Shahindha Ismail

Activist Type
Civil Rights

Shahindha Ismail is a Maldivian activist working to protect human rights in the still-developing and tumultuous democracy being established in the Maldives. Ismail is the founder and Executive Director of the Maldivian Democracy Network, the first and longest-running NGO in the country. This non-profit aims to protect the rights and freedoms of Maldivians, who have witnessed decades of political turmoil as the country has transitioned from a British colony to an independent republic. Through her organization, Shahindaha campaigns for government transparency, free speech, and upholding the Constitution of the Maldives. In December of 2017, Ismail tweeted a statement in response to then-President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who made public comments ensuring that Islam would be the only practiced religion in the Maldives. In her tweet, she supported Maldivians’ right to practice the religion of their choice. As a result, Ismail was publicly denounced by several local news outlets, many of which labeled her an apostate. Shortly after, the police began an investigation of Ismail as a form of intimidation, keen on derailing her humanitarian pursuits. Despite the persecution she has faced, Ismail has stood by her comments. He continues to advocate for freedom of religion in the face of fundamentalism, along with democratic and basic human rights for all Maldivians.

Artwork by
Katie King Rumford

This portrait of Shahindha Ismail was inspired by the thundukunaa traditional mats from the Maldives. The mats are created by women in a tradition that is handed down from generation to generation. They use a reed specific to the island nation, which are dried in the sun, dyed with natural colors found on the island and handwoven on a loom.


Maldives Flag
July 26, 1965
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