AR Baswedan (Arabic: عبد الرحمن باسويدان ʿAbd ar-Raḥman bā swaidān; born in Surabaya, East Java, 9 September 1908 – deceased in Jakarta, 16 March 1986) is the popular name of Abdurrahman Baswedan, a nationalist, journalist, Indonesian freedom fighter, diplomat, and writer. During his political life, AR Baswedan was involved in the Investigating Committee for the Preparation of Indonesian Independence (Badan Penyelidik Usaha Persiapan Kemerdekaan Indonesia, BPUPKI), served as Deputy Minister of Information of the third Sjahrir Cabinet, member of the Central Indonesia National Committee-Working Group (Badan Pekerja Komite Nasional Indonesia Pusat, BP KNIP), member of Parliament, and also a member of Constitutional Assembly. AR Baswedan is one of Indonesia’s first diplomats who successfully gaining de jure and de facto international recognition for the Republic of Indonesia (from Egypt).
AR Baswedan was a rebel of his age. In August 1934, Semarang based daily newspaper “Matahari” published his provoking article on Indonesians of Arab descent, calling them to unite in supporting Indonesia’s independence. AR Baswedan himself is an Arab descent, but he spoke with strong East Javanese accent. He was calling Arab descents living in Indonesia –as himself- to adhere ius soli principle: “where I born, there my motherland is.” His picture on the article conveyed the message strongly as he was posed with a blangkon (Javanese traditional hat).
On 4 October 1934, after the publication of the controversial article, he gathered Arab descents in Semarang. In that congress, they declared Arab Descent Indonesian Youth Pledge which proclaimed Indonesia as their motherland and their commitment to support the fight for Indonesia’s Independence. In repercussion to the congress, Indonesian Arab Party (Partai Arab Indonesia, PAI) was established and AR Baswedan was elected as its Chairman. This signed his entrance to politics. To focus on the political struggle, he left his well-paid job in Matahari daily newspaper (120 gulden –worth 24 quintal of rice). “For the struggle,” he said.
He was indeed a tough journalist who worked not for money. His decision to leave Matahari was not the only display of his commitment. He moved from Sin Tit Po Newspaper which paid him 75 gulden to dr. Soetomo’s Soeara Oemoem which only able to pay him 10-15 gulden. For his exemplary character, Soebagio IN put him in the list of 111 Indonesia’s national press pioneers. As a patriot-journalist, Baswedan wrote actively. He was widely known as a writer, poet, and artist. His speech was attractive and he was also an expert in drama art. Apart from Bahasa Indonesia, he mastered Arabic, English, and Dutch languages. Some of his published books are Debat Sekeliling PAI (Debates Surrounding Indonesian Arab Party, 1939), Sumpah Pemuda Indonesia Keturunan Arab (Arab Descent Indonesian Youth Pledge, 1934), and Rumah Tangga Rasulullah (The Prophet’s Home, 1940). He also wrote a five-stage drama story titled Menuju Masyarakat Baru (Toward a New Society). Other than his own publications, his ideas and visions were published by the secretary general of PAI, Salim Maskati.
His struggle continued in the new Republic. Together with Haji Agus Salim (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs), Rasyidi (Secretary General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs), Muhammad Natsir and St. Pamuncak, AR Baswedan departed to Arab countries as Indonesia’s first diplomatic delegation. The delegation gained historical success. Egypt was becoming the first country to give de facto and de jure recognition to the Republic. This diplomatic success, after long negotiation in the Arab League, was soon followed by recognition by other countries.
AR Baswedan married with Sjaichun. In 1948, Sjaichun died in Surakarta because of Malaria. In 1950, AR Baswedan married with Barkah Ganis, a prominent women activist. The marriage took place in the house of KH Ahmad Dahlan in Yogyakarta. Muhammad Natsir was acting as the legal guardian (wali). AR Baswedan had 11 children and 45 grandchildren. In February 1986, AR Baswedan finished his draft for his autobiography in Jakarta. Two weeks later, his health condition deteriorated. On 16 March 1986, AR Baswedan died and was laid to rest in Tanah Kusir Cemetery, among Indonesian National heroes who were rejecting to be buried in the Cemetery of Heroes.
