The recent pattern of brutal police crackdowns against peaceful protesters continued today when around one hundred female protesters, including the former Education Minister and former Tourism Minister, were attacked by riot police with salt water cannons. The protesters had just been to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to ask them to investigate other recent cases of excessive use of force by the police, and were on their way to the President’s Office to deliver a letter. The use of such force by the police has increased over recent days since the new Police Commissioner called on the police to become an institution “to be feared”.
Shortly after 3pm, the women of all ages sat down near the President’s Office holding boards bearing slogans such as “where’s my vote?” and “Justice Now”. At the same time, some of them walked to the President’s Office to hand over the letters calling on Dr. Waheed to step down.
Shortly afterwards, video footage circulated on social networks shows police aiming high-powered salt water cannons at the women. The women were then pushed by policemen carrying riot shields and some were carried away. Others had their clothes ripped and were subjected to foul and abusive language, much of it of a sexual nature.
Speaking after the attack against unarmed peaceful protesters, police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan that the women had been forcibly dispersed because they “intimidated the police”.
Dr. Waheed has repeatedly assured the international community that his government will fully respect the right to freedom of assembly.
Links to video footage and photos of the incident:
Hamid Abdul Ghafoor
Spokesperson, International Affairs