Mass internet censorship in effect in the Maldives!

Ironic isn't it? Just a little over a week ago, the President of Maldives Mohamed Nasheed announced his intentions of making Maldives a sanctuary for dissenting writers from countries such as Burma. Now, a week later, Haveeru News reports that the Telecommunications Authority of Maldives has blocked 5 sites under orders from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs (MoIA).

Officially blocked

Here are the sites declared not-fit-for-public-consumption along with their approximate blocked date:
1. (29 Nov 2008, details)
2. (29 Nov 2008, details)
3. (29 Nov 2008, details)
4. (13 Mar 2009, details)
5. (15 Mar 2009, details)
6. (15 Mar 2009, details), and were apparently blocked for "promoting Christianity". The reason for blocking RaajjeIslam a few days ago is unknown and according to the media, the MoIA has not offered an explanation. As has been noted by Minivan News and Haveeru News, the website was blocked after they published an audio clip of Mohamed Shakeeb, an Imam at Shaviyani Atoll Foakaidhoo, claiming that he has been threatened by the State Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed. It is interesting to note that the material on the website seems to be ideologically similar to that advocated by the Adhaalath Party, who controls the MoIA, and tame compared to what can be seen at, say, There is no specific explanation given for The site was apparently blocked upon request from a "senior person" at the Feydhoo School. I seriously doubt the MoIA has the authorization to block any website under such flimsy pretense.

Mass censorship??

You might have noticed that I used "mass internet censorship" in the title of this post and here is why.

As you may already know, every human readable pretty domain name maps to an address called IP address. That is how computers find each other on a network and on the Internet. For example, the domain name for Dhiraagu is and their associated IP address is So when you type in, your computer looks up the IP address and tries to access the server computer at that IP address. But an IP address can be shared by many different domains on a single server and this is the standard practice amongst all web hosting services. The Dhiraagu IP address, for example, is shared by around 81 other sites including Bank of Maldives and Bandos Resort. If someone wanted to block, say, Bank of Maldives and placed a block on the IP address, then all the other 81 domain names would also be affected and their sites made inaccessible. Please note there doesn't necessarily have to be any relationship or connection between the sites that maybe hosted on a single IP.

Now consider the above mentioned blocked sites, their IP addresses and the number of sites it carries.

- ( --> 181
- ( --> 98
- ( --> 589
- ( --> 9
- (, --> 32

That means there would be a total 909 unintended victim sites that fell prey to the mindless blocking of just these few site IP addresses! This has been confirmed been both on Dhiraagu and ROL connections.

While running censorship checks, using lists of Maldivian blogs and websites, a few other websites got flagged as possible victims of MoIA instructed blocking or indirect victims of such blocking.
- (ROL only)
- (ROL only)
- (ROL only)
-, and are all hosted at the popular GoDaddy hosting service and happen to be all on the same server. The server is also host to 5553 other domains hence all those 5553 are under functional censorship as well. It is not clear whether this really is due to censorship of one these three websites (or possibly another I am not aware of) or due to a technical glitch. Given that these sites are accessible under Dhiraagu, it may well be due to a glitch at ROL but I thought it maybe worth mentioning here. (Update: 17/Mar/2009) I've been informed that ROL was indeed instructed to block that IP as well, meaning well over 6000 sites are currently effectively censored! and are hosted on the same server as and hence is blocked as well (or possibly has been blocked under instruction from MoIA).

I cannot stress enough the irresponsibility that goes with imposing such unrestricted IP based blocks. I suspect the blame for this mishap rests solely on TAM and the two ISPs.


The Maldivian blogosphere contains dozens of blogs from various individuals, Muslim and other belief positions alike, that do not subscribe to MoIA's views and are pretty vocal in letting their opposition and dissenting views be known. But by no means is dissent limited to personal websites only. The popular video sharing website Youtube contains many videos that promote Christianity in Dhivehi. There is also growing demand for the many thousands of articles, books, videos and lectures on the various theistic and nontheistic positions that are available online for easy reading for the English literate. One thing is clear for the future: Maldives is no longer a mostly homogeneous society where people think and believe the same thing, despite the continuing assertions by the government and the MoIA. Will MoIA continue to block websites, including those such as YouTube?

