Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights has urged the Maldivian government to bring back Maldivian women and children from the Al Hol and Roj camps in Syria and other conflict areas.
Maldives, like many other countries across the world, is grappling with what to do about radical citizens who went to fight for global Islamist groups in some of the most dangerous war zones like Syria. Governments are also dealing with the question of children being born to women who were radicalized and served as sex slaves in Islamist camps.
To tackle the issue of children born to their nationals in war zones, the Maldivian government formalized regulations in January 2022 for the registration of such children. Maldivian law says that the children born to fighters and others in conflict zones have to be registered before their return to the country. The country has also set up systems for de-radicalization and welfare of these children.
Special Rapporteur Aolain said children born in war zones were living in horrific conditions. “These children are victims of terrorism and must be treated with dignity and respect and returned to the Maldives without stigma to live normal and productive lives”, she said, adding that the UN would support the Maldives government in this effort.
Maldives had recently brought back a family of four–a mother and three children, two of whom were born in a foreign war zone.
Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed stated that 423 Maldivians had attempted to join terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq, of which 173 managed to enter the war zones. He added that before the Syrian civil war, hundreds of local extremists had traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight in the religious war. Some of the Af-Pak returnees were found to have been radicalizing the local people after their return to the Maldives.
The police chief also mentioned the terror attacks that had been foiled, saying that the previous government had downplayed the issue of radicalization and Maldivians traveling to foreign lands for jihad.
Maldives has been dealing with the increasing radicalization of its people due to foreign influences. It is also witnessing sporadic incidents of violence, including one in which current Speaker and former President Mohamed Nasheed was attacked on 6 May 2021.