Mourning a loss like no other

I had two friends. 

Photo @shaari

Had.

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“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”

-Rumi

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“So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?”
-Theoden, Lord of the Rings

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Ahmed Rilwan – abducted, 8 August 2014

Yameen Rasheed – murdered, 23 April 2017

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Years ago, one weekend not too far from the time Yameen started working in Maldives, we were chatting on Twitter and decided to meet for breakfast. 

We started talking and that breakfast lasted until after dinner.

There began a friendship unlike any I’ve ever known.

A couple of months on, I met a strongly opinionated, yet somewhat quiet and reserved, fellow at a workshop on Right to Information held at the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives.

Turned out this was Rilwan, or @Moyameehaa on Twitter, as more people knew him. 

I’d already heard a lot about him through Yameen and I was then able to see for myself why the man had made such an impact on someone like Yameen, who was himself a force to be reckoned with. 

We hit it off immediately, the three of us. Much of our conversation was based on shared ideas on rights and responsibilities, causes we believed in, and, of course, books and music.

I cannot count the hours we spent together in the years that followed, either in person or through conversations on various chat apps, social media, phone, etc. But I can say that considering every single one of us were prone to have bouts of caving up like hermits, we spent a surprisingly high amount of quality time together.

And yet, it isn’t enough. I would give anything to have them back in my life.

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Yameen

‘You don’t love me anymore’

The one text that he has sent me every time a few days went by without me checking up on him. 

The one text that always made me come out of hibernation and meet up with him asap.

The one text that I will miss most for the rest of my life.

I do love you, Yameen, for you’re the best friend a person could ever ask for.

I love everything about you, from your online persona with the biting sarcasm to the kind soul you were in person. Your workaholic habits where I could still expect to catch you at your desk if I called you at either 10 in the morning, or 2. Your tendency to go through the menu every single time and then to order the same old thing unless I just ordered for you ☺. Your total incapacity to feel comfortable in a place because of details that normally would never catch my eye, like wooden chairs at a steel table, windows which aren’t symmetrical, a round table for two…

Your humour in the face of aggressive outbursts, your calm in the face of stressful confrontations, your ability to take the world one step at a time and to care deeply while not being overwhelmed by all the wrong that surrounds us.

Yameen was a courageous, empathetic, gentle soul.

He was funny, he was witty, and he was a deep thinker. 

He was brilliant, he was intellectual, and he would engage in debate and discussion that oftentimes would teach you more than you could him.

He was human, he was humane, and he would always, without fail, stand up for your rights no matter what you thought of him.

He is irreplaceable. He is timeless. His values, his ideas, his rebellions, his contributions to society are what he’s left in his wake for us to pick up and do with what we will. 

He will never be forgotten. Yes, he was murdered, in a manner that displays the rage whoever killed him felt. But why? Because he was a better human than you could ever hope to be? 

He was murdered but he has NOT been silenced.

Were you listening? Are you reading?

Then you know that he has said what he wanted to say. 

It is up to you and me to make sure that those who did not get to meet him in person still get to read and ponder on everything he had time to share with us.

Rilwan

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” – Rumi

I have talked about, written about Rilwan endlessly since 2014. 

I have also mistakenly said Rilwan’s name instead of Yameen’s yesterday.

Because I still grieve for him. Because I will never forget him and move on. Because my mind is in denial that it is time to grieve for another young friend.

Rilwan has been taken from us and, to this day, we do not know where he is, how he is, or whether, in fact, he is.

If I am to describe Rilwan as I knew him all over again, I find I will be repeating a lot of what I have said just a few lines above about Yameen.

Suffice to say that Rilwan is no less a remarkable man than Yameen.

He stood unwaveringly for what he believed in. He was all for justice and fairness, and forever campaigning for the rights of the less privileged.

His disappearance is another loss to our society that no one can make up for.

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I want to sit here and write my tears out. I want to say more about Rilwan, and about Yameen, but I fear I can’t right now.

My heart is broken. My soul, itself, is broken.

Before I go, one thing I want to say.

To the heartless people I’ve seen condoning Rilwan’s disappearance and Yameen’s murder:

You say they deserved to die because they are, to quote you, ‘secular atheists’.

I want to point out, this once, that this is a label YOU forced upon Rilwan, Yameen, and many others.

A person’s faith is between him and God, and I am not attempting to justify or interpret what anyone else may have felt or believed.

All I ask is for you to question yourselves. To question your stone hard judgement and callous outlook towards people who may disagree with you on any number of matters.

Stop with the hate. 

In its very literal sense, live and let live.

Disillusioned with kohthu roti

image-0-02-03-2ece7212dc578c6d3fbdf0df2eefd4288dc75b0f6c3a843304d74c722661f3f8-vHave you ever had a kohthu roti from Pilawoos?

No? What have you been doing with your life?

Yes? Then you know how absolutely, foodgasmically near perfect it is.

We used to eat kohthu from Cibo before Pilawoos decided to open an outlet here in Little Sodom. Cibo kohthu is… well, as far from tasting good as it can get. It’s only worth eating when you are ravenous beyond the point of caring what you’re stuffing your face with.

Of late, though, Pilawoos kohthu has lost its flavour. It is no longer true to its origins, made with a mix of unsavoury ingredients that would have had no place in the original recipe.

It filled me with a sense of loss and disappointment. Left me disillusioned with the power of kohthu.

For something that once embodied the essence of perfection to reach this level of “sigh, I guess this is what I’m left with now” is a matter of unspeakable sorrow.

I could go on eating this sub-standard Pilawoos kohthu and feeling this sense of sadness and loss every time, or I could abandon it.

