The Dark Side to the Maldives
Think of the Maldives and what do you see? Turquoise blue waters, bright white sands, and luxury accommodation in the world's most unique location.
The Maldives is all of these things and more. It's reputation for being one of the most sought after honeymoon destinations is deserved, however, there is an emerging dark side to paradise and I am here to discuss what I know in this blog post.
A small disclaimer before I get into this post - everything you read in this article is from my own experience of speaking to several local Maldivians about what goes on outside of the resort islands. I will report only the facts and try to refrain from using my own opinion in this post.
A Breeding Ground For Terrorist Recruitment
Male, the Capital City in the Maldives is developing a fast reputation for being a haven for ISIS recruiters. According to Al Jazeera in October 2019, there is an "...increasing about of Maldivian men leaving the Maldives and heading to Syria to fight alongside terrorist groups such as ISIS and ISIL.". Maldivian people are attractive for recruiters due to their 'adaptability and hardiness' from living in such a remote part of the world.
The Maldives locals that I encountered on my trip all have one common attitude. They struggle for work and have a sense of hopelessness due to the isolation of the country. Wages are low, so saving money even for a trip to the Capital takes a long time, let alone the journey there which can take up to 12 hours or more, depending on which Atoll you start in. Because of this state of mind, a promise of a better life in Syria, may appear exciting and intriguing for islanders that may otherwise, never get the opportunity to leave the Maldives.
Hate preachers are also rife in the Maldives. There are licensed Imam's that visit the local residential islands at least once a month for a formal religious evening. However, even though the Imam's hold a religious license from the Maldivian Government, the religious meetings are not vetted nor regulated. This allows Imam's to preach whatever they may believe and spread hate amongst the local islands easily.
Maldives Emerging As a Hub For Drug Trade
On arrival into Male airport, there are signs up all over prohibiting anti-Muslim products, firearms, weapons, alcohol and drugs. This may lead the average tourist to believe that the Maldives is free of such items in the country - but this is far from the truth.
According to research conducted by the National Drug Use Survey in 2013, there were 7,500 reported drug users in the Maldives. Bearing in mind this is a country with only a small population, 350,000, and the majority of people taking drugs were found to be between the age of 15-24.
It is said that the country's drug crisis has increased since the introduction of WiFi and smart phones to it's population. This exposure to life outside of the Maldives is reported to have correlated with the increase in drug abuse within it's islands.
The strategic location of the Maldives Islands are also a large contribution to the movement of drugs in the area. Western smugglers use the Maldives as a change over point for transportation of drugs into Southeast Asia and afar. According to the Maldivian Policing department, there are now "...more active patrolling in and around the Islands" in order to be able to crack down on the increasing drug abuse.
Politics has been a sore subject to the Maldives for some time over the last decade.
The predecessor of the current President, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (Nov 2018), named Abulla Yameen lost the re-election and voluntarily resigned to stall an escalation of violence, and was placed in jail before being forced into exile. This ignited his supporters into a rage and thus created unsettlement amongst the Maldivian population.
More recently, there has been protests in the country's capital Male in regards to a publication from a political party for which it's contents allegedly offended Islam. The report was published in 2016 and since there have been protests (the last one was on 28th October 2019) to get this publication banned and further, ban the political party that created the document.
Further back in this decade in 2011-2012 there was a major political crisis which caused unrest amongst the residents. The cause was due to an economic recession, low wages and the rise of extremist Islamic ideology.
With all this being said, The Maldives is totally one of my favourites places I've visited. This post is not to cause distress or put people off visiting such a paradise but just to draw attention to the real side of a place that is so secluded.
If or when you visit the Maldives, speak to the locals and ask them about their life in these islands, it might just be a little eye-opener!
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