Category: People

Getting away with Maldives

by Azra Naseem

On 22 July 2015, the Maldives Parliament voted to change the Constitution to allow, for the first time in its history, the sale of Maldivian property to foreigners. The consequences of this monumental decision—taken without any public consultation or even debate within the parliament itself—has been devastating for the people of the Maldives. 

The 1200 islands, the hundreds of beautiful blue lagoons, the underwater coral gardens teeming with thousands of species of marine life that comprises this archipelago, are the people’s only natural resources.  Selling them off to rich foreign owners who then close them off to all Maldivians and create new semi-feudal extra-legal entities within the country where Maldivian laws do not apply, is a calamity on its own. 

The Maldivian people were screwed over a million times more by the corruption of all of its leaders who either pocketed their own cuts from selling off the people’s property for peanuts, or have kept—and are continuing to keep—quiet about who robbed us blind, and are still doing so.

Everybody knows who stole over US$70 million from the state, how they stole it and what they did with it. There is a list of the alleged beneficiaries. There is always a list. 

Well over a year ago, in October 2019, authorities told the public of The List’s existence. But we, who owned the property that was sold without so much as a by your leave, are not allowed to know who it names. Investigators upped the suspense ante (a regular practice by Maldives Police) by withholding the names on the list but giving us a breakdown of what positions some of the people in the list occupy now or occupied when they sold us out. They include 44 former members of parliament; 16 current members of parliament; 30 senior officials of the former government; five former members of independent institutions; five judges; and five law enforcement officers. 

44 Members in a Majlis of 87 accepted bribes.  

16 people who accepted the dirty money are in the current Majlis.

Those people in government, in independent institutions, in the judiciary, in law enforcement—they were all there to act on our behalf.

They all put themselves first.

They betrayed us. 

The authorities have the evidence to prove it. 

Yet, they remain in positions of power, and/or luxuriate in the comforts funded by their ill-gotten gains.

Who did not know the cash that Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb was suddenly so flush with was linked to corruption? Who did not know that hundreds of thousands of US Dollars transported in cash in black leather sports bags by a guy on a moped, compliments of the Tourism Minister, would have to have come from a dodgy source?

Yameen and Adeeb, thick as thieves

Adeeb has admitted clearly that he spent millions of dollars persuading MPs to vote the way he, acting as the president’s proxy, wanted them to vote. So they voted in favour of changing the Constitution to allow Adeeb to be president, and to ban Qasim Ibrahim from becoming president. They voted to narrow our civil and political rights; they voted in favour of harsher police action against peaceful protesters; they changed the law to restrict free speech; and they voted in favour of selling our natural resources for a fraction of their value. They knowingly allowed the openly corrupt Bro Government to do whatever they wanted to our islands, lagoons, reefs, coconut palms, vegetation; hell, the entire fragile ecosystem was theirs to sell, dredge, reclaim, ‘develop’ and destroy as they liked. 

It is infuriating to watch as the consequences and the products of this corruption appear on the Internet as luxury resort islands catering to the world’s super rich while the executive, the parliament, the prosecutorial system and all other political leaders in the Maldives drag their feet over punishing those who sold our beautiful and scarce land from under our feet while purporting to govern on behalf of us, for us. They sold our bath water along with our babies, putting up for sale our lagoons and our reefs too. They also allow the exportation of our sand, the cutting down of our coconut palms, the blasting of our reefs, the reclamation of our seas. Almost everything–bar the 200 or so islands on which Maldivians live–are now for sale; and almost no Maldivian can afford to buy any of it.

Meanwhile, luxury real estate agents advertise the availability of Maldivian islands with airports, seaplane platforms, picnic islands and many other perks included in the multi-million dollar price tags.

Today the MDP—with a super majority in parliament and one of its veteran members, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, as president)—nor its coalition partners have been able to even raise the veil of secrecy over the guilty, let alone prosecute them. Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s attempts have been ineffectual, and with MPs sitting in Majlis who have robbed the people, his bid to woo the public into voting for a transition from democratic to a parliamentary system seems futile and ill-timed. We can change the name of the system, but as long it’s the same people out to game it for their own benefit while screwing the public over, what’s the point?  