I still couldn’t eat Cibo kohthu without distaste, but were I to eat it, it would not disappoint me like the current version of Pilawoos kohthu does since I never expected better of it anyway.

So in the end, I have decided that while I steer clear of Cibo kohthu, I also have no intention of resorting to eating the corrupted kohthu that Pilawoos now offers.

And that, in effect, is how I feel about MDP (MUO) now.

 

Maldives: sun, sea, gangs and extremists

escapist: an inclination to or habit of retreating from unpleasant or unacceptable reality, as through diversion or fantasy

Why is it that incumbent government’s always have a tendency to deny everything that’s ever wrong with this country?

Maldivian governments are well known among locals as being escapist when it comes to any serious matters that the country faces, from religious extremism to political uprising to criminal activity.

Wouldn’t it make far more sense to accept it, address it and correct it? That, afterall, is why you’re voted in to power.

But no. As long as you listen to the government’s side of the story: Problems don’t exist. Maldives is sun, sand, sea and lots of “obedient disciples” who have nothing to say against the government.

Gangs

The most recent example is ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Parliamentary Group Leader Ahmed Nihan’s incredulous statement that there are no gangs in the Maldives.

Being a parliamentarian, he has, with this statement, dismissed the concerns and fears of a large majority of citizens by refusing to even admit that their fears are well-founded.

“Although little incidents occur while the youth frequenting street corners go about their lives, we cannot call it gang related crimes. There are no gangs in the Maldives anymore,” Nihan is quoted as saying in local media.

The ugly truth is that the “little incidents” Nihan speaks of often ends in assault with sharp objects, or worse, murder. In fact, such a case of assault happened immediately following Nihan’s statement.

I find it alarming and disgusting that a lawmaker would attempt to trivialize the serious crimes committed by street gangs which are becoming increasingly rampant in this country.

While Nihan denies the existence of gangs, the same government’s Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has often declared combating gang related crimes to be one of the main goals of his time in office.

In September, Umar announced that the police have identified approximately 30 gangs, with 50 gang leaders and 500 gang members active in the Maldives, with a large majority of them operating in capital city Male’.

A report published by the Asia Foundation in 2012 titled The Gangs of Male’ portray somewhat higher figures, stating that there are 20 to 30 gangs in Male’ with 50 to 400 members in each group.

Home Minister Umar Naseer has further announced that efforts are being made to combat gang activity through the introduction of stricter laws.

Extremism

This government, too, continues to deny the existence of radicalized Islamic thought within the country. Anyone who stays at an inhabited island here in the Maldives for a few days will see otherwise.

Not the resorts, though. There’s a huge paradigm shift between what the tourists see as the Maldives, and what we as residents experience.

The government, in addition to denying the existence of religious extremism in the Maldives, also condemns anyone who dares to speak of the issue outside of the Maldives.

However, there are continued reports of Maldivians going to Syria for jihad. Of schools in remote islands forcing children as young as 8 years old to wear headscarves. Of enforced female genital mutilation. Of sermons promoting all kinds of religious intolerance.

And most frightening of all, of strengthening ties between radical Islamic groups, criminal gangs and factions within the security forces.

Here’s hoping that the government will come to accept these problems and address them before they get further out of hand.

#FindMoyameehaa: Police incompetence or complacence?

Two months since journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla was abducted, police remain unforthcoming with any solid information regarding their investigation into the matter.

In fact, to date, police have refused to confirm what nature of case they believe Rilwan’s disappearance is; is he a runaway or has he been abducted? Is he alive or deceased?

The public is teeming with unanswered questions which the police have so far systematically ignored.

Rilwan was last seen in the early hours of August 8 at the Hulhumale’ Ferry Terminal in Male’.

As he is a loner by nature, it took 5 days for family and friends to be certain that he had indeed gone missing.

A missing person’s report was filed with the police on August 13 by his family.

It took the police three additional days to even visit Rilwan’s apartment, by which time friends had organized a thorough search through out Hulhumale’.

Family and friends provided police with CCTV footage from the ferry terminal in which Rilwan was last spotted, and pointed out Rilwan and suspects believed to have been following him.

The whole of August went by without any public statements from police. The Home Minister, however, gave a press conference where he said “top cops” are assigned to the case.

In early September, the People’s Majlis summoned Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed for questioning on the lack of progress in the #findmoyameehaa investigation. The same night police released a statement with quantities of all investigative work they claim to have conducted.

They failed to mention the lack of progress or leads that the statistics provided.

The statement was then followed up on September 16; a replica of the earlier statement with a few changes to the numbers.

policeinvestigation

Despite eye witness accounts to the contrary, police have claimed that they fail to see any conclusive links between Rilwan’s disappearance and an abduction that took place outside Rilwan’s apartment on the very night he disappeared at around the same time he would have reached the location.

They have also inexplicably failed to be able to confirm whether Rilwan reached Hulhumale’ or not on the night he disappeared although CCTV footage shows him entering the terminal, an eye witness claims to have sat next to him on the ferry, and there are no records of anyone having fallen off that ferry.

By September 30th, media reported that 4 suspects have been taken into police custody regarding the case.

No additional information regarding the arrests, or the follow up after the arrests has been made public by the police.

Private Investigator’s Report

The arrests closely followed the releasing of a Private Investigator’s report into Rilwan’s disappearance.

The report was released by local NGO Maldivian Democracy Network on September 22, naming suspects and ruling out possibilities of suicide and voluntary disappearance.

The report led to threats and attacks from notorious gang members named in the report. Police, while notified of these, came across as spending more energy on protecting the wrong more than the wronged.

61 days since Rilwan was abducted, we are still waiting on the police to complete the investigation, #findmoyameehaa, and identify and take the perpetrators to court.