#FindMoyameehaa to find ourselves

FindMoyameehaa

42 days and 15 hours since Rizwan (also known as Rilwan), a young man in his twenties, disappeared without trace from the small island of Hulhumale’. Despite some factual inaccuracies elsewhere in the article, the UK’s Independent newspaper was right on target when it described Rizwan’s disappearance as an illustration of a darker, less seen Maldives. It is now very clear to anyone in the Maldives with a thinking mind that either top-level people in the government, the security forces, or both, have a hand in Rizwan’s disappearance.

On the night Rizwan was last seen, two witnesses came forward to say, they saw a man being forced into a red car at knife-point from outside Rizwan’s apartment. They immediately contacted the police who arrived on the scene, took notes—even recovered a fallen knife—and went off on their merry way. Despite the eye-witnesses, police said on Tuesday this week (after 39 days) that there is no connection between Rizwan’s disappearance and the abduction from outside his apartment on the night of his disappearance. It beggars belief that the police cannot even tell us who, if not Rizwan, was kidnapped in the middle of the night from Hulhumale’. No one else’s family has come forward to report a missing person.

If not Rizwan, who was abducted from outside his apartment? Where is Rizwan? How can a Maldivian disappear without trace from a small island? Why are the police spreading disinformation? Why are they trying to plant rumors that the abducted person was a female? Why are they trying to deceive? Who is behind Rizwan’s disappearance? If police cannot answer any questions related to the disappearance of a law-abiding peaceful citizen with no history of violence or criminal activity, what is their purpose? Who is the Maldives Police Service (MPS) ‘protecting and serving’ if not citizens?

There have been many previous examples of police incompetency or complicity in major crimes. On all such occasions there are combined religious/political motives—or, as Minivan News put it—’an unholy alliance’—of radicals and violent gangs (often sponsored by the state) behind them.

In June 2012 Hilath Rasheed the first (and still only) openly gay Maldivian blogger advocating for LGBT rights was brutally attacked near his home. His throat was slit from side to side causing the neck to open like a widely yawning mouth. Seeing the gaping hole, a nurse at the hospital fainted.

“No one thought I would make it,” Hilath said. I met him in Sri Lanka a month after the attack. His voice was still gruff, like it every word he spoke was an attack on his vocal cords. His hands shook, and he kept turning around to double-check he was not being attacked from behind. “They wanted to kill me,” Hilath said looking me in the eye. His shock was still palpable many painful weeks after the attack. CCTV footage exists of the attackers approaching him from both sides in the lane-way to his family home in Male’ in the early evening shadows. Hilath was certain he gave, and police collected, enough evidence to identify who the attackers were. Yet, there has been ‘no progress’ in the investigation. Hilath, who feared for his life, sought shelter elsewhere. The police took it as an opportunity to say they could not continue the investigation as the victim was not there to pursue the matter further. As if an attempted murder is merely a crime against an individual and not the entire society itself. Hilath has, understandably, chosen to remain in exile rather than seek answers or battle for justice in the Maldives—it is a place where questions remain unanswered, crimes remain unsolved and justice remains undelivered.

Before that, in January 2011, was the attack against Aishath Velezinee, then a member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). She was stabbed in the back in broad daylight. Hilath spoke out for gay rights; Velezinee spoke out against judicial wrongdoing and crimes against the State and Constitution. The man who stabbed her aimed for her spine—paralysis could easily have been the outcome. It was a narrow miss.

The police, after weeks of ‘investigation’, identified someone as the attacker. But it was, if they were right, so clearly the hired would-be assassin rather than the persons (or forces) behind the attack that Velezinee insisted the police dig deeper and find the person who commissioned the attack. They did not. In the end, the police did not pursue even the culprit they had themselves identified. Once again it was ignored that grievous bodily harm or attempted murder are crimes against society to be pursued by the public prosecutor on behalf of the people of Maldives rather than a dispute between two individuals that can be ignored if the parties involved are not pursuing each other.