For a country that purports to be a democracy, the amount of secrecy and cover-ups within successive ‘democratic’ governments has been incredible. Evidence given to the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) has been deemed too dangerous for the public to know; people involved in high profile murders have been protected “for the public good”; defence and military agreements made with egoistic right-wing populists like Trump and Modi have been classified, also for the public good; and the people who have sold our islands and the rest of our environment from under us—these are all secrets the leaders who we elect, appoint and pay to represent us, hide from us.

The people in power had no right to take the decision on our behalf to turn our country into a playground for the world’s filthy rich and their unchecked neoliberal agendas that have made almost the entire Maldivian population wage-slaves to international hoteliers, waiting with their hands out for the ‘trickle down effect’ to reach them, the only portion of the billion-dollar industry to which they are allowed to feel entitled to. 

Thirty-three-year old Adeeb at the helm of the Tourism Ministry was a sickening spectacle to behold. He revelled in the Gangstar image, posing endlessly for selfies on one of his three gold iPhones with carefully gelled and slicked back hair, a beard trimmed with military precision in the fashion of the US rap artists he is so enamoured with, fingers and neck dripping with bling, there he was, wallowing in corruption, his body ballooning as if in tune with his vastly inflated ego. The ex-footballer-turned-gangster politician took pride in being known as The ATM, or the bank machine, of Maldivian politics. Anyone who took money from him—be it the Supreme Court Judge Hameed who accepted cash and funds for his children’s education abroad or the member of parliament who agreed to sell his vote in favour of whatever legal change Adeeb was paying them to affect, or the Salafi Jihadist who took his money to get him to Syria or Iraq—all of them knew Adeeb’s money was dirty. They all took it.

The benefit of the corruption for Bro and his lackeys and minions was on display for everyone to see, their egos too big for discretion. By that I mean the sycophants we all know: the Nihans who were flashing their Rolexes and gifting their progeny with designer sports cars; the Muizzes who opened the door even wider to unsustainable and corrupt mega development projects at the cost of our fragile natural environment; the First Lady only too thrilled to have been singled out for a gift of a BMW sports car from Adeeb; or the Gayooms who benefited from Yameen’s rule until they didn’t.

It was not just the people we know to have betrayed us again and again in the last forty years or so that allowed the sale of our natural resources and pocketed the proceeds. 

It was also the people who spoke the democracy speak; those who wooed the public to get into parliament with the promises of a government for the people; those who promised Another Maldives that would bring equality to the tourism industry, those who pledged to put tourism dollars into Maldivian pockets instead of foreign bank accounts. Their promises to fight for the rights of the people, too, were only as strong as the lock on Adeeb’s black leather sports bags stuffed with millions of US dollars in cash. 

The MMPRC scandal involved major crimes against the public. No political party, state institution, government body or any other entity has the right to keep the names of the perpetrators secret.

It is not your secret to keep. Publish the list, punish the guilty.

To be, or to conform, that is the question

by Azra Naseem

On International Human Rights Day 2011, a group of young Maldivians met in Lonuziyaaraiy Kolhu, Male’, to silently protest their lack of religious freedom. A similar protest had been held on the same day in 2010. Article 9 of the Maldivian constitution requires that all citizens be Muslims; and the State imposes an ever-increasing litany of punishments on those seen as falling short. Should the State fail in its ‘religious duty’ to punish such transgressors–as the aftermath of the small yet impactful protest revealed–Dhivehi Salafi Jihadists are ready, swords drawn, eager for their internal domestic Jihad: to maintain the ‘100 percent Muslim country’ status of the Maldives. 

The 2011 silent protest marked the first physical altercation between Salafi activists and secular-minded Maldivians. On that December afternoon, Ismail Abdulraheem Adam, a Salafi Jihadist who would later be deported from Turkey while attempting to enter Syria, was among many such warriors who followed the protestors to Lonuziyaaraiy Kolhu. Abdulraheem hit Hilath Rasheed, a journalist and prominent blogger, on the head with a rock, cutting him.

It was the first in what would become many violent attacks on anyone in the Maldives insisting on advocating for rights not recognised by, or contrary to, Salafi beliefs, practices and teachings. Since then, two people linked to the protest have been murdered, another barely survived an attempted decapitation, and almost all the others who participated have been threatened, harassed, have no choice but to live in fear, or have had to flee the country. The attack on the protestors also set the tone for all future investigations into crimes committed by Salafi Jihadists and their non-/less-violent brothers: nobody will be punished; not even in the face of overwhelming evidence to convict.