Breaking free

The Internet is a beast that is hard to tame and a blocked website is just a minor inconvenience at best.
RSS - All blocked blogs and websites with RSS feeds can be accessed using some of the many free web-based RSS readers.
Proxy - Using a proxy might be convenient and might be the best option if the site you are trying to access does not provide full RSS feeds. There are two ways to this: using a web-based proxy service or setting a proxy in your browser.
Tor - Tor is a freely downloadable software that uses a method called "onion routing" to bounce your traffic several times with different hosts on the internet before going to the final destination.


Perhaps it is too soon to raise alarm over the MoIA's tightening grip on the internet, perhaps it will be reversed soon. Either way, it is not too early to call for the establishment of clear guidelines and mechanisms for blocking websites, if the government really insists on continuing to stifle opinion. Letting anyone reign per their whims on the sole source of decent information available in the Maldives, to arbitrarily block websites and blackout large sections of the internet, does not seem very conducive towards the new government's promise of a free and democratic society.

Elsewhere on the Maldivian blogs...
- maldives: Maldives to become haven for dissident writers but plagued by censorship
- maldivesdissent: Maldives president blocks websites and crackowns on protests
- ithadu: How sensible is the Islamic Ministry?
- ithadu: From internet to intranet! Democracy?
- duwyduwy: Attack on bloggers
- chopey: Dr. Majeed, Please bless my blog
- majlissexstories - Internet banned
- Bits 'N' Bytes: I condemn internet censorship by Islamic Ministry in Maldives
- MaldivesHealth: In support of RandomReflections
- pizzahouse: A moment of silence...

Note: Big thanks to Hassan for all the help he provided in running the block checks on ROL and contributing to the mini-investigation. Also thanks to Nattu and Rhipha for the list of Maldivian websites and Millzero for confirming the blocks on Dhiraagu.

Geo-mapped visualization of political party member distribution in Male'

Here is a quick mashup I cooked up today, displaying the geographic distribution of political party membership on the map of Male' on Google Maps. To view the distribution for a party, open the link for the visualization, select the name of the political party from the drop-down menu at the top right. The addresses of members of that party will then be flagged with a little red marker. You will be able to zoom in-out, pan and do all those other things typically seen in Google Maps. Click a red marker to see more details about that address, like the number of people belonging to the selected party that are registered under that address.

The party membership information used for this is a snapshot of the data (taken 7 February 2009) published on the Members of Political Parties web portal by the Elections Commission. There were a total of 4,447 people belonging to 2,711 addresses in Male' listed in the Elections Commission data. Each party had membership numbers (given in brackets) in Male' as follows: Adhaalathu Party (175), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (261), Dhivehi Rahjeyn Fageerukan Nahthaalumah Masahkaikuraa Party (650), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (243), Gaumee Ih'thihaadh (592), Islamic Democratic Party (89), Jumhooree Party (246), Maldivian Democratic Party (507), Maldivian National Congress (386), Maldivian Social Democratic Party (25), Peoples Party (476), Peoples' Alliance (422) and Social Liberal Party (375). The maximum number of persons listed on a single address for a party was 12 and the average was 1 person per address (per party).

The geo-location information for the addresses was derived from the excellent services at and A total of 1,928 addresses were successfully mapped using these services, leaving a difference of 783 addresses which were then discarded. It is worth noting that of these addresses left out, 478 were just Dhaftharu numbers.

Please note that I neither claim nor guarantee the correctness or the completeness of any of the information used. That said, I did my best to ensure data integrity throughout the whole process of generating the visualizations.

