Blood and money: stabbing attack follows campaign deal gone wrong

Maldivians across the atolls were glued to state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) one week ago, awaiting the results of the country’s second multi-party presidential election.

As counting from the 470 ballot boxes continued throughout the evening, live updates were accompanied by news bulletins keeping all up to date on this historic event – even the deaf.

Members of the Maldives’ deaf community were glued to the bottom corner of their television screen, where Shaheez Abdulla communicated in sign language for those with impaired hearing.

What was not communicated through Shaheez’s hands that day was the intense pain still coursing through his legs, his arm, and his back – the result of a stabbing just 72 hours earlier that he alleges was linked to one political party’s election preparations.

I met Shaheez on the roof of his building. On my way up to the terrace, traces of blood were still visible outside the lift where three youths attacked him the Wednesday (September 4) before the election. The first witnesses to the scene describe a bloodied but furious Shaheez, keen to expose those he sees as responsible for his assault.

He sits awkwardly, shifting in his seat – his determination to expose his wrongdoers unabated.

“They tried to kill me, but they could not. I am not afraid – for the truth, I will do anything,” he said.

Learning to interpret

Eight years ago Shaheez worked in one of Male’s CD/DVD shops and – like many Maldivians – dreamed of travelling abroad to study. Eventually however it was his interactions with the deaf customers he encountered that would decide the direction of his career – in particular, meeting his future-wife, Adhila.

Having admired her from afar, it was only when Shaheez plucked up the nerve to approach her that he realised she too was deaf.

“I finally approached her and tried to talk to her, but she didn’t respond – finally, a woman came over and said to me, ‘Don’t you know she’s deaf?’ I was shocked,” Shaheez explained.

This marked the point at which Shaheez began to learn sign language, leading to eventual fluency in British, Arabic and international signing, as well as the more unusual Dhivehi dialect. He also got married to Adhila and they now have two children.

Shaheez soon became one of the first deaf interpreters in the Maldives and today offers interpretation assistance in the courts, hospitals, and even trains members of the police force to sign. Shaheez regularly lectures at the Education Development Centre, and is contracted by the Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to provide interpretation services on TVM.

During our interview, Shaheez proudly shows Minivan News the registration certificate for his new project – the Maldives Disabled Federation – which will act as an umbrella organisation for the country’s separate disability civil society groups.

Shaheez’s tireless activity across Maldivian civil society  – working on many different disability related projects – could have been halted on September 4, however, as his work became tangled with the country’s internecine politics.

Warning signs

The events leading to the attack began around one month prior to the elections, when Shaheez says he was contacted by the Jumhoree Party (JP) about potential projects for disabled people. Full of ideas, and never without a sheaf of papers outlining his many projects, Shaheez was able to produce proposals for a number of schemes at the very first meeting.

“I told them I can help, but I can’t be a political tool,” he recalled. “There are so many projects that need doing.”

Two days after this initial meeting, Shaheez claimed that a JP member gave him just under MVR 300,000 (US$1,948) for three projects – including an instructive video to help deaf people learn the Salaath prayer, the creation of a Dhivehi sign-language dictionary, and the development of a sign-language font.

A call on speakerphone to a JP member during the interview confirmed that the party had given this cash to Shaheez. He was also able to show paperwork outlining the agreed projects and their cost, as well as a contract which agreed the projects would be launched by JP leader, Gasim Ibrahim.

However, Shaheez claimed the relationship started to go sour when he was given two day’s notice to prepare for the official launch of the projects.

“After I told them the launch could not be done in that time, they asked for all of the money back,” Shaheez recalled, despite much of the work having already been carried out.

“I said I would give the money back, but that I would also then do anti-campaigning against Gasim.”

It was on his way home from this meeting on September 3 that Shaheez says two young men on a motorbike threatened him.

“They said ‘Don’t even dare do anti-campaigning – if you do, you’d better watch out’, ” he alleged.

The following day, on his way to return to the cash – moments after arranging to meet with a JP member over the phone – Shaheez was confronted by his attackers on the way out of his building. After demanding Shaheez’s bag – containing the JP’s money – the youths attacked, taking the bag with the money inside.

Shaheez was keen to point out that his blame for the attack was not aimed at Gasim himself, noting that the leader’s close associates had warned Shaheez not to return the money to anyone other than them.

Response to threats

Minivan News was unable to obtain a response from the JP member named by Shaheez as the person responsible for his attack, and so his name has been left out of this account. Another senior party member, cited as being involved in the initial agreement, has denied all knowledge of any projects involving the JP and disabled organisations.