One of AR Baswedan’s legacies was his book collection of more than 5000 books. As his will, the front room of his house in Yogyakarta was converted into a public library with his book collection in various languages (Arab, Dutch, English, Indonesia) were on display, arranged well with a modern catalogue. General public, particularly students, can easily access these books. Throughout his life, AR Baswedan was actively engaging the youth. Some youth figures known to be close with him were Ahmad Wahib, Anhar Gonggong, Emha Ainun Najib, Gunawan Mohamad, Lukman Hakiem (PPP), Syu’bah Asa, Taufiq Effendi, WS Rendra, and most of the young activists during the 1960s to 1980s.
AR Baswedan was a humble fighter who never thinks about material gains. Until his last day, AR Baswedan did not even own any house. He and his family were living in a borrowed house in Taman Yuwono complex in Yogyakarta, a complex which was lent by Haji Bilal for the freedom fighters when Yogyakarta was Indonesia’s capital. His car was a present from his friend Adam Malik (when he was Vice President) for his 72nd birthday.
- (English) Huub De Jonge, Abdul Rahman Baswedan and the Emancipation of the Hadramis in Indonesia, Asian Journal of Social Science, Volume 32, Number 3, 2004, pp. 373–400(28)
- (Indonesian) Alwi Shahab, Sumpah Pemuda Arab, republika.co.id, 16 September 2007.
- (English) Howard Dick, Surabaya the City of Work, a socioeconomic History 1900-2000, Center for International Studies, Ohio University, 2002.
- (Indonesian) Suratmin, Abdurrahman Baswedan; Karya dan Pengabdiannya, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, Direktorat Sejarah dan Nilai Tradisional Proyek Inventarisasi dan Dokumentasi Sejarah Nasional Jakarta, 1989, hal 49-50.
- (Indonesian) Apa dan Siapa; Abdur Rahman Baswedan, Pusat Data dan Analisa Tempo, www.pdat.co.id.
- (Indonesian) Alwi Shahab, Partai Arab Indonesia, republika.co.id, 6 Januari 2002.
- (Indonesian) Awal Sejarah Besar Itu dalam Profil Jama’ah Shalahuddin UGM, www.js.ugm.ac.id.
- (Indonesian) Lihat catatan pendahuluan Djohan Effendi dalam buku Pergolakan Pemikiran Islam, Catatan Harian Ahmad Wahib yang diterbitkan Pustaka LP3ES, Jakarta, cetakan keenam, Februari 2003.
- (Indonesian) AR Baswedan Dalam Pergerakan Nasional
- (Indonesian) Sumpah Pemuda Arab
- (Indonesian) Aljazair Anugerahkan Medali kepada 13 Tokoh RI
In September 2008, numerous newspapers and magazines in Indonesia published series of articles about the life and struggle of AR Baswedan as a commemoration of his 100th birthday. Beside national media, these articles also published by tens of local newspaper across the country. These are some of the articles that are accessible via web:
- (Indonesian) Majalah TEMPO: AR Baswedan, Seorang Nasionalis Berdarah Arab
- (Indonesian) Harian KOMPAS: AR Baswedan 1908-1986 (tentang perjuangan diplomasi)
- (Indonesian) Harian REPUBLIKA: AR Baswedan Pendobrak Isolasi
- (Indonesian) Harian JAWA POS (INDO POS): Seabad A.R. Baswedan, Pahlawan dan Perintis Pers Asal Kampung Ampel (1 dari 2): Gugah Semangat Warga Arab lewat Koran Tionghoa
- (Indonesian) Harian JAWA POS (INDO POS): Seabad A.R. Baswedan, Pahlawan dan Perintis Pers Asal Ampel, Surabaya (2 dari 2): Gara-gara Pentas Fatimah, Warga Arab Mengadu ke Polisi
- (Indonesian) Harian Jurnal Nasional: AR Baswedan dan PAI
- (Indonesian) Majalah TEMPO Edisi 15 December 2008 menulis panjang tentang AR Baswedan dalam Rubrik Selingan