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MENA: How to deal with Somali piracy?

Last week a Saudi supertanker was hijacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Kenya, making it the largest ship ever to have been seized in this way. The problem of Somali piracy is growing; in this post we hear bloggers’ reactions from around the Middle East.

Saudi blogger Ahmed Ba Aboud wants Arab nations, and international bodies, to do something about the reasons for the increase in piracy:

أعتقد أن الغالبية سمعوا عن ناقلة النفط السعودية العملاقة نجم الشعرى و التي خُطفت على يد مجموعة من القراصنة الصوماليين. لا أعرف كيف يمكن أن تنتهي هذه القضية، و لكنني أتسأل كيف يمكن لنا كبشر و مسلمين أن ننام ملئ جفوننا بينما تسوء أوضاع الصوماليين لدرجة تصبح القرصنة مهنة مفضلة لدى بعض الصوماليين. هذا السؤال بالطبع ليس محصور بالمسلمين الذين يعانون من سوء أوضاعهم على جميع الأصعدة، بل الأولى بالسؤال هو ما يسمى بالمجتمع الدولي و الأمم المتحدة و مجلس الأمن الموقر. كل هذه الأطر الدولية تظهر و تتفاعل مع القضايا حال كون المتضرر أو المستفيد منها هو أحد القوى الدولية المهمة، بينما يغض العالم الطرف عن مأسي الصوماليين كل هذه السنوات الطويلة جداً منذ سقوط نظام زياد بري، و لا يتذكرهم إلا في حالات الإستياء الأمريكي مما يزعم عن قواعد لتنظيم القاعدة هناك أو من خلال إرسال بعض الأطعمة للجوعى هناك.
من المؤسف بالنسبة لي أن تجتمع الدول العربية المطلة على البحر الأحمر من أجل مناقشة سبل حماية الملاحة في البحر الأحمر و يتم تناسي الأسباب الجذرية للمشاكل الصومالية و الدور الإنساني و الديني و المنطقي المفترض تحمله تجاه الصومال و اهله.
I think that most people have heard about the Saudi supertanker, the Sirius Star, which was hijacked by a group of Somali pirates. I don't know how this issue can be resolved, and I wonder how we as human beings and Muslims can sleep at night while the situation of the Somalis is deteriorating to the extent that piracy has become the chosen profession for some of them. This question is of course not limited to Muslims, who are suffering from bad circumstances at all levels; indeed the most deserving of the question are the so-called international community, the United Nations, and the Security Council. All these international frameworks appear and interact with the issues when the party benefiting from it is one of the important international powers, while the world has turned a blind eye to the sufferings of the Somalis all these long years, since the fall of Siad Barre's regime. They are only remembered in the cases that the US voices its disappointment with what is presumed to be Al Qaeda organisation bases there, or through sending food aid for the hungry people there. It is a shame, as far as I am concerned, for the Arab countries bordering the Red Sea to meet to discuss ways of protecting shipping in the Red Sea, while forgetting the root causes of the Somali problems and the humanitarian, religious and logical role that they are supposed to play regarding Somalia and its people.

Syrian blogger Maysaloon believes there is more to the story than meets the eye:

Apparently this Somali piracy issue has only become a problem since 2005, around the time that somebody started supplying the men with fast white speedboats. There is probably some truth to this, and somebody is probably making a lot of money out of this, so the actual pirates are getting only a fraction of the takings. Still, there are huge sums of money being paid in ransoms, lots of good which are being stolen and I'm not so sure I understand how well these goods are being sold in a country with practically no infrastructure. Recently a shipment of Russian tanks was also seized. Interesting that Somalia was only recently “liberated” by Ethiopian troops with US blessings.

