Family and friends of missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla gathered today (August 25) at the People’s Majlis after presenting a letter requesting MPs’ help in finding the Minivan News journalist.
Rilwan’s mother, Aminath Easa, 67-years-old, broke down as she spoke out for the first time publicly about Rilwan’s disappearance:
“Please don’t do this. Help us. Please. I don’t know where he is. I do not know if he is alive. I do not know if he is dead,” she begged the police.
“Please give us some satisfying news. Please, I am pleading with you.”
Sobbing, she told authorities that she raised her five daughters and four sons alone, with Rilwan being the youngest in the family.
Rilwan was last seen on the Malé-Hulhumlé ferry in the early hours of August 8, less than an hour before neighbours reported seeing a man forced into a vehicle outside his home.
Police have released a statement on Sunday, saying that they have widened the search for the missing journalist to include guesthouses, vessels, and nearby islands.
“No matter how poor we were, I raised my children with love. He is a good boy.
I am not trying to protest here. Let me stay here. I have waited at home all of these days patiently. But today, I came here to plead with you to find him.
Hear our plea. Please. I’m calling on all leaders. We are going to all leaders in the Maldives. We are telling them please calm our hearts. For Allah’s sake, please tell us what has happened to our son.”
– Rilwan’s mother, Aminath Easa
The demonstrators, who gathered at the People’s Majlis around 10:30am this morning, held signs urging the authorities to speed up investigations.
‘Today Rilwan disappeared. Who will disappear next?’ read one of the signs.
‘Majlis, do your job, ensure security for all citizens,’ read another.
The peaceful demonstration was quickly moved away from the Majlis buildings, behind a set of police barricades.
“Today was a clear example of how stupid policies inadvertently compound the psychological distress and trauma experienced by victims of crime,” said Rilwan’s friend, Maryam Adam.
“We were not aggressive or contravening logical laws. The family needs to know they can trust the authorities and that their pleas are being heard. Being able to wait outside Majlis was important to us symbolically,” she added.
Rilwan’s brother, Moosa Rilwan, who attended the demonstration said the group had gathered only to show concern over the progress of investigations.
“We have not seen any progress. It’s been 17 days. We call on the government and Majlis to do everything necessary to find our brother.”
“We, the family, are very concerned. We do not believe [the state] has done enough to find him. We are deeply saddened there has not been adequate efforts through the Majlis,” Moosa told local media.
Another member of the demonstration, Yameen Rasheed, highlighted a lack of urgency from the Majlis regarding this case.
“Majlis committees have previously convened at odd hours over lesser matters. But 17 days after a journalist has been abducted, they are yet to show any such urgency.”
“I plead with you, find out how my son is”
In the letter submitted to Majlis Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Ahmed, family members highlighted that Rilwan, in addition to being a journalist, is also a human rights advocate on social media and a long time blogger.
“Rilwan has received numerous death threats from anonymous sources in connection to his writing and thoughts,” read the letter.
The letter also stressed that Maldives police services have failed to give adequate information at a time of increased insecurity, with young people assaulted, killed, and anonymous murder threats sent to young writers and journalists.
It also noted the resolution submitted to Majlis and the ‘241′ security services committee, a five member select team determined earlier this year.
“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 thoughts and feelings of Rilwan’s family and friends have also been captured on film as part of a coordinated media campaign designed to raise awareness of his abduction.
The Maldives media community recently released a joint statement on the creation of a new a committee to pressure the state to expedite investigations into Rilwan’s disappearance and end intimidation of the press.
In addition, International groups, including the Office for the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR) and Reporters Without Borders have called for a speedy and thorough investigation.
The OCHR has also urged the relevant authorities to address threats and intimidation of the press, while the International Federation of Journalists said the government must determine the circumstances of his disappearance as a “matter of urgency.”
Moreover, the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists urged the authorities “to leave no stone unturned” in their efforts to find him.
Meanwhile, Rilwan’s family have offered a reward of MVR50,000 (US$3,240) for information leading to his successful return.