Shaheez is aware of rumours that he had stolen the party’s money himself, but rejected these accusations, citing his lack of a criminal record.

“I know who I am and God knows who I am,” he says.

Asked whether he was intimidated by the threats, he said that this was not the first time this tactic had been used, as he seeks to expose the persistent abuse of disabled people in the Maldives. He recalled one shocking example of such abuse he encountered when conducting surveys in Haa Daalu Atoll.

“There was one lady everyone said was mad. When I spoke with her, I found that she was just deaf. But the men in the island had already been abusing her – she had seven or eight children with unknown fathers. Men had used her, raped her, and even drugged her.”

“I will hold a big event one day and all these abuse cases will be publicised,” he vowed.

When asked about the difficulty of interpreting for the election coverage so soon after his ordeal, Shaheez remained defiant.

“I don’t care if both legs are stabbed, if even one of my hands can move I will interpret for the deaf until my last breath.”

Video taken by a bystander following Shaheez’s stabbing on September 4:


16 thoughts on “Blood and money: stabbing attack follows campaign deal gone wrong”

  1. The victim sounds brave. If indeed he had been attacked by MDP/PPM/JP/AP/DQP/GIP or any other political party when in power, the sad thing is reporting the matter to the authorities will be to no avail.

    Even during MDP's three year rule, the police were forced to become ever more of a party militia which had to bow down to the demands of party leaders and ignore the pleas of any person from the opposing side.

    I was personally witness to an MDP protest led by several elected members of the Male' City Council who ran on an MDP ticket. The protesters charged into Male' Prison and hurled abuse and rained punches on police until some hired thugs who had made a violent attack on opposition protesters were released. The MDP-ticket City Councilors were as physical and vocal as any other protester there. The sad thing was that the persons they got released had long past records of violent crime and would have enjoyed it to no end to have politicians get them out of jail free even when they were in the wrong.

    There are so many sights like these that we see in the Maldives where political parties do not believe in fairness and accountability to the general public - just accountability to their stooges and hired goons. The difference is whatever is done by MDP does not usually hit the international media no matter how shocking. It was only when Nasheed bumbled it up enough to arrest, detain and threaten a judge that our international partners saw fit to end the 'honeymoon phase' where several innocent protesters in Kulhudhuffushi were beat up by police, where several people were subject to cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of gangsters fed and housed by MDP bigwigs. and a whole lot more injustice.

    If MDP are elected into office once more and the West chooses to turn a blind eye to injustice, support a messiah cult based on one individual and fails to help strengthen our institutions and keep them in check, then the road to democracy in Maldives will never be peaceful.

    My sincere good wishes to the victim portrayed in this story.

  2. Must admire your professional ethics to bring such news into public domain and let people understand the dirty secrets of 'patriots' who abuse our nation in the name of 'philanthropy'.

    And of course the characteristic comments like those from tsk who always has a yellow glass ready on his eyes will continue to be there, everywhere seeing mdp as ghosts. it hardly matters.

  3. @ Tsk tsk
    Again, what a load of anti MDP rubbish you consistently talk. The MDP is the only party that has never abused the rights of individuals by using he Police as their own gang of thugs.

  4. main goal of a successful comment should be to "Introduce irrelevant & dead-end confusion"


  5. "turn a blind eye to injustice, support a messiah cult based on one individual and fails to help strengthen our institutions....."

    Who could that individual be? Could it be someone who was President for 5 consecutive terms, 'winning' every election with a 90% majority, who had half his family as cabinet ministers during his reign, who personally appointed all judges to courts, during whose presidency even a slight sign of dissent meant incarceration and posiible torture?

    Nah it's not that individual, it's the other one, the one I don't like.

  6. Cmon, guys. Go easy on tsk tsk. He's just a foreign mercenary whose news sources was probably that Khaulath.

    ... y'know, the child abuser who hid out in the UK and made propaganda for the Maumoon regime that would outdo the Soviets in the cold war? The one that the global assassin, von Cholesterol, put an end to?

  7. @peasant:

    Nope. I meant supporting a messiah in general, be it Qayyoom, Nasheed, Waheed, Qasim, Nazeer Jamal or Winter Shareef. It was a mistake on the part of Western partners to think investing in and promoting a personality cult (a la "A Man for all Islands" and "The Island President") would solve the real problems in the country.