- Click here to view the visualization

Adhaalathu Party
Snapshot: Adhaalathu Party

Dhivehi Qaumee Party
Snapshot: Dhivehi Qaumee Party

Dhivehi Rahjeyn Fageerukan Nahthaalumah Masahkaikuraa Party
Snapshot: Dhivehi Rahjeyn Fageerukan
Nahthaalumah Masahkaikuraa Party

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party
Snapshot: Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party

Gaumee Ih'thihaadh
Snapshot: Gaumee Ih'thihaadh

Islamic Democratic Party
Snapshot: Islamic Democratic Party

Jumhooree Party
Snapshot: Jumhooree Party

Maldivian Democratic Party
Snapshot: Maldivian Democratic Party

Maldivian National Congress
Snapshot: Maldivian National Congress

Maldivian Social Democratic Party
Snapshot: Maldivian Social Democratic Party

Peoples' Alliance
Snapshot: Peoples' Alliance

Peoples Party
Snapshot: Peoples Party

Social Liberal Party
Snapshot: Social Liberal Party

I am voting for change

Thanks to the recent arrangements to have a polling station here in the UK, I too now have the opportunity to have my say in the Maldivian Presidential Elections - for the very first time in my life. And for me, deciding on who to vote for in this round is a very very trivial matter - I am voting for change.

As a matter of fact, I've known I would not vote for Gayyoom ever since the two years I spent working at the President's Office (PO) six years ago. Being fresh out of school, much of the environment at PO - the cult-like demands for "loyalty" and regular "office meetings" where employees are made to sing songs praising the man (with lyrics written specifically for the occasion) - came on as a total shocker to me. By the time I left PO, having witnessed the various practices and policies enforced and encouraged, I was totally disillusioned by Gayyoom and Maldivian politics.

I am voting for change because I want to see an end to the growing national debt, care-free spending and wasteful expenditures and because I can't bear to see the growing disparity between the rich and the poor, the elite and the unprivileged and Male' and the atolls. I am voting for change because I've had it with the gangs, the drugs and the violence and because I want everyone to be able to live in peace with the rule of law upheld. I am voting for change because I believe in democratic values and because I support a free press. I am voting for change because I question the sincerity and the competence of Gayyoom to do these things and because 30 years of rule is 20 years longer than I can accept.

I am voting for change because I staunchly champion the celebration of diversity - of people and their thought - which I believe this country desperately needs and which I believe the Watah Edhey Gothah coalition represents. There, ofcourse, is no guarantee that this "change" will be any better but I'd rather give them the benefit of the doubt...

Phone usage (Maumoon, Political Parties, Government and Businesses)

I got curious today after reading Hilath's amusing post about an unsolicited SMS message he had received from a mobile phone number registered to DRP's presidential candidate Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Now, this is a time of intense political competition between the various candidates camps and an originating number on a SMS is pretty easy to spoof, so I'm not sure if it really did originate from the said number (though with the desperation reeking from DRP it seems very likely that it did :-P). But that's not what really struck me...

What got my attention was the fact that there now was a publicly listed mobile phone number registered to Maumoon. I've never before seen a mobile number registered to him listed on the Dhiraagu e-Directory and a quick search through various old snapshots of e-Directory data that I had confirmed that there indeed had been none - atleast none up until early June which was the last e-Directory snapshot I had. Anyway, I grabbed a fresh snapshot of the e-Directory and spent a little while running some interesting queries on the data.

Here is some of what I found:

Numbers listed on e-Directory:
Landline (Male')24423
Landline (Islands/Resorts)8750
Phones/Customer on Avg2.9

Political parties:
Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party92
Maldivian Democratic Party11
Social Liberal Party6
Adhaalath Party6
Islamic Democratic Party6
Jumhooree Party2
Peoples Party2

Registrants (Top 5):
Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun Pvt. Ltd.833
Maldives Police Services200
State Electric Company Ltd.191
Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital167
Maldives Customs Service164

Most common names (Top 5):
Mohamed Rasheed1273
Ibrahim Rasheed1250
Ahmed Rasheed1089
Ahmed Mohamed1088
Mohamed Ali1087

Government (Top 5):
Maldives Police Services200
Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital167
Maldives Customs Service164
Min. of Defence & National Security141
President's Office139

Ministries (Top 5):
Min. of Defence & National Security141
Min. of Atolls Development114
Min. of Health76
Min. of Finance & Treasury76
Min. of Environment Energy and Water67

Businesses (Top 5):
Villa Shipping & Trading Co. Pvt. Ltd.163
Universal Entp. Pvt. Ltd.156
One And Only Reethirah149
One & Only Kanuhura125
Kurumba Village124

And finally...

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

Note: The information presented was obtained using the entries on the Dhiraagu e-Directory (as available today).

