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Mohamed Nasheed, Former President of the Maldives, country’s leading human rights activist, former political prisoner
Feb. 21, 2017

On being a political dissident in the Maldives:
  • “I have spent the good half of my adult life in prison. I lost my youth to chains; to incarcerations; to banishments; to torture; to abuse. I started my adult life as a journalist. . . That was in 1989.”
On being imprisoned and tortured:
  • “I remember that night [when I was first arrested], 270 of us [journalists] were arrested. I was held in solitary confinement for 18 months. I was beaten. I have been spat on, urinated upon. I was kept in stocks, held in chains and brutalized . . .”
  • “I was released just before I completed my sentence. But then, again, I was silly, so I wrote again, and they arrested me again. This went on and on. . . Every time they would release me and I would write again. I wrote for all sorts of newspapers. . . But with every news article, even when it was on the environment, I would be arrested.”
On leading the campaign to bring democracy to the Maldives:
  • “One night, a young boy of 19 was murdered in jail and I was having a cup of tea with a doctor. And the chief of police rang this doctor and wanted a death certificate on the boy. So, of course, I got livid. The doctor agreed that he would not sign the death certificate until the boy was brought to the hospital. That sparked a riot in Male. That set in motion a whole train of events that would finally deliver democracy to the Maldives…”
  • “We had our first multiparty elections in 2008 and I was fortunate to have won those elections. I became the president and we started running a government, running a country… Although we were able to topple a dictator… It is not very easy to uproot a dictatorship. It’s tentacles go very deep into the roots of society. Those favorable to the previous regime fomented a coup and I was deposed.”
  • “After that, we started again advocating for free and fair elections… We had the first election, where I won… then, they nullified that result and then they had another round of elections, and then we won again and they nullified it again, as many rounds as it took for them to win…”
  • “I will go back to the Maldives again. I will go back to jail again… I have decided never ever ever to give up and we will continue this fight.”
On political prisoners in the Maldives:
  • “We have more than 1,700 dissidents under one form of another of incarceration [in the Maldives].”

At UN Opening Event, Feb. 20, 2017:

  • “We sit here a week before world leaders would gather and deliberate upon the human rights situation in the world. A number of them would be thugs, thieves and murderers. And a number of them also would be apolitical and they would appease these thugs, murderers and thieves, saying that it’s in their strategic interest. They would argue that their cultures, that their religions are different and therefore, they have this right to continue harming us. We are here to see that this doesn’t happen.”
  • “Clever dictators suck you up. They want your entire life to be erased and reformatted according to their world view and according to how they want you to think. They are not torturing you for the information. . . They are torturing you to erase you, to get you to capitulate, to get you to surrender to the state.”
  • “I thought if I got elected as a member of parliament, I might have some safety and security. . . I sought election in the capital city Male and they elected me as their MP, but the government arrested me the next day.”
  • “We were able to galvanize our people to political activism, we were able to amend the constitution, we were able to have our first free and fair elections . . . I returned back to the Maldives, and of course, they arrested me. But the elections were held and I was released and I was fortunate to have won those elections and became the president.”
  • “I always say and always still believe that it is possible to topple a dictator, but it is not so easy to uproot a dictatorship.”
  • “The previous regime came back. They toppled me in a coup, and of course again arrested me. I was able to take part in the 2013 elections and I won, but they nullified the elections. They had it again. Again, I won. And they nullified it again. So, they had as many elections as it took them until I was beaten and then again they arrested me.”
  • “I intend to get back . . . Even if it means going back to jail, I intend to do that. I would call upon everyone here today to work together to subvert the regimes in so many of these countries. Let’s bring down these governments.”
  • “We can build economic, social and political structures to subvert and destabilize these regimes. I am sure we can do it and I am very sure we can win it.”