Maldives calls for action against Israeli leaders

The Maldives called on the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel during its military offensive in Gaza last year and urged “prompt action to be taken against Israel and its leaders.”

The Maldives made the call in a statement delivered at the 29th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at an interactive dialogue with the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict.

“The Maldives also noted with deep regret the complete non-cooperation of Israel with the Commission, where the Israeli Government did not allow the Commission to enter the territories,” the foreign ministry said in a statement today.

“The Maldives condemned the well planned attacks, which were carried out during very specific times, such as ‘iftar’ and ‘suhoor’ – the Ramadan meal times, which maximised the number of civilian casualties.”

The Maldives also called on Israel to “respect the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine to self-determination and statehood.”

The foreign ministry explained that the United Nations Human Rights Council considers the plight and situation of human rights of the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, under item seven of its agenda, “which faces resistance from the United States of America and some Western States.”

“The Maldives has on every occasion reiterated its strong position that Agenda Item 7 should continue, as long as the occupation continues,” the foreign ministry said.

In August last year, the Maldivian media organised a ‘Help Gaza’ telethon and raised a record MVR29.4 million (US$1.91 million). The funds have since been used by the International Federation of Red Crescent (IFRC) to construct 100 housing units in Gaza for displaced Palestinian families.


Telethon planned to raise funds for Nepal earthquake relief

Maldives media are preparing for a telethon on Saturday to raise funds for earthquake relief in Nepal.

The telethon – organized by the Maldivian Red Crescent (MRC) and the Maldives Medical Association – will begin at 12:30pm and run till 6pm. The MRC is also organizing a football match in Malé at 4:15pm on Saturday to raise funds.

Nepal was hit by a second major earthquake on May 12, two weeks after the devastating earthquake in which more than 8000 people were killed.

The estimated damage could cost billions, aid agencies have said.

President Abdulla Yameen has pledged US$50,000 for the relief effort, and the Maldives Police Services and the Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital have also pledged to donate.

The Maldives raised US$1.9million to help Palestinians who lost their homes in the Israeli offensive in Gaza last year.

The International Federation of Red Crescent (IFRC) has completed 100 housing units in Gaza with the US$1.9 million raised by the Maldivian media


100 housing units built in Gaza with Maldivian aid

The International Federation of Red Crescent (IFRC) has completed 100 housing units in Gaza with the US$1.9 million raised by the Maldivian media.

According to a video report by the Qatari red crescent, Palestinian families took up residence at 27 housing units at the ‘Maldives sheltering centre’ completed in February while the remaining 73 shelters are now also occupied.

Each unit has a bedroom, kitchen and toilet. Water and electricity services have also been provided at the centre.

The housing units were built with funds raised through the ‘Help Gaza’ telethon carried out by local media in response to the destruction caused by last year’s Israeli military offensive.

The telethon raised a record MVR29.4 million (US$1.91 million), which was handed over to the Qatari red crescent in August last year.

The red crescent also used donations from the Maldives to repair water and sewerage systems and provide supplies to health centres.

The 100 units, estimated to provide housing for 700 Palestinians, are built in areas where Israeli airstrikes destroyed housing, schools, and other infrastructure during the heavy raids in mid-2014.


Housing units from Gaza fund to be completed by end of January: Red Crescent

The Maldives Red Crescent has revealed that the housing units built in Gaza using the money collected in the Maldives through the Gaza fund will be completed by the end of January, reports local media.

CNM reported that the houses built by the Red Crescent are to home 100 families, and that they are being built near the rubble of houses destroyed during last year’s conflict with Israel.

US$1.9 million was collected from the Maldives for the Gaza fund through donation boxes set out across the islands as well as the proceeds of a media telethon.

CNM also reported that the funds have allowed for the purchase of medicine from Jordan, which has been handed over to Jordan’s Haashimee Charitable Association to be transferred to Gaza.


Gaza fund donations handed over to Qatar Red Crescent

A donation of MVR 29.4 million (US$1.9 million) to help Gaza has been handed over to the Qatar Red Crescent at an event held on Wednesday (August 27) at the Maldives Broadcasting Commission.