The most brutal case—so far—has been that of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali who was hacked to death on 2 October 2012 at the foot of the stairs leading up to his apartment. At the risk of sounding like the late blogger Dr Haulath who conjured up ‘evidence’ and anonymous sources to make wild allegations against people, I will recount what I have been told by a wholly reliable—yet necessarily anonymous source—who was until recently privy to national intelligence: Dr Afrasheem was murdered by hired foreign mercenaries. Those who commissioned his murder are now in top positions in government. Dr Afrasheem offended some; he was also standing in some people’s way of political progress; his religious views offended some others. For many powerful people, Dr Afrasheem was better dead than alive. He was right in the middle of the ‘unholy alliance’ between corrupt politicians, religious extremists and ‘born-again’ gang-members. The clean-up afterwards involved millions spent on silencing the family, the murder of a Bangladeshi expatriate who knew too much, and speedy dispatch of the murderers back to their own countries. With this investigation—unlike the attacks on Hilath and Velezinee—the police put up a pretence of investigating. When the US offered to help with by donating services of the FBI, there was no choice but to accept. Reports from inside say the FBI team with so much obstruction and obfuscation from within the MPS they left in disgust. So far, the truth remains totally hidden.

President Abdulla Yameen who heads the current government has many allegations of corruption against him that date back years. This includes the alleged wrongful acquisition of US$800 million when he was in charge of the State Trading Organisation (STO) during his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year dictatorship. Nothing has ever been proven against him, of course, which is the reason for—and the end result of—his power. Yameen became president partly by successfully cultivating deep ties with ‘the youth’—the substantial percentage, anyway, of whom that are involved in the narcotics trade and gang-violence. Despite having run for presidency on a youth ticket, he was callously unconcerned with the news that Rilwan had disappeared from Hulhumale’. Rizwan was a youth taken without trace from the island the ‘youth President’ intended to develop into a dedicated ‘Youth City.’

Days later the very president, who had ‘No Comment’ about Rizwan because—in his words, not mine: a President cannot comment about ‘anything and everything’—was happy to order the police to stop taking down the ‘huts’ or ‘shelters’ that Male’ gangs use in various areas of the island city to congregate and plan their various nefarious activities from. Not one word, though, has President Yameen had to spare to comfort Rizwan’s grieving family, his persistent friends who persevere in seeking answers, and the shocked people of Male’ city and its ‘suburb’ of Hulhumale’. Not a single word. It is a silence that speaks volumes. It is a silence which has given the police license to ignore Rizwan’s disappearance, unlike the gangs and their huts. ‘We will stop taking down the [gang] huts because the President has said so,’ the police said.

Are the police failing to investigate Rizwan’s disappearance because the President has not ordered such an investigation personally? Is that what it takes to instigate a police investigation in this so-called ‘democracy’? Under the leadership of Yameen, are the functions of the security forces so arranged that unless he gives a direct order no crime can be investigated?

Once again today, friends and family of Rizwan—like every Friday since his disappearance—are out trying to keep his disappearance in public consciousness. This is a Herculean task in a society held captive by materialism and is in thrall to money. It is nigh on impossible in a society where a general decline in civil values, morals and principles are increasingly hidden behind a veil of claimed religiosity. For each Maldivian shocked by the fact that a young man who has never caused any living person—or creature—any harm can be made to disappear without a trace from a small island with a population of just thousands, there are three who could not care less or are willing to denigrate Rizwan for not sharing their puritan principles or narrow-minded worldview.

The case of Rizwan is, like Azim Zahir said yesterday, also about the future of the Maldives. If we do not want it to be a society of people who care not where their money come from as long as it lines their own pockets; who care not about injustice as long as they (and their own) are free; who care not if there is no security in society as long as they (and their own) come to no harm; who mind not about the disappearance of a young man as long as he is not their child, brother, husband or friend then we must all look for Rizwan.

If we do not want to lose ourselves, we must all come together and make sure the authorities #FindMoyameehaa.

    Rilwan – Disappearance of a Young Maldivian Storyteller

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    by Mushfique Mohamed

    It has been 21 days since Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, 28, a Maldivian journalist working for online news outlet Minivan News was last seen. Around 2am on 8th August, Rilwan’s neighbours in Hulhumalé reported seeing a man being forced into a car with his mouth covered. A knife was uncovered at the scene and police later took witness statements from those who reported the abduction. Efforts by the authorities into locating the reported abductee on 8th August were abysmal, creating more room for speculation into connection between the alleged abduction and the journalist who was reported missing by his family on 13th August. When Rilwan’s family made the missing person’s report, police took over 35 hours to conduct a search and seizure pursuant to it.

