Abdulla Rasheed, better known as â€˜ICâ€™, has been held in solitary confinement – without charge – for 98 days following his involvement in the peaceful pro-democracy rally of 12-13th of August. Whilst the majority of those arrested following the August rally have been transferred to house or Maleâ€™ arrest, IC remains behind bars in Dhoonidoo. Minivan News spoke to his family and friends to discover why this 35 year-old man from Addu Atoll is so threatening to the Maldivian regime.
IC first attracted public attention during the 1999 parliamentary elections. As the campaign manager for Mohamed Nasheed in Maleâ€™, IC quickly garnered a reputation as someone who had both the organisational and leadership skills to pull off political victories against the odds. His ability to â€˜get out the voteâ€™ especially among Maleâ€™sâ€™ large and disenfranchised youth population made him a key player in winning the seat for Mr. Nasheed. As Nasheed puts it â€œwithout ICâ€¦I couldnâ€™t have taken Maleâ€™.â€
As a co-founder and owner of the popular Harugeâ€™ CafÃ©, on the eastern shore of Maleâ€™, IC gained further attention â€“ particularly with corrupt government officials â€“ as the businessman who refused to pay bribes. However, his ethical stance against corruption did not do him many favours in business, he soon lost his stake in the Harugeâ€™ enterprise.
This ethical stance seems to be the main driving force behind IC. During his days as a resort manager for Villa Hotels, IC became popular with his employees. â€œHe was always kind to his staff. He would never just fire someone indiscriminately as others did.â€ a family member commented. In fact, ICâ€™s refusal to budge on issues he feels strongly about appears to be the cause of his current incarceration.
A week before his arrest, IC received a tip-off that both he and Fulhu were to be arrested. IC caught the next flight to Colombo but after spending a couple of days there he felt he had to return home, regardless of the consequences. â€œI begged him not to go back to Maleâ€™â€ said ICâ€™s ex-wife Tanya, who remains a close friend. â€œI knew he might get taken, but IC said he had to go back and continue the fight for democracy, he said he couldnâ€™t just hide in Sri Lanka. I knew there was no point arguing with him.â€
After Fulhu was arrested on 12th August, IC was one of the first to protest outside the NSS Headquarters in Maleâ€™. If the regime didnâ€™t know it already, they knew then the threat IC posed. Several hours later, twelve thousand people had joined him.
â€œHeâ€™s had to sacrifice everything dear to him for his beliefs – his business, his family, and his freedomâ€ says Tanya. With more reports of NSS brutality being exposed daily, IC has certainly suffered for his democratic values. On the 15th August, just hours after his arrest, he was taken from prison to hospital in Maleâ€™. He was reportedly suffering from vomiting and temporary paralysis of the legs, caused by the beatings he received at the time of his arrest.
Despite this, his family and friends remain strong and increasingly supportive of ICâ€™s prominent stance against the government. â€œHis family are behind him. They love him and will always support himâ€ says Tanya. â€œA friend of his saw him last week when he was on hunger-strike. They conveyed messages of support to him. IC said he felt stronger than ever.â€
The recent outpouring of support for IC – from his family, from the opposition movement and from the hundreds of young people who look up to him – perhaps most poignantly comes from his son. â€œI know they were protesting for democratic laws, I know they were campaigning for democracy, I know my father has been arrested but I know heâ€™s not a criminal. Protesting for democracy is not being a criminalâ€ said ten-year old Thaim.