The unprecedented donation drive by Maldivians following the conflict in Gaza culminated in a 33 hour telethon aired across multiple participating broadcasters.

The cheque was received by Qatar Red Crescent President Dr Mohamed Bin Ghanim Al Madida.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, Help Gaza association’s Steering Commitee Chairman and MBC Chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik, and Gaza Fund Maldives representative Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla handed the check over on behalf of the Maldivian people.

The donation is intended to be used to supply food and water and to help Gaza recover from damage sustained after the Israeli Defense Force launched an offensive in retaliation to rocket fire from within the territory.


Maldivians to take Gaza fundraising efforts to new heights

Maldivian efforts to assist the people of Palestine will culminate in an unprecedented 33 hour telethon aired across multiple participating broadcasters.

Numerous media organisation have initiated a telethon titled ‘I will also help’ to raise funds for victims of the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. It will air from 2:30pm on Friday (August 8).

The organisers will also assist in arranging a joining of hands across the capital Malé at 5pm on Saturday, while the fundraising – with over US$350,000 already in the Help Gaza Fund – is set to grow as both state and private companies urge staff to donate wages to the fund.

All TV channels and radio stations taking part in the telethon will air the same live program with content – produced by a joint content committee – on the current situation in Gaza to be broadcast through out the programme.

Live updates of donations and details of fundraising and solidarity events organised by councils and NGOs across the country will also feature.


This week Maldives Customs Service and Maldives Ports Limited jointly opened a joint fund where employees of both institutions agreed to donate one day’s basic salary. Faafu Atoll Hospital has also decided to join this campaign.

In addition to one day salaries of their employees, newspaper Haveeru has decided to donate the total revenue generated in advertisement on their online and print news this Thursday (August 7). The paper hopes that this will allow people to donate by placing advertisements on the paper as well.

The state owned State Trading Organization (STO) has announced it will donate a percentage of its two major shops’ sales on on August 8 and 9, five percent from STO Home Improvement, and two percent from STO Super Mart.

STO is also coordinating with the media telethon group for the joining of hands event during which people will stand holding hands across Boduthakurufaanu Magu in Malé starting from the tsunami monument.

Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir, an organiser and President of the Maldives Journalism Association, requested everyone dresses in black for the event to show that “we are taking part in their sorrow”.

“Remember how we felt when the tsunami hit the Maldives and how we requested foreign aid? Now our brothers and sisters in a situation where they need our help. I request everyone to donate to the best of their ability for this cause,” he said.

The telethon group is also selling fifteen ‘Help Gaza’ t-shirts for MVR100,000 each. Two have already been booked – one by the STO for President Abdulla Yameen and another by Kooddoo Fisheries Maldives Limited for the first lady.4

Joining of funds

After the Adhaalath Party endorsed the telethon, both parties have agreed to join their funds, with the party’s Help Gaza Fund being pooled with the telethon collection from Friday.

The Help Gaza Fund has received over MVR5.48million (US$355,600), the party said today. Collection of funds is on halt for now and will begin again with the the telethon on Friday, explained an Adhaalath spokesperson.

The donations from the joint fund will be handed over to the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) – chosen because they have worked with Adhaalath in previous fund raising events such as the 2010 Pakistan Relief Fund to help flood victims and the 2009 Gaza Fund.

QRCS has assured that these fund will reach the people of Gaza in the form of food and medicine through their relief efforts in area.

Meanwhile, the Maldivian Red Crescent (MRC) are also raising funds in response to an emergency appeal for US$14.7 million by the Palestine Red Crescent Society on July 14. The MRC Palestine Relief Fund was established on July 20 will continue collecting until August 15.

Funds will be raised through MRC Emergency Relief Fund bank accounts, donation boxes and door-to-door collection across the country.


Maldives media initiates ‘Help Gaza’ telethon

Media outlets in the Maldives have initiated a telethon to raise funds for the ‘Help Gaza’ fund.

