Cut Nyak Dien

by Sasi from Jakarta

To tell a woman everything she may not do is to tell her what she can do. -Spanish Proverb
Cut Nyak Dien (
Cut Nyak Dien (

Cut Nyak Dien was awarded Nation’s Heroine in May 2nd 1964 by President Soekarno. She was one of the first women warriors recorded in Indonesian history. Her persistence and unbroken spirit set the ground for her own people, citizens of Aceh, to fight back Colonialism. Born in 1848 from an aristocratic and religious family in Lampadang, Cut Nyak Dien was an attractive and gorgeous girl. That is why she was married in a very young age, 12 years old, to Teuku Cek Ibrahim Lamnga, son from an uleebalang (elder).

Since Aceh was invaded by the Dutch colonialism, her husband, Ibrahim Lamnga fought in the front line to defend their homeland while she boosted the spirit of the army from behind. Unfortunately, in June 29th 1878, Ibrahim Lamnga was killed in Gle Tarum which made Cut Nyak Dien furious and vowed to destroy Dutch no matter what it took. She initiated her vow of revenge by marrying her cousin, Teuku Umar, a warrior in Aceh. From that moment on, she actively involved in the front line.

Teuku Umar & Cut Nyak Dien (
Teuku Umar & Cut Nyak Dien (

Teuku Umar was shot to death in a battle in Meulaboh in February the 11th 1899. Grieving for only a short time, she decided to continue her struggle with the guerrillas. Cut Nyak Dien was the Commander in Chief; she controlled the attacks inside the jungle for sixteen years. The attacks were successful, the Dutch lost many men, and they enraged the Dutch. Therefore, Cut Nyak Dien was their first target; unfortunately, she was never captured until she was an old woman with blurry eyes and an acute lumbago. Her location was reported, out of compassion of her condition, by Pang Laot, one of her men. However, her persistence in struggling against the Dutch invasion was not diminished. From inside her prison, she continued to communicate her mission, which disturbed the Dutch, and as a result, she was exiled to Sumedang, West Java. Even in her exile, she was not idle. She taught Al-Quran to the people in surrounding community. She died on November 8th 1908, however her struggle and spirit of freedom live on.

Cut Nyak Dien was a pioneer in feminism in the early 19th century of Indonesian history. She was a female leader among males, which at that time was prohibited by her religion, but she showed an outstanding quality of a leader so her men obeyed her commands. Her persistence is greatly admired up to now, once she set her eyes on taking back her homeland. She knew that her men were outnumbered but she used her logical strategy to fight the Dutch. Even with old age, blurry eyes, and acute lumbago, she fought until her last breath. She was also a true feminist.

Even though the word feminist was not acknowledged at her time, she showed herself as a true feminist by breaking through the barrier of segregation of men and women. Women social status were considered lower than men’s who were placed among the walls with limited access. Cut Nyak Dien proved that women, given chances, could do men’s work.

Page created on 2/21/2008 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 2/21/2008 12:00:00 AM