Post education, Nasheed went back to Maldives in 1990 and started working as an assistant editor of the political magazine, Sangu.
Nasheed faced imprisonment in 1991 for an article published in Sangu that defamed the autocratic governance of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Sustaining all the physical and mental torture, he earned himself the title of Amnesty International prisoner of conscience.
In 1992, the government charged him of hiding information about a bombing plot and he was sentenced to three years in prison on that charge. He was, however, released in 1993 but again arrested in 1994 and 1995.
In 1996 he was arrested and imprisoned again for his article that he had written about 1993 and 1994 Maldivian elections.
He utilized his imprisonment years in reading and writing, and produced a few books on Maldivian history.
In 1999, Nasheed became a Member of the Parliament representing Male but was forced to quit on account of some false theft charges.
In 2003, wrongful death of a 19-year-old prisoner Hassan Evan Naseem was followed by prison riots, which were brutally suppressed and that led to anti-government civil unrest. It resulted into the first State of Emergency in Maldives.
Nasheed spent the next two years in Sri Lanka and the UK along with Mohamed Latheef to form the Maldivian Democratic Party (November 2003).
Tthe British government declared him as a political immigrant in 2004 and he came back to Male in April 2005.
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On returning to Maldives, he concentrated his energy in promoting the MDP, which was finally declared legal in June, 2005.
Commemorating the second anniversary of Black Friday at the Republican Square, he was arrested again on August 12th 2005 and accused of terrorism under the Terrorism Act. This led to another civil unrest in Male.
The disturbed political atmosphere led to the weakening of Gayoom’s governance and the first presidential election was announced to be held in October 2008.
In the 2008 President election, Nasheed ran for the post on an MDP ticket along with Mohammed Waheed Hassan (Gaumee Itthihaad) for Vice-President.
After losing the first round to the President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom with 24.91% votes, the second round won him the support of many failed candidates of the first round such as Dr. Hassan Saeed (Gaumee Itthihaad), Sheih Hussain Rasheed (Adhaalath Party, Islamic Party), Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik (Gaumee Itthihaad) and he won against Gayoom with 54 percent of the vote.
On November 11, 2008, Nasheed was sworn as the President and Waheed as the Vice-President of the Maldives.
President Nasheed’s cabinet comprised of 14 members including people from the “Watan Edhey” coalition too. He is credited with the formation of the first Islamic Ministry in Maldives.
Just four months from the time of cabinet formation, the number of resignations rose steadily and later the main coalition party, Adhaalath Party also left the government, leaving the cabinet only with the ruling party ministers.
Within a year into the government, cabinet members belonging to other political parties in the coalition began to resign alleging lack of respect for transparency and the constitution. The opposition parties were also not happy that the Nasheed government had exempted spas and resort islands from the laws that prohibited alcohol and pork products elsewhere in the Maldives.
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The opposition formed an alliance (Madhanee Ithihaad) in December 2011. This alliance included all the parties that had supported the President in his 2008 presidential race. On 23 December, the opposition organized large scale protests against Nasheed and his government in Male.
On January 16, 2012, Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed was arrested on charges of obstruction of police duty by members of the Maldives National Defense Force. The arrest of Abdulla Mohamed made the situation volatile and helped the opposition parties' protests gain momentum.
Despite several orders from the the HRCM, the Judicial Services Commission, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, and the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, the police did not release Abdulla.
The opposition’s protests continued for 22 consecutive days and the police refused to use force to disperse the protestors and ultimately joined the protest on February, 6, 2012.
This resulted into an open confrontation between the Maldives National Defense Force and the protestors and that led to the resignation of President Nasheed on 7 February, 2012. Nasheed later said he was forced to resign but the Maldives' Commission of National Inquiry, which was appointed to investigate the issue, said that there was no evidence to support Nasheed's version of events.
In March 2015, he was convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Act of Maldives and sentenced to 13 years.
Awards & Achievements
Under Nasheed’s government, free healthcare services and a basic pension scheme for the elderly was introduced for the citizens of Maldives.
His emphasis on the freedom to express as well as promoting various other liberties in order to free people of the controlled authoritarian way of living won him the hearts of the common man in Maldives.
His biggest contribution came in the form of developing a transportation system that made commutation convenient amongst the islands spread across 90000 square km of the Indian Ocean.
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He is credited with ending the autocracy of Maumoon Gayoom and to make way for a democratically elected government. Nasheed went on to become the first democratically elected President of Maldives.
Special attention to environment has won him lots of accolades. His concern towards the rising sea levels and its effects on the Maldive Islands was clearly evident by his declaration to become a carbon–neutral nation by 2020. He emphasized on the use of wind and solar forms of energy.
‘The Island President’, a 2011 documentary film, focuses on the political as well as environmental activism of Nasheed as a President. It received the Cadillac People's Choice Documentary Award at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.
The first underwater cabinet meeting of the world was presided over by President Nasheed on 17 October 2009, off the island of Girifushi with the attendees in scuba diving gears.
The Climate Vulnerable Forum was also found by Nasheed in November, 2009 which is an association of the countries vulnerable to the climatic changes caused majorly due to global warming.
He was honored with Anna Lindh Award in 2009 for turning Maldives into a democratic nation.
He was honored by the Coral Cultivation Initiative Award by Huvafen Fushi Resort and Underwater Spa, Maldives, in May 2009 for his keen involvement in the farming of corals at the resort nursery.
Another award called the "Not Stupid" Award was given to him for channelizing efforts in making Maldives the world’s first carbon-neutral country in September 2009 during the premier of the film ‘The Age of Stupid’.
The Time Magazine placed him in the list of “Heroes of the Environment” in the ‘Leaders & Visionaries’ segment in 2009.
He received the United Nations' ‘Champions of the Earth Award’ in 2010, on the Earth Day.
The Foreign Policy magazine also placed him in the list of top global thinkers in 2010.
He has been honored with Grand Commander of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean (the highest distinct order of merit in the country) by the then Mauritian President Anerood Jugnauth during his visit to the Republic of Mauritius in March 2011.
For his commendable leadership in putting an end to autocracy in favor of democracy, he was given the James Lawson Award by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict at the Tufts University in Massachusetts in the United States on June 28, 2012.