The Sun rose from the West today

I woke up this morning to find in my email inbox a scan of a document titled "Miureekhah Hulhagun Iru Araifi" (translated: "The Sun rose from the West in Mars"), authored by someone operating under the name of "Abu Osama" and bearing the stamp of approval by the Islaamee Kathakaa Behey Mathee Majlis (pages 1 2 3). I assumed that it was just a chain-mail doing the rounds and went off to run a few errands only to return in the evening to find yet another email in my inbox - this time from a close buddy who had spotted the (same!) article appearing in today's issue of Haveeru Daily (view clipping). It was then that I realized that the document I read earlier was a serious piece of literature produced by someone, or some religious entity, as part of organised religious evangelism.

The document was shock full of factual errors and scientific errors that I just had to take it seriously - especially since these very "errors" acted as the basis for their evangelical argument. Could they have been so scientifically illiterate?! This whole story of the Sun rising from the West and the supposed evidence for it by events on Mars is just ludicrous. I'd laugh my belly off if I weren't so worried about the sheer lack of scientific understanding and the lack of skepticism. Anyway, I'd like to go over the document in question and set the science straight...

Claims in the document
The basic claim in the "Miureekhah Hulhagun Iru Araifi" article is that [1] the planet Mars had slowed down in its trek around the Sun, [2] came to a complete stop on 30th July 2005 and then [3] resumed its trek around the sun - [4] in the opposite direction - [5] in August/September 2005. The document attributes these observations to "Retrograde motion". The document also claims that [6] this encounter meant that the Sun had started to rise from the West on Mars instead of the usual East. It further claims that [7] the same would happen to Earth someday. They then interject a Hadith that claims the Sun rising from the West as being a sign that the end is near and that once it happens no one could repent or achieve salvation. The document also claims, on the authority of religious scholars, that [8] the Sun would rise in the West on Earth once only - for one day only - and things would continue as normal thereafter.

The document then uses these claims as a premise to attempt validate, justify and promote a number of Hadith regarding the end of the world and judgement day to call upon people to stay steadfast to Islam, to repent and to call upon non-believers to the faith.

The document then gives an invalid URL to an article on in an attempt to create a smokesreen to make it look more credible.

Analysis and Explanations
It is important to note that the article presents an incorrect definition of what a "Retrograde" really is. A planetary body is in retrograde motion when it moves in a direction dissimilar, i.e. opposite, to another planetary body within a system. The problem at hand deals with a specific type of retrograde motion that occurs when the motion of planets is viewed relative to the Earth - known as an Apparent Retrograde - and is applicable to all planets that lie beyond Earth in the Solar System: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Perhaps the best way to understand and help imagine the interactions betweens the planets involved in retrogrades is to watch the simulation available here. Run the simulation on that page and watch carefully how the movement of Earth and Mars in their own elliptical paths results in changes in what we see in the sky - with such amazing things as Mars apparently slowing down, stopping entirely, changing direction and then resuming as normal. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I tell you, this simulation is invaluable. It is important to recognize that these "Mars retrograde" events are cyclical events that occur once every 26 months and has been taking place since before the earliest humans.

- The article's false claim [1] thus acquires a whole new meaning - it is the apparent behaviour of Mars that we see that is actually slowing down and not Mars itself.
- The dates given in claims [2] and [5] are false - in the 2003 Mars retrograde, Mars reached the first stationary point on 30th July, went through the loop back and reversed direction after reaching the stationary point on 29 September. In the 2005 Mars retrograde, Mars reached the first stationary point around 1 October and went through the loopback till it reached the second stationary point on 10 December and reversed direction again. A nice sketch of the movement of Mars, including the key dates, for both these years is available here.
- As said before, even during a retrograde, despite how we perceive it, Mars never actually stops or moves in any special way other than its usual motion along the elliptic orbit around the sun - thus claims [2], [3] and [4] are false if taken in the literal sense.
- Since Mars never budges from its usual orbit path nor its usual rotation direction, unlike as claimed in [6], there never is even a moment of time that the Sun rises from the West in Mars. The Martian sunrise and sunsets continue as they have been doing for the billions of years it has been in existence.
- The article quite correctly quotes scientists as saying that the retrograde happens for all planets. But the quote is placed out of context amongst the article's drive toward making it seem that Mars switched directions and had the Sun rise from its West. Truth of the matter is that scientists are actually referring to the planets other than Mars that are also affected by Apparent Retrogrades - ie Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - and does not include Earth in it. However, since Apparent Retrogrades depend on the position of the viewer, Earth would also be subject to the sort of retrograde illusions as Mars if we were to observe things from Venus or Mercury and there'd come a time every year when Earth retrogrades and the entire Earth would seem to wobble a bit as it scurries backward and then forward again. But when talking with respect to Earth, claims [7] and [8] just fall flat.

