Cut Nyak Dhien (Also known as: Tjoet Nja Dhien) is an Indonesian National Hero from the province Aceh, she fought against the Dutch and was a leader of the Acehnese guerrilla forces during the Aceh War. After the VI Mukim area was attacked, she fled, while her husband, Ibrahim Lamnga fought against the Dutch. The death of Ibrahim Lamnga at Gle Tarum on 29 June 1878 then dragged Cut Nyak Dhien further in her resistance to the Dutch.
In Indonesia, there are a total of fifteen women who have been deemed as national heroes. Cut Nyak Dhien being one of them.
In her early life, Cut Nyak Dhien was born into a religious noble family in Great Aceh (Aceh Besar), VI mukim district in 1848. Her father was Teuku Nanta Seutia, he was a member of the ruling Ulèë Balang aristocratic class in VI mukim, and her mother was also from an aristocrat family. Cut Nyak Dhien was educated in religion and household matters.
In her childhood, Cut Nyak Dhien was renowned for her beauty. She received education in the fields of religion (which was educated by parents or religious teachers) and household matters such as cooking, serving her husband, and in matters relating to daily life which was educated both by her parents. Many men liked Cut Nyak Dhien and tried to propose to her. But at the age of 12 years, she was already married arranged by her parents, in 1862 to Teuku Cek Ibrahim Lamnga, the son of an aristocratic family. They had one son.
On March 26, 1873, the Dutch declared war on Aceh, and began firing cannons on the Aceh mainland from the battleship Citadel van Antwerpen. The Aceh War broke out. In the first war (1873-1874), Aceh was led by Panglima Polim and Sultan Machmud Syah, they fought against the Dutch led by Johan Harmen Rudolf Köhler. At that time, the Netherlands sent 3,198 soldiers. Then, on April 8, 1873, the Dutch landed on Ceureumen Beach under the leadership of Köhler, and immediately took control of the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque and burned it. The Aceh Sultanate won the first war. Ibrahim Lamnga who fought on the front lines returned with cheers of victory, while Köhler was shot dead in April 1873.
In 1874-1880, under the leadership of General Jan van Swieten, the VI Mukim area was occupied by the Dutch in 1873, while the Sultan's Palace fell in 1874. Cut Nyak Dhien and her baby fled with other mothers and groups evacuating to a safer location on December 24, 1875. Her husband, Ibrahim Lamnga, subsequently fought to reclaim area VI Mukim.
Teuku Ibrahim Lamnga died in action in Gle Tarum on June 29, 1878. Upon hearing this, Cut Nyak Dhien swore revenge against the Dutch.
After the death of her husband, another Acehnese hero, Teuku Umar proposed to her. Although she rejected him at first, she accepted his proposal when Umar allowed her to fight, and they were married in 1880. This greatly boosted the morale of Aceh armies in their fight against the Kaphé Blanda, or Dutch infidel. Teuku Umar and Cut Nyak Dhien had a daughter together named Cut Gambang. Dhien was very determined to stay in the war so took her daughter in with her.
The war continued, and the Acehnese declared a holy war against the Dutch, engaging in guerrilla warfare and attacking with traps and ambushes. Undersupplied, Teuku Umar surrendered to Dutch forces on September 30, 1893 along with 250 of his men. The Dutch army welcomed him and appointed him as a commander, giving him the title of Teuku Umar Johan Pahlawan. However, Teuku Umar secretly planned to betray the Dutch.
Two years later Teuku Umar set out to assault Aceh, but instead departed with his troops, heavy equipment, weapons, and ammunition, using these supplies to help the Acehnese. This is recorded in Dutch history as "Het verraad van Teukoe Oemar" (the treason of Teuku Umar).
Teuku Umar and Dhien kept resisting the Dutch with their new equipment until the Dutch sent the Maréchaussée. The Acehnese found these troops extremely difficult to resist and many people were killed.
The Dutch general, Johannes Benedictus van Heutsz took advantage of the condition and sent a spy to Aceh. Teuku Umar was killed during battle when the Dutch launched a surprise attack on him in Meulaboh. When Cut Gambang cried over his death, Cut Nyak Dhien reportedly slapped her, then she hugged her and said: "As Acehnese women, we may not shed tears for those who have been martyred."
After her husband died, Cut Nyak Dhien continued to resist the Dutch with her small army until its destruction in 1901, as the Dutch adapted their tactics to the situation in Aceh. Furthermore, Cut Nyak Dhien suffered from nearsightedness and arthritis as she got older. The number of her troops kept decreasing and they suffered from a lack of supplies.
One of her men, Pang Laot, told the Dutch the location of her headquarters in Beutong Le Sageu. The Dutch assaulted, catching Dhien and her troops by surprise. Despite desperately fighting back, Dhien was captured, but her daughter Cut Gambang escaped and continued the resistance.
After being arrested, Cut Nyak Dhien was taken to Banda Aceh and treated there. The disease, such as myopia and gout, gradually healed. However, Cut Nyak Dien was then sent to exile to Sumedang, along with other Acehnese political prisoners, because the Dutch were afraid she would mobilize the resistance of Aceh people. It attracted the attention of the Suriaatmaja regent. In addition, male prisoners also expressed their concern for Cut Nyak Dhien, but the Dutch army was prohibited from disclosing the identity of the prisoner. She was arrested with a scholar named Ilyas who immediately realized that Cut Nyak Dhien was an expert in Islam, so she was nicknamed "Ibu Perbu (mother of labor)“.
On November 6, 1908, Cut Nyak Dhien died due to old age and illness.
Cut Nyak Dhien’s tomb was only discovered in 1959 at the request of the governor of Aceh, Ali Hasan.
On May 2, 1964 she was posthumously proclaimed a National Hero by Indonesian President, Sukarno.
- A historical/drama film was dedicated to Cut Nyak Dhien titled “Tjoet Nja Dhien (1988)” (the full movie is available for free on Youtube and other video streaming sites, however English subtitles are unavailable.)
- An Indonesian Navy warship was named after her, KRI Cut Nyak Dhien.
- The rupiah currency with a value of Rp.10,000.00 issued in 1998 contains a picture of Cut Nyak Dhien with a description of “Tjoet Njak Dhien”.
- A mosque named after her, “Cut Nyak Dien” is located in Jakarta.
- Cut Nyak Dhien’s House is now a Museum, in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
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