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OpEd: Futility of trying to silence a writer: Appreciating Yaamyn

Opinion Editorial by Mariyath Mohamed, Editor at The Edition. As today marks 7 years to the day Yameen Rasheed was murdered, this is her account of shared memories, friendship and loss.

23 April 2024, MVT 09:51
This is a photo I snapped of Yameen during one of our hang outs. He was wearing my glasses and we were joking about how glasses immediately raised up a person's 'bookish' looks.-- Photo: Mariyath Mohamed / The Edition
23 April 2024, MVT 09:51

A heart emoji.

That was one of the last tweets I was sent by my closest friend before he was murdered, just days before he died.

This is a story about a man who lives on through his words, even after being murdered brutally with more than 30 stab wounds despite never having wielded any weapon sharper than his wit throughout his life.

Doubtless, he would have written more the more time he had had. But look around you as younger generations come to appreciate his words, his wit, his wisdom through his writings.

Yaamyn: A life lived well

Yameen Rasheed (widely and wildly popular for his quick wit and sharp insights as @yaamyn on twitter, now X) was a prolific writer, blogger and social media personality. He would have turned 36 this April 10, had he been with us.

Despite continued threats of violence and even death, he was always unrelenting in his pursuit of truth and justice, even more so after the enforced disappearance of our friend and my then colleague, journalist Ahmed Rilwan (@moyameehaa).

Even during his short life of less than three decades, Yameen, with his pure soul, unshaking loyalty, and excellent sense of humour, managed to gain the love of so many, some who knew him well, and some who only knew his online persona.

His followers also often saw him sharing links to ‘Share the Meal’ and similar charity platforms to which he regularly contributed. He also volunteered with the Red Crescent.

After consuming the daily news through the regular media outlets, readers often welcomed Yameen’s weekly round ups of the news on his aptly named ‘The Daily Panic’ with appreciation for the lighter lingo used in bringing forth the deeper insights and hilarious takes, putting things into perspective for the rest of us.

The Daily Panic, Yameen said, was meant to report on “Nothing but the unfiltered truth, the sickening facts, the gruesome details, and - because this is the Maldives – the painfully obvious”.

He was a loving son, a dedicated brother, a trustworthy colleague, a loyal friend, a bold writer, an acute political satirist, an exemplary human being.

Disobedient Writer, Doting Son and Brother

Yameen’s sister, Aishath Rasheed, shared her feelings of love and loss.

“Every memory of Yako [Yameen] brings a smile to me that is inevitably replaced by a very deep grief. His presence was so profound in our lives and now, so is his absence.

In his own words, he was a ‘disobedient writer’. He always chose to be defiant and rebellious in standing up for what he knew was right. Never afraid to speak the truth, most often with humour. He was always my favourite writer. He was my childhood.

He was the most obedient child though. Doted on mom and us. Growing up, he was my shadow. And strangely, soon I was his.

One particularly admirable quality about him is how gentle and kind he was. Soft spoken and yet, in his brilliant way, would always make us laugh. He would, any day, rather stand for what is right, even if he had to stand alone. Never cared for popular opinion. He was led by his conscience above everything else.

His writing was brilliant and thought provoking. This is how many of us know Yaamyn.

For me, he was also my brother. He was a gentle, kind-hearted brother, whose loss we feel immensely in our lives. I miss him dearly.”

Sealed with a Disk Mashuni

Back in 2011, it was Yameen’s amusing, yet accurate, takes on local politics, and his droll retorts on social media that first brought him to my attention.

During yet another sleepless night, shooting banter back and forth on twitter on what was at the time referred to as the ‘MV Graveyard Shift’, while working on our day (?) jobs simultaneously, we decided to meet up for a breakfast of ‘disk mashuni’ at a ‘carnival kada’.

For such a loud tweep, it was a very soft-spoken, quiet young man that I came to meet in person that day.

In any case, we got caught up in the most intriguing lines of conversation and that breakfast meet up lasted no less than 12 hours, ending with us becoming inseparable friends.

Yameen, Rilwan and I met up quite a lot [for introverts], or simply just talked on chat apps if we were feeling less social as we each often did, and discussed social issues, politics, books, music, as well as throwing around ideas for what we could each write about. One thing we never struggled with was running out of things to discuss.

