands, Rahmawati added.

“Why in the hell did they shoot tear gas into the upper grandstand?” she was quoted as saying.

The allegations were supported by another witness, a university student, who came to the match with his seven friends. One of them was killed in the carnage.

“Some fans began chanting racist slurs at Persebaya players so the MC started telling the crowd to be calm and go home early,” Surya was quoted as saying.

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“After the siren rang, one fan ran across the field carrying a flag that said ‘You play a s**t game’,” he said.

“That’s when I heard a commander or someone in charge shout ‘Shoot tear gas!’, and they did. The police also started kicking spectators, and spectators attacked the police. It was chaos.”

On Wednesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered an audit of all football stadiums in the country, vowing to find the “root” cause of one of the deadliest disasters in the sport’s history.

He was in the city of Malang to visit relatives of the victims and those injured in a stampede.

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