Timor-Leste, or East Timor, a Southeast Asian nation occupying half the island of Timor, is ringed by coral reefs teeming with marine life. Landmarks in the capital, Dili, speak to the country’s struggles for independence from Portugal in 1975 and then Indonesia in 2002.
East Timor was colonised by Portugal in the 16th century, and was known as Portuguese Timor until 28 November 1975, when the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin) declared the territory’s independence. Nine days later, it was invaded and occupied by the Indonesian military, and was declared as the country’s 27th province the following year. The Indonesian occupation of East Timor was characterised by a highly violent, decades-long conflict between separatist groups (especially Fretilin) and the Indonesian military.
In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory. East Timor became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on 20 May 2002 and joined the United Nations and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. It is one of only two predominantly Christian nations in Southeast Asia, the other being the Philippines, as well as the only Asian country to be located completely in the Southern Hemisphere.