Mohamed Nasheed was elected president on 28 October 2008, defeating incumbent President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives from 1978-2008. Arrested, imprisoned and tortured in the Maldives on numerous occasions for his political activities, Nasheed is widely credited for playing an instrumental part in bringing freedom and democracy to the Maldives.
On 7 February 2012, democratic progress in the Maldives suffered a major setback when Nasheed was forced to resign the presidency under the threat of violence, in a coup d'etat perpetrated by security forces loyal to Gayoom.
Nasheed was born in Male, Republic of Maldives, on 17 May 1967. He attended Majeediyya School, Male between 1971-1981, the Overseas School in Colombo in 1981, and The Dauntsey's School in England between 1982-1984. Nasheed remained in the UK for his higher education, graduating from Liverpool University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts in Maritime Studies.
Nasheed's early political career was dominated by his non-violent struggle for democracy in the Maldives. In 1990, he helped establish Sangu, a political magazine that scrutinized the ruling political class. Within its first year, the government banned the publication, and Nasheed was arrested and jailed for the first of many times. In 1991, Amnesty International declared Nasheed a 'prisoner of conscience'.
In 1999, Nasheed was elected MP for Male but was stripped of his seat soon afterwards and jailed once again. He spent 18 months in jail, including long periods in solitary confinement.
On 20 September 2003, the Maldives was rocked by political unrest when hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Male after hearing of the murder of Evan Naseem, an imprisoned youth who was tortured to death by Maafushi Jail guards. Sensing an underlying current for change, Nasheed fled the Maldives and, on 10 November 2004, co-founded the country's first opposition party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), in exile in Sri Lanka.
In 2004, Nasheed was granted refugee status by the British government and granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. After spending 18 months in self-imposed exile, Nasheed returned to the Maldives on 30 April 2005 to establish the MDP in the Maldives, defying a government edict banning political parties. The government overturned its ban on political parties on 2 June 2005, and Nasheed was elected Chairperson of the MDP on 20 December 2005.
Between 2005-2008, Nasheed initiated a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience in the Maldives, to pressure the government to speed up the implementation of democratic reforms. He was arrested in August 2005 during a non-violent protest and accused of 'terrorism,' a charge that the government later dropped.
In April 2008, Nasheed won the MDP primaries to become the MDP's candidate for President.
President Nasheed won the 2009 Anna Lindh Prize, in recognition of his work promoting human rights, democracy and environmental protection. In September 2009, Time Magazine declared President Nasheed a 'Hero of the Environment'. In April 2010, the United Nations presented Nasheed with its 'Champions of the Earth' environment award. In August 2010, Newsweek named President Nasheed in its list of 'World's Ten Best Leaders'. In 2012, The Island President, a documentary feature film about Nasheed, was released in theatres worldwide.