Saturday, September 22, 2007

Vigil held to remember torture victim and stand up against torture

A vigil to remember torture victim Eavan Naseem and raise voices against torture was held in the night of September 19 in Male'. The event was initiated by Idhikeeli and supported by people against torture.

In the night of September 19, 2003, at the young age of 19, Eavan Naseem, an inmate of Maafushi Jail in the Maldives, was brutally beaten to death by prison guards of NSS. His death caused riots in prison next day and NSS shot prisoners killing and wounding inmates. On September 20, Male' went into a riot and brought the birth of a pro-democracy movement.

The event was primarily promoted through Facebook. We created an event at Facebook on September 14. Within just six days the event was one of the most popular in the Maldives network of Facebook. When the event began at 9.00 pm 87 people had confirmed to attend, and 72 people indicated that they might attend. The number of people not attending the event remained at 360 and 660 people had not replied. More than 1,100 people were invited within six days with the support of Facebook users and admins of Facebook groups. When the event was created there were close to 5,000 members in the Maldives network in Facebook. The number of people not attending and the number of people who were invited included those not in the country.

Because of the repressive nature of police, the number of people who indicated they were not attending and those who did not respond in either way do not truly reflect the support for such an event.

However, relatively few people turned up for the vigil. This has been criticised by one Facebook user who says the people are indifferent to torture prevailing in the country.

We did not give a specific location for the event but requested the people to sit on the seawall around Male' at any location they wanted. Most people turned up at the southeast corner of Male' which is a popular gathering point for reformists. The time of the event was from 9.00 pm to midnight.

Several pro-democracy activists participated including Aishath Aniya and Jennifer Latheef. Eavan's mother Mariyam Manike participated in the vigil to remember her son.

We requested bloggers to cover this event and photographers to upload photos to Flickr. One Flickr user has uploaded two photos of the event including one of Mariyam Manike sitting on the seawall.

The event went peacefully. There were police vans circling around and at one point they inquired what was going on. However, there were no confrontations. A heavy downpour later could have affected some of the activities planned. We had encouraged groups of participants to come up with their own creative ideas for the event which we called an "open source event."

This event is a success and we plan to have the same event next year with more people and new activities to mark 9/19.

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