Police knew who attacked who and why on 10 December 2011. They arrested no one.

Five months later, on 10 May 2012, Abdulraheem, acting with two fellow Jihadists, attacked Hilath again. “Repent, repent! We don’t know, the public doesn’t know, you have repented!”, they shouted, hitting him around the head, surrounding him with motorcycles.

Only weeks later, on the evening of 4 June 2012, they returned to slit his throat. Three Dhivehi Salafi Jihadists, waited for him to return home from work late at night, cut his throat with a Stanley knife, and left him to die outside his home. 

Hilath lived to tell the tale; but no one listened, really.


Allowed to get away with murder, the Jihadists widened their campaign to rid Maldives of any citizens that dared contradict their manhaj, or disagreed with their teachings. They found their next prey within a few short months.

MP Afrasheem Ali was a politician with a doctorate in Usul al-Fiqh from the Islamic University of Malaysia noted as a rising star in conservative politics. For several years after he returned from Malaysia in 2007, Maldivian Dheenee I’lmverin–dominated by Adhaalath Party and other Salafi influencers such as Jamiyyath Salaf–ostracised Dr Afrasheem for “contradicting the manual of the Salaf al Salahin”, for suggesting music may be as pleasing to the ear as the sound of Qur’an, for not using the appropriate language to address the Prophet Muhammad, and among other things, for saying beards are not necessary for men. Basically, for not aligning his thinking with Salafi thinking. Afrasheem was banned from expressing his opinions and forbidden from leading prayers unless he repented. Endorsed by Adhaalath and other Salafi leaders, followers harassed Afrasheem online and on the streets, sometimes violently, once in a mosque in the presence of his young son. His religious opinions—which included endorsement of practices dominant Salafi clerics rejected as bid’a—were deemed unfit for the Modern Maldivian Muslim. A definition that must be approved by Salafi leaders to be accepted as true.

In the early hours of 2 October 2012, Afrasheem returned to his apartment on the south-eastern waterfront of Male’ after appearing in a late-night show, Islamee Dhiri-ulhun, on state television. He parked his car, entered his apartment building, and was walking up the stairs to his flat when three Jihadists attacked him on the stairwell. He had finally given into the immense pressure on him to conform or else; and agreed to appear on public television to repent. The station, channel and programme on which he should do so was decided by those demanding this public spectacle of him. Adhaalath Party held a special screening in their headquarters to gauge his performance. The killers knew exactly where he would be and when that evening. Afrasheem tried to explain his aqida on TV that night; and he apologised–for expressing his own opinion. However well-informed, considered or well-intentioned it was, it was not valid for it contradicted The Most Learned Men of Salaf Jamiyya, Adhaalath and other such groupings.

Despite the apology, Afrasheem was unable to save himself. They still cut his throat.

When the news of his murder reached the leader of Salaf Jamiyya, he responded: “It was an atrocity in Islam to kill Afrasheem after he had admitted to his sins and after he repented last night”. Without repentance, he had been fair game.   

Afrasheem has now been dead almost 10 years. It is now known Dhivehi Salafi Jihadists, operating domestically as one among several Al-Qaeda cells, were behind the planning and the execution of Afrasheem. They have not been prosecuted.

The dust may seem to have settled on the murder of Afrasheem’s death with no consequence for those who laid the plans and paid for it. Society, on the other hand, paid a heavy price. No religious scholarly longer dares publicly challenge the Salafi doctrine in the Maldives.


In July 2014 Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi of the ISIS declared an Islamic Caliphate from Iraq, further emboldening Maldivian Salafi Jihadists, both as foreign fighters and as local warriors on a holy mission to cleanse Maldives of the secular and the shirk. Less than a month later, in the early hours of the morning of 8 August 2014, Jihadists kidnapped Ahmed Rilwan, a journalist and blogger. At the time he was covering the activities of Maldivan Jihadists flocking to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as a journalist for Maldives Independent. One Dhivehi Jihadist in Syria accused Rilwan of not being a proper Muslim and issued a warning that his days were numbered.

Just as the earlier Jihadists waited outside the homes of Hilath and Afrasheem with their sharpened blades hidden in the darkness of the night, they waited for Rilwan outside his home in the early hours of the morning. Instead of decapitation on the spot—the apparent goal behind both previous attacks—they kidnapped Rilwan, bundled him into the boot of a red car, forced him onto a boat, took him out into the open ocean, and made him recite the Shahadha. Then they decapitated him. 

