On Friday June 13, 2012, Maldivian security forces arrested more than 65 pro-democracy protesters that were peacefully calling for early elections to be held in the country in the capital, Male.
Among those arrested was Shauna Aminath, current President of the Maldives Democratic Party Youth Wing and former Policy Undersecretary under President Mohamed Nasheed (known locally as Ani). She is also one of my close friends because we became friends while studying at UWC Pearson College (Canada) and continued our friendship later at Westminster College (Missouri, US). We worked together as political science students and worked together at a project in Colombia.
I know Shauna well. She has an incredible character and is perhaps the person with the clearest sense of justice, fairness and freedom that I know. She wants people in the Maldives to be free from fear and wants an end to the corrupt system that a 30-year dictatorship fostered.
After finishing her studies in Westminster College, Shauna went back to the Maldives and worked as a journalist for Minivan News, the first independent English newspaper in the Maldives. She made a difference focusing on covering women´s issues and issues related to democracy, or the lack thereof under Maumoon Gayoom´s presidency.
After campaigning also for the return of democracy and succeeding in getting President Mohamed Nasheed to power (first democratically elected president of the Maldives), Shauna was appointed Policy Undersecretary for the new President by the new democratic government.
Shauna used her expertise and became a champion in the prevention of climate change and led negotiations of her country (lowest altitude above sea level in the world) in Copenhagen. Because of her and President Nasheed´s work on this threat to the Maldives, she appeared in the documentary “The Island President” along with the President.
Alas, the President was forced to resign in February when a 3-week protest against him because he dared to arrest a corrupt judge with very close ties to the former dictator, ended with a policy mutiny. When resigning, he said “I am not a person who wishes to rule with the use of power. I believe that if the government were to remain in power it would require the use of force, which would harm many citizens”
On Friday, Shauna was arrested on unknown charges and taken to prison because she was demanding early elections and the end of policy brutality. She is expected to appear in court tomorrow, but we are very concerned for her safety. Serious human rights abuses have been committed since the forced resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed, under President Waheed´s administration in February 7.
Below are three videos of her illegal arrest, where Shauna can be seen wearing yellow:
The MDP and Shauna are calling for early elections as a way to ensure the continuation of the democratic liberties that had been secured for the Maldivian people, after a ruthless dictatorship.
A petition and international campaign for her freedom has been launched.
UPDATE: Shauna was taken to court on Saturday and released on the condition that she not protest for 21 days. While the sentence is light, it is clear that the government is moving in to silence the opposition, as President Nasheed himself was charged yesterday. Previously he was intentionally pepper-sprayed at close range by the police.