Thousands of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters, led by former president Mohamed Nasheed, have taken to the streets this evening to oppose what they claimed was an illegitimate government established yesterday in a bloodless military coup.
The protests have spread across the country including the southern Atoll of Addu, where Mayor Abdulla Sodig has been beaten by protesters and taken to the Addu regional hospital. Hithadhoo police academy has also been set on fire, along with approximately 18 vehicles used for training purposes.
Minivan News has received rumours that 250 inmates at Maafushi jail have broken out of their cells and are rioting against the guards. Sources report that police are being deployed to the jail compound.
In Sri Lanka, demonstrations are being held outside of the Maldives Embassy. In the United Kingdom, Maldives High Commissioner Dr Farahanaz Faizal has resigned in protest.
The political chaos was triggered this afternoon after Nasheed rallied MDP supporters, declaring that his resignation had been under duress and called for the freshly-appointed Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to step down and call for elections.
“Yes, I was forced to resign at gunpoint,” Mohamed Nasheed told foreign reporters after the rally. “There were guns all around me and they told me they wouldn’t hesitate to use them if I didn’t resign.”
Nasheed’s supporters then clashed with police and military forces near Republic Square, and were repeatedly tear gassed by the police. Dramatic footage of the crackdown has been shared on social media. More videos uploaded showed police kicking and beating protesters on the ground.
Amid the clashes, a group of opposition demonstrators infiltrated the crowds, attacking MDP supporters, according to witnesses.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed was reported among the injured, and received head injuries during the clashes. He was briefly taken under police custody before being released back into the crowd.
MDP’s former Chairperson Maria Ahmed Didi was also seen “dragged away by by her hair” – her whereabouts remain unknown – while MDP’s Chairperson Reeko Moosa Manik is in critical condition at ADK Hospital.
A Minivan News reporter was injured following what he described as a baton charge by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s ‘starforce’ officers.
“They were beating old women with batons,” he said. “It was just like the old days.”
Photos circulated on social media show heavily bloodstained protesters. There were unconfirmed reports that a woman had died, but the hospitals confirmed no deaths as of 9:00 Wednesday night.
Protests have meanwhile spread nationwide across the Maldives, including Addu City, with reports of islanders seizing police stations across the country.
A police spokesperson confirmed that protesters had been injured. He could not confirm the number of people arrested.
Several youth with head injuries were queued up for x-rays in the waiting area outside the reception area at IGMH.
One young woman who had gone to IGMH with her sister was being treated for a head wound. A gauze wrapped around her head was spotted with blood, and she claimed the wound was still bleeding as she went in for an X-ray.
“The police were just standing there and suddenly we were being beaten with batons and pepper spray was thrown in our face. They threw us to the ground and kept beating us,” she said.
Explaining that she, her sister and most women had joined the party’s “walk around Male” because they understood it was not a violent protest, the young woman said she had never seen indiscriminate beating of men and women on Male’ under Mohamed Nasheed’.
“It was just supposed to be a peaceful walk. That’s why we went, and why more women than usual went. But there was no warning of the attack, no announcements, we were all beaten even after we began retreating. My sister was almost trampled,” she said. “I just think it’s disgusting that the police could beat so many unarmed women.”
Meanwhile, MDP MP and parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih believed approximately 35 individuals had been admitted to IGMH, with one in the ICU. Hospital staff said several were in serious conditions.
Describing the confrontation, Solih said the group was 20 feet away from the police line, which was not blocked the road, when the police began spraying tear gas, pepper spray, and throwing stones. He believes there may have been individuals behind the police who were launching some of the projectiles, but could not say whether they were affiliated with any political party.
“We are now just trying to collect everyone and see who has been injured,” Solih said, adding “I think [they police] were using more force than was necessary today.”
Solih claimed ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik was in serious condition with injuries to his stomach and back, while MP Mariya Didi was also seriously injured. Nasheed had been injured as well, but is being kept “in a secret location.” MPs Alhan Fahmy and Imthiyaz Fahmy, the party spokesperson, have been taken to jail, he added.