    Rilwan, Rizwan or his pseudonym “Moya meeha*”, well-known and admired in the Maldivian blogosphere and twitterverse last contacted his employer around 1:45am through Viber on 8th August, his last tweet was made earlier at 1:02am. Chief Inspector rilwan_familyof Maldives Police Service (MPS) stated that the last signal received from Rilwan’s phone was at 2:30am that night, near Henveiru in Malé. MPS confirmed that he had not left the country and officially requested assistance from the public on 14th August. With a sense of fleeting time to find Rilwan safe, family, colleagues and friends conducted a coordinated search of Hulhumalé, an artificial island administratively run as a suburb of Malé. Maldives’ police were suspiciously slow off the mark; MPS conducted searches on the island only on 16th August, albeit for 3 consecutive days. Authorities failed to allocate a reward for him but Rilwan’s family increased their initial reward to 200,000 MVR (approximately 13,000 US$) for those with substantial information leading to finding him successfully.

    At Minivan News Rilwan covered a variety of stories, from environmental, juridical and human rights issues, to religious radicalism, re-introduction of the death penalty, corruption and immigration. Disturbingly, one of the last stories he covered was that of 15 Maldivian journalists who received death threats over coverage of gang-related violence. His family describe him as someone who is passionate about the Dhivehi language, history, folklore and poetry. Relatives in the video plea made for Rilwan say that it was very important for him to not harm others and to defend human rights. Tweets from friends also describe him as being “intelligent and well-versed with a variety of subjects”. After studying journalism in India, Rilwan worked for Jazeera News and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM). He later joined local newspaper Miadhu before becoming a Minivan News journalist in December 2013.

    rilwan_motherOn 21st August Maldives’ police conducted searches into certain houses in Malé, however, no information has been disclosed regarding these searches, or whether anyone has been arrested pursuant to Rilwan’s alleged abduction. CCTV footage from the ferry terminal in Malé clearly shows two men following Rilwan’s movements. It was his family and friends that expeditiously retrieved the CCTV footage and attempted to identify him on 15th August. On 27th August  immigration confirmed that four passports were withheld in relation to Rilwan’s disappearance. The same day, Haveeru News reported that it had information that police seized a car a week ago regarding the reported abduction on 8th August. The authorities’ poor and delayed reaction to this incident has resulted in public outrage and fear within society. The media campaign created by his friends, colleagues and family presents to the viewer an unsettling possibility, “Where is Rilwan? Am I next?”.

    Maldives’ private media outlets released a joint statement on 23rd August expressing grave concern over the disappearance of a fellow journalist. “Efforts have always been made by various parties to silence journalists. Many journalists have been assaulted. Murder attempts have been made as well. TVM and DhiTV were vandalised while VTV and Raajje TV were torched. Now, a journalist has disappeared without a trace,” read the statement. Furthermore, the statement suggests, “information [they] have gathered so far strongly suggests Rilwan was abducted.”

    Unity among Maldives’ media to condemn attacks to press freedom is commendable and exceptional given ideological and editorial fissure within most local media outlets. The Yameen administration’s responses to ensure safety from threats made to politicians, journalists and secularists have been unsatisfactory as to support allegations of complacency or complicity. “It is the state’s responsibility to make relevant policies and laws to ensure this right for every Maldivian. However, sadly this worsening wound is festering without any treatment. As a result, extremism of all forms is becoming stronger, and the danger of gangs is growing” the statement continued.

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    Rilwan’s family and friends gathered at the People’s Majlis (parliament) on 25th August, while his mother submitted a letter, asking the Members of Parliament to hold MPS to account and expedite the investigation into her son’s mysterious disappearance. “I beseech you, as Speaker of the Majlis, prioritise this important case, and for the sake of all Maldivians, question Commissioner of Police to find out the truth. I plead with you; find out how my son is. Please take all necessary steps through the Majlis,” read the letter. The family asserted that past occurrences where Rilwan’s writings and views attracted death threats were reported to Maldives Police Service each time. With the letter, Rilwan’s mother outlined the gravity of her son’s situation to parliamentarians. She writes, “given the dire context of this incident; set in today’s society where there are unjustifiable assaults, reports of kidnapping or enforced disappearances and death threats, from unlisted numbers, made to young writers and journalists,” MPS has not provided adequate information on the progress of the case to the victim’s family.

    hilathDeath threats, knife-crime and abductions are not uncommon in the tiny Arabian Sea-Indian Ocean archipelago that recently introduced multi-party democracy in 2008. The first democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed, was first detained in solitary confinement by former leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for an article he wrote, published on ‘The Island’, a Sri Lankan newspaper in 1990. While crime rates in Maldives heavily increased, freedoms introduced during Nasheed’s government were met with staunch critics of democracy who deployed religious rhetoric and faux postcolonialism.

