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The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden Worldby Jay Bahadur
With continued civil and political unrest and a recent, unusually severe drought forcing food shortages and pandemic starvation, Somalia is a country with a complex history and an uncertain future. That makes Jay Bahadur's account of the infamous pirates that patrol the nearby waters especially significant. Bahadur gained unprecedented access to the men (many of whom had been trained by the government in a series of failed attempts to create a national coast guard) and paints a vivid and poignant picture of their daily reality of desperation and survival. At once shocking and humane, The Pirates of Somalia will open your eyes to the other side of the news story.
Synopses & Reviews
Somalia, on the tip of the Horn of Africa, has been inhabited as far back as 9,000 BC. Its history is as rich as the country is old. Caught up in a decades-long civil war, Somalia, along with Iraq and Afghanistan, has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Getting there from North America is a forty-five-hour, five-flight voyage through Frankfurt, Dubai, Djibouti, Bossaso (on the Gulf of Aden), and, finally, Galkayo. Somalia is a place where a government has been built out of anarchy.
For centuries, stories of pirates have captured imaginations around the world. The recent bands of daring, ragtag pirates off the coast of Somalia, hijacking multimillion-dollar tankers owned by international shipping conglomerates, have brought the scourge of piracy into the modern era.
The capture of the American-crewed cargo ship Maersk Alabama in April 2009, the first United States ship to be hijacked in almost two centuries, catapulted the Somali pirates onto prime-time news. Then, with the horrific killing by Somali pirates of four Americans, two of whom had built their dream yacht and were sailing around the world ("And now on to: Angkor Wat! And Burma!" they had written to friends), the United States Navy, Special Operation Forces, FBI, Justice Department, and the world's military forces were put on notice: the Somali seas were now the most perilous in the world.
Jay Bahadur, a journalist who dared to make his way into the remote pirate havens of Africa's easternmost country and spend months infiltrating their lives, gives us the first close-up look at the hidden world of the pirates of war-ravaged Somalia.
Bahadur's riveting narrative expose — the first ever — looks at who these men are, how they live, the forces that created piracy in Somalia, how the pirates spend the ransom money, how they deal with their hostages. Bahadur makes sense of the complex and fraught regional politics, the history of Somalia and the self-governing region of Puntland (an autonomous region in northeast Somalia), and the various catastrophic occurrences that have shaped their pirate destinies. The book looks at how the unrecognized mini-state of Puntland is dealing with the rise — and increasing sophistication — of piracy and how, through legal and military action, other nations, international shippers, the United Nations, and various international bodies are attempting to cope with the present danger and growing pirate crisis.
A revelation of a world at the epicenter of political and natural disaster.
"The inner workings of the world of Somali pirates are astutely explored by Bahadur, a journalist who embedded himself among them to detail how 'a level of international naval cooperation unprecedented in human history has been unable to stop a motley assortment of half-starved brigands armed with aging assault rifles and the odd grenade launcher.' It's an engaging account, full of solid analysis about the collapse of Somalia and the tight-knit clan and subclan networks that keep a failed state from dissolving into complete anarchy while fostering conditions ideally suited to ocean-going criminality. Few other economic options exist for young men along this harsh coastline, largely because of abusive fishing practices by foreign trawler fleets. The institutionalization of these hijackings has created an economic order among the pirates not unlike other forms of organized crime. Coupled with the widespread addiction to the narcotic herb khat, conditions for wiping out piracy may be impossible to achieve. Still Bahadur's interviews with the pirates reveal that they rarely relish criminality; it's genuine desperation that motivates them. What's especially impressive (aside from Bahadur's sheer nerve in insinuating himself among these dangerous men in a lawless corner of the world) is the amassing of multiple perspectives — of pirates and policymakers — that support a rich, suspenseful account. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A rare inside look...a nicely crafted, revealing report." Kirkus Reviews
"An insightful report...revelatory journalism and astute analysis of causes and solutions that prove far more informative than any TV footage about the contemporary piracy problem." Booklist
About the Author
Jay Bahadur was born in Toronto and graduated from the University of Toronto in 2007, earning an Honors B.A. in Political Science, Economics, and History. His articles have been published in London's the Times and the Globe and Mail. He lives in Toronto.
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