I didn’t realise how much I’d been lulled into a false sense of security until approximately 5pm on Friday afternoon. Mahfooz Saeed (26), a member of former President Nasheed’s legal team was stabbed at approximately 5pm on Friday afternoon. He was on a busy street in the centre of Male’ when he was attacked by 2 unmasked men in broad daylight. They stabbed him in the head.
Mahfooz is the youngest and newest member of President Nasheed’s legal team. He recently took his oath, but has always been vocal about the state of our judicial system and is a staunch defender of human rights. Last Thursday Mahfooz spoke at the Maldivian Democratic Party’s first public rally since President Nasheed was illegally transferred back to jail. He spoke of Afrasheem, Rilwan, President Nasheed and many other victims of politically motivated injustice in the Maldives. He railed against the authorities, holding their inaction in relation to Rilwan’s case equivalent to complicity. He kept saying that we owed it to ourselves to hold these people accountable despite the intimidation and the fear mongering.
Standing on that newly constructed stage in front of Haruge, facing the crowd across the street at artificial beach he said, ‘Emme fahu meehaa aa jehendhen party migothah dhemi ovvejje nama alhugandu Mahfooz Saeed migothuga hunnaan’.
I remember being nervous for him that night.
This afternoon, just hours before he was stabbed, Mahfooz accompanied a MDP activist and National Council member Hassantay to the Police station for questioning. Hassantay was being questioned for leading the prayers for President Nasheed after Hukuru at Islaamee Markaz. Hassantay is the third person the Police summoned regarding a situation they just don’t know how to handle. First it’s a public disturbance, then it’s a hostage situation, then its noise pollution. Over the space of 10 minutes, it was as if the Police were randomly flicking through the new penal code to see what they could throw at this politically motivated problem. Mahfooz and Hassantay enjoyed themselves. The whole situation was ridiculous and so symptomatic of the way this Government responds to everything. Headless chickens.
Two hours later, no one was laughing. That false sense of security that was established because of a few weeks break in violent crime in Male’ came crashing down as soon as the messages filtered in on different viber groups. It made me realise that an absence in violence is no reason to feel secure, when we live in an environment where Government officials operate as an extension of a neighbourhood gang.
People rushed to IGMH. Then came the nonsensical death threats to MDP MPs to vote against the Government’s terrorism bill. Crowded into that decrepit old building with exposed wires and falling ceilings and beds, the only thing people could do was speculate. How many attackers? Was he alone? Were they masked? Did they hide the knife? Was there CCTV in the area? It must have been to scare off President Nasheed’s international lawyers? What are the Police saying? The Police weren’t saying anything. 8 hours later, they still haven’t said anything.
Mahfooz underwent surgery and is luckily stable and recovering. The knife in his head was promptly taken away by Police forensics as soon as it was removed from his skull. The footage from the Police operated CCTV cameras in the vicinity of the crime scene? Who knows? If the cameras were working, then the images would have been beaming onto screens inside the Police station while the attack happened. It was broad daylight. Their faces were uncovered. It was targeted. It isn’t difficult to believe that the attackers were on a very generous leash controlled by individuals in positions of power. After all, they attacked him with total impunity.
Leaving the hospital this evening, that niggling sense of anxiety that used to effect me in Male’ had well and truly returned. Its back to the family pleas of don’t walk on the streets alone, the tense looking around while sitting on the back of a bike, and the question – who’s next? Although, that is the point of attacks like this isn’t it? It’s the scenario that Mahfooz spoke about at the rally, the very reason why we have to continue challenging this state of affairs, no matter how fearful the consequences.