Timor-Leste is one of the newest nations in the world. For more than four centuries, it was a Portuguese colony. Portugal’s 1974 revolution was the catalyst for a hasty de-colonization that culminated in a brief civil war between rival political factions from which a pro-independence party emerged victorious. The victory was short-lived, however, as Indonesia invaded in December 1975, annexing the country as its 27th province. Observers estimate that Indonesia’s 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste caused more than 200,000 deaths, a quarter of the population. In 1999, the United Nations (UN) administered a referendum putting Timorese independence from Indonesia to a vote. The overwhelming majority of Timorese voted for independence. Mass violence and destruction at the hands of withdrawing Indonesian forces and their proxy militias followed the announcement of the results. The international community mobilized a peacekeeping operation and after over two years of UN administration, Timor-Leste obtained its independence on May 20, 2002.
Last updated: October 08, 2013