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.

      Maldives: no country for freedom

      Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.44.49 PMAhmed Rizwan Abdulla, a Maldivian journalist, blogger and human rights advocate, is missing. The 28-year-old was last seen by his family on 7 August. Unlike most Maldivians of his age, Rizwan does not live with his family but rents an apartment in Hulhumale’, a 20-minute ferry ride from Male’ the capital. Rizwan is a deeply spiritual person, known to enjoy solitude. It is not unheard of for him to take time off from society to indulge in the right to be left alone. His close friends know that. This time, however, is different.

      Nobody knows where Rizwan is. His phone is switched off. His motorbike is still standing near Male’ ferry terminal, covered in dust. He does not appear to have been in his apartment since 7 August. His backpack, which contains his laptop, and which he is rarely without, is nowhere to be seen. He has not been to work at his newspaper, Minivan News, since 7 August. Rizwan’s family filed a missing person’s report with the police on Wednesday. Since news of his disappearance broke, a witness has come forward to say he saw Rizwan on the ferry from Male’ to Hulhumale’ around 1:30 a.m. on 8 August. The witness also confirms that Rizwan did not take the bus, the only form of public transport available at that time, into the dark and desolate Hulhumale’ town. Since then, nothing.

      Maybe Rizwan has gone off to be on his own. His colleagues have cautioned against speculation. But the state of the country makes it impossible for most not to do so. Rizwan’s disappearance resonates with many whose beliefs reflect and echo his own, even if they do not know him personally.

      People in Male’—if, like Rizwan, they support democracy, freedom of thought, free speech, and are against Islamist puritans dominating religion— live in a state of constant fear. Gangsters, religious extremists and heroin dealers have run of the city while the Maldives Police Service (MPS) continues to ‘bungle’ investigations into heinous crimes or ignore them altogether. The corrupt and unqualified judiciary, which continues to fail justice daily, makes a habit of releasing smugglers and dealers, even when they are caught with drugs worth millions. The MPS has failed at solving almost all major murders from the killing of MP Afrasheem Ali in October 2012 till now. If there is any success, it is from a confession. Even then justice is not guaranteed; it is not unknown for confessions to be elicited under duress.

      After a lull during the month of Ramadan, crime—including violent murder—has increased exponentially since Eid. In addition to the gang violence is the fear that hardline Islamists are also resuming their pre-Ramadan actions against freedom of thought and expression. The worst thing is, there is ample room to believe the authorities are complicit in these activities. Last June, ‘concerned citizens’, worried about a perceived increase in non-believers, met with the Islamic Minister as well as the Home Minister, to press them for stronger action against ‘unbelievers’. The same ‘concerned citizens’, as the high level government officials well knew, were involved in high-profile kidnappings and abductions of alleged non-believers around the same time.

      This policy of turning a blind-eye to crimes committed in the name of religion is made most obvious at the macro-level in the government’s refusal to put into place any counter-radicalisation programmes in the Maldives. Supporters of the Islamic State are multiplying in the country at an unbelievably rapid rate. News of Maldivian fighters in Syria only broke in mainstream media in July this year after the death of two. Jihadist ideology, however, has been present and spreading freely for years. Many hundreds of Facebook profiles of Maldivians now proudly carry the IS flag or the black flag of other Jihadi fighters. Some such pages date back to 2010; many were created on or after July this year.

      While support for IS, Jabhat Al Nusra and other such groups is only becoming widely popular now, non-violent fundamentalists have had uncontrolled on- and off-line access to the Maldivian population for over a decade. Salafi scholars, preachers and activists dominate all institutions of education from the Centre for Holy Quran (which, by the way, is to get a new ten storey building) to the Centre for Higher Secondary Education and the Faculty of Law at the Maldives National University—and this is just in Male’. There is no authority overseeing education centres on outer islands. Not a week goes by without Salafi preachers and Sheikhs visiting one island or another to proselytise. There are monthly Da’wa camps, How to Pray camps, How to Sleep camps, How to Live camps and How to Die camps. The Maldives Police Service and the Maldives National Defence Force are often on the receiving end of such teachings. While there are divisions among subscribers to the various ideologies, they are all united in condemning Maldivians who refuse to fall in line with their vision of Maldives as an Islamic State, with strictly applied Sharia as its only legal system.

