Maldivian student evacuated from war-torn Yemen

A Maldivian student has been evacuated from Yemen’s capital along with hundreds of Indian nationals fleeing air strikes in an escalating sectarian conflict.

The student was flown from Sana’a to Djibouti yesterday and is now in India’s Mumbai, his family has confirmed. He is to arrive in Maldives tomorrow morning.

The student had gone to Sana’a in December last year to study the Qur’an.

The Foreign Ministry last week said families of two more students had asked to be evacuated.

But deputy minister for foreign affairs Fathimath Inaya told Minivan News the government the other two students, who are safe, had chosen not to leave the country yet.

According to Yemeni media, at least 500 foreign nationals have been evacuated from Sana’a since Thursday. The UN and diplomatic missions pulled their staff out last week.

A Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Yemen for nearly two weeks in an attempt off an insurgency led by Shia Houthi rebels.

The rebels took control of Sana’a earlier this year, forcing Yemeni President Abdabbauh Mansour Hadi to flee the country in February.


Three Maldivian students stranded in war-torn Yemen

Three Maldivian students are stranded in the capital of Yemen as the city is pounded by air strikes in an escalating conflict.

The Maldives foreign ministry today said it is in contact with the three students in Sana’a, who are safe for now, and is attempting to evacuate them.

“Our priority is to get them out as soon as possible. We are looking at all options,” said additional secretary Liusha Zahir.

Families of the three students alerted the foreign ministry after air strikes in Sanaa this weekend.

However, evacuation is difficult as there are no direct flights from Yemen to the Maldives, the foreign ministry said. The government is negotiating with international organizations and other countries to get the three out.

The Saudi Arabian navy on Sunday evacuated dozens of diplomats, while the UN pulled out its international staff.

The insurgency, led by Shia Houthi rebels, forced Yemeni President Abdabbauh Mansour Hadi to flee the country in February. A Saudi-led coalition has sent air and naval forces to the country.


Comment: Anwar al-Awlaki’s killing is unjustified

Barack Obama’s administration and lawmakers may cheer the killing of US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. But this is not how legal scholars, libertarians and millions of Muslims feel.

Al-Awlaki, born in New Mexico on 22 April 1971, was an American Islamic scholar who was an engineer and educator by training. He was killed in a drone attack in a remote Yemeni town on 30 September 2011 by US forces.

To some, he is a Muslim hero, a mujahid (fighter for the sake of Allah) and a great Islamic scholar. His lectures have inspired hundreds of followers. One reason why many people admired him was that he was talented in delivering Islamic lectures in fluent English. This made him famous not only in US and Europe, but also in the Maldives.

There are only few Maldivians who agree with US government officials’ allegations against al-Awlaki. According to US president Obama, he was the leader of external operations for the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a statement which many Maldivians openly deny.

“The death of Awlaki is a major blow to Al-Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate,” said Obama after the drone attack. “He took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans … and he repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent men, women and children to advance a murderous agenda.”

According to US officials al-Awlaki allegedly preached to a number of al-Qaeda members and affiliates. Among them were three of September 11 hijackers, alleged “Christmas Day bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan.

US government has made a list of allegations against al-Awlaki, but none of these allegations was ever made in court.

Al-Awlaki was an American citizen. The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution explicitly guarantees the right to life of American citizens in the absence of due process of law to determine when to withdraw that right. The Fifth Amendment stipulates that no citizen shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”.

Article 11(a) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence”.

But al-Awlaki was executed without any charges, without a trial or without giving any chance to defend. Even Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was given his constitutional rights before his execution. This raises questions about the legal authority under which the US government can target its own citizens for assassination.

Al-Awlaki’s father Nasser al-Awlaki has publicly announced his son’s innocence.
“I am now afraid of what they will do with my son,” he said speaking to CNN earlier. “He’s not Osama bin Laden, they want to make something out of him that he’s not.”
“He has been wrongly accused, it’s unbelievable. He lived his life in America; he’s an all-American boy”.

US officials have continuously accused al-Awlaki for preaching radical Islam, which gives endorsement for Jihad (struggle) and violence. This inspired new recruits to Islamist militancy, especially though internet (YouTube), according to US officials. His videos were removed from YouTube on 3 November 2010.

This is the only evidence which the US government has presented to the media against al-Awlaki in order to prove he is a radical, an extremist and a terrorist.

