From 1974 to 1999, the small island of East Timor suffered one of the most brutal occupations in history. Under the Indonesian military, torture and disappearances were commonplace. Women were forcibly sterilized and taken as sex slaves. Entire villages were obliterated. One third of the Timorese population perished.
Jose Ramos Horta left East Timor and landed in New York virtually as the Indonesian warships were arriving on the island. He spent 24 years in exile, pleading the case of the Timorese people. He built a human rights network, worked closely with the UN and traveled the world speaking to governments and anyone who would listen to try and achieve a non-violent solution to the brutality. In 1996 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
In 1999 saw his dream come true — the United Nations sponsored a referendum which allowed East Timor to become independent. Today he is the President of our world’s youngest country. Jesse Kornbluth, thecommunity.com’s Editorial Director, asks him what advice he would have for other countries or groups under occupation or oppression.