It is worth noting that one of the main tasks of the article seems to be to suggest that this is a one off event that demands our immediate attention. However, this seems absurd a suggestion given that Mars retrogrades are cyclical events that have even been documented carefully by ancient Greeks and the Mayans and that a good part of humanity has known, predicted and observed it for centuries. What more, we are currently right in the middle of such a retrograde - Mars reached its first stationary point on 15 November 2007 and has been trekking through the loopback all of December and will continue to do so for the entire January till it reaches its second stationary point on 30 January 2008.

Scientifically, there's absolutely no reason to think that Earth will change its direction of rotation or direction of orbit around the sun - hence the direction of the Sun rise - EVER! The angular momentum of earth's current spin would keep the Earth turning the way it does now until opposing forces slow it down to a complete standstill - which happens to be millions of years away. The only scenario where the Earth MIGHT change its direction of rotation is if a there is a collision with a very (very!!) large foreign object such as a very large meteor and that too only under particular conditions that depend heavily on the location of impact and speed of the object - but this act would almost certainly wipe out every single living thing on Earth and so there'd be no point to this issue of Sun rising from West. Another occasion that might allow for the Sun to rise from West - if all you have is a compass - is if the Earth flips the polarity of its magnetic field. The Earth could and IS presently slowly changing its magnetic polarization - so if/when a polarity flip occurs, what is currently shown as "West" on a magnetic compass would then register as "East". But the cardinal directions are NOT defined by the Earth's magnetic field and the Sun would still continue to rise from the same direction it has always risen - the only thing that would have then changed would probably be the compasses to make up for the switch in pole polarity.

After thoughts
I hope the above deconstructs the myth/hoax published in Haveeru and popularised in Male'. It is sad to see that people, especially with the blessings of the Islaamee Kanthakaa Behey Mathee Majlis, engage in fear-mongering and scare tactics to psychologically intimidate people into religion. Surely there are more honest means than this?

Mars has been the subject of many other hoaxes recently and it seems to be able to consistently dupe a lot of people. It is easy to be duped and had for unless one practices healthy skepticism and read up. Meanwhile, go out and have a look at Mars shining bright in the sky - that's what I was doing with a telescope during the 2003 Mars retrograde when the red planet was supposed to be the closest to Earth it will be for years and years to come...

PS: By all means, feel free to send this article to your friends who've been taken in by the hoax.

Time lapse photograph of Mars in retrograde in 2005
Credit & Copyright: Tunc Tezel

UPDATE (25/01/2007): It seems the exact same hoax article was also disseminated by the Maldivian Islamic political party Adaalath Party on on their website. Sigh.

Maldives: Hell for expatriate workers?

I've watched for the past several years while the expatriate worker population in the Male' grew steadily as the "rich" Maldivians increasingly give up various jobs (going lazy?) and replaced it with imported labour from nearby countries. We have 100-US$-per-month foreign workers to dig up and pave roads, to clean up and maintain the sewerage system, to construct and maintain our buildings, to clean up the mess at home and office, to work as waiters and cooks at food outlets etc. The list goes on and it's not restricted to any particular sort of work or speciality. Heck, even the President's Office employs expats to clean up and water the plants that surround the building. No wonder we now have over 35,000 expatriate workers living amongst the 100,000 Maldivian heads in the 2 square kilometre island of Male'!

