The message this election from all sides of the Maldivian political spectrum has been clear. We do not want you. We do not respect you. We will not tolerate you.
Yes. The message is clear. There is "no space" for us. No space for the kinds of Maldivians deemed unacceptable by the conservative majority. It may come as a shock to those unfamiliar with the Maldivian political context that even the opposition - those martyrs of democracy - also echo these far-right sentiments.
Indeed, the current election, like all Maldivian elections thus far, is not about democracy but about who gets to lead the theocracy. What else do you call a nation without freedom of conscience? What else do you call a place where LGBTQIA+ lives are criminalised?
The loudsst campaign song is “my aqeedha is better than yours.”— Ish 🎈 (@IshAfeef) September 15, 2018
There is a lot to unravel here, but since I began with the election, let’s keep this about politics. The fact of the matter is that it is completely illegal for certain kinds of Maldivians to organise themselves politically. The constitution bans non-Muslims from being recognised as Maldivian. It also makes LGBTQIA+ lives illegal by deeming their existence un-Islamic. It is worth noting that this is not stated specifically. It is instead assumed from the various clauses in the constitution that outlaw anything against "Islam". LGBTQIA+ people are thus assumed to be against Islam, even though many who live in the Maldives are Muslims themselves.
So, no constitutional recognition and thus none of the rights that come along with it. We cannot make our own NGOs, political parties, newspapers, artist collectives, nothing. So when you hear these so called "democracy" and "human rights" activists speak of "worsening" press and political freedoms know that they are only speaking of the degradation of the rights of the "right" kind of Maldivian. Know that when Maldivian NGOs, even those with international affiliation, speak of "human rights abuse" they are only speaking of the abuse of those Maldivians which they consider human. Cis-gendered heterosexual Sunni Muslims. Yes, even Muslims of other sects or beliefs are excluded from this very narrow definition of what it means to be Maldivian. Even our great Muslim dictator Maumoon crushed other forms of Muslim belief to the point where it bred extremism and discontent. So much for Muslim solidarity.
If you think I am being facetious, here is a challenge for you. Find research from any of these NGOs, or even government agencies, about Maldivian minorities such as non-Muslims, Muslims of other sects or beliefs, and LGBTQIA+ people. Demographic research. Qualitative research on their lived experiences. Research on their needs, research about how they feel living in a country where their very existence is criminalised. Research about the effects of being born to a place that denies you the right to even identify with that place. A few stories even. Anything. I guarantee you that at the time of this writing nothing substantial exists. Why would it? These NGOs are run by people who are a part of the conservative majority as well. The idea that simply being tangentially involved in democracy or human rights makes one a true supporter of such rights is laughable.
So here we are. At the cusp of another theocratic war. To add insult to injury these democracy activists have no qualms about asking minorities whom they themselves neither recognise or respect for their vote. By guaranteeing our erasure they ensure that the votes are halal. 100% Muslim. Despite all of this they will guilt trip you into voting for the opposition, by saying that if you don't vote things will get worse.
And it is true. Things will get worse. For the right kinds of Maldivian. For the wrong kinds of Maldivians. For the dheenee Maldivians as well as the laadheenee Maldivians. So, go vote for the hypocrites who oppress you. The vile lions of democracy who use the lives of people like us to slander their opponents. Vote so they can win, and claim a victory against people like us. Vote for the lesser monster so you can (hopefully) live to vote another day. Vote so you can one day tell them all the things they wish you'd forget.
So in the spirt of remembering things that our oppressors would like us to forget, I’d like to end this essay with a quote from Ahmed Rilwan AKA Moyameehaa, who at the time of writing has been missing for more than 1502 days.