cover image ""If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die"": How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor

""If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die"": How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor

Geoffrey Robinson. Princeton University Press, $35 (319pp) ISBN 978-0-691-13536-6

In this intimate, informed account, historian Robinson (The Dark Side of Paradise: Political Violence in Bali), examines the tumultuous events surrounding East Timor's 1999 attempt to gain independence from Indonesia. With expertise and an insider's perspective-a principal researcher for Amnesty International in the 1990s, Robinson joined the UN mission overseeing East Timor's independence referendum-the author offers rare insight into the country's internal turmoil. Particularly riveting are Robinson's descriptions of the days preceding the historic vote to separate from Indonesia: ""dressed in their Sunday best, some East Timorese left home in the middle of the night to reach the polling station by dawn."" The importance of that vote, in which ""98.6 percent of those who had registered cast ballots,"" is hard to overstate; just hours after voting ended, however, pro-Indonesian militia groups erupted in a violent backlash that would kill approximately 1,500 civilians and send 400,000 fleeing the country. Despite the overwhelming brutality of the story, and a bleak assessment of actions from the UN and international community (as much a part of the problem as the solution), Robinson manages to cap his detailed report with a hopeful note.