“The authorities arrived in a wave of terror”, says eyewitnesses of Anbaraa arrests

Physical abuse, verbal harassment, and the excessive use of weapons have been reported by some of those detained following the police raids on the Anbaraa music festival last weekend.

“They used a lot of weapons- stun grenades and tazers, pretty excessive force when you’re raiding,” a reliable source told Minivan News.

Other attendees suggested police had threatened both physical torture and sexual violence. All Maldivian nationals interviewed for this article chose to remain anonymous.

Festival attendee Brandon Ingram – a Sri Lankan national – described the authorities as arriving “in a wave of terror, shooting their guns and shouting their violence in Dhivehi.”

The two day music festival – attended by 198 people,  including international DJs – was raided by police at 12:00am on Saturday (April 19), with the aim of shutting down the event.

A total of 79 people were arrested from the uninhabited island in Vaavu atoll, 19 of whom have been released to house arrest, while the remaining are being held at the Dhoonidhoo detention facility.

“They shot flares and one of them [an eyewitness] told me stun grenades were shot in centre of dance floor. Stun grenades are meant for dispersing large crowds – they shouldn’t be shooting at people,” stated an authority investigating the case.

Ingram’s recently published testimony of the raid describes gunfire and lasers, associated with stun grenades and rubber bullets.

Another person present at the festival alleged that, once they were handcuffed, police refused to give them water, had tightened the cuffs when they complained of swollen wrists, and refused to let them go to the toilet.

After a body search at around 1am, the police changed the cuffs to the front and the detainees fell asleep leaning on one another.

The tents and belongings were checked at around midday the following day, the source continued. The cuffs were only taken off after they had picked the 79 to be arrested – meaning they were handcuffed for 13 to 14 hours.

Verbal Abuse

In addition, many of the detainees have stated that police verbally threatened them. One attendee alleged that police told people, “if they didn’t calm down they would all be killed.”

“[Police] verbally abused all of them, harassed them, some of the girls – especially the girls – I heard a lot, one of them [police] said they were going to shove their batons up them.”

“One girl resisting arrest, they hit her from behind and manhandled her, another girl they pulled by the hair and shoved into the sand. It was mostly toward people who were resisting arrest,” stated a source who is investigating the arrests.

According to another eyewitness at the festival, while they were lying on the ground, one girl reportedly heard a policeman say, “why don’t we pour petrol on them and set them on fire, who’d know?”.

Additionally, Ingram recalled the “those authoritative looks of accomplishment and farcical displays of power.”

“They said to us, with conviction, ‘heroine, yea, that’s whatever… but alcohol and LSD, very dangerous.’ They pointed at the girls who were in shorts and tank tops and said: ‘these girls are naked in public, that is against law.'”

“They went on to say – ‘on resort anyone can do whatever they want, on normal island, you cannot.’ They also said – ‘Maldivian boys and girls want to have fun, they can go to other countries, other places, not here’.”

However, Ingram’s account claimed that the treatment by the police was not malevolent.

“They were not unkind to us – in fact they were almost as nice as our Maldivian friends,” he observed.

Drug tests

After the raid, police confirmed with the media that out of the 198 searched, the 79 arrested either tested positive for drugs, or had drugs in their possession.

Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh noted at a press briefing that the 79 persons taken into custody were arrested either with drugs in their possession or police suspected they were under the influence of drugs.

While the remaining 119 were released without charge, Satheeh revealed that none of them had been tested for drug use.

“The people who were let go were supposedly the people who they didn’t find anything on them. The urine test were taken much later,” confirmed a source investigating the arrests.

At the time of the arrests, the only tests the police carried out were a breathalyser test, with only two people testing positive for this, they continued.

Contrary to police reports, “they didn’t do urine tests for everyone,” revealed the source, adding that this was a key point that could stand in the detainees favour.

The Police Integrity Commission declined to comment on the events when contacted by Minivan News today, saying they were not yet investigating the case.

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Young people set new tone for Male’ party scene

Hundreds turned out yesterday for the Maldives Surfing Entertainment Surf Show near the tsunami memorial, perusing merchandise by day and dancing to music by local and guest DJs late into the night.

The event, which runs September 16 and 17, was organised by Maldives Surfing Entertainment. Sport clothing companies Sea Sports, Sony Sports, and Round-Up displayed their wares in tents evoking the minimalist surf shack atmosphere.

