Childhood & Early Life
Mamoon Abdul Gayoom was born December 29, 1937 to Abdul Gayoom Ibrahim and Khadheeja Moosa. His father had 125 children from 8 wives and Gayoom is the 11th child of his parents.
Gayoom spent a considerable part of his youth in Egypt as a part of the educational group sent by Mohamed Amin Didi under an educational scheme.
He had left for Egypt in 1947 but due to Arab-Israeli conflict in 1948-49, he had to stay in Ceylon where he enrolled at the Royal College, Colombo, and stayed for another two and half years till 1950.
In March 1950 he reached Egypt and joined the Galamuniyaa University for graduation. He passed out from college with flying colors in 1966. He also got trained in Arabic and English language, receiving a secondary level certificate for the later from the American University in Cairo.
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He shifted to Zaria, Nigeria post marriage in 1969 where he became a lecturer of Islamic studies at the Ahmadu Bello University. After fulfilling the contractual term of two years, he went back to Maldives.
While in Maldives, he worked as English, arithmetic and Islam teacher in the Aminiyya School during 1971 and later became the manager of the governmental shipping department in 1972.
Gayoom was tried in 1973 for criticizing the policies of President Ibrahim Nasir and sentenced to banishment for 4 years, but he was released within five months only due to an amnesty post Ibrahim Nasir’s re-election.
In 1974, he became under-secretary in the department of telecommunications and later became its director.
Gayyom was once again in trouble for criticizing Nasir in 1974, and this time he was imprisoned for 50 days in Male in the prison called the ‘China Garden’.
He went on to become the special undersecretary at the Prime Minister, Ahmed Zaki’s Office during late 1974. With the abolishment of the prime ministerial post, Gayoom became jobless but in 1975 he was appointed deputy ambassador of the Maldives to Srilanka.
During 1975, he was sent to the United Nations as a Maldivian delegate under the Foreign Ministry.
He served as the deputy minister of transport and later joined Ibrahim Nasir’s cabinet as the Minister of Transport from March 29, 1977 till November 10, 1978.
As per Nasir’s disinterest in contesting for re-election in 1978, the Citizen’s Majlis nominated Gayoom (with 27 votes) for the presidential candidature.
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He was elected President of the Maldives with 92.96% of the votes and the grand reception of his inauguration was held at the Majeediyaa School on November, 10, 1978.
Gayoom was also the Commander-in-Chief of the Maldivian armed forces, the Maldives National Defence Force on the grounds of the President of the Maldives being the the Head of Government as well as the Head of State.
Through a referendum, he was re-elected President for a second time on September 30, 1983 with 95.6% votes and a third time by 96.4% on September 23, 1988.
Being the only candidate nominated by the Citizen Majlis, he made a record by being re-elected even the fourth (October 1, 1993 by 92.76%), fifth (October, 16 by 90.9%) and finally the sixth time in a row in October 2003 with 90.28% of the votes.
His governance was without doubt autocratic as evident from the curbs he put on the freedom of expression.
Three attempts were made to overthrow his government in the 1980s.
He thwarted the third attempt to overthrow his government in 1988 with the help of Indian military.
He lost to Mohammed Nasheed in the first ever democratic presidential elections of Maldives in 2008 after serving as a President for six consecutive terms. He won the first round but failed to meet the prerequisite of the 50% majority for a clear win against his opponent, MDP's Mohamed Nasheed (54.25%).
Gayoom later became the leader of the opposition party, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge but retired from politics in January 2010.
Later he returned to politics in September, 2011 as a leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
Personal Life & Legacy
Gayoom got married on July 14, 1969 in Cairo to Nasreena Ibrahim from Maldives whom he met in Cairo. The couple had twin daughters and two sons (Dhunya, Yumna , Farish and Ghassan).
Gayoom had a narrow escape on January 8, 2008 when a twenty-year-old Mohamed Murshid attacked him with a knife in Hoarafushi. He was saved by a young boy scout, Mohamed Jaisham Ibrahim who sustained the attack with his hands and faced injuries.