If this is the case, the US may label not only al-Awlaki but other Islamic scholars in future for giving “radical” sermons, because sermons are based on the verses from Quran and Hadith of prophet Muhammed (pbuh).

In Quran, there are nearly 41 verses which speak about Jihad, and many more verses against Jews and Christians.

For example, Quran 4:89: “They wish that you reject Faith, as they have rejected (Faith), and thus that you all become equal (like one another). So take not Auliya’ (protectors or friends) from them, till they emigrate in the Way of Allah (to Muhammad pbuh). But if they turn back (from Islam), take (hold) of them and kill them wherever you find them, and take neither Auliya’ (protectors or friends) nor helpers from them”.

Similarly, Quran 2:191: “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah is worse than killing. And fight not with them at Al-Masjid-al-Haram (the sanctuary at Makkah), unless they (first) fight you there. But if they attack you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers”.

Al-Awlaki’s story has told the world today that US government is the judge, jury and executor of all Muslims.

Ibrahim Mohamed is a Parliamentary Reporter at the Peoples Majlis of the Maldives.

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]


Maldives calls on Yemen’s president to resign

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem has called on Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to accept and implement the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) terms and leave office.

‘’The Minister was speaking against a backdrop of escalating violence and human rights abuses in Yemen following President Saleh’s refusal to cede power as per a transitional plan tabled by the GCC,’’ said the Foreign Ministry.

‘’Over thirty people have been killed in recent fighting fueled by frustration over the protracted issue of reform in Yemen. Protesters see Saleh as the key obstacle blocking real change in Yemen.’’

The ministry also said that on May 25 President Saleh had clarified that he would not leave office.

“The Maldives calls on President Saleh to stop reneging on earlier promises, to listen to the will of the people, and to put the country of Yemen above his own personal interests,” said Naseem.

“Because of his actions, President Saleh is directly responsible for the current situation, including the political impasse and the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation.”

“The Maldives urged President Saleh to follow through on his commitments to peacefully transfer power, and for the parties concerned to reach a consensus, leading to the early stabilisation of the situation. For that to happen, President Saleh must sign the GCC agreement and step down” the Foreign Ministry’s statement said.

The Ministry added that the Maldives stands ‘’firmly beside all those in Yemen who are calling for greater freedom and the full enjoyment of their human rights.’’

Naseem is currently in Bangladesh on an official trip, where he signed a memorandum of understating ‘’concerning placement of manpower’’ with the Bangladeshi Government.

The ministry said the MoU would help to protect the rights of Bangladeshi labors working in the Maldives.

The Immigration Department predicts that the number of expatriates working in the Maldives will reach 100,000 in June – a third of the country’s population.


Civilian shootings and talk of civil war as unrest grows in Syria, Libya and Yemen

Syrian authorities are reported to have opened fire on protesters gathered outside a mosque in the city of Deraa killing at least five people under a government crackdown on protests, as political struggles continue to rock a number of Middle Eastern and African nations.

News of the deaths reflects continued uncertainty in Syria, Yemen and Libya, where reports of dissatisfaction and uprisings by swathes of their respective populations has led to violent confrontations, which in certain cases have led to bombing interventions by foreign military.

The BBC today said that five people were believed to have died as Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters in the streets outside Deraa’s Omari mosque as anti-government protests that begun in the country on Friday have continued to rage, leading to at least 10 fatalities.

The British news service also reported that Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi used his first public address in a week to speak within a compound that appeared to have been destroyed during air strikes from a coalition of western nations, where he stated his continued defiance to rebels and foreign armed forces working to oppose him.

Following the UN Security Council’s resolution authorising military intervention in Libya, France, the UK and the US have attacked targets across the country in an effort to dismantle Gaddafi’s ability to contest a no fly zone, and prevent a retaliatory attack on targets like the rebel–occupied city of Benghazi.

According to the BBC, the Libyan leader called on “all Islamic armies” to join his opposition of rebels and foreign forces that have claimed to be attacking strategic points of Gaddafi’s governance and military power.

“Long live Islam everywhere. All Islamic armies must take part in the battle, all free [people] must take part in the battle… We will be victorious in the end,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has claimed that the rescue by US troops of an American pilot and a weapons officer who crashed in Libya has led to some difficult questions for the foreign coalition in the country. The paper reported that American forces stood accused of dropping two 500-pound bombs during the rescue operation raising the possibility of civilian casualties.