    Openly gay Maldivian blogger and human rights activist Hilath Rasheed was the victim of an attempted murder in June 2012. He led a silent protest promoting religious freedom and tolerance in the Maldives on Human Rights Day in 2011. The protest took place a month after the Nasheed administration was labeled anti-Islamic by an alliance consisting of Islamists and dictator-loyalists. Events such as, the monuments that were brought for the SAARC Summit considered “idolatrous” by Islamists; UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay’s comments regarding flogging made at the People’s Majlis; in November 2011, and reports that Israeli airline Al-El would operate from Malé International Airport earlier in May 2011 were used effectively to brand Nasheed “unIslamic.” Maldives’ police failed to investigate those who attacked the silent protestors, giving impunity to intolerance and radicalism. Momentum amassed from Islamist rhetoric resulted in the 23rd December politico-religious alliance in defence of Islam, which eventually saw the ouster of former President Nasheed in February 2012 in a bloodless coup.

    Moderate PPM MP Afrasheem was brutally murdered in October 2012 after publicly apologising for comments he made which were deemed “unIslamic” by fundamentalists. Opposition aligned Raajje TV journalist Ibrahim Asward Waheed suffered a near fatal attack the same year after televising an empirical report on Gayoom era corruption. Since the disappearance, threats have increased, with Minivan 97 journalist Aishath Aniya, Raajje TV journalist Ahmed Fairooz, V News editor Adam Haleem, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Mariya Didi and Eva Abdulla, Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim publicly claiming to have received death threats via text message. Earlier this year in June, Minivan News was the only local news outlet that covered a series of attacks on individuals perceived to be atheists, secularists or homosexuals by a group consisting of radical Islamists and prominent gang members in Malé.

    The nexus between religious radicalisation of prisoners is clear and well documented. The BBC reported in May 2014 that there were around 100 Islamist terrorists in prisons in England and Wales. In Maldives where Islam is the state religion, authorities endorse fundamentalism perceiving it to be repentance or rehabilitation. By providing fundamentalist sermons and allowing only such reading material for inmates, the problem is worsened. Radicalisation denotes that these terrorist groups are willing to engage in violence to achieve political aims, distinguished from those who are fundamentalist without violent activism. As Islamism is a fundamentalist and politicized interpretation of Islam – observable in modern times – crimes committed in its name by radicals are both religious as it is political.

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    A report authored by Peter R. Neumann based on country reports on prison radicalisation and de-radicalisation from 15 countries; Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Kingdom, United States, Israel, Singapore, Netherlands, Philippines, France, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Spain outlines instances where prisons can be a ‘hotbed’ for radicalism, but also cites methods by which inmates can be “de-radicalised or disengaged; collectively or individually” through prison policies and programmes. The report carried out between May 2009 and May 2010 by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), claims that there are varied instances where prisoners affiliated with radical Islamist groups  to propagate their politico-religious ideology and recruit fellow inmates. The 2013 US Department of State country report on terrorism states that there is concern in the Maldives for young inmates increasingly viewing transnational jihad as an attractive prospect. The prevalence of Takfiri ideas among Islamists, coupled with adolescent gang-related crime and political violence has created an environment that fails to safeguard freedom of press, freedom of speech and freedom of belief.

    A 2012 report published by the Asia Foundation lead by Dr. Aishath Ali Naaz notes that religious education gang members have received in school “is insufficient to deter them from violence.” The report highlighted the exploitation of gangs in Malé by politicians and businessmen who use them as means to achieve political ends. The Yameen administration, which came to power on the premise of strong anti-secular rhetoric, continues a policy of reticence, denial and inaction, thereby fostering connections between Islamist radicalism, political polarization and increasing gang culture in Malé. Meanwhile his brother, former strongman Maumoon, continues to whip up ultranationalism, recently warning Maldivians of “irreligious” and “secular” ideas gaining prevalence in society.yameen Statements have been made on 20th August regarding Rilwan’s disappearance by international bodies such as UN Human Rights Commissioner, and media associations such as Reporters Without Borders, CPJ, IFJ and South Asia Media Solidarity Network on 19th August, as well as news outlets and human rights advocates worldwide. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released its statement much later on 21st August with an inaccurate date of disappearance.