Sadly, the presence of such large numbers of expat works in our small communities has lead to a worrying situation on ground. One needs to look no further than the latest news headlines:
- Attacks against expatriates almost a daily occurrence
- Chained Bangladeshi man found inside Male house (see photo)
- Another shackled Bangladeshi expatriate found inside Male’ house
- Ten Maldivians arrested in Adhaaran resort after fight breaks out between locals, Bangladeshi man
- Bangladeshi murdered and mutilated 2 3
- Expatriate security guard in Villi-Male’ ATM booth attacked
- Teacher caught red-handed molesting 8-year-old
- Expatriate worker beat up after being suspected of raping island girl (in Dhivehi)

We (supposedly) once were a tolerant country, welcoming all sorts of people and treated them with due respect. But things have changed and for the worse. Notions of equality and humanity has been devalued to such an extent that xenophobia seems almost universal in the country and racism is building up like never before. As such, mistreatment of and disrespect for expats is a truth many are well aware of. People often treat the many unskilled/semi-skilled workers as "subhuman". I might be tempted to go as far as summarising the prevalent attitude as being a combination of viewing workers as non-tiring machines, incapable and devoid of emotion and feelings and their lives worth no more than a pet cat! They are given accommodation in tiny enclosures made of tin roofing and little ventilation with more workers packed into such places than sardines in a box. They are harassed on the streets and harassed at work. Too many a time do you see workers beg and cry themselves wet over salaries unpaid. Sometimes months would go by without the employer paying the workers their full wage (if at all!) - which the workers often send to their starving families back in their home country. Few regulations keep employers in check - facilitating them to overwork their employers through day and night and give little consideration to the health and safety of the employees. What more, when their "official" work ends, the workers are often made run personal errands and chores for their employer - they really are slaves to the whims and desires of their "master". I was shocked to find the word "owner" used in the popular local newspaper Haveeru, in reference to the employer of the recently murdered Bangladesh worker in Kulhudhuffushi! (Owner? Isn't that slave mentality??)

Such attitudes towards expat workers are often "justified" on the excuse that they come from societies that treat them even worse. They are deemed as too stupid and too gullible to understand the "modern life" Maldivians enjoy. This attitude is further strengthened thanks to miscommunication arising from expat workers not being able to speak neither Dhivehi nor English. But none, absolutely none, of these warrant sanctioning any of the ill-conditions and abuses expat workers are subjected to. I agree that expat workers do ill and do commit crimes. No one would or should deny that. But even that is not an excuse to not extend them some decency and treat them as humans with equal rights!?

Accomodation for expat workers made from tin roofing and about 5 feet high floors

Maldives says it's OK to rape 12 yr old girls post-puberty?!!

I skim through Maldivian news now and then and try sink in the madness going about these days but none, absolutely none, has left me as unsettled and enraged as the news regarding the recent ruling on the case of a 12 year old girl being sexually assaulted by a group of 4 axe-wielding men.

I just cannot imagine how a sane, responsible individual tasked with enforcing law, protecting the weak and upholding moral values in the capacity of a judge arrives at the conclusion: (that) a TWELVE YEAR OLD girl had CONSENSUAL sex with FOUR MEN who BROKE into her room by BREAKING a window with an AXE and proceeding to help themselves to the orifices on a helpless girl most probably scared shitless towards being deaf, mute and dumb and thus conclude that the men were INNOCENT of rape. What is perhaps even more frustrating is that the reasons cited for the ruling are pure nonsense that’d drive any rational, sensible person to the edges of sanity. One of the more disturbing reasons stated by the judge is that the girl had reached puberty - a statement that carries implicit consequences that she is to be considered adult and thus responsible for what happens. This argument, which supposedly is drawn from Islamic Sharia, declares a girl as adult when she reaches puberty irrespective of her age. The other reasons stated by the judge are no less fallacious – all of them more or less state that the girl did not object at any time during or after the event. Fortunately though, rape and abuse have been pretty well studied (elsewhere in the more educated, civilised world) and there are well documented typical reactions as shock, denial and shame that explain and may well be the real reason behind the girl’s actions.

What more, I found the english version of the (original) dhivehi news at Haveeru what seems to be an intentional deception in that it carefully avoided mentioning the details of the event - is this a purely a conspiracy conjecture or is this a just accusation? This is particularly worrying after all Haveeru claims honest reporting these days. The report at Minivan News fared better I guess...

Anyway, this ruling marks another sad day in our history... and life goes on.