Rilwan’s family only learned of his fate in 2019, years after the Jihadists abducted him. They are still campaigning for justice. In vain.


On this day four years ago, Salafi Jihadists picked their next target: Yameen Rasheed, 29, a blogger and writer who not only disagreed with the Salafi vision for the Maldives but also often satirised various aspects of it online. Yameen and Rilwan shared more than an ideological kinship; they were also bound by strong ties of friendship. After Rilwan’s forced disappearance in 2014, Yameen dedicated much of his energy towards campaigning with Rilwan’s family for justice. In vain.

On 23 April 2017, Yameen returned home from work in the early hours of the morning. The Jihadists were waiting for him in the darkness of the stairwell inside Yameen’s apartment building. They stabbed him 34 times in a frenzied attack. His cries for mercy fell on deaf ears. The young writer died in hospital later that morning. Yameen’s family now dedicates much of their energy to campaigning with Rilwan’s family for justice. In vain.

Salafi Jihadists are allowed to kill non-conforming Maldivian citizens with impunity. 

A Maldivian citizen that openly criticises Salafi beliefs, teachings and practices—does not matter whether you are a pious Muslim; a scholar of Islam; a ‘moderate Muslim’; a relaxed one; a lapsed one; an apostate or an atheist—can be, has been, and will be killed. And the Jihadists who kill them will remain unpunished. The reason is simple: the government and most of contemporary Maldivian society accepts death—or at the very least expulsion from society—as a suitable form of punishment for citizens identified as insufficiently Muslim, anti-Islam, or Enemies of Islam. ‘LaaDheenee’ people, marked as such by Salafi influencers according to their own criteria, are made into figures of public hatred to such an extent that Jihadists feel they must kill them to rid their society of Kuffars, and the public feels convinced the killing was for the ‘greater good’ of the ‘100 percent Muslim’ country.

That is why the courts of law in the democratic republic of Maldives are failing to deliver justice in these killings. According to the religious ideology that dominates the entire government and state apparatus, and most of society, true justice has already been done. By killing these men.

Starved for justice: the Rilwan & Yameen story

by Mushfiq Mohamed

Rilwan and Yameen were peaceful, principled and brave. Their calming presence, wit and humility set them apart from the average modern Maldivian. Even as I write, I think of a multitude of cheeky comments Yameen would have made about how carefully I frame my words. The principles they believed in were clear, simple and open. The aspirations and values they had for the society into which they were born should not be controversial to anyone. Many mistakenly think Yameen and Rilwan only wrote about religious extremists. Their focus was not so narrow. On numerous occasions they wrote beautifully of how society was rotting at its core in relentless cycles of nepotism and political violence, causing the kind of cultural decay and malaise that requires persistent resistance. It would take a continuous and infinite revolution to resolve. The Maldives may have interrupted these two incredible souls, but their soul-searching over our nation’s condition continues to resonate with many of us. 

The last time I spoke to Yameen, he was here in London in March 2017 after winning seed funding from a global tech company for a breakthrough healthcare app he developed. We could not meet but planned to catchup in Malé when I went back to renew my visa. A few days after I returned to Malé in April, I woke up to the horrific news of his killing. In contrast to our planned laughter-filled interaction, I went to his funeral in April 2017—filled with echoes of his family’s cries.

Why do we keep speaking of Rilwan and Yameen? Why not stay quiet and let the government attend to its ‘more important tasks at hand’? Why not focus on the issues of bread and butter? Why not talk of the sewage systems some island communities are still waiting for? Or the privatised healthcare system? Or the fact that clean drinking water is still a privilege on several of these islands? It is because you cannot talk about bread without talking about the blood on the streets. Those crime scenes might have been hosed down, the evidence erased or negligently abandoned. But the loss of these two promising young men is forever imprinted in the minds of their family and friends, and the young people of this nation. 

It is a waking nightmare to call home a place where my friends could disappear by force or brutally hacked to death in their own homes as they would in a lawless failed state. 

