The Maldives, where the president has declared a state of emergency after a showdown with the Supreme Court, is a tourist micro-state of the Indian Ocean, threatened by global warming because of its low altitude.
The Maldives was steered with an iron fist for 30 years by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, president from 1978 to 2008.
In 2008, opponent Mohamed Nasheed, a human rights activist who has been jailed several times, is the first democratically elected president after the introduction of multiparty politics.
Forced to resign in 2012 by a rebellion of the security apparatus, he is then beaten in a controversial election by Abdulla Yameen, half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. In 2015, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for “terrorism”. He is then defended by the famous lawyer Amal Clooney. On medical leave in 2016, he applies for asylum in the United Kingdom.
Maldives is one of the smallest member states of the UN. The population was 340,000 at the time of the last census, while the World Bank estimated at about 417,000 in 2016. Located in the Indian Ocean, southwest Sri Lanka, they consist of 26 people. atolls, cut into 1192 islands (including 200 inhabited), scattered over 800 kilometers along the equator. They are home to about 3% of coral reefs in the world.
Tourism is the main resource of the country, reaching nearly 41% of GDP in 2016 and providing nearly 20% of jobs, according to the World Council of Tourism and Travel.
This destination, known for its idyllic beaches of white sand and turquoise blue sea, attracted 1.28 million tourists in 2016 according to the World Tourism Organization. It is particularly popular for honeymooners, such as comedians Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in 2006.
GNP per capita has increased by more than 200% between 1990 and 2015 according to the World Bank, but the country is highly leveraged.
The Maldives is one of the most vulnerable countries to global warming, with 80% of the land located less than one meter above sea level.
In 2009, President Mohamed Nasheed even organized a submarine council of ministers to raise awareness of this danger, and he warned that the inhabitants of the archipelago could become “climate refugees”.
The 2004 tsunami killed about 100 people and disappeared in the Maldives.
Former Buddhist country turned Muslim
Portuguese explorers occupied the island of Male (current capital) in the 16th century. Then two protectorates followed one another, Dutch and British. The Maldivian Sultanate became independent in 1965.
The country has long practiced moderate Islam, but more radical interpretations have spread with an influx of money and Salafist preachers from the Middle East.
Sunni Islam is the state religion, any other religion is outlawed. Alcohol is prohibited, only available in hotels reserved for tourists. Homosexuality is illegal. Women convicted of extramarital relationships may be whipped.
The Maldives left the Commonwealth in 2016, due to criticism of the organization on human rights in the archipelago.
Earlier this year, the United States warned of possible terrorist attacks. About 60 nationals of the archipelago traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with jihadists and some may have returned.