101 East

Maldives: Trouble In Paradise

101 East investigates why young men leave the tourist paradise of the Maldives to take up arms in Syria.

Munsi was 28 years old when he left his home in the Maldives.

He told relatives he was going to Sri Lanka.

But when he phoned his mother, Riffath Ahmed Didi, he was calling from a battlefield in Syria.

“I asked him, ‘Why did you leave your mother and go there?'” she says.

It is a question many in the Maldives are struggling to answer, as young men leave to join armed groups.

With its sandy beaches and turquoise waters, the Maldives is a magnet for tourists from around the globe.

But some young Maldivians say the postcard images are far removed from their daily lives.

They speak about a sense of hopelessness, as they struggle to find work. Some become addicted to drugs, making them an easy target for groups like Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).

A 24-year-old former drug addict says he has been approached by recruiters.

“They know we are broken and we are trying to find a way to get out of something that has been kind of destroying our lives,” he says.

Some of his friends who were enticed to go to Syria died fighting for ISIL, he says.

“For foreigners, Maldives is a paradise. But for us, the ones who live here, especially the ones who live in Male, we don’t get the white sandy beaches or any of that. What we get is a concrete jungle where there are so many problems.”

101 East goes beyond the postcard images of the Maldives to expose this archipelago’s dark reality.

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