“I didn’t think Dr Waheed would do anything against civilians, I felt he would do something to protect them. But today I saw a totally different situation, and I am not so sure. I don’t think he has any control over the police and MNDF. They’re the ones running the government, Dr Waheed is just a puppet,” he elaborated.
MDP Party Member Omar Razak, Chairman of Works Corporation Limited, observed that the numbers of MDP supporters who turned out today to walk around Male’ trumped those who demonstrated on February 7 during the military coup.
“If we had the numbers yesterday that we had today we wouldn’t be in this situation,” he said, adding that the party members had been up all night with the protests on February 6. He said the party would continue to demonstrate. “They can’t keep doing this, beating people and sending them to the hospital every day.”
Riot squads arrived at IGMH around 6:15, but were replaced by MNDF forces at approximately 6:30. The situation was calm at 7:00pm, however the public was still gathered outside.
No deaths had been confirmed as of 8:00pm.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) was investigating the situation at IGMH at 6:45 pm.
The BBC’s Andrew North, who was covering the riots, reported “an ugly atmosphere in this tiny capital on the sea as darkness fell, with clashes continuing between Maldives security forces and supporters of the former president, Mohamed Nasheed.”
“We witnessed a baton charge by police on crowds gathered outside one of the main hospitals. People scattered as officers sprinted towards them, silhouetted against the lights of passing traffic.
“Inside the hospital, dozens of Mr Nasheed’s supporters are still being treated for injuries, following earlier scuffles in the main square. Among them is Reeko Moosa Maniku, chairman of Mr Nasheed’s Maldives Democratic Party – who was with the former president when the clashes broke out.
“A large head bandage and his shirt bloodied, he regained consciousness as we arrived. ‘The police said they would kill me’, he told us, as they beat me. Another MP was still unconscious in another ward.”
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7:15 – In a surreal moment, the state broadcaster was reporting on Disney’s financial profits as the protests took hold.
7:23 – Hospitals have been reported locked down and appointments cancelled.
7:29 – 50 people reported hospitalised. Police and army at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
7:31 – Reports of police looting the MDP’s headquarters. MDP supporters have alleged that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan does not have control of police.
7:37 – A Thimarafushi councilor has claimed that police on the island have sided with the islanders, after they approached the police station. 12 police reportedly work on the island.
7:43 – MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik is reported to be in intensive care in a “very critical” condition.
8:05 – MDP supporters on Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll are protesting against the police. Vehichles and police buidling smashed up, reported haveeru.
8:06 – Police station on Milandhoo in Shaviyani Atoll reportedly taken over by MDP supporters
8:07 – Police station on Velidhoo in Noonu Atoll reportedly taken over by MDP supporters. Seven policeman on duty exiled from the island on a boat, reports Haveeru.
8:08 – Chairman of the Police Integrity Commission Shahinda Ismail told Raajje TV that police had used excessive force. The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has also issued a statement expressing concern.
8:49 – Police released a statement announcing that the current protests have turned into a ‘violent act of terrorism’, citing that protesters are deliberately causing harm to the people and damaging public property, and vowed to take necessary measures to crack down the protesters.
9:02 – Windows at Vili Police Station in Maafanu ward have been smashed. A fight was taking place nearby between several civilians, with only a few police members involved, following the police raid on the MDP camp at approximately 7:45 pm, sources say.
9:03 – Minivan News has learned that Amnesty International will be dispatching a delegation to the Maldives following reports of senior MDP figures being detained.
9:06 – The UK High Commission has a team in the Maldives that called a meeting with all UK nationals this afternoon at a Male’ hotel. UK citizens present were registered. High Commissioner John Rankin expressed particular concern over the reported ‘no-travel’ list, which he said was believed to include several foreign nationals, including at least one UK citizen. He said President Dr Waheed Hassan had refuted knowledge of such a list, but had added that he would respect a court order if it was issued.
9:37 – British Prime Minister David Cameron has said responded to a question from UK MP David Amess, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group to the Maldives:
Amess: Does my right hon. Friend share my disappointment at the overthrow yesterday of the first democratically elected President of the Maldives in a coup d’état? Given our historical links with the islands, will the Government, by way of a message, do all they can to ensure that no violence results and that the democratic institutions remain?
