In fear of reprisal, Gayoom's daughter defends 'silence'

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's daughter Dhunya Maumoon had attracted intense ire and criticism after she failed to 'speak out' following the jailing of most of her family including her father following a crackdown on political rivals by her uncle and incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

During an interview with AVAS online's new Friday segment, the former foreign minister shed light on the fear of reprisal she was facing by her uncle's government.

Dhunya had resigned from her state minister's post, weeks after her father, brother and brother in law were arrested over the alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Dhunya who had been serving as the state health minister in her uncle's government resigned after she had publicly urged the authorities to release her father.

During the interview Dhunya detailed the fear and threat families of the jailed politicians had to endure, hailing the sacrifices made by them.

"Like so many families, I was also living in fear of reprisal. I knew if I came out too strongly in support of my family, I would become a target. Because my sister [Yumna Maumoon] was already bearing the brunt of the crackdown. My advice then may not have been well received by some. But I knew I must do what I can to protect my father and others as well. Because I knew the cost of what they were trying to achieve. I had warned my father and brother [Faris Maumoon] that they would be jailed. I told them what would happen," Dhunya explained.

Since her resignation from the government, the former foreign minister had used her contacts to pressure the international community in a bid to secure the release of her family.

"For example president Nasheed received a lot of international attention. But I told my father that he might not receive that kind of attention. Because his image is very different [to Nasheed] in the international community. So I told him who would come to his aid if any. I asked him to seriously consider it because I for one was really worried for him spending time in jail given his age. But my father's resolve was unshakable. He made his choice and went with it."

According to Dhunya, everyone faces fear differently and has their own way of finding courage in the face adversity.

"It might be hard to believe, but these last few months has not be exactly easy for me. But even when I say this I know there are a lot of families especially the ones who had led the opposition movement who have been forced to make huge sacrifices," Dhunya admitted.

Despite the criticism, Dhunya insisted that she had done everything possible - both publicly and in secret for her jailed family. She said many have questioned her reasons for doing so.

"A lot of people asked me why I haven't spoken out or come out in defence of my family. My answer is quite simple. It was because of what was unfolding before our very eyes. Innocent people were being jailed. So many people chose to remain silent to protect their children and livelihoods. Because we saw what was happening to the people who had refused to remain silence," she explained.

"When faced with that truth, I realized that I had responsibilities of my own. For my children, for my family and especially for my husband. So that's why I decided to take a step back. But I always stood firmly behind my family. My mother, sister and brother will testify to that. I was supporting them in every way I could. But I too was feeling the same pain."

Dhunya had left the country before last month's presidential elections revealing that she had feared that she might not be able to return home. She admitted that she had to ensure the grim reality that she may never be able to meet her family.

"But I knew the only way I can help my father and family was from abroad. Because if I had stayed my voice would be silenced. I would not be carry the struggles of my family to the international community. I was in constant fear. Especially on the day of the elections," Dhunya said.

She said her mother, Nasreena Ibrahim coming out in support of the opposition alliance presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih - a day before the elections had intensified her fears.

I honestly feared for my mother and the fate of the remaining members of my family.

"But by the grace of God everything turned out well. And I thank God for that. I would like to thank everyone who had supported and assisted my family especially my father and brother."

Dhunya had hit-back at her critics pointing out that judging someone without finding out or knowing the truth was becoming far too common in the country.

As the first order of business, Dhunya said the new government must find a way to unite the country expressing hope the the president elect would be to achieve that where his predecessors had failed.