Shahindha Ismail

Assessing the Impact of Religious Extremism on Maldivian Democracy

Ms. Shahindha Ismail is a human rights defender who, in 2006, founded the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), an organization devoted to the promotion of democracy and human rights in the Maldives. She currently leads the organization in exile after the government ordered its dissolution in late 2019. She served as an executive committee member of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development from 2018 to 2022 and as the chair of the Police Integrity Commission of the Maldives from 2009 to 2012. Ms. Ismail has written widely on democracy and human rights in the Maldives, including a 2021 chapter on migrant workers for the South Asian Judicial Barometer and a 2020 Dhivehi-language biography about Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, a Maldivian journalist who was forcibly disappeared in 2014. Her activism against religious fundamentalism and violent extremism has made her the target of death threats and government persecution, eventually leading to her relocation to Germany in 2019, where she was granted political asylum. During her fellowship, Ms. Ismail documented the story of MDN, its work, and its dissolution, as an illustration of how Maldivian democracy has been under attack by the forces of religious extremism.