The telethon will start on Friday at 2:30pm and continue until midnight on Saturday.

The ‘I will also help’ telethon has called on state employees and private companies to donate a day’s wages to the fund.

The Maldives Customs Services, Maldives Ports Limited and Faafu Atoll Hospital have pledged to donate a day’s wages from all employees to the fund.

Over MVR5 million (US$ 323,624) has now been collected from private donations since the fund was established on July 17.

Raa Atoll Kinolhas Island with a population of 360 people alone has donated MVR 52,623 to the fund in four days.

Meanwhile, the Help Gaza collection fund on Baa Atoll Maalhos Island was stolen on Sunday. According to the island council, approximately MVR10,000 had been collected when the box was stolen.


Israeli tourists evacuated from Thulusdhoo after local unrest

Security services evacuated 34 tourists from Kaafu Thulusdhoo Island following unrest after an Israeli tourist destroyed an anti-Israel placard yesterday (July 28).

Thirty Israeli tourists, and four of other nationalities, agreed to be evacuated last night after police intelligence revealed that more protesters were travelling to the island to join those calling for the guests’ removal.

Managing Director of the Batuta Maldives Surf View Mohamed Hashim said the incident occurred outside his guest house, after an Israeli surfer took down a placard featuring a swastika alongside the Israeli flag and snapped it in two.

Anti-Israeli sentiment has been growing in the Maldives as the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinians continues to result in heavy civilian casualties in Gaza.

As news of yesterday’s incident spread locals became agitated, explained Hashim, who subsequently informed Island Council President Ahmed Anees. Anees then contacted the police.

Around 30 additional protesters subsequently travelled to Thulusdhoo from Malé and were detained upon arrival, said Anees, being kept at the local station and the island’s social centre.

“Police intelligence said that more were coming from Malé,” explained Anees. “They said it was the best thing that they leave for the night.”

A police spokesperson has said that they provided assistance to the Thulusdhoo Island Council and the Ministry of Tourism, although they declined to give further details.

Neither Anees nor Hashim were certain of the guests’ current whereabouts while officials from the tourism ministry were not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Anees explained that 10 tourists – all non Israelis remained in – the island, while those protesters detained by police were released after the Israeli tourists’ evacuation at midnight yesterday.

Thulusdhoo guest houses

Nine guesthouses have been registered in Thulusdhoo since the relaxation of guest house policy in an industry still dominated by the high end one island/one resort model.

The island – just forty minutes from Malé – is home to one of the countries’ top surf breaks, with a majority of bookings coming from Israeli surfers, explained Council President Anees.

“This is a big loss for us because most of the people depend on guest houses,” he explained, pointing out that this type of incident was unprecedented on the island.

“It is a calm island. Only a few people were involved in this thing,” he explained, suggesting that the unrest had been fomented by outsiders from Malé.

Guest house manager Hashim – who lost all 8 of his guests last night – also suggested that the incident may have been due to the large number of non-locals present on the island for the Eid holiday.

“There have been no problems since we opened two years ago. Tourists are always very friendly with locals,” said Hashim who noted that around 60 percent of his bookings came from Israelis.

“It is a big blow for our business. There are three months of surfing left. I don’t know what we will do now.”

Israeli tourists represent only a small fraction of tourist arrivals to the Maldives, making up just 0.3 percent of the more than one million people who visited the country in 2013.

Anti-Israeli sentiment

The incident in Thulusdhoo was followed by small but vocal protests in the capital Malé during which protesters burned the Israeli flag.

Maldivians have been increasingly active in their calls for an end to the bloodshed in Gaza, with an estimated 13,000 marching through the capital Malé in solidarity with Palestinians earlier this month. Smaller demonstrations were held throughout the country.

Last week the government announced a boycott – admittedly symbolic – of Israeli products and the annulment of all cooperation agreements signed since the resumption of diplomatic ties in 2009.

“I do not think Maldivians want any help from Israel or want to keep up relations with Israel,” said Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon who has described recent attacks on UN shelters in Gaza as “cowardly and shameful”.