      Simultaneously with all the frenetic off-line religiosity, a substantial percentage of Maldivians are online using their social media platforms chiefly as a means of displaying their allegiance to violent and non-violent Salafi and other purist ideologies to proscribe them; to preach them; and to spread it among their friends. Like most users of social media everywhere in the world, they Share, Like, Poke, and Follow without question.

      With few exceptions: like Rizwan.

      Rizwan is a prolific user of the Internet, especially social media. He was among the first bloggers in the Maldives, is on Tumblr, and is a highly popular micro-blogger on Twitter, followed by many thousands. His online persona has the name of ‘Moyameeha’. He has vast empathy, and a good sense of humour; his #ferrytales entertain many. He is knowledgeable about how centuries old Maldives’ national and religious identity has been hijacked by fundamentalists within a short span of just over a decade.

      Unlike most people he can, and does, engage with those whose beliefs he does not condone.

      Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 9.44.27 PM

      Rizwan does not believe in hatred in the name of religion. He does not believe in violence. And he is not afraid to say so. Maldivian supporters of IS flew their flag at the surf point in Male’ in July this year. Rizwan Tweeted a picture.

      Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.14.18 PM

      When pro-Palestinian Maldivians on Thulusdhoo put up Nazi insignia to the dismay of Israeli tourists on the island, Rizwan—while clearly with the people of Gaza—was first to point out that anti-Semitism is not the same as solidarity with Gaza.

      Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 10.07.03 PM

      He is a vocal critic of the Islamist Adhaalath Party, and often points out the hypocrisy of their scholars/politicians.

      Rilwan’s last Tweet mocked former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s notorious habit of dabbling in astronomy and ‘reading the stars’—often with disastrous results.

      Disappearances were a part of Maldivian life in pre-democracy times. And, with Gayoom’s family and cronies back in positions of power after last November’s elections, intimidation of dissenters and political opposition—using gangs and other violent forces—is also returning.

      For the many thoughts he expressed freely, Rizwan has made many enemies. There have been many warnings that his days are numbered.

      Rizwan

       

      The gangsters were not far behind.

      Fact is, there is no room in the Maldives of today for people driven by a love of humanity. No place here for believers in non-violence. No space for those who refuse to subscribe to the idea of a vengeful God that wants to obliterate all who do not blindly follow His self-appointed avengers. It is the dominance of these people—willing to maim and kill for God or money—untempered by a government that could not care less, and emboldened by law enforcement officials that are complicit, which makes Maldives a dangerous place for those who believe in human rights and the rule of law. That is why Rizwan’s family and friends are fraught with fear for him despite their best intentions not to speculate. Because they know twenty first century Maldives is no country for good people. Good people like Rizwan.


      Regardless of the possibilities of all the awful scenarios Maldives today makes possible, all Rizwan’s friends and family are hoping against hope that he has not fallen victim to any of them. Their fervent wish is that Rizwan would be found safe. Today in Hulhumale’, they are all out searching for him. If you have any information regarding Rizwan that you think may help, please contact the police hotline at 332 2111, or Serious and Organised Crime Department at 9911099. And, anyone wishing to add to the ongoing search in Hulhumale’, please contact organisers via #findmoyameehaa hashtag, or on 775 4566 or 977 3250.

      Update at 16:44 GMT: Latest report from Minivan News, staff of whom were heavily involved in today’s search, says Rizwan was not on the 1:30 a.m. ferry as claimed by witness. Members of the search part thoroughly reviewed CCTV footage from the ferry terminal in Male’ and confirm that Rizwan did not get on the ferry at 1:30 a.m. on 8 August or any time between 0:00 and 03:00 that day.