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‘Don’t be scared’: Indonesia province Aceh hosts ultramarathon to soften image

The Jakarta Post Tue, February 11, 2020

Welcome to my paradise: A sticker that reads ‘The Light of Aceh’ is displayed on the window of a tourist bus in Banda Aceh. JP/ PJ Leo (JP/ PJ Leo)

ACEH – Indonesia’s westernmost province, Aceh, plans to host the West Coast Aceh 250K ultramarathon from April 4 to 6 in an attempt to boost a positive public image.

“Aceh has been portrayed as ‘unsafe’ and that’s the problem. We expect the ultramarathon to be able to convey a message to the public, both at home and overseas, that Aceh is a friendly and comfortable destination,” Aceh Tourism and Culture Agency head Zulkifli told the press on Monday as quoted by Antara.

The implementation of sharia in Aceh has been considered unfriendly to potential visitors.

The province, for example, enforces public flogging for those found guilty of adultery, gambling and homosexuality, which are regarded as crimes under sharia.

Human rights groups have condemned the punishment, calling it “cruel, inhuman and degrading”, but the province stands firm behind the law.

The ultramarathon’s organizers said they wanted to promote the scenic view along Aceh’s west coast. The 250-kilometer race is to start in Meulaboh and end in the province’s capital Banda Aceh.

“I hope the event could eliminate any impression that Aceh is scary and turn it around into a positive one: that the province is safe and a comfortable destination to visit,” said race director Lexi Rohi.

Despite the warm welcome, the organizers expected participants to wear clothes that are in line with sharia.

“We have announced to the participants that [under Aceh’s sharia] the race requires proper clothing, especially for women. There is a list [provided] of sports apparel that accommodate such requirements,” Lexi said.

The race is the first multi-stage ultramarathon to ever be held in Aceh. For further information about the event, visit westcoast250km.com. (hol)

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