Comment: Why are the Dhivehin suffering?

In a global world – where the struggle for power is a reality – how do we see the Maldivian situation from Europe?

The world has become a small place to live, indeed very small. Today’s communications can spread news very quickly and people are crying for freedom.

People are tired of being abused and mislead. People are also tired of not having a clear future for their children as uncertainty brings along misery and fear.

Fear, in its turn, brings along pain and a country, just like a sick person, needs to have its pain soothed or complaining, shouting and other similar reactions will take place.

We saw it in Tunisia with the Arab Spring – the Arab awakening – we saw it in Spain, where people went out to the streets to complain about the Government and the banking system, we saw it in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait.

We will see it in Morocco and in Israel. In this sense, the Maldives, a peaceful country up to this moment, is no more no less the confirmation to the rule.

But what is creating pain among the Dhivehin? What is making people cry and become furious? Where is the Maldives going to go? Will we see a Dhivehin spring?

Up until not so long ago the Maldives was a place where freedom of ideas did not exist. For instance, writing in a news site like this was unthinkable, impossible, unless you wanted your bones ending up in jail and your body buried underwater up to your belly.

Today, Maldivians and foreigners can speak. It is possible to write and to some extent there is freedom of expression. So, what is creating pain today?

The Dhivehin did not forget the last years of politics in the country, did they? Was silence the price to pay for peace? If so we all have to know that repression is never a solution. Repression is like a cork glued to the floor of a swimming pool: it might stay there for sometime but one fine day it will pop up to the surface with such energy that someone will get hurt. Why should the Maldives be different?

The present government has installed the right to speak, but is that enough to modernise a country and foster its development, with a economy so dependent on tourism and fishing? Did people forget where are they coming from? Is it a good idea to give an airport to a foreign country? What are really the development policies to make the Maldives a respectable country within the region?

The airport is in Indian hands, what will be next, the port? To whom would the government give the port? China? Would the country be better with the previous government? No, certainly not. So, what is happening?

So many questions to be answered, so many subjects to be questioned.

This article is not about governments, honestly, but is about people of the Maldives having a better life and a future for its people and their children. Governments are all different but alike. In Europe, for instance, it doesn’t make any difference who will be there next time. We really don’t care. If they are efficient, their colours do not matter to us. If they are crap – and most of the European governments have corruption on their shoulders – they will be sacked through an election. It doesn’t matter how many times they change until the lesson is learned. These are the rules of the game.

Maldives is seen by some of us who have been in your country many times, like a youngster. You have the energy to cry, to get angry, but not enough power to manage your immediate future, although you are very bright people. Giving the country’s structures to others will not help.

So what is making the Dhivehin suffer? With my utmost respect for the Dhivehin people, why are you fed-up and shouting? You Maldivians, to answer that question! What is causing unrest today? Can you still not talk? Are you still afraid? What is missing? Remember the butterfly effect in chaos theory. Be aware of inflexible movements, religious or others, that are the right hand of the repression or you will not go down the path of development.

May the country of the 1190 islands and its people stay above turbulent waters for a long time.

Carlos Swartz is a journalist and teacher at Lisbon University, Portugal.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Comment: What happens if we leave Afghanistan?

This article was originally published on the website of the Islamic Foundation of the Maldives. Republished with permission.

A month ago I was shocked to hear the news of an 18-year-old woman from Afghanistan who was punished by slicing her ears and nose, for running away from her abusive husband’s house.

The news was carried around the world by the leading news agencies for many days, especially the western media. A few days later, I was shopping at Ashrafee Bookshop – one of the largest bookstores in Male’ – and happened to see the mind-disturbing image of the abused woman named Aisha.

The image was published on the cover page of the TIME magazine. I did not have the courage to gaze at the horrifying picture for long, because the beautiful girl’s nose was missing. A maroon coloured shawl partially covered her head while her ears were covered with the beautifully combed black hair.

The image would certainly create hatred against the Taliban, the previous rulers of Afghanistan, before the US forces occupied the country to hunt Osama Bin Laden. Like any other reader, the bold letters on the image also caught my attention. It read: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan?”.

The message was very clear.

What I understood from it was that if US forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the country’s condition would worsen as seen in the picture. Every woman would be abused likewise, as we see Aisha in the image.

The article was written by the famous writer Aryn Baker. I read the whole article twice. My conclusion is that the purpose of publishing the article was to criticise Islamic Sharia and to blame the Taliban because they are gaining victory over the US forces in many of the districts in Afghanistan.

One line in the article read: “Under the Taliban, women accused of adultery were stoned to death; those who flashed a bare ankle were whipped”.

The whole article was in favour of Islamaphobia, and creating abhorrence against Islamic customs, principles and jurisprudence. The article was very much in support of the occupied forces while failing to bring all the sides of the story.

Although I am not a professional journalist, I had the opportunity to report from Pakistan and Indian controlled Kashmir. To my knowledge all the parties involved in a sensitive story should be given a fair chance to respond.

But the writer has failed to bring the comments of Aisha’s husband and in-laws, and Taliban. The whole article was single sourced, breaking journalism ethics. It may be hard or impossible to get an interview from the victim’s husband and in-laws. But if the writer wished, she could have got a comment from Taliban.

The writer also could have mentioned Taliban’s denial statement made through internet. The whole story is totally a biased one. Aisha’s case may be true, or it is possible that the story was created. There is no way to prove the accusations made by Aisha.

She might have been abused by her family or by muggers. Who knows what is behind the picture? Aisha might have blamed the Taliban by posing for the cover image of TIME, as it may be her only chance for reconstructive surgery.

In the editorial, Managing Editor Richard Stengel wrote: “Aisha will head to the US for reconstructive surgery sponsored by the Grossman Burn Foundation, a humanitarian organisation in California. We are supporting the effort.”

This statement proves that TIME has bought the story by funding for the surgery to some extent.

Since US and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001, hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed and many were made disabled by ‘accidental’ attacks. But these incidents have failed to catch the attention of the international news media.

On 19 September, the Washington Post reported that the US military was investigating a case where three civilians were killed for fun by a group of US soldiers. The newspaper also reported that the culprits even posed for pictures with the amputated body parts of the dead Afghans.

I want to question the western media as to why stories involving abusive acts of US military are not covered in the same manner as the story of Aisha? Like Afghanistan, the unlawful invasion by the US has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq. A report published by Iraq Body Count Project (IBC), an independent UK-US group reveals that nearly 1,989 civilians have been killed in Iraq only in 2010 by coalition military action, Iraqi insurgency and excess crimes.

According to IBC, 106,072 civilians have been killed since Iraq was invaded in 2003. This is also an under estimated figure as the information was based only on those reported by media organisations. IBC project’s director John Sloboda has said earlier “We’ve always said our work is an undercount, you can’t possibly expect that a media-based analysis will get all the death.”

As witnessed in other countries, the US Embassy is investing money on lots of projects in the Maldives under the banner of promoting democracy, human rights and free media. But the reality is that there is a hidden agenda behind these investments.

The purpose is to influence and control the country through modern methods of colonialism. My answer to the messy writer is, if you (US and other coalition forces) leave Afghanistan, tens of thousands of lives would be saved, so leave Afghanistan and other Muslim countries.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]