Yameen, much like Rilwan, was that kind of a person: able to talk about anything under the sun and be interesting about it.

Some quirky things that stay in mind about him include things like the fact that when walking on the streets together, he always insisted you walk on the inner side of the pavement, away from the traffic. He refused to ride a motorbike, and just walked everywhere, looking at Google maps and getting into intense debates of whether one route would let him get somewhere one minute faster than another similar route.

He also opened doors for you, and pulled out chairs for you to sit on. He was very particular about cafés: everything had to be just right and he would notice things you and I probably never would, like wooden seats at a steel table or a round table meant for two, or asymmetrical architecture.

He loved the tulip emoji, and often attached it at the end of texts. He loved wearing graphic tees with funny (for nerds like him and me!) texts on them. A voracious reader, his favourite bookstore was in Bangalore, and he never tired of telling you about it.

For an introvert, he had a surprisingly large number of friends, who he kept neatly compartmentalized, like everything else in his orderly life.

If he offered you advice, you took it. Because Yameen didn’t say anything that wasn’t much considered and well thought out. He could be trusted implicitly.

Yameen was a courageous, empathetic, gentle soul.

He was funny, he was witty, and he was a deep thinker.

He was brilliant, he was intellectual, and he would engage in debate and discussion that oftentimes would teach you more than you could him.

He was human, he was humane, and he would always, without fail, stand up for your rights no matter what you thought of him.

Murdered - April 23, 2017

The sun rose as usual, but to many, the day remained dark.

Yameen had been killed in the early hours, around 3 am, of April 23, 2017.

He had been attacked in the stairwell of his apartment building as he returned home after a routine late night working at the office.

He had been stabbed more than 30 times.

He was only 29 years old.

Yameen had previously reported, and lodged with the police, several incidents of receiving death threats. He reiterated repeatedly on social media about the lack of action regarding his filing of complaints with the police.

Yameen was also amongst those leading the ‘Find Moyameehaa’ campaign regarding the enforced disappearance of his friend and reporter Ahmed Rilwan.

Investigations, as well as the subsequent court proceedings, in both Yameen and Rilwan’s cases faced several delays and allegations of witness intimidation, police cover-ups and state, as well as external, interference.

In 2022, the Criminal Court convicted Ismail Haisham Rasheed and Ahmed Zihan Ismail of murdering Yameen, sentencing them to life in prison and to pay MVR 1.3 million.

However, the Court acquitted the others accused, Hussain Ziyad, Ismail Rasheed, Hassan Shifaz and Mohamed Dhifran, stating the prosecution had not submitted sufficient evidence against them.

At the time, Mohamed Yashfau Rasheed, a seventh suspect, was charged with aiding and abetting murder. There was also an unnamed eighth suspect, whom the Prosecutor General’s Office decided not to press charges against.

In June 2022, Police made three further arrests in relation to the investigations carried out by the Presidential Commission on Deaths and Disappearances. Ahmed Ismail, Ismail Abdul Raheem and Ahmed Muaz were arrested on charges of terrorism, relating to both the murder of Yameen and the enforced disappearance of Rilwan.

They were all three later released in 2023, with all charges dismissed.

“This will happen again”

The Presidential Commission on Deaths and Disappearances (DDCom), even as far back as 2018, stated that their investigations indicated there were links between Yameen’s murder and two other case; the 2014 enforced disappearance and subsequent murder of Ahmed Rilwan, as well as the 2012 murder of religious scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali.

DDCom indicated that persons with radicalized religious ideologies were involved in all three cases. Police also said in a press conference in 2017 that religious extremists were behind Yameen’s murder.

President of DDCom, Fareesha Abdulla, spoke about the status of the commission’s work at present.

Fareesha said that at present, the commission is working to compile reports on their investigation into Yameen’s case, as well as other cases, ahead of their dissolvement later this year.

The commission will be presenting its findings, reports, as well as recommendations to relevant State authorities.

Fareesha also had some words of caution to offer.

“It will happen again. To stop this, both leaders, as well as the people themselves, must collaborate to bring about key changes to the status quo immediately.”

Both Yameen’s X profile and blog, as well as contributions to various publications, are still available for readers to witness his wizardry with words, which became too much of a threat to some.

Yameen fought with words, and they retaliated with knives.

You can kill a man, but words are immortal.

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