Voter lists put up at polling stations with ID card photos

Voter lists for today’s council elections have been placed at polling stations for the first time with national identity card photos, prompting complaints from women with face veils.

Speaking at an Elections Commission (EC) press conference this afternoon, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said photos were included in the eligible voters registry placed outside each polling station as a safeguard to prevent fraud.

“Even though this is something new that we introduced, in most countries, photos of voters are included in the voters list,” Thowfeek said.

Photos of all eligible voters were provided by the Department of National Registration (DNR) from its identity card database with the exception of 1,170 photos, Thowfeek said.

The voters list used in previous elections only included name, address, ID card number and date of birth.

EC member Ali Mohamed Manik said the EC decided to make the lists with ID card photos in the interest of ensuring transparency.

“There are a lot of foreigners living in the country. As there could be a chance for foreigners to vote using ID cards, this was done to prevent that and facilitate the right to vote for Maldivians,” he said.

Manik said the commission has officially received two complaints so far from women in cases where the ID card photos were taken before they wore face veils.

The official in charge of the Elections Complaints Bureau noted that a number of women who wear the hijab were also phoning in complaints about their photos being made public.

“Concerning these complaints, we brought it to the attention of the commission’s members and informed [polling stations] to cover with a piece of paper the photos of people who insist on taking it down,” he said.

He added that voters had an “individual responsibility” to update photos at the DNR after wearing the hijab.

Local media outlet CNM has meanwhile reported that some religious scholars have objected to the photos of women with face veils made public by the EC.

NGO Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem told the news website that making the photos public was demeaning to the women in question and called to punish those responsible.

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla also contended that the practice was contrary to Islamic principles and infringed on the rights of veiled women.

Among other complaints submitted to the EC included two cases where marked ballot papers were displayed, complaints regarding pens with fading ink and complaints over the conduct of election officials.


No reason to continue suit against Kulliyya over banning face veil in class, rules High Court

The High Court has ruled that there was no reason to continue a lawsuit filed against the Kulliyathul Dhirasathul Islamiyya school by a student who was instructed to remove her face veil in class, or be expelled.

Rector of Kulliyathul Dhirasathul Islamiyya,Dr Ibrahim Zakariyya Moosa, reportedly told Mehenaz Hussein last year that her face veil should be removed in class or face being expulsion if she refused to do so.

The High Court said the Attorney General (AG) had advised the court that the article banning the face veil in class had now been removed from the regulation and the student, identified by the court as Mehenaz Hussein, was now attending classes wearing the face veil.

After the article banning the face veil was removed Mehenaz was no longer banned from wearing the face veil in class, the High Court ruling said.

The High Court Judges Shuaib Hussein Zakariyya, Abdulla Hameed and Ali Sameer were the presiding judges.

The case was first presented to the Civil Court and the Civil Court also ruled that there was no capacity to continue the case as a suit related to the same case was filed in the High Court at the time.

Dr Zakariyya reportedly told the girl that studying was compulsory under Islam, and that if wearing the face veil obstructed her from studying, she should not wear it even if it was a Sunnah.

Mehenaz told an online religious newspaper at the time that Dr Zakariyya had told her that in different parts of the country terrorists had used the hijab to hide weapons, and that there was “no way to identify the sex of a person wearing the full hijab”.

Speaking in a hearing of the case in February, current Attorney General Aishath Azima Shukoor told the court that up to date Kulliyathul Dhirasathul Islamiyya did not have a specific uniform to wear and that she believed that students should be allowed to attend classes wearing face veil.

At the time, Azima also told the court that the regulations would be amended within a week to allow students to wear the face veil in class.