What is most devastating is the deafening silence of the masses, a majority of whom appear conditioned into questioning the powerless over the powerful. It surely should be the other way around. The Zeus-like politicians with their entourage of yes-men, who can be capricious and populist while promoting democracy, do not realise still that their inaction and shifting priorities will eventually extinguish the small flames of hope the Maldives had for an open society that legally recognised and protected all Maldivians equally. 


DDCom

“The knife you see in this picture was found on the road outside Rilwan’s apartment [building] on 7 August 2014 after an individual was seen being forced into a car”

Deaths and Disappearances Commission (DDCom), 8 February 2021

For years, Rilwan’s family and friends talked about the knife, the red car, the abduction. In the end they killed the most vocal critic of police negligence in investigating Rilwan’s abduction and its connections to Salafi-Jihadism. Yameen refused to stop questioning until they silenced him literally. Others who joined the family in their campaign for justice were followed and threatened in full view of CCTV cameras. Plots were hatched to kill us. In September 2014, one of the men implicated in the abduction of Rilwan threatened to disappear me too. He did so openly, on a street of Malé. Leevan Shareef was cornered and quizzed on his Islamic knowledge the next year. We were subject to hostile surveillance again in late 2016. Our police reports gathered dust without so much as a statement from Leevan and I. When Rilwan was abducted and Yameen was killed, records of death threats against them, ignored by the police, went as far back as ten years. 

The new government set DDCom up with the pledge to resolve the atrocious crimes of the past, including those committed by the previous government. Transitional justice, they proclaimed, was an important cause for this government. In April 2019, for the first time, the president joined the third rally held to commemorate Yameen’s killing. President Solih seemed to have a lump in his throat as he spoke of the importance of serving justice for Rilwan and Yameen’s families. Activists reminded the government that we may never have another opportunity to get to the truth. These cases are but just two of the 27 cases the DDCom is attempting to resolve since it was formed in 2018. 

What is the actual state of justice for these families behind the circus of presidential commissions and newly enacted transitional justice laws that seem to do nothing more than enable political mudslinging? 

Speaking to the media in April 2017, weeks after his 29-year-old son Yameen was killed by vigilantes, his father Hussein Rasheed had to speak words no parent would ever want to. His son’s throat had been cut, he said. “He’d been stabbed in 34 places.” Tears streamed down his cheeks from behind his thick black spectacles as he continued, “A part of his skull was missing.” Without a care for the sentiments of the grieving family, social media went into overdrive. Some cruelly shared leaked police photos of Yameen’s mutilated body. Opposition politicians (who now hold power after the 2018 elections) joined the chorus of condemnation against the killing. 

Fast forward to today, there are institutions mandated to serve justice and provide reparations and closure for these families who have had their lives put to the test. This is worthy of praise but meaningless if it is incapable of putting perpetrators behind bars. The main objective of such commissions is to prevent any chance of atrocities recurring. The present reality elucidates that their cases were steppingstones for Maldivian political animals who now conveniently promote the status quo after winning the vote and cushy new positions. 


The trials

Months after Yameen’s murder, the previous government was quick to prosecute the alleged killers. The hearings continued at lightning speed. One thing that came to my mind was: why is this a murder trial when the crime was an act of terrorism? If Rilwan’s alleged abductors were accused of terrorism, why aren’t the perpetrators of Yameen’s extrajudicial killing seen as terrorists who planned and executed someone based on perceived ideological grounds? The planning of the assassination took place in mosques in Malé. When this information became public through the reporting of the trial, Maldives Twitter protested that a place of worship was being sullied over this murder. They did not find it offensive that the sanctimonious surroundings were used to plot a cold-blooded killing of a person. 

Yameen and Rilwan’s mother in their quest for justice, Photo: IFJ

Eight individuals were suspected of killing Yameen. Six were charged and pleaded not guilty to murder. Prosecutors declined to press charges against the other two, including one who was initially accused of aiding and abetting. Perhaps giving a clue as to the possible plea bargaining that had gone on behind the scenes before the case reached the courtroom. 

For two years, since the trial began in 2017, activists had to pressure the previous government’s chief prosecutor to hold the hearings in open court. His family were repeatedly prevented from entering the courtroom, and the hearings were subject to regular cancellations. Exasperating the family still processing that their beloved had been ruthlessly slaughtered, and the plotters, enablers and active executors hid in plain sight. Almost all the hearings in 2018 were held in secrecy until July that year, despite growing calls to end the closed-door charades and open the trial. 

