Ten years ago, Saleem (Saleembe) from G.Dh Fiori was working as a taxi pickup driver in Male’ city. He was carrying a passenger, going about his business without a care in the world, when all of a sudden, a large Kathivalhi (a type of large knife used commonly in the Maldives) that was stuck under his chin brought him back to reality.
The kathivalhi is usually used for hacking down coconuts and other tough activities. It could easily and painfully sever a limb. The large knife was being held against Saleembe’s throat by none other than his passenger. He was demanding all the money that Saleembe had on him. Saleembe was saved on that day only because he submitted to the orders of his robber.
This true incident sheds a small light on the numerous dangers faced by taxi drivers on an almost daily basis. Saleembe is not the only one with such stories to tell. The list of such incidents is endless. Out of all these incidents, only a few reach the public’s ears. This all changed after a gruesome murder carried out in Hulhumale’ on December 4, 2019.
Qasim Hassan, a 59-year old taxi driver from A.Dh Maamigili was found stabbed fatally in a not so traveled road of Hulhumale’. The attack certainly captured the attention of the country. Why? because this was not your everyday murder that the country is subjected to now and then.
Qasim’s death affected his fellow drivers more than the general public. Because none of them could think of any reason why anyone would cruelly attack the quiet and reserved Qasim. While there are a lot of unanswered questions regarding the murder, local taxi drivers are in a fit of shock and fear.
Qasim was found around 21:07 with deep stab wounds and was taken to the hospital 15 minutes later. His taxi was still in the area. It had collided into a lamp post on the side of the road following the altercation that saw Qasim stabbed.
Since the amount of blood inside the car was so much, it can be fairly certain that Qasim was attacked inside the car, most likely from the passenger seat, since there was blood on the front left seat and windows as well, according to Police. Qasim had a deep wound to the left side of his neck and wounds to his hands as well. It is known that Qasim managed to run away from the attack but only so far before he collapsed. He was found on the ground around 20-feet from his car.
Taxi drivers left speechless after the murder had a lot to say on the threats and troubles, they face every day. They face the fear of being robbed at any time anywhere during their work.
“I also faced such a situation a while ago. A passenger in my car threatened me with a knife. I complied with him for my safety. What choice did I have? I gave him my watch, phone and all the money I had at the time. The only thing I had on me was a magnetic metal bracelet.” said a taxi driver.
Qasim’s death was followed by a group of people damaging a taxi of Cabmv, which provides taxi services. Cabmv expressed concern at the incident, however, the driver of the car refused to say anything regarding the incident. This was just a day after the murder of Qasim.
Another such incident that occurred recently, happened on Alikilegefaanu Magu in Male’ city. Two people on a motorcycle vandalized a taxi and attacked the driver of the car. The incident happened around 16:30. The men caused several dents on the car before attacking the driver and seriously injuring his eye.
The men who committed the attack escaped from this act without any fear of being caught. This was done on one of the busiest streets in the middle of the most densely populated city in the world during the busiest hours. The men have still not been found by the authorities.
A lot of taxi drivers that spoke to “Sun” had the same complaint of there being no justice for the people that commit such crimes. Their faces are dejected and full of sorrow when they have to concede that there is no way of saving themselves from the harassments and dangers caused to them while on the job.
“Motorcyclists want to overtake even if there is a space of a hair. When they collide with the car after attempting and failing at this, they yell things at us. They even hit the windows and doors of the car sometimes. Or they would collide with the side view mirrors of the car.” said a driver.
These incidents are mostly encountered with youths, according to the drivers. If they say something in defense, these drivers are threatened with their lives. These threats have led the drivers to ignore these incidents for fear.
“We called the police regarding the incident (murder of Qasim). They told us that since it was a matter under investigation, they couldn’t reveal anything. We also receive several complaints of harassment and threats. We are still monitoring the driver who was attacked in Alikilegefaanu Magu. We have nothing from Police regarding the matter except that it is under investigation.” said Abdulla Ibrahim, the President of the Taxi Driver’s Association.
Police received around 459 cases of robbery and mugging so far in 2019, however, the types of these incidents are usually not available from the police website. When contacted for the information on incidents reported by taxi drivers, Police informed that it would take a few days to gather the information of cases received from taxi drivers.
The biggest worry for these drivers is the lack of justice. That is also their most important request. They are not sure which of them will be next to face a fate such as Qasim. Police have not yet arrested anyone for the murder, however, a massive operation to check motorists traveling between Male’ and Hulhumale’ have been commenced.
Not just taxi drivers, the whole country is waiting for an answer.