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The student newspaper of, by, and for Ames High School.

The WEB

The student newspaper of, by, and for Ames High School.

The WEB

Somali pirates struggling to maintain in no-existent economy

Most people in the US are not familiar with the delicate complexities behind the recent wave of pirate attacks that have been flooding the news since 2008. We see these attacks from the viewpoint of people who have been taken hostage and the companies who pay for their safe return. We see foreign invaders breaking international laws. We see them as a marauding group of sea bandits, violent and disorganized and totally ruthless. What our news media fails to show is a long history of injustices committed against the people of Somalia. As far back as 1990, European companies have been exploiting the coasts of Somalia. Trawlers have been fishing illegally in their waters for years, destroying the livelihood of the locals. Muhammad Hussein told Johann Hari of the Independent, "If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters." Every year, European companies take $300 million worth of fish from Somalia’s Gulf of Aden. In addition to this, shocking discoveries were made in the wake of the 2005 Tsunami. It seems the massive waves that crashed into the coast brought tons upon tons of pollution to the surface, ranging from lead to mercury, even including nuclear waste. People all over Somalia are becoming sick, many with radiation poisoning. Over 300 have died so far. According to the Middle Eastern news network Al Jazeera, European companies have been paying the Italian Mafia to "dispose" of their hazardous wastes in this region to cut costs. So how does all this illicit but highly unsurprising European behavior tie into pirating? Well, it turns out that you can only do so much illegal fishing and toxic dumping before people start to get angry, and this is exactly what has happened. Soon, whenever a ship was spotted trying to carry out any harmful activities, the poor downtrodden fisherman got together all the guns they could find and sallied forth to meet the word please!. Naturally, they soon found that with all the boats, guns and free time they had because they could no longer make a profit fishing, there was a much greater profit in simply robbing the guys who were robbing them in the first place. Then came the piracy explosion. Somalia doesn’t have the greatest job market in the world. In fact, with an estimated GDP per capita of just $600, they have quite possibly the worst job market in the world . After the brilliant financial successes of the new found Somali pirates, men from other parts of the country began to swell their ranks. Today there are five surprisingly organized pirate clans operating in Somali waters, and their business is booming. In the past year alone they have made nearly $80 million. Now Europe and the UN are up in arms. An armada has been assembled to deal with pirates for the first time in 500 years. They do not seek to understand why Somalia is only country with a pirate problem. In all likelihood they already know. Instead, they opt for tried and true, shoot-first-and-then-go-home-without-asking-any-questions-or-even-trying-to-prevent-something-like-this-from-ever-happening-again-because-shooting-is-far-cheaper-than-actually-trying-to-fix-the-problem method. It’s a bold strategy, and there’s a chance it won’t end with the same disaster the world has seen time and time again. In the middle of all this are the people of Somalia, struggling to survive in one of the most overlooked humanitarian crises of our time. The pirates—as we call them—turn out to be the only ones with the interests of the Somali people in mind. It’s true that they have in a sense strayed from their original motives, or at least some of them have. Hijackings have increased exponentially, and they have branched out to include merchants vessels who are not responsible for any dumping or fishing in their heists. But now as they face increasing pressures from within and without the country, many pirates are willing to give up their buccaneering on one condition: that they are still allowed to protect their shores. As Somali native Abdulkadil Mohamed told the New York Times, "They don’t see themselves as pirates. They call themselves coastguards."

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