The exclusion of former President Mohamed Nasheed from a local school photo exhibition depicting Maldives history has sparked outrage among his supporters.
The 3000-photo strong exhibition, organized by Malé’s Billabong International School and up at the National Art Gallery, includes pictures of former presidents Ibrahim Nasir and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, foreign dignitaries, television personalities, sportsmen and actors.
Only three photos of Nasheed were included in the exhibition.
President Abdulla Yameen and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim inaugurated the exhibition on August 7.
A blogpost claiming Nasheed had been “censored” from the 2,000 year history of Maldives went viral, gaining more than 500 likes on Facebook.
“How strong and disturbing a precedent has the school management set for the school environment, teachings inside classes, and free, honest, intellectual discussion among school students on the subjects of history and politics of the country, by this very loud act of cowardice?” the post read.
Nasheed is under house arrest. He was sentenced to 13 years in jail on a terrorism charge in March, but his sentence was commuted to house arrest in July.
His imprisonment sparked daily protests for three months. In March, a group of artists protested against the education ministry’s exclusion of student paintings depicting Nasheed.
Nasheed’s supporters took to social media to express disappointment over the Billabong exhibition.
After dengue holidays, Billabong School can no longer recollect recent history 🙁 This is why homework is important.
— Yameen Rasheed (@yaamyn) August 9, 2015
— Ahmed Musthafa (@MusthafaFa) August 10, 2015
President Nasheed is our first democratically elected President and that’s the most historical pride ever. http://t.co/DXn8h7Ef4U
— Kun Muhlis (@KunMuhlis) August 9, 2015
The Maldives Independent was not able to contact Billabong. Island Education, which runs the school, however, dismissed the claims in an interview with Raajje TV.
Ahmed Adeel said the exhibition’s aim was to raise awareness of events in the Maldives prior to 2005. Photos of Nasheed’s successor Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan and incumbent President Abdulla Yameen were not included either, he said.
“Most of our students are aged under 16 years of age. They will not remember the events prior to 2005. Our exhibition was aimed at the history prior to 2005,” he said.
Adeel also said in addition to three photos of Nasheed prior to him assuming the presidency, a picture of a book he wrote and a magazine he issued had been put on display.
Eva Abdulla, an MP with Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said the exhibition was an attempt to revise Maldivian history and exclude Nasheed.
“Authoritarian governments will always pressure to use the educational curriculum as the quickest tool to brainwash students, this is what authoritarian governments do to revise history,” she said.
Shahindha Ismail, the executive director at human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network, said the exhibition is incomplete without Nashed’s work to bring democracy to the Maldives.
“What they are portraying is a lie to future generations. I feel it should highlight president Nasheed’s work. His struggle along with the people for democracy should be visible for future generations to see,” Shahindha said.
“If we are highlighting the legacy of an authoritarian leader in the exhibition, instead of calling it ‘historic photos of Maldives’, it should be called ‘the pre-democratic era of Maldives’,” she said.