South Asians for Human Rights, a regional network of human rights defenders, is dismayed to observe the ongoing deterioration of social and political freedoms in the Maldives with the latest being an attack on a human rights defender, Shahindha Ismail, the Executive Director of Maldives Democracy Network. SAHR condemns these death threats and the criminal investigation against Ismail.
On December 20, human rights defender Shahinda Ismail, responded to a speech made by Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, which attacked the religious freedom of non-Muslims in Maldives. Taking to twitter, Ismail said, “Religions other than Islam exist in this world because Allah allowed for it. No other religion would exist otherwise, is it not?”
Ismail’s statement was picked up by local pro-government news organization, Vagathu, after which she began to receive disturbing death threats from anonymous profiles on social media. Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs has issued a statement condemning the propagation of any religion other than Islam in Maldives, while Maldives Police have begun investigating Ismail’s comments under the Religious Unity Act.
SAHR notes that investigations into the enforced disappearance of blogger Ahmed Rilwan in 2014, and the brutal murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed in 2017, are yet to yield justice and accountability. As both of these incidents were preceded by online harassment and anonymous death threats, SAHR urges Maldives Police to swiftly and thoroughly investigate the threats against Shahinda Ismail and ensure the personal safety of Ismail and her immediate family members. We also advocate the Government of Maldives to publicly oppose censorship and religious fundamentalism in order to safeguard the human rights of all Maldivians