“I am here to tell you that we refuse to give up hope. We refuse to be quiet. We refuse to believe that a better world isn’t possible.”
Mohamed Nasheed emerged forward with an agenda to change Maldives forever. Nasheed, born on 17th May 1967, struggled and went through a lot of hardship for the people of Maldives. He was imprisoned more a lot of times, and he had spent more than 2,000 days altogether in prison during his work for democracy.
After pursuing education from Maldives, and then from the United Kingdom on maritime studies, Nasheed returned back to his home country in 1989. The freedom fighter he was by character, he and a couple of his friends started publishing a political magazine called Sangu (this is the dhivehi word for Conch Shell).
Back then, the laws of Maldives did not allow press freedom, or some of other basic human rights entitled to all humans from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nasheed especially, was arrested so many times due to this political publication, on very absurd allegations. The government of Maldives once alleged he was hiding secret information about a bomb attack on a public building too.
Nasheed spent his 24th, 25th and 28th birthday in Prison. He missed the birth of both his daughters as well. When he was released, he was threatened by the military and the police. Occasional threats were received from the government as well. In 1999, Mohamed Nasheed was elected to the Parliament of Maldives. He proposed a lot of useful amendments to many acts, but he chose to take them all back due to dangerous threats he received from the government and their supporters.
During his tenure as an MP, several reform activists were arrested for their efforts of establishing a political party in Maldives. Nasheed realised he could not do any reform whatsoever at the time, and the government pressed charged against him and jailed him for a politically motivated allegation, resulting his parliament seat to be vacant.
“From this failure, I realised that, political reforms are impossible if they do not come with strong, mass opposition demonstrations,” Nasheed had once said. Nasheed and his companions established the Maldivian Democratic Party unofficially, and it’s works had started in Sri Lanka and in the UK.
The turning point of Maldives’ politics was when a prisoner was beaten up and killed in a prison in 2003. After the turmoil in Maldives in 2003, Nasheed went to self exile in Sri Lanka. He sought asylum from the UK in 2004 as well. Nasheed returned to Maldives in 2005, and with his supporters, held mass demonstrations in Maldives until the government agreed to the establishment of political parties in the Maldives.
Nasheed’s party was established, and under his leadership, his supporters walked the walk to freedom and democracy in the Maldives. As Nasheed had said, “the dictatorship had the guns, bombs and tanks,” but he had nothing. “We had no weapons other than the power of our words, and the moral clarity of our cause,” Nasheed said.
After the new constitution was ratified in 2008, Maldives was facing it’s first democratic, multi-party election with many candidates. Before that, the parliament had to nominate one person to the public, who then made their choice through a referendum. Nasheed contested in the 2008 elections, and he was elected the first democratically elected President of Maldives.
After this, Nasheed faced a more challenging quest – climate change, and its impact on the future of Maldives. He was very recognised for the role he played at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or the Copenhagen Summit. He advocated for the countries to become carbon neutral, and pledged for Maldives to be carbon neutral before 2019.
During President Nasheed’s tenure as President of Maldives, Maldives went through a transition of completely new situations and protests. Unfortunately, President Nasheed’s administration committed a big mistake of ordering the military to arrest a Justice of the Criminal Court, which led to his downfall in 2012.
The following year of 2013, Maldives faced the second multi-party presidential election in which Nasheed secured 95,000 votes. His closest competitor, incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom secured 61,000 votes. In the second round of the election, all the candidates backed Yameen’s candidacy. Nasheed alone, faced Yameen and his allies in the second round, and Nasheed lost to Yameen with a difference of some 6,000 votes.
In February 2015, Nasheed, who was awarded Champions Of The Earth award by the United Nations, was arrested and charged with terrorism for the arrest of the Criminal Court Justice. He was tried in court and was found guilty of terrorism. On 13th March 2015, Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years.
Before the last hearing of his trial, he had sent a message to the people of Maldives. He said that he could have stopped all his hardships and become an ally of President Abdulla Yameen to get his protection and wealth, but he refused to do that because the people of the country are more important for him.
The Global President’s advice for both his daughters were to not hold grudges against the people who caused harm to him or his family. He ended his message with wishing all the best, “even to the people who brought him injustice”.