The rescued soldiers remain aboard a US vessel in the waters surrounding the African nation, but the paper reported that the Pentagon did not know whether any civilians were killed by the bombs dropped in Yemen.  An unnamed Marine Corps officer in the Mediterranean denied that any shots had been fired at civilians during the incident, according to the paper.

Al Jazeera meanwhile reported that air strikes instigated by foreign powers from across Europe and America – provisionally under the basis to try and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya – have not appeared to halt Gaddafi’s attacks on rebel forces made up of fellow countrymen that oppose him.

“Undaunted by air strikes launched by coalition warplanes aimed at enforcing a no-fly zone, pro-Gaddafi forces have pressed ahead with their assaults on the towns of Misurata, Ajdabiya and Zintan in the past 24 hours,” the news agency has said.

In trying to oppose the Libyan leader’s military muscle, Al Jazeera claimed that rebel forces were outgunned and had “little command structure” to oppose state attacks.

Meanwhile, amidst the conflict in Libya, Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who also faces criticisms and calls to step down from his own people, has claimed that the country could potentially face civil war if he was forced from office.

Saleh, who also stands accused of using security forces to violently suppress protests among his people, is reported to have offered to stand down from his post at the end of the year under what he has said would be a “constitutional” transfer of power.

Al Jazeera reported though that the offer coincided with the president imposing a national state of emergency following violent “crackdowns” on anti-government protests with unconfirmed reports of 41 people having died in the capital of Sanaa alone due to the unrest.

According to the news agency, skepticism remains over Saleh’s reported offer after similar vows to stand down from the presidency back in 2005 did not come to pass. Saleh has been president since 1978.

The 22-member Arab League, which has previously called for a no-fly zone across Libya on the grounds that Gaddafi has been bombing his own people, has also moved to condemn Yemen’s leader for “crimes against civilians”, calling for a peaceful resolution to the country’s unrest.

The political unrest has continued following the fall in February of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunsian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, spreading to potential uprisings in other nations including Jordan and Algeria to Syria, Libya and Bahrain.

Mubarak, who was in power for 30 years, finally gave in after weeks of protests and stepped down from the presidency, handing power to an interim military government last month.

Swiss authorities announced following his resignation that they were freezing assets belonging to Mubarak and his family, pressuring the UK to do the same. Mubarak is thought to have a personal fortune of US$70 billion stashed across various bank accounts and property holdings all over the world.

That the people of one of the Middle East’s largest, oldest and most populated countries could not only overthrow but seek justice against a 30 year autocracy has sparked a wave of political dissent in the region.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported one senior western official of claiming at the time that “there has been an awakening of political awareness among the young who have been waiting for solutions that have never come and are not really in the menu now. They are saying: ‘Why should we carry on like this?’”


Cargo bombs from Yemen designed to explode midair, says UK government

Bombs in printer cartridges shipped from Yemen to Chicago were designed to explode in midair, according to the UK government.

The packages were discovered in a UPS plane at East Midlands Airport on October 29 and were addressed to Jewish synagogues in Chicago.

The packages contained printer cartridges filled with the explosives pentaerythritol tetranitrate and lead azide, along with an electrical circuit linked to a mobile telephone trigger mechanism. Both devices were described as “extremely professional” by intelligence officials.

Yemeni authorities have meanwhile asked FedEx and UPS to close their offices in Yemen, and today arrested a female medical student in connection with the incident.

The UK press reported that the devices were discovered newspaper reported that the devices were discovered after a tip-off by Saudi Arabian intelligence sources.


Taliban in paradise – what awaits these virgin islands?

The first war of the twenty first century, US President George W Bush said after 11 September 2001, will be “a new kind of war”. It will be “a conflict without battlefields or beachheads”.

Well, almost 10 years on, we can see he was a bit off the mark with the battlefields – Afghanistan is one, Iraq another, Iran is a strong possibility, Yemen cannot be ruled out entirely. Some of us foresaw the prospects for disaster in many a decision made by President Bush before he blundered, swaggered or smirked his way into them. But I bet no one foresaw that he could also be wrong about the beachheads.

There could yet be many a beachhead in the ‘War on Terror’. Hundreds of them. Around nice pristine Maldivian beaches. The Taliban were “smoked out” of the caves in Afghanistan – will they be fished out of our waters, or simply blasted out? And at what cost to our lives? In Afghanistan the civilian death toll was over 2000 in 2008 alone… what fate awaits us?

