This is a speech given by the Editor of Maldives Independent, Zaheena Rasheed, at the rally held to mark the one year anniversary of her colleague Ahmed Rilwan’s disappearance.
I worked with Rilwan for eight months. He was mild mannered in life, but loud on social media, mocking the religious extremists, ridiculing the government and the opposition alike for their hypocrisy and brutality. He made us laugh and, in doing so, he dissipated our fears.
In the past year, we’ve chased a hundred leads, obtained and analyzed Rilwan’s phone records, and hacked into his social media accounts for clues. We’ve kept watch at potential sites he may be held, organized petitions, lobbied politicians, held marches, read Rilwan’s poetry on the streets. We’ve papered the city with missing-person posters. When the posters faded in the sun and rain, we put up new ones. And today, we march on the streets of Malé for the third time.
Sometimes it seems as if the odds are insurmountable that we’ll ever find Rilwan. But we cannot give up. Our love for him does not allow us to stop until we find out what happened to him, until we see his remains.
In the past year, those who worked in the Find Moyameehaa campaign have been threatened with death. Minivan News offices were attacked, and a machete was lodged on the door. The toll is unexplainable, some of us relapsed into drugs, others got divorces, or got diagnosed with mental illnesses for the first time. The world seems darker, without innocence. I’ve laughed a lot less this year, and cried a lot more. This year has truly tested my faith in humanity. Sometimes I wonder, will we ever live in a just, tolerant and humane world?
Those who dare to speak their minds, and continue to have faith in humanity – despite the cruelty and devastation human beings are capable of – are truly insane. Rilwan is one of them, and I miss him dearly
Rilwan’s abduction was aimed at killing our hopes for a better world, for what is possible only dies when hope dies. So today, I resolve to put aside despair, to hope against hope, to never give into fear and to never be silenced.
Our year-long effort to find Rilwan has taught me that we have no choice but to continue to speak our minds, and to continue to have faith in humanity. Because we must bring sanity to an insane world. We must continue to write poetry, sing songs, draw, and—above all—laugh.
This may be a long journey, it has already been too long. All that we need to find Rilwan is political will. So today, I ask you to never forget, to tell your family, your friends, and your children of Rilwan, his story, and his courage in speaking truth to power. Keep his memory alive, keep demanding answers.
We win only when we persevere, and we persevere because we love.
Photo by Mohamed Sharuhaan, Haveeru.
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