    On 4th August, Rilwan tweeted from his Twitter account @moyameehaa: “on multiple occasions #Maldives’ journalists have said they don’t feel safe covering news related to gangs and Islamists”. Islamic Ministry has publicly tweeted distancing itself from the Islamic State (formerly known as “Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant”). Despite this, the government seems to be allowing violent groups to usurp executive power . No matter how much authorities step up search and seizure efforts now, it will not undo perceptions regarding consequences of the delayed reaction, or government’s abject disregard for public safety, equally for all citizens. And when the criminal justice system remains inept to dispense evidence-based justice – without relying solely on confessions – it fails to reassure citizens on escalating politico-religious gang violence.

    rilwan_boyAmong many Maldivians like Rilwan online, the mysterious disappearance of a levelheaded, humorous and well-read individual on social media produces a state of fear. Perhaps the government is suggesting that gang members and Islamist radicals affiliated with politicians will continue to police outspoken Maldivians, and the government will continue with its indifference towards autocratic judiciary in transition, polarized identity politics, gang violence and Islamist radicalism in Maldivian society. When these factors remain brewing unhindered or sanctioned by the State, discourse on identity, culture and religion remain not with progressive thinkers like Rilwan, but with delinquents preaching hate in the name of nation and religion.

    *Moyameehaa means ‘madman’ in Dhivehi – explaining why he used this as a pseudonym, Rilwan told his friend Lucas Jaleel; “The one who speaks rationally will be considered a madman when living among an irrational people.”

      #FindMoyameehaa

      #FindMoyameeha Campaign Photo: Dhahau

       

      I’m wondering just how much
      To you I really said
      Concerning all the boys that come
      Down a road like me
      Are they enemies or victims
      Of your society?

      —-’Ballad of Donald White’, Bob Dylan, From the last post on Rizwan’s Blog

      Yesterday night, two weeks ago, was the last time anyone saw Ahmed Rizwan Abdulla, 28-year-old journalist, blogger, human rights advocate and all-round great person. 

      A lot—yet nothing—has happened since Rizwan was reported missing to the Maldives Police Service (MPS) on 13 August.

      On 15 August Rizwan’s family and friends organised a search of Hulhumale’, the island neighbouring Male’ on which Rizwan lives on his own. Starting with the desolate, deserted areas—-of which there are many—-the search party combed the whole island. It was in vain.

      On 16 August Rizwan’s friends and colleagues, who obtained CCTV footage from the Male’-Hulhumale’ ferry terminal from the night he was last seen, identified him on camera buying a ticket and going into the waiting area to board the 1:00 a.m. ferry on 8 August. This footage has since been made public. For the next twenty minutes or so—-the amount of time it takes for the ferry to reach Hulhumale’—-Rizwan was on Twitter. Between 1:02 a.m. he sent out 11 (mostly re-) Tweets, beginning with this one, which said he had just boarded the ferry:

       

      His last Tweet was at 1:17 a.m three minutes before the ferry would have reached Hulhumale’.  According to Rizwan’s employer, Minivan News, he sent a Viber message at 1:42 a.m. The newspaper further reports that according to Rizwan’s telephone service provider that his mobile phone was last used at 2:36 a.m. at a location in Male’. Since then, nothing.

      There was a shocking development to the story a few days after the search for Rizwan began. On the night he was last seen, two witnesses saw a man being abducted from outside Rizwan’s apartment around 2:00 a.m. Minivan News, which withheld the information until it was made public by other news outlets, published details of the abduction on 18 August. The witnesses heard screaming and saw the captive, held at knife point by a tall thin man, being bundled into a red car which drove away at speed. The witnesses contacted the police immediately. They also recovered a knife from the scene. The police took a statement and confiscated the knife.

      And that was that.

      It is mind-boggling that there were no searches in Hulhumale’ after eye-witness reports of an abduction, no sealing off of exits to and from the island, no investigation in and around the area of the abduction to at least ascertain who had been bundled into the car. If the police had done any of this, Rizwan’s family would have been aware of his disappearance so much sooner. Two weeks on, the police still don’t seem to have managed to locate the red car—-this on a 700 hectare island with the total number of cars totalling around fifty, if that.

      Outrage at police ‘incompetence’ has grown steadily as days turn into weeks without news of Rizwan’s whereabouts. MPS’ reaction to the criticism has been petulant, like an offended prima donna. It issued a long statement demanding that the public stop criticising police given how brilliant they obviously are; and, unbelievably, proceeded to hold a press conference about Rizwan to which all media outlets bar his own Minivan News was invited.