Then in November 2018, to the shock of many locals and observers alike, President Abdulla Yameen’s government lost the presidential election to the ruling party, Maldivian Democratic Party’s President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, leading a coalition consisting of defectors, dictator-loyalists and Islamists. The mix, politicians decided, would produce national unity after a long period of political turbulence that began in late 2011. Regardless of competing interests within the government, justice for past abuses was said to be prioritised. In 2019, defence lawyers began using delaying tactics to slow down and manipulate the judicial process. The State, too, was accused of failing to produce witnesses or defendants in time for the hearings. Prosecutors eked out excuses for delays, clueless as to why it was being stalled. 

“Those who organised and financed Rilwan’s abduction and Yameen’s murder,” the DDCom chair disclosed, “are the same.” This whirlwind of revelations was made in September 2019. It was even more precarious than that. Acknowledging publicly for the first time, the chair also confirmed that it was “local Al-Qaeda affiliates” that carried out these crimes, including the murder of an Islamic scholar and politician, Dr Afrasheem Ali, known for his relatively less conservative views on Islam that clashed with the fundamentalist positions held by more politically influential scholars and religious leaders. 

In late 2019, prosecutors complained in court that their witnesses were subject to undue influence, without making any direct accusations against the alleged perpetrators or their lawyers. The courtroom was dominated by the defence lawyers whose presence outsized the judge and the prosecution. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world, the Criminal Court stopped scheduling hearings for the murder trial. Maldivian courts adjusted to the ‘new normal’ of COVID, switching to online hearings. The murder trial of Yameen, however, remained unheard throughout 2020. On 7 February 2021, the trial resumed after a hiatus of over a year. The new hearings bear the same characteristics as before:  delay tactics from defence lawyers, prosecutorial mishaps and judges rendered incapable of administering the trial.  

Yameen’s family urged the Prosecutor General to intervene, reminded of how Rilwan’s abductors were acquitted in August 2018, a few days before the third anniversary of his forced disappearance in 2014. There was just a month left before the presidential elections that would shift political dynamics in favour of the opposition coalition. President Abdulla Yameen had to tie up loose ends, fearing his government could be implicated in colluding with the terrorists who assassinated Dr Afrasheem Ali, disappeared Ahmed Rilwan forcefully, and murdered Yameen Rasheed on the same Jihadist ideological grounds. 

In his judgement acquitting Rilwan’s alleged abductors, the presiding judge, Adam Arif, blamed the police and prosecution for the incomplete investigation that enabled perpetrators to evade justice. The judge made it clear, in his damning verdict, that the state wilfully ignored credible leads and jettisoned basic procedures, giving way to the manipulation of the course of justice. As the government changed from blatant autocracy to a seeming democracy, prosecutors repeatedly promised Rilwan’s family that they would be appealing the acquittal. Yet, the appeal period elapsed, and nothing moved ahead as promised. A new or re-trial after the DDCom investigation also remains a promise.


Conclusions

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih joins the march by family and friends demanding justice for Rilwan and Yameen on 23 April 2019. Photo: Maldives Independent

The new government was praised for its forthright stance on human rights even before it had done any constructive work, purely based on its aspirations to strengthen democracy after another period of autocratic reversal. The slow-moving pace of justice and fast-moving injustices continue and dampen any hope of holding perpetrators to account. Indeed, perpetrators include those who were in political office then that directly derailed the investigation; not just the radicalised individuals who carried out the acts of religious violence and persecution. 

Although the families may not experience finality for these horrific crimes, the only hope is that at least the findings of the DDCom will bring them closure. It must strive to do that before politics becomes turbulent ahead of the 2024 elections. Although none of these trials, investigations or even reparations compare to having Afrasheem, Rilwan and Yameen with us. At times, engaging with this farce appears like a perpetual re-victimisation for these families seeking justice. 

Sectarian violence might have been unheard of in the Maldives, but since 2008 and the birth of democracy, with its abuse, the most ardent enemies of liberty have been able to co-opt the benefits of the newfound freedoms. Why would ‘liberal democrats’ give credence to movements that want nothing but their complete destruction? Maldivians nostalgic for an open society can dream but we are stunted by the grief of losing these heroes who spoke out against violence and cultural erasure disguised as religion. Our syncretic and romanticised past, just that, “a mockery of the present” as the brave Yameen Rasheed said.