During last week’s meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, the Maldives joined 28 other member states in calling for an independent inquiry into Israel’s violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in Palestine.

Maldivian citizens have also donated over MVR2million (US$130,000) to the Gaza Fund which will be distributed via the Qatari Red Crescent after August 17.


Maldives to boycott Israeli products, annul bilateral agreements

The Government of Maldives has today announced the boycott of Israeli products and the annulment of bilateral agreements with the country.

“President Yameen and the Maldivian citizens are with the Palestinian people”, said Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon at a press conference this afternoon.

Dunya also announced that the Maldives would join other Arab nations in co-sponsoring a resolution at this week’s special session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) calling for the protection of an independent Palestinian state and the extension of humanitarian aid.

As well as an admittedly “symbolic” boycott of Israeli products, three agreements – signed in 2009 under the administration of President Mohamed Nasheed – would now be annulled, explained the foreign minister.

The agreements involved cooperation in areas of health, culture and education, and tourism.

“I do not think Maldivians want any help from Israel or want to keep up relations with Israel. So from now on, the agreements have been annulled,” she said.

While she noted that neither that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom nor the current government believed in maintaining such relations, she stopped short of announcing the severing of diplomatic ties.

Criticising Nasheed for having established diplomatic relations with Israel, Dunya said that his current statements in support of the Palestinians could not now be accepted.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in 2009, Nasheed argued that renewed diplomatic relations with Israel would be used to reiterate the Maldives’ support for a two state solution.


Acknowledging the impact of the Maldives’ boycott would be small, Dunya today noted that other small nations had done likewise with symbolic acts that had been appreciated by the Palestinian government.

“Even though what we give is small or symbolic, the way it is received is important. The message we want to give is we are with the Palestinian people,” said Dunya.

Explaining the boycott, Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, minister at the President’s Office, said the government would soon announce a moratorium on the import of Israeli goods into the country after discussions with the Ministry of Economic Development and Maldives Customs Services.

While the government is calling on businessmen to join the boycott, it will still be possible for some Israeli products to enter the Maldives as the country does not check for the country of origin or manufacturers of imported products. Even so, the government will remove such products from shops in accordance with the Customs Act.

Shareef said that the Maldives may consider lifting the moratorium if the Israeli government’s violation of international resolutions stop.

Regarding other economic links, he noted that there were few tourists arriving in the Maldives from Israel and that there were no Israeli investments in the country.

“Israeli investment is not important for us. We want investments from countries with human rights practices that are acceptable to us,” said Shareef.

Israeli tourists – numbering 2,569 in 2013 – constituted 0.3 percent of total tourist arrivals. In June 2014, 254 Israeli tourists visited Maldives, a 72 percent increase from 12 months earlier.

Domestic pressure

At home, the government remains under pressure from both the opposition and civil society who have called for bolder action concerning the recent escalation of violence in Gaza.

After the opposition leader Nasheed called on human rights defenders to raise their voices against “indiscriminate killings in Gaza”, his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) held a rally on July 12 in Malé criticising the government’s initial silence.

On the same day, President Abdulla Yameen phoned Palestinian President Dr Mahmoud Abbas to condemn “Israel’s inhuman actions”, and pledged to do everything necessary in the international arena to aid Palestinians.

Days later, thousands of Maldivians from all sides of the political spectrum gathered across the country to rally in protest against the Israeli offensive.

Nasheed has since called on MDP members to take the initiative and go to Gaza in order to act as a “human shields” protecting Palestinians.

Those who organised the nationwide rally are currently circulating a petition to be submitted to the People’s Majlis calling for a resolution to be passed by MPs.

Speaking to Minivan News, a member of the group said that over 8000 signatures had been collected in just two evenings. Working alongside civil society organisations in the atolls and local councils, many more were expected.

A second online petition has also been launched calling on the government to use Maldives’ seat in the UN HRC to request an investigation into human rights violations in Israel and Palestine and to hold discussions to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party, along with 11 civil society organisations, had established a donation fund to assist Palestinians affected by the ongoing conflict.