Safety first

“Taliban feels that the safest place in the world for them right now is the Maldives”. Less than a decade after the world’s strongest military power declares war on not just the ‘terrorists’ – but also on those who “harbour them, feed them, house them, encourage them, and comfort them” – the Maldives offers them a peaceful retreat. With no military power to speak of, being of little or no geo-strategic consequence, not quite the most sophisticated of movers in global realpolitik – we go ahead and provide the Taliban a beautiful sanctuary where they can sit and plan their next move, with nothing to fear except perhaps a wayward coconut.

The government response to the discovery of the Maldives’ novel status as the Taliban’s new BFFL (best friend for life) is to tell us it is a compliment. A compliment, dear citizens. Pluralism personified, the New Maldives – a Taliban sanctuary, where religious extremists are a protected species. Follow the government line of thinking on this, people and you begin to see the advantages. Given the burgeoning numbers of people following their brand of Islam, we might not have to hang up our tourism hat just yet. There is an untapped market with huge potential out there. Think of the ads – “Tired of being vilified? Find unconditional adulation in the Maldives”; “Sick of being loathed? Come and feel the warmth of the Maldivian embrace”. “Sun, sea and blind faith”; “Maldives – no bad news, no bombs”.

Countering terror

A week later, and the same government is about to formalise a counter-terrorism agreement with India. The same government spokesperson that told us to be flattered by Taliban’s friendship, tells us that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed with India is “very important because it gives notice that the Maldives will not allow terrorist operations here.”

I beg to differ. The MoU is to be welcomed, if there is anything the Maldives can do to help shore up the security of the exemplary democracy that is India, we should to it. But, the agreement does not in anyway signal to us Maldivians that “the Maldives will not allow terrorist operations”.

How can that be, when the government is positively preening from the Taliban’s exclusive attentions; and continues to form subversive and inexplicable alliances with political parties and dubious NGOs who are making Maldivians look, speak, behave, eat, have sex, punish and procreate according to the teachings of the Taliban?

What the MoU, coming as it does on foot of the government’s warm embrace of the Taliban, signals to us is that this government does not have a cogent or coherent national security policy. It is being formed on ad hoc basis, according to whatever political interests that needs to be served at a given time. We can sign hundreds of agreements, treaties and conventions. On paper, it makes the Maldives look good. But for the people who are living this enforced politicization of their religious beliefs, and being told to see this sea-change in Maldivian culture and identity as ‘pluralism’, it signals impending disaster, and a government that is unable to see the threat from within.

The Maldivian government was unaware of the Taliban hosting secret talks on our islands or was unable to detect their presence in the country because it can no longer tell the difference between a Maldivian and an Afghan, or any other follower of the Wahhabbi sect for that matter. We cannot tell who is Ibrahim Maniku and who is Abdul-Ibrahim bin Abu Muharram, or whatever other name we are now apparently required to have in order to be Muslims.

While the government was busy allying itself with religious parties for political gains and shoring up sandbags to ward off sea-level rise, we have all been turned into sheep in Muslim clothing, following blindly those who have assumed leading roles in remote islands through their preaching and their sermons, filling a leadership vacuum left by the appointment of so-called councilors as a reward for faithful campaigning regardless of their qualifications or lack thereof.

One of the biggest questions asked of the disastrous last government was how and why heroin was allowed to permeate the very core of Maldivian society. How could the authorities not stop the destructive drug being smuggled into this small island nation? Well, Wahhabism is the new heroin. It has got our youth addicted, it has robbed them of their identity and it has taken possession of them to the exclusion of all else. Why is this government allowing this to happen? No amount of posturing on the international stage, or pieces of paper signed promising our co-operation in the ‘War on Terror’ is going to be sufficient to protect Maldivians themselves from being sucked into this ‘endless war’ that has already claimed so many lives in every corner of the world.

Anti-terror agreements signed with one hand while holding the door open for the Taliban with the other are going to be ineffective, otiose. What will a Memorandum of Understanding with a foreign ally, however well-intentioned, do for our own protection when we have yet to understand that the biggest threat we face is within?

Munirah Moosa is a journalism and international relations graduate. She is currently engaged in research into the ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim communities and its impact on international security.

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