The surf show sign posted on the outside wall of the event site

Maldives Surfing Association Event Organiser Mohamed Shabeen was optimistic about the event, which is the first in an annual series of surf shows.

“The goal was to raise awareness of surfing culture. Surfing has been picking up lately, more young people are coming out and we have had good feedback on the show so far,” said Shabeen.

Shabeen said that local groups were supportive of the initiative. “This wall you see here is not normally allowed, but we were allowed to build it for the event,” he said, pointing at the wooden barrier that demarcates the area as a festival space.

Set-up for the event was done by approximately 40 local surfers over three days, said Shabeen. The set-up includes surf board displays, plant decorations, and a light and sound system for the evening concerts.

While the surf show attracted families and children during the day, youth turned out in swarms for the concert at night. The show featured trance and techno music in sync with light displays and fog machines. DJs regularly called out to the crowd below, “Are we having a good time? This is a new era, we are here to celebrate!”

The crowd cheers as DJs shout out from the sound booth

DJs and staff noted that this is the first time an outdoor rave has been held on Male in some time, and said most parties take place on a smaller, more subdued scale.

“What do you say when you just want to go ‘AHHHH!!’?” said one concert-goer. “That is how we feel right now, this is our outlet, we are finally able to express ourselves out here and have a good time.”

Others suggested that religious conservatism on Male’ has kept the youth from celebrating in public, and said they hoped that events such as the surf show would be held more often.

The event was organised by Maldives Surf Entertainment Director and Surf Guide Ahmed Azniel. Shabeen said he hopes this weekend’s surf will garner attention for a surfing contest to be held in November at South Foahmulaku, in honor of the 17th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.

Correction: The article previously stated that the 2011 Surf Show was a cooperative event between Maldives Surf Entertainment and Maldives Surfing Association. It should have read, “The event, which runs September 16 and 17, was organised by Maldives Surfing Entertainment.”

Correction: The article previously stated “The event was organised by Maldives Surf Entertainment Director and Surf Guide Mohamed Azniel. It should have read, “The event was organised by Maldives Surf Entertainment Director and Surf Guide Ahmed Azniel.”

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Eid ul-Fitr celebrated in the Maldives

The Maldives celebrated Eid ul-Fitr this week with prayer by day and parties by night. After a month of fasting for Ramadan, residents appear to be enjoying the capital island’s festive, social atmosphere.

The Islamic Ministry announced that Tuesday, August 30 was Eid ul-Fitr this year, and Male’ residents woke early on Tuesday morning to the sounds of heavy metal playing near the tsunami memorial. By late morning, the music had stopped and people were moving among houses and shops and a relaxed holiday atmosphere settled over the usually bustling city.

As ordered by the government, all private vehicles were parked and quiet between 3:30pm and 10:30pm. The traffic ordinance made it possible for residents to walk comfortably in the streets on a day when most of Male’ comes out for a stroll or to see the festivities.

The Islamic Ministry extended prayer space from the Islamic Center to Jetty 1 on Male’s northern side. Women could pray in extended space between the Dhiraagu head office to the Friday Mosque Minaret. Men were allowed to occupy all other areas.

Many Male residents traveled to home islands for Eid this year. But those who stayed enjoyed a range of sports, music and cultural activities.

Lagoons Sports Club organised “Maali Neshun” and “Bodumas Beynun”, Maldivian sporting events, on Boduthakurufaanu Magu and Ameenee Magu on Tuesday afternoon.

In “Maali Neshun”, masked participants dressed in ash and palm leaves walked Male’s roads and frightened parade onlookers in jest.

Two fishermen in “Bodumas Beynun” used magic, or fanditha, to catch a large woven fish.

In the evening, Male’s youth and married couples were to be found in hoards at the live music show in the Raalhugandu area, which was sponsored by local telecommunications company Dhiraagu.

Local bands such as 1knightstand, Harubee, and MNDF Cops Band took the stage alongside solo artists like Unoosha and Easa. The concert, which featured a range of musical tastes from soft rock to metal, rap and ska, began around 10 pm and continued past 2 in the morning.

Just around the corner near Bodufungandu Magu, palm tree road blocks protected a street rave featuring drums and traditional dancers. Young people and families were seen, and heard, celebrating into the late hours of the night.

The five-day period of Eid continues through Sunday. Although business is expected to return to its normal, pre-Ramadan state on Monday, Maldivians are looking forward to a second, longer Eid celebration before the end of the year.

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