Indonesia raids huge red-light district before Ramadan

Indonesia raids huge red-light district before Ramadan
Indonesian sex workers, brothel owners, local NGO leaders and residents of the "Dolly" red light district in Surabaya city gather for a flag-raising ceremony on June 23, 2014, defying Surabaya city Mayor Tri Rismaharini's June 18, 2014 closure order

SURABAYA - Hundreds of police and soldiers raided a huge red-light district in Indonesia's second-biggest city Friday to close down brothels before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Scuffles briefly broke out between security forces and people protesting the raid in the area known as "Dolly" in Surabaya, on Indonesia's main Java island, where women advertise their services by sitting in brightly-lit shop windows.

"The raid was conducted to make sure that entertainment centres, including brothels, are closed during the whole month of Ramadan," said Irvan Widyanto, a Surabaya official responsible for maintaining public order.

Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, begins on Sunday in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country. The faithful are supposed to abstain from eating, drinking and sex from dawn until dusk during Ramadan.

The raid came about a week after the city's mayor announced the closure of Dolly, but gave the prostitutes and pimps in the network of narrow alleys a few more weeks before the red-light district is finally closed.

The bid to close Dolly has sparked fierce resistance from sex workers and others whose jobs depend on the red-light district, and they have staged regular protests. The government has pledged to give them financial assistance and training in new professions.

Some 500 police, soldiers and public order officers - who assist police in maintaining peace but have fewer powers - were involved in Friday's raid, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

One large brothel in the area was closed down permanently, said Widyanto. Scuffles broke out when public order officers sought to take down banners condemning the closure of Dolly.

Islamic hardliners also regularly carry out raids on bars and brothels during Ramadan.

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