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Timor was colonised by the Portuguese in 1702. The island was split into East Timor and West Timor, after a battle between the Portuguese and Dutch in 1859.  

During the Second World War Up to 60,000 Timorese died in the Japanese and Australian invasions and bombing of the island. The Timorese helped Australian Sparrow Force troops fight the Japanese, giving them food and supplies during their guerrilla warfare campaign.  

After the Second World War, East Timor appealed to Portugal for independence. This was only discussed after the Portuguese Revolution in 1974, in which freedom was promised to its colonies.  

Pro and anti-independence movements arose, and in November 1975 a short civil war began. The Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) declared East Timor independent. In October 1975, Indonesia invaded East Timor, annexing the country as Indonesia’s 27th province. Many who had supported the Portuguese switched their allegiance to Indonesia, and became involved in the Pro Indonesian Militia.  

In 1991 a massacre at Santa Cruz cemetery brought Indonesian human rights violations to the international stage. 100 mourners of a Fretilin supporter were killed in the violence.  

In 1999 Indonesia was pressured into granting an independence vote to the East Timorese people. Almost 99% of the electorate voted, and a 78% for independence outcome was reached. Indonesian supported violence erupted and an Australian led peacekeeping mission entered Timor to restore peace. In 2002 East Timor was finally declared independent. The last Australian Peacekeepers left in 2005.

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Reviewed 15 April 2021

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