    My support is for strengthening institutions by training people, establishing infrastructure, getting the necessary resources and sharing knowledge across borders. Look at what wonders BCP help did for the MDP. Imagine if those same wonders could be worked for our judiciary/independent institutions/public services and security forces.

    The growing middle class in the country as well as the educated youth will one day demand more transparency, accountability and fairness. These values cannot be reflected in government services by the will of a single person. They must be inculcated across the board through sustained efforts to consolidate democracy.

    @Maldivian Man:

    Why no, I have spent the better part of my life in this country and continue to do so. This comment forum is programmed to work in the English-language and that is why I write in the medium. As for your comments about the late Ms. Khaulath I find them extremely distasteful. I do not know her personally but in the Maldives we grew up we do not make such horrible comments about someone who must be terribly missed by her family and friends no matter what she engaged in before she departed.

  8. You guys can feat your eyes as much as yu want... write anything you want... but I, a maldivian, Born and raised in this country.. A historian by hobby.... This is what i say,

    Maldives has seen 30 years (since my birth) of a so called directorial dictatorship of Gayyoom... we from the new generation saw the 30 years he ruled and the 3 years anni ruled... I proudly call him flat dhombe.. I proudly call him a civillian and I proudly declare him our president.because when you have decision to make, you weigh the difference of what you have seen,felt and experienced. WE DONT care what personal trait anni has.. none of my,your or anyones business...pple call him laadheenee but he was the one who allowed the bearded extremists to talk on podiums. (without a policeman, a razor and chilli sauce). Not in the regime of the Azhar educated MAUmoon. We have 2 pple standing for election on 28th. 1 in PPM candidate yamin..who never stepped into the political feild in the years passed..who controls the thugs in male and is the biggest tax free businessman in Maldives. On the other hand, we have anni, a fellow maldivian who lost his presidency via a coup.. You can look at it from all angles but a coup is a coup.. democracy is not to be followed a text from this page and a paragraph from other page.. democracy clearly outlines how an elected president should or would resign. This is how I see it. This is how any Maldivian who has a brain or educated enough would see...

    Electing Yamin would be electing GPMG Maumoon again..+ how many of us heard Yamin speak? his words of wisdom are for the intoxicated and the paid..

    We know the aura in the country.. we know who they are.. We are waiting for 28th to pass.. you can call it injustice or brainless stupid thinking but i dont see this country going anywhere into development with Yamin. Maybe he will do his tax free business better? How many mothers will accept this?

  9. @tsk tsk

    That is the cruel nature your masters has forced on us. Don't ask us to grieve upon the death of a propaganda mouthpiece who has spent her life and skills making our lives miserable from her comfortable home in the UK.

    When an enemy is killed, we cheer. Because when your gangs go around stabbing and murdering people for profit, you chuckle and count your profits.

    Have you eaten a healthy meal, as of late? I'm sure you have - you being paid for by the coup regime and all.

    Such is the nature of war; a war your masters started against us.

    Don't dish out what you can't take.

  10. @tsk tsk. Why do you think that the international support is always with Nasheed and MDP? It is because your hero, did not strengthen institutions in the Maldives, built a personality cult and used religion to get people on his side. They still do.

    You talk about the things MDP did. You should be ashamed of yourself, whether you are a Maldivian or a person from the outside who is paid to support the regime. Do you want me to list the things that Gayoom did to my friends? There is no comparison between MDP and the regime.

    I am not stupid enough to think that any political party is blameless. But people have to be heartless, arrogant and utterly uncaring to sustain the kind of abuse for thirty whole years.

    Ask yourself some questions. Why do people- including outsiders- support opposition to Gayoom? How did the regime last for that long? How did it affect the people? All I see is a group of very ambitious people who simply wanted to live like they are royalty. They still do.

    If the Maldives and its people are failing to come to your expectations, it is because the place and the people have been damaged by the very people you support.

    I suggest some honest self searching and a better understanding of our recent history.

  11. '" I am not afraid – for the truth, I will do anything... (Shaheez)”

    Shaheez's courage is amazing. This is a tragedy, but so inspirational that Shaheez struggles on.

    I am overwhelmed by this man's strength of soul!

  12. @tsk tsk: Your masked and armored thugs commit murder, rape and shed our blood - and you refuse to say a word. When your kaahinu mullahs call for the rape of our children, the theft of our lands, the destruction of our rights, you say nothing.

    But when we celebrate the death of an enemy who has managed to hide and whitewash our suffering for years, you have the utter gall to start blabbing about 'distaste'.

    Shame on you.


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