I came upon the book The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World by Jay Bahadur and I have to say, it was very interesting. Yes, it is a book that gets behind-the-scenes with those modern-day pirates highlighted in the recent movie, Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks. This book takes a very different approach in showing who they are than is possible in a movie that needs to be packed with action.

Bahadur got inside the world of these pirates. He lived with them. He interviewed them. He chewed Khat (a plant with an amphetamine-like stimulant released by chewing.) It is a fascinating look at the modern scourge of the seas. The idea that just out of journalism school, the young Bahadur goes and lives with these dangerous people is ballsy to say the least.

What he discovers and explains in the book is that yes, they are becoming increasingly violent and dangerous people but he also explores the origins of this behavior. The facts that international companies strip the areas off the coast of Somalia of their fish and also dump huge amounts of toxic waste are part of the reason that Somali men have no other livelihood. The government is all but nonexistant and what is there, is corrupt.

According to the pirates, their piracy began as an attempt to curtail illegal fishing and protect their livelihoods. As illegal fishing boats began to arm themselves and fight back, the pirates instead moved to kidnapping from commercial boats in order to receive ransom. With very little else available for income, it attracted young men.

The response by the world governments has been to protect commercial interests and fight back against the pirates. This book touches a little on recent response but focuses more on the pirates themselves. It is a really good read.

by Chris Doelle


Also published on Medium.