HUSSAIN RASHEED, the father of the murdered Maldivian journalist and democratic-rights activist Yameen Rasheed, has told The Indian Express he fears the country’s government is seeking to shield individuals involved in organising the killing.
“In the absence of international pressure, I am afraid this case will go the same way of so many others killed for their beliefs in the Maldives,” he said.
“I base my opinion on what I have seen of the attitude of government officials, police and even the President towards us. No one has offered us any sympathy, a word of support, or even an appointment to inform us of developments in the case,” said Hussain, during a recent visit to Delhi.
Yameen, 29, author of The Daily Panic blog popular with young Maldivians, was stabbed to death outside his apartment in the Maldives capital, Malé, last month.
He was best known for his campaign to demand government accountability for the 2014 disappearance of Ahmed Rilwan, a journalist who played a key role in exposing the activities of jihadist groups in the country.
Forty-eight hours after Yameen’s murder, Maldives Police announced that they had arrested two unnamed individuals involved in the killing, based on closed-circuit television footage of the area around his apartment. Six other individuals have also been reported to have been held in connection with the case.
In the weeks before his death, Yameen had received online death threats from Islamists, attacking him for being an enemy of Islam. The threats had been reported to the Maldives Police, but no arrests have been made. “Yameen never told me about the threats, or I would have insisted he left for Colombo or Thiruvananthapuram,” his father said. Hussain is based in the Kerala capital.
“No one has been in touch with us, so the family does not know anything — who these people are, what their enmity with Yameen was, and who they were acting on behalf of. The government has ordered media not to reveal details of the case, so nothing is coming out,” said Hussain.
Eighteen killings related to ideological or political issues, Maldives opposition activists say, have taken place since former President Mohammad Nasheed was dethroned three years ago, in what his supporters say was a coup carried out by the country’s traditional élite.
The perpetrators have often been members of Malé’s street gangs, which in turn have a close links to jihadist groups.
Killings related to religious issues, though, began to gather tempo from 2012, when religious scholar and member of Parliament Afrasheem Ali was stabbed to death. Ali was killed after a television broadcast where he said women were entitled to run for public office and that music was legitimate in Islam.
Hussain Humam Ahmed, a former gang member, is awaiting execution for his role in the killing. However, Azlif Rauf, who Humam said had planned the murder, was allowed to leave for Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang in January, 2015, and is now though to have joined Al-Qaeda in Syria.
Educated in Bengaluru, Yameen came from a family with a tradition of defiance to authority, though one with no political lineage. His father set up an English-language school in the southern island of Addu, defying then-dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s efforts to centralise modern education in Malé alone. The family later left for India to avoid the persecution that followed.
“I love the country I adopted, and I wish it would speak out for my son and others like him who believed in its ideals. The Maldives is far away, and neither the government or the media have much time for it. But what happens there has consequences for it. The murder of democracy in the Maldives empowers the jihadis there. This will damage the whole Indian ocean region,” said Hussain.