Amal Clooney on the Maldives: Tourists don’t know ‘there’s a flogging taking place’ nearby as they sunbathe

Amal Clooney’s debut network-TV interview was aimed at bringing attention to political atrocities happening in the Maldives, but of course her marriage to actor-activist George Clooney and her attendant celebrity status found their way into the mix.

The newly minted style icon, however, managed to flip the fluffier aspects of the sit-down into a working message on the unique opportunity celebrities have to make a difference in humanitarian causes.

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“I think it’s wonderful celebrities would choose to spend their time or energy or the spotlight that they have to raise awareness about these causes. I don’t really see myself in the same way because I’m still doing the same job that I used to do before. So if there’s more attention paid, for whatever reason, to that, then I think that’s good,” the 37-year-old human-rights attorney told NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden.


“I think there is a certain responsibility that comes with that,” Clooney said. “I think I’m exercising it in an appropriate manner by continuing to do this kind of work and engaging with the media on issues that I think are important.”

The Oxford grad, who married the Oscar-winning Hollywood bachelor in 2014, was in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other members of Congress about political repression in honeymoon hot spot the Maldives, particularly calling attention to her client, former President Mohamed Nasheed.

She said democracy and U.S. values are at stake there.

“Democracy is dead in the Maldives,” said Clooney, who has been doing human-rights work for 15 years. “I mean, literally, if there were an election now there would be no one to run against the president. Every opposition leader is either behind bars or being pursued by the government through the courts.”


Nasheed, a government critic who became the Maldives’ first democratically elected leader, was ousted and sentenced to 13 years in jail after serving as the island-nation’s president for three years. The move was criticized by the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, and Clooney this week won support for the introduction of a congressional resolution calling for sanctions against members of the country’s current regime until Nasheed is freed, NBC News said.

“I think it’s important for tourists to know the facts of what’s happening in the Maldives. I don’t think people realize that there’s a flogging taking place a kilometer away when they’re sunbathing in their resort,” Clooney said.

The British barrister, who recently launched a scholarship in her name for Lebanese girls, knows she has her work cut out for her, and she’s OK with that.

“If you are a lawyer and you want to take on easier cases, you can prosecute traffic violations or something,” she said. “You’d have a very high rate of success and you probably could sleep more easily at night. But that’s not what drives me. I want to work on cases that I feel the most passionate about.”


Follow me on Twitter @NardineSaad.