In 1999 the Indonesian government decided, under strong international pressure, to call a referendum on the future of East Timor. Finally, on 30 August 1999, the East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia in a UN-supervised referendum, giving a clear majority (78.5%) in favour of independence, rejecting the alternative of remaining an autonomous province within Indonesia.
However, violent riots occurred immediately after the vote, instigated by anti-independence militias (aided by elements of the Indonesian military). Pro-Indonesian paramilitaries went on a rampage of terror, murder and house-burning in a territory that had proclaimed its right to live in freedom.
In just one month, 2,000 people were killed, hundreds of women were raped, three-quarters of the population was displaced and 75 percent of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed, reducing the country’s cities to ruins, most notably the capital Dili.