      Speculation that MPS does not want Rizwan found is becoming fact as time passes with no leads. How incompetent does a force have to be to remain clueless about how a person was abducted from a small island? How many red cars can be hidden on such a small piece of land, surrounded by the sea? How difficult would it be to locate the individuals caught on CCTV following Rizwan at the ferry terminal in Male’? It is common knowledge that life in Male’ is now governed by an ‘unholy alliance’ of ‘born-again’ fanatically ‘religious’ gangsters and thugs controlled by politicians and fundamentalists.

      Whatever the police is driven by—fear, complicity, support—it is certain the government shares its ‘could not care less’ attitude. President Yameen’s callous response on 20 August to news of Rizwan’s disappearance confirmed this: ‘I cannot comment on anything and everything that happens, can I? The police are probably looking into it.’

      It is as if the disappearance of a young man, a journalist and well-known human rights advocate—the first incident of its kind in the Maldives—is as routine as a mislaid shopping list. The President, who campaigned as Saviour of the youth population, had not a word to say about the abduction and disappearance a young man of vast potential. Yameen chose, instead, to wax lyrical on his success at begging in China, having procured a 100 million US dollars in aid money for building a bridge between Male’ and Hulhumale’, the island where Rizwan is feared to have been abducted from.

      Who wants a bridge to an island that is so unsafe? An island where women are raped in broad daylight and young men disappear without a trace? Where gangsters and violent extremists rule, where the police turn a blind eye to crime and where the streets have no lights?

      It is quite extraordinary that a President of a country sees no need to express concern for a citizen whose sudden disappearance has led to statements from international bodies ranging from the UN Human Rights Commissioner to media associations such as Reporters Without Borders, CPJIFJ and South Asia Media Solidarity Network as well as news outlets and human rights advocates in the region and across the world. In some of today’s news coverage, Rizwan’s name is on top of the world’s missing journalists’ list. According to Minivan News, many foreign diplomats based in Colombo have made the time to listen to its concerns about Rizwan’s abduction.

      Perhaps prompted by diplomatic concern, over a week after Rizwan’s disappearance became public knowledge, the Maldives Foreign Ministry finally issued a hastily put together statement yesterday, full of factual and other types of mistakes, expressing a perfunctory concern hard to accept as sincere.

      While the politicians, the gangsters and the religious fanatics with their support of Jihad, beheadings and other forms of killing trip over each other to ignore, laugh about, cover-up and prevent knowledge of what has happened to Rizwan, friends, family, and admirers of his deep humanity, are unflagging in their hopes and efforts to find him safe and sound.

      It is on social media, where he is known as Moyameeha, that Rizwan has made his widest impact. The Maldivian Twitter community is especially bereft without his presence. It is not surprising. The off-line Maldivian society has been largely taken over by gangs, zealots and bigots. There is no safe place for people like Rizwan—with bold ideas, open minds and creativity—to come together in real life. So they gather on Twitter—the most free of modern media platforms—exchange thoughts, discuss politics, make poetry and music, argue, joke, laugh, and cry, become friends and form the kind of free, liberal and tolerant public sphere they cannot have off-line. Rizwan is a shining star of that community, one of its well-liked and giving members. The community wants him back.

      Close friends have set-up a website, findmoyameeha.com, where everything that is officially  said and done in relation to Rizwan’s disappearance is gathered in one place. It also counts every passing second since he went missing. Friends have also set up Facebook pages dedicated to finding Rizwan while existing Facebook pages that support him have created a repository of online tributes:

       

      Bloggers, who look up to him as one of the first to make an impact in the sphere, have been paying homage, re-finding and sharing some of his most moving posts. Rizwan’s friends discuss his poetry, his love of music (and obsession with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan), his enthusiasm for Dhivehi language, folklore and history, and most of all his never-ending good nature and empathy. Even the deeply divided and highly politicised journalistic community appears to be waking from a deep slumber, and putting their differences aside to demand that efforts to find Rizwan be stepped up.

      Over the past few years the Maldives Police Service has become highly adept at being ‘incompetent’, at being ‘unable’ to solve the crimes they don’t want solved while putting all their efforts into hunting down bootleggers, cannabis smokers and petty criminals. If they catch any major offenders, the corrupt judiciary lets them go; so why bother? This being police ‘best practice’, a majority of the Maldivian population now choose to ‘forget’ unsolved crimes, stop asking questions, and carry on as nothing happened.

      Not this time. Rizwan’s family, friends, supporters and like-minded journalists are not going to stop asking questions and looking for answers. Because if they do, it is the last nail in the coffin of Rizwan’s vision—shared by those looking for him—of a tolerant Maldivian society in which people are free to think, embrace diversity and difference, be creative, live safely and have the right to peace and happiness.