Cameron: My hon. Friend is right. This country does have strong links with the Maldives and a good relationship with President Nasheed, but we have to be clear. President Nasheed has resigned, and we have a strong interest in the well-being of several thousand British tourists and in a stable and democratic Government in the Maldives. Our high commissioner is in the capital now and meeting all the political leaders. We call on the new Government to demonstrate their respect for the rights of all political parties and their members, and to ensure that the constitution is upheld. We advise British tourists to avoid non-essential travel to Malé island, and those using Malé airport and the tourist resorts should exercise caution.
10:01 – Police station, island court and atoll council office reported burnt down to ground by angry protesters in Thinadhoo (pop 6500) in Gaafu Dhaal Atoll.
10:02 – Police stations on Gan and Feydhoo in Addu Atoll (pop 35,000) set on fire. Fire continues to spread, after protesters smashed up fire rescue lorry.
10:03 – Police station and court reported taken over by protesters on Alifushi in Raa Atoll.
10:14 – Confirmed earlier reports that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has appointed Dhivehi Gaumee Party (DQP) Deputy Leader Dr Ahmed Jameel Ahmed as Home Minister, and Mohamed Nazim from Maafanu Seenu Karankaage as Defence Minister . Both were sworn into the position at a ceremony held at the president office at 8:0opm tonight. Jameel was recently arrested by police under the Nasheed government on charges of hate speech. His party had published a pamphlet in Dhivehi entitled “President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians” (English translation).
10:27 – IGMH has confirmed no deaths as of 9:00pm this evening. ADK officials have confirmed to the media that 14 people were brought to the hospital with various injuries. Three have been hospitalised, including MDP Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, while the rest have been released after treatment.
10:32 – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on Maldivian security forces to protect the country’s media “and to ensure that their rights are respected”, after reports that Nasheed’s opponents had “physically attacked at least one journalist and had threatened to kill another one.”
“After members of the police and army linked to the opposition staged a mutiny and forced the Nasheed to resign, members of the police also stormed the headquarters of the state TV station yesterday and took control,” RSF stated.
“We urge the new president, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, to take immediate steps to ensure the protection and the rights of all media workers, especially the journalists at the state TV station MNBC, who were expelled from their offices by the police,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Undertakings must be given at once to defend freedom of information or else journalists are going to find themselves exposed to the same circumstances that prevailed before the country’s first democratic elections in 2008.”
After police and soldiers yesterday joined the opposition’s protests, they took control of MNBC – the Maldivian National Broadcasting Commission – and from there began broadcasting the opposition TV station VTV, which they then renamed Television Maldives (TVM), its name during the government of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
11:30 – Protesters in Addu have reportedly set fire to Hithadhoo police academy and 18 police vehicles. Mayor Abdulla Sodig has reportedly been beaten by protesters and taken to the Addu regional hospital.
11:31 – Several sources have claimed that 250 inmates at Maafushi jail have broken out of their cells and are rioting against the guards. Sources report that police are being deployed to the jail compound.
11:32 – In Sri Lanka, demonstrations are being held outside of the Maldives Embassy.
11:33 – In the United Kingdom, Maldives High Commissioner Dr Farahanaz Faizal has resigned: “My conscience wouldn’t allow me to serve a government which had overthrown a democratically elected government in a coup d’etat,” she said. Farah said she has been made the MDP spokesperson for the party in Europe, and intends to remain in the UK “for quite some time.”
“In the last elections, over 25 percent of the vote for Mohamed Nasheed was cast from those nationals residing in Europe,” she said.
11:34 – Maafushi Council has refuted claims that the prisoners have broken out. Minivan News understands that the attempted break out was quickly controlled by prison officers.
11:45 – Military and police have met with press, urging the public to maintain calm and end the vandalism and arson attacks on state and public property.
Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi, who commanded the mndf during yesterday’s events, refuted the claims military forced the president to quit by threatening to use force. He also said that the military never joined the protestors and it was incorrect information: “We never had any role in yesterday’s protest. We tried to protect. But the president voluntarily resigned. We didn’t force him to resign,” Didi said. “There is nobody among us who can put a gun to President Nasheed, and there was no plan to bring down the former president by using weapons. I say this with full guarantee.”
He insisted that the military had not participated in Tuesday’s alleged coup attempt, which saw police join opposition protesters and attack the capital’s military headquarters, and suggested that reporters “ask the police about it.”
12:12 – Police have confirmed that two policemen in Male’ were stabbed, between 9:30pm and 10:00pm, near ADK hospital. Both are reported to be in a stable condition and no suspects have been arrested.
12:24 – Former Assistant Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, who was dismissed by the Nasheed government, has been reappointed as Police Commissioner. Riyaz had sued the government following his dismissal, and the civil court ruled that he had been unlawfully dismissed. He has reportedly been an active member of the opposition following his dismissal.
12:55 – The state broadcaster has shut down its broadcast for the evening as the political chaos continues. Social media remains extremely active.
1:05 – The coalition of opposition parties formed following the ‘December 23’ coalition to “defend Islam” have called on its supporters to come out to protect the state and public property. The opposition DRP has also condemned the MDP for instigating the protests, to end the rule of the “lawfully appointed” President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.
1:15 – Minivan News understands that Mohamed Nasheed is safe with party supporters.
1:16 – The MDP is trying to get its Chairperson ‘Reeko’Moosa Manik out of the country for urgent medical treatment. However immigration authorities are reportedly refusing to allow him to leave as he is on a “travel blacklist” issued by the courts, MDP sources report.
1.19 – According to the former State Minister of Tourism, yesterday “the entire pre-Islamic collection at the National Museum was destroyed by a group who broke in. The incident has not been reported in any media so far. Apparently, the scene was photographed but the museum is under police control now and they are not giving information to anyone.”
2:11 – Amnesty International has issued a statement demanding that Maldives security forces “stop using violence against supporters of Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, a day after he was forced to resign the presidency under the threat of violence by the military and police.”
“Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that Nasheed and a large number of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members were marching peacefully through the streets of the capital Malé when police attacked them first and then failed to protect them from a violent counter demonstration.
“Some of the MDP demonstrators were cordoned off by the police in a narrow alley where a mob shouting anti-MDP slogans began to beat them. One eyewitness saw Nasheed’s face covered in blood. He was then seen to be rushed away. Later a video emerged on the internet showing the police arresting him.
“MDP chairperson, and Member of Parliament, Reeko Moosa was first attacked by the police and then a mob attacked him with broken glass bottles. Police reportedly did not stop them. He is in a critical condition from the injuries and is receiving treatment at the intensive care unit of the Indira Ghandi Memorial Hospital.
“At least five MDP members of parliament are detained at the Dhoonidhoo Detention Center. One of the detained MPs, Mariya Ahmed Didi, who had been released from police custody last night was attacked by the police as she was attending today’s demonstration.”
“We are extremely concerned about the latest developments in the Maldives,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. “The new authorities must ensure the right to freedom of expression and assembly and we want to see an investigation into the attack on Mohamed Nasheed and other protesters. Those responsible for the attack on demonstrators must be brought to justice.”
“MPs and others held in Dhoonidhoo Detention Center should have access to their family and lawyers, and they must receive adequate medical treatment and a thorough and independent investigation should be made into the reasons for their arrest,” added Zarifi. “They should be released unless the government can charge them with a cognizable criminal offense through a fair and impartial process.”
2:48 – Robert Blake, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, is scheduled to arrive in the Maldives on Saturday.
Dramatic footage of the protest and crackdown on Wednesday afternoon:
Footage of police beating a protester filmed from a balcony:
Former President Mohamed Nasheed and former MDP Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi being dragged out of a shop by police on Wednesday afternoon:
Al Jazeera reports on the protest on Wednesday afternoon:
Scene in a Male’ hospital, Wednesday afternoon:
Riot police inside the MDP headquarters this afternoon: