Forum organised in Melbourne to raise awareness about Rilwan’s disappearance

No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan

An open forum titled ‘Silencing Dissent: The Abduction of a Young Journalist in the Maldives’ is due to take place in Melbourne, Australia tomorrow (October 9) to raise awareness about the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

The event was organised by a group of concerned Maldivians residing in Australia and will be held Thursday 7:00pm Australian time at the Victoria College of the Arts, according to a press release from the #FindMoyameeha campaign.

“One reason why we are holding this forum is to keep Rilwan’s story alive,” explained Khadeeja Naseem, a member of the organising team.

“From what little we’ve heard so far it is highly likely that Rilwan’s disappearance is a forced one. By telling it far and wide – even in distant places like Australia – we hope to ensure that more hear about Rilwan’s story and that such sad events are never repeated.”

The forum will feature a series of talks and presentations from Rilwan’s family and friends about the journalist’s suspected abduction as well as challenges to freedom of expression in the Maldives.

Rilwan has been missing for 61 days and is believed to have been abducted at knife point outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé around 2:00am on August 8.

The organisers of the forum noted that Australia was “a close development partner of the Maldives” and has provided scholarships to dozens of Maldivian students and assisted with capacity-building of the Maldives Police Service through training and support.

“As an important bilateral partner, we feel that Australians can bear on the Maldives government to do more in the efforts to find Rilwan,” the press release stated.

“Although independent sources have pointed at evidence indicating Rilwan was forcibly abducted, the authorities, especially the Maldives Police Service has been reluctant to offer any substantial information on Rilwan’s whereabouts or how the investigation has been proceeding,” reads the Facebook page for the event.

“This is the first time a journalist has been disappeared in the country, and it is a shock for Maldivian society, despite the rise in murder and violent crime during the last decade.

“Rilwan’s disappearance is yet another tragic link in a series of events where journalists, democracy activists and proponents of free speech have been continually threatened and harassed. More significantly, these events are symptomatic of the reversal of the democratic gains Maldives has made in the past decade.”

Suspects in custody

In late September, police arrested four suspects in connection with Rilwan’s disappearance. While the Criminal Court has since released one of the suspects from remand detention and transferred a second to house arrest, two suspects still remain in police custody.

In a press statement on October 2, Rilwan’s family called on the police “respectfully” to share findings of the investigation and update the family, friends and wider public on progress made so far.

“Every day and night that passes without the truth of the case being revealed is filled with questions, anxiety, and deep sadness for the family,” the statement read.

Following the arrests last week, both Rilwan’s family and human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) welcomed the “progress in the police investigation”.

“The Criminal Court’s extension of their detention signifies progress in the investigation,” said MDN.

MDN released an investigation report last month implicating radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s suspected abduction.

The investigation report by Glasgow-based Athena Security confirmed evidence of possible “hostile surveillance” of Rilwan at the Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé conducted by two known affiliates of Malé-based Kuda Henveiru gang. One of the suspects was identified as Ahmed Shiran Saeed.

Minivan News understands Shiran is currently in police custody for unrelated charges.

Citing the abduction of several young men in June by a vigilante group in a push to identify online activists advocating secularism or professing atheism, the report said gang activity in Rilwan’s abduction was a “strong possibility”.

The report noted increased radical activity among members of three main gangs in Malé – Bosnia, Kuda Henveiru, and Buru – and claimed members had participated in attacks against individuals they deem “un-Islamic”.

Rilwan had “regularly received clear threats to his life” for his outspoken criticism of religious extremists, the report said.

One man named in the report vandalised Minivan News office’s security camera on September 25 shortly before two others buried a machete in the building’s door.

A Minivan News journalist received death threats after the incident, which read, “You will be killed or disappeared next. Watch out.”

While police arrested a 32-year-old suspect on charges of stealing the security camera – who was clearly identifiable on the CCTV footage – the Criminal Court released the suspect with conditions the following day.


14 thoughts on “Forum organised in Melbourne to raise awareness about Rilwan’s disappearance”

  1. All efforts should be done to find the disappeared man, let alone any man,

    However, making it a political issue out of it, and dragging the name of the country down would be playing into the hands of the extremists, who have allegedly done it.

    One wonders is this would help or hurt the MDP movement. Thats an open question..

  2. When someone is forcibly disappeared for expressing themselves then that is a political situation. Furthermore, highlighting wrongdoings and discussing them publicly is not denigrating a country. Far greater damage is done to the Maldives reputation by an extra constitutional judiciary, gangs running around rampant, police acting with impunity and a government unable to afford its citizens the protection they deserve. These are the things that tarnish a country's reputation. Not those people who talk about these wrongdoings in the hope we may rectify them and make the Maldives a better place.

  3. Hi non stupid. It's great you agree that all efforts should be undertaken to find Rilwan. However your point of dragging the countries name down and whether this event will help MDP is a bit irrelevant here. There is going to be no country im the future if we do not speak about the scary situation we are in today. In addition, it is our job as citizens to hold the public institutions and the government accountable. So far it seems that the government is not bothered about the case and the police keep releasing statistics of what they do, however they have not informed Rilwans family on any developments or actual status of the investigation. Even more worrying is the fact that some alleged suspects have been released already. On top of this all the Gang violence on minivan news itself is alarming with the machete on their door. The video of the attack is available , everyone can see who did it , yet there is NO action taken by the police. They arrested the Gang suspect only to release him . Shouldn't we all speak out and not let the extremists and the apathetic people control our freedom of speech and our right to live a peaceful life in the Maldives? Instead of legitimizing the behavior of intolerant groups, we need to fight back. And this has nothing to do with MDP. It has everything to do with showing empathy towards a fellow member of the community and demanding the right to live a peaceful and democratic life in the Maldives.

  4. @ I want justice
    Do you have more faith that justice would served in this life or afterlife?

  5. Non stupid is right. MDP is benefits from this and it is stands to reason they might be somehow involve in it. Now they are out of power so they look to tarnish the nation any way possible and harmed the image of islam in maldives by sponsorship of extremist.

  6. Scary situation which we see today is the result of some failed power hungry politician which included former Presidents.

    8-9 years ago, this country was a very peaceful nation and there was not much crimes .

  7. Violence and crime in Maldives is proportional to 2 things:

    (1) Rising imports of drugs.
    (2) Rising levels of Islamic extremism.

    Both are destroying our society.

  8. Rilwan bravely exposed terrorists. Therefore they threatened to kill him and probably did so. The pattern was: the terrorist paid gang members to kidnap Rilwan. In this case police were bribed. So then after almost two months they found nothing because they did not want to. Competent detectives can find a missing person quickly on a small island like Hulhumale! You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Under the pen name of Moyameehaa, Rilwan exposed these terrorists:

  9. we need to create awareness not only in Australia, but everywhere in the world of the plight of Maldives. only few years ago the current home minister was seen on tv distributing sticks to gangs to fight against security forces of the then elected government. The coup leaders exploited the youth and gangs to attack MDP, and now are being blackmailed. Soon the coup government will be blackmailed by international gangs after implementation of sez bill.

  10. @kashim how is MDP affecting your faith in Islam or tarnishing the country ?

  11. The behavior to hide reality from outside, in order to save the image or honor, is a characteristic too far inbred crowd.

    All the other baggage comes with it.

  12. democracy promises peace, instead it is used to create chaos.

    democracy promises individualism, instead it is used to create mass emotion and anger.

    democracy promises dialogue, but it is used to attack each other.

    democracy is based on values, but it is used to destroy any values..

    People are promised heavan. They are given hell.

  13. @I want justice
    MDP lead a campaign angainst islam and for zionism when they rule. Now MDP works with Austrslia that has intolerance of Islam and other religions except Christianity. Australia is a crusader state.


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