The family of missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan marked the second anniversary of his disappearance with a song about their sense of loss and grief.
Unveiling the song, titled “How we miss you,” Rilwan’s sister Mariyam Shehenaz said at the artificial beach today: “I wrote the verses to an old Hindi song, one that both of us used to listen to, our heads together, sharing a pair of ear phones between the two of us.”
It opens with President Abdulla Yameen’s public refusal in 2014 to comment on Rilwan’s disappearance.
The first verses say: “How we miss you, we continue to count the days in grief. This is our prayer, we so long to have you back.”
Shehenaz also reiterated an offer of MVR200,000 (US$12,970) for useful information that may lead to him.
The police, who had initially denied any link between Rilwan’s disappearance and the abduction of an unknown person reported by his neighbours on August 8, 2014, have offered little information on his whereabouts.
Nearly a hundred people gathered to hear the song, while several hundred more wrote tributes online, on Twitter, Facebook and blogs.
“[W]e know someone did this. Someone gave the order to abduct Rilwan. Someone carried it out. Someone organized a car and transported it back and forth from Hulhumalé. Someone owned the car. Someone drove the car. Someone dropped the knife,” wrote Rilwan’s friend Yameen Rasheed, a blogger, in an op-ed for newspaper Mihaaru.
“For 609 days, someone did make the police publicly deny any link between the Hulhumalé abduction and Rilwan’s disappearance… It is evident that somebody has been protecting the evil people who did this to our Rilwan. And that somebody is still out there, and here we are, two years later, still without the answers we seek.”
Daniel Bosley, former Editor of the Maldives Independent, wrote on his blog: “Two years on, and the truth that friends and family knew within days of his disappearance has been confirmed, despite the best efforts of some to misconstrue his disappearance in some misguided attempt to ignore an inconvenient truth.
“There was a conspiracy to abduct Rilwan that night, and there has been a conspiracy to cover it up afterwards. To label the search for truth and justice for this man political is to identify oneself as coward, cretin, or complicit.”
Former human rights commissioner Ahmed Tholal wrote: “Two years of heartache, uncertainty, dismay… two years of excuses and sloppy investigations, two years of denial and a conspicuous lack of concern by authorities….two years time for the perpetrators to make a clean break….two years too late for excuses and apologies.”
A total of seven linked to Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang were arrested, but all have been released, with police citing insufficient evidence for prosecution. Some suspects have since left the country, reportedly to Syria.
Rilwan’s family has accused the state of involvement, noting police confirmation of his abduction came only in April this year, just weeks before the UN launched an inquiry. The government has denied the claim.
The police, who have questioned former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb over the disappearance, said they are also investigating an attempt at forging Rilwan’s passport, which they say was made “to make it appear as he had left or was out of the country.”
At the time of the attempted cover-up, several pro-government websites, citing a blog that later turned out to fake, claimed Rilwan had died in the Syrian civil war. Ruling party lawmakers and activists had also accused the family of running a smear campaign against the government then.
The case has received global attention, with calls for an independent inquiry by the US State Department and by press freedom groups, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists.
Athul Keshup, the US ambassador, Shelley Whitting, the Canadian ambassador, and the European Union tweeted in solidarity today.
2 yrs after Ahmed Rilwan disappeared, there needs to be a credible investigation & space for independent journalism pic.twitter.com/Ti3VTNLOiP
— Amb Atul Keshap (@USAmbKeshap) August 8, 2016
— Shelley Whiting (@shelley_whiting) August 8, 2016
— EU to the Maldives (@EU_Maldives) August 8, 2016
The People’s Majlis is meanwhile yet to address a 5000-signature strong petition urging an independent inquiry, while complaints over police negligence are pending at the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and the National Integrity Commission.
— yashuuoo (@yashhuoo) August 8, 2016
— Naxim Embarados (@NaximEmbarados) August 8, 2016
Never give up. Never stop asking.
Where is Rilwan?#FindMoyameehaa
— Hamid Shafeeu (@shafeeu) August 8, 2016
Rilwan represents creativity over silence, freedom over fear, culture over hatred while fiercely protecting the marginalised #findmoyameehaa
— mushfiquemohamed (@mushfique_) August 8, 2016