Iraqi blogger Roads to Iraq also has a conspiracy theory, translating some opinions found on Arabic news sites:

There is some truth behind Yemen accusations of Western countries with ignoring the piracy to internationalize the Red Sea. … This is also what Al-Akhbar reported today saying:

Western fleets raises doubts about the nature of their mission… Puntland’s Minister of ports, Nur Said, the West fleet led by the United near the coast of Somalia was involved in the increasing piracy operation…Chairman of the Red Sea shipping company, Abdul Majeed Matar, recalled how the commander of a British warship, called the company to tell them the details of hijacking the company’s ship (Al-Mansoura) rather than to militarily intervene to prevent the operation.

The last clue is reported on Al-Sharq Al-Awsat by asking one of the pirates, who revealed:

Some countries provide the pirates with information about the routes of the ships in the area.

John Burgess, who writes about Saudi Arabia at Crossroads Arabia, reports on the kingdom's plans to get more involved in the attempts to control piracy:

Saudi Arabia has decided that it needs to play its fair role in confronting international piracy, particularly after the hijacking of Sirius Star, the Saudi-owned supertanker seized over the weekend. The tanker, which holds 1/4 of one day’s production of Saudi oil is being held off the coast of Somalia. While Saudi Arabia’s Navy is small, it does have ‘blue water’ capabilities. It can take part in anti-piracy patrols and is sufficiently armed to sink any pirate vessel, from attack boats to ‘mother ships’ from which they descend. The Saudi Navy is probably not large enough to do port-to-port escort duty, even for only the super-est of tankers, but might manage shorter escorts, through particularly dangerous waters. […] The new Saudi assertiveness is pretty hot. Arab News, in an editorial, does call for attacks on the port cities of Somalia that are hosting the pirate fleets. And yes, ‘collateral damage’ is always a possibility when military action is taken. I don’t see any way to get around that. But perhaps if Arab armed forces were required to face up to that reality, it might change some of the overblown rhetoric about other unintended casualties in other wars.

In his post John Burgess mentioned that the Indian Navy sank a pirate ‘mother ship’ earlier this week, and commenter ratherdashing quipped:

Apparently the defense of shipping lanes has been outsourced to India just like everything else.

American-born Israeli Yisrael Medad is looking at the situation from a different angle:

If these [Arab] countries can't handle a dozen pirates, what can we expect against Iran going nuclear?

Jordanian blogger Hareega wants to offer the pirates a little encouragement – by linking to a Japanese animated version of Treasure Island he watched as a child:

الطاقم الفني والإداري والمهني في مدونة هاريغا يتمنى للاخوة الصوماليين كل التوفيق في إحكام سيطرتهم على سفينة النفط التابعة للاخوة السعوديين ويتمنى لهم كل التوفيق في قرصنة كل ما تبقى من هذه السفن، ولتشجيع الاخوة القراصنة نقوم بتقديم هذه الأغنية الهادفة من مسلسل جزيرة الكنز، المسلسل الوحيد المعروض على شاشة تلفزيون مقديشو منذ عشرين سنة وهو ما ألهم الاخوة القراصنة في تنفيذ عملهم التاريخي ….
The technical, administrative and professional team of Hareega's blog wishes the Somali brothers every success in tightening their control over the oil tanker belonging to the Saudi brothers, and wishes them every success in the piracy of all remaining ships. To encourage the brother pirates we present this song from the serial Treasure Island, the only serial shown on Mogadishu television screens for the last 20 years, which inspired the brother pirates to undertake their historic task…

To watch the clip, click here.


  • Piracy…………….Here we go, my thought is to have a bail of razor wire that circles the ship, that can be placed around the ship upon sailing..and when back in port be razed up to allow function. This would not allow pirates to access the ships, but allow ship funtions in port. This would not cost alot, but keep the pirates at bey. Just think of a prison border!

  • Pingback: Global Voices «

    […] are a few articles that offer an insiders perspective to the issue.  One article speaks of how to deal with Somali piracy, offering an excerpt from Syrian blogger Maysaloon, who believes that there is […]

  • […] is a quotation from a Syrian blogger, quoted in the November 2008 post by Ayesha Saldanha titled, “MENA: How to deal with Somali piracy?” Apparently this Somali piracy issue has only become a problem since 2005, around the time that […]

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