In a candid admission, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih addressed members of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) during his re-election campaign in Shaviyani Atoll, shedding light on the escalating issue of religious extremism in the Maldives. President Solih revealed that his government acknowledged the existence of extremist elements within the country, a stark departure from previous administrations that denied their presence.
During his address in Komandoo island, President Solih disclosed alarming statistics, stating that over 100 Maldivians had joined Syria’s civil war by 2018, with more than 70 losing their lives in the conflict. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, President Solih announced a plan to bring back all Maldivians stranded in Syria by the end of the following month.
“By the end of August, we will complete the evacuation of [Maldivian] children and women in Syria,” President Solih declared, highlighting the need for immediate action to ensure the safe return of vulnerable individuals who have been caught in the midst of a volatile conflict. He expressed his commitment to addressing this pressing issue, emphasizing the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens and uphold their human rights.
The gravity of the situation was further underscored by the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and the protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms. The UN representative called for urgent measures to bring back Maldivians stranded in conflict zones, emphasizing the need for swift action to ensure their well-being and safety.
One family, consisting of a 33-year-old woman and her four underage children, had already been brought back to the Maldives in March of the previous year. However, they were placed in administrative detention at the National Reintegration Centre. The president’s pledge to evacuate all Maldivians stranded in Syria reflects a commitment to providing appropriate support and rehabilitation for those affected by the conflict.
President Solih’s candid acknowledgment of rising religious extremism within the Maldives is a departure from the past, indicating a government that is willing to confront the issue head-on. In his address, he emphasized the importance of presenting the true essence of Islam and countering the distorted interpretations that fuel extremism.
As the president’s re-election campaign gains momentum, addressing religious extremism has become a key priority. President Solih’s promise to evacuate and support Maldivians stranded in Syria is a crucial step toward curbing the influence of radical ideologies and ensuring the security and well-being of the nation’s citizens.
With the government’s commitment to combating religious extremism and its pledge to bring back Maldivians stranded in Syria, the hope is that this decisive action will serve as a catalyst for broader efforts to address the root causes of extremism within the Maldives.