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June 12, 2009
Somali piracy by a different name

Off the coast of Somalia.

Here’s a different take on the issue of piracy off the African coast: The people we call pirates think that they are the ones under attack?

It reminds me of the old saying: One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. In any case, no one is about to justify piracy on the high seas, but a bit of critical thinking and analyzing root causes never hurt.

The case at hand is a report in The Times of London, in which a 38-year-old man, Farah Ismail Eid, said his life was once based on running humble fishing business. Eid is now held in prison on charges of –unsuccessfully—trying to raid foreign ships.

He sets the story on its head. He told the Times:

“I believe the title of pirates should be given to those who come to our waters illegally,” he said, after shuffling into a room at the British colonial-era Mandheera prison, 40 miles south of Berbera, wearing plastic sandals, a T-shirt and a length of printed material wrapped around his skinny waist.

Eid says that life for Somali fishermen changed when foreign fishing trawlers began operating close to shore and other foreigners began dumping toxic waste close by. He’s well aware that raiding ships on the high seas and demanding ransom is wrong. But he considers it a matter of survival.

As a result, the world’s greatest navies are chasing after fast boats manned by people who feel they are justified. It doesn’t help, of course, that Somalia has been lawless for years and wracked by civil war.

Eid’s solution, also from The Times:

“The international community should come and talk to us; they should compensate us for the problems caused to our waters by illegal fishing and toxic waste,” he said. “Then, until the government is in place in Somalia, we could protect the ships as they cross our waters.”

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user guuleed under a Creative Commons license.

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Peter Eisner is an editorial consultant with Worldfocus and a 30-year veteran of international news. He has been an editor and foreign correspondent at The Washington Post, Newsday and The Associated Press. He co-authored “The Italian Letter,” which details fraudulent intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. He was founder and president of Newscom, an international online news service, and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

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