The Maldives Independent’s Saya Ahmed and Hassan Moosa sat down with murdered blogger Yamin Rasheed’s mother Mariyam Shafeega and sister Yumna Rasheed to remember the young man who inspired so many with his writing, empathy and activism.
This is the second part of the interview.
Saya Ahmed: Did you notice anything suspicious occurring in the house before his murder?
Mariyam Shafeega: We did not notice anything. But the owner of this house said something. It made me think that things could have been different if we had known about it before. But the owner was not aware that he had received threats. He asked we did not share the threats with them. I told them I had not known that he had received threats recently. I never imagined that something like this might be committed inside the house, so openly. The owner even said that about five days ago, some kind of paint-like stuff was put on the camera near the lift. So they removed and fixed the camera. The owner’s mother said they noticed some strangers moving about the house for the past week.
SA: Do you know any details of the threats?
MS: All of it is on Facebook.
Yumna Rasheed: It’s on Facebook, he received threats through Facebook, Twitter and there are some open threats, even messages. Dhonbe [older brother] doesn’t usually answer calls from unknown numbers.
MS: Even if a family member calls, he will not answer if the call is made from an unknown number.
Hassan Moosa: Why do you attend the events being held at the artifical beach?
MS: That is an event those kids hold to find justice for my son. So in my opinion, it is my responsibility to take part in the event for the sake of my son. My son took part in all those events for Rilwan. He was involved in it as much as he could. He left this world while he was steadfastly working for that cause. So I want to do my part in this. Not just because he is my son. I think I would have taken part in the event, even if it was somebody else’s son.
YR: It’s just friends and family, memories….
MS: And it’s not just me. All my relatives, my sisters and brothers are also taking part in the event. They haven’t been to work since he passed.
SA: Do you feel helpless about the situation?
MS: I feel very helpless. I have four children and Yameen is like the only son. My second son is disabled. He is a deaf-mute and a heart patient. He cannot go to a normal job in this society. I send him to the Care Society as a social worker. He is not paid. Yameen is the only real son. The girls are also working, but it is not just the financial support I need. He is the only son to provide support as a male child. It is a huge deficit for our family to lose him.
YR: Mom and dad might feel that way, but I think the whole nation is helpless. They can abduct and disappear anyone. They can kill off anyone without even using a mask to conceal their identity.
MS: Yes, they do these things very openly. They have no fear because they know they have impunity. Such criminals would want to be discreet, but these people were without face masks.
YR: I think everyone will believe that he was a pride for the nation, right? It’s a loss for everyone. It’s a loss not only for our family. It’s a loss for everyone…
MS: He was a very loving person. Usually, siblings get more distant with one another when they grow up, but he was always close to everyone.
YR: He just started achieving. I think the nation has lost a lot of things that could have been achieved in the future. I think that a lot of opportunities had been taken away from the nation.
MS: That is very true. It’s because even now, he just received an international award. He was getting prepared to leave for another international event.
YR: To Dublin for a culture exchange program.
MS: He also has an event in the US, something related to democracy.
YR: He was the voice of the nation and the nation could not protect him.
MS: When he goes to an international event, the people he meets always keep in touch, everyone finds him interesting. So he must have some kind of good quality.
YR: He was a great resource for the nation in the form of human. That is not something you can buy or recreate. He is not replaceable. He is one of those rare people in this nation. So it is the responsibility of the nation to protect such a resource, and in spite of reporting, so I think the nation has failed the nation.
HM: The last award was from Wired?
YR: That was for a platform, for that concept [for an app to link thalassemia patients with a database of hospitals and donors].
HM: Did he talk about it with Yumna or anyone else in the house?
MS: But the award was for him and his friend, he is also very respectful towards other people. He likes people like him. People who are interested in intellectual work and ideas. He matches very well with those kind of people. He talked so much about [Mohamed] Shuraih. He said, ‘Mom, Shuraih is a very intelligent person, a very smart person, his ideas are great.’ I remember he talked of Shuraih a lot one day. He liked Shuraih so much. He said that this country needs people like Shuraih.
YR: I think in the Maldives even now we see in Viber groups and all, people needing blood for transfusions. So they wanted to create a platform to help people find blood donors.
MS: He loves being involved in social work.
YR: So I think basically that was the idea of that concept.
MS: He even told me that the idea belongs to Shuraih. But the two of them designed the platform and presented it.
YR: For him, not knowing something is not a bad quality. But refusing to learn and find out was something he detested in people.
SA: What do you think about the investigation now that no suspects have yet been arrested?
MS: We still do not know any reason or motive for killing our son. So we cannot pinpoint at any suspects. The only suspects are those people who threatened him. They are the only people who had warned him of this fate. I suspect them.
There is something very important I want to highlight. I cannot think of any reason why any gangs should have an animosity towards him. He never had any quarrels or contacts with gangs. Some people are saying that the suspects shown on the police footage are from a specific gang. This is why I want to highlight this. There is no reason for any gang to murder him.
YR: Investigation is ongoing in a very cowardly, secret manner. If we get results from these investigations, then we will know. But if the investigation does not proceed properly, then we will have another question mark. Why?
MS: We have no guarantee that these suspects are currently in the country. It’s because no arrests have been made even after so many days passed. This is a small piece of land of just three kilometres. This Malé is just a tiny place. Here everyone knows everyone. So I don’t think it is a difficult job for the police to make arrests if they indeed do have suspects.
YR: Getting out of this island itself would require some kind of help. Malé is not associated with any land. People will have to take a ferry if they want to leave Malé. So I think we have all that security.
MS: There are the cameras too. They’ll find out if the suspects leave the country/
YR: They can identify and apprehend the suspects.
MS: According to the video footage, the whole event happened in a short span of time. He was inside the stairwell for about fifteen minutes. So in my opinion, it is the responsibility of the police to immediately look out for suspects in the vicinity of this house when the murder was reported. They don’t necessarily have to run after these people. The cameras are there and the streets would be almost deserted at that time of the night. I believe that the police should have monitored the area of the crime. This is a technologically advanced age, there is no need to run after the suspects, they can just monitor the cameras…
YR: There was the number plate of the motorbike visible on the video footage and we know one of the suspects used a mobile phone.
MS: They can identify the mobile numbers used in this area at that hour of the night. I am very saddened because it is taking so much time in an age where things can be done so easily. I have a lot of hopes, they keep ensuring a progressive investigation, so I hope for results. I’m not doing all this just for my son. I cannot bring back my son. Justice cannot be of much benefit to me right now. But, I do not want this to happen to any other mother’s child.
YR: This has to stop right?
MS: That’s all, I have nothing more to say… Not to bring back my son, but to stand for his cause. I just want no one else to face this kind of fate.
YR: The family will fight till how much ever time it may take.
MS: These emotions can only be felt when it happens to your own child. I remember during the campaign for [missing journalist Ahmed] Rilwan, I told Yameen that Rilwan’s mother is such a courageous woman and that I can never be like her. But now that this has happened to me, I know that any mother would be courageous when she loses her son.