A Dutch court has approved the extradition to Germany of ten arrested Somali pirates. The Somalis were arrested on 5 April by a Dutch Navy patrol after they had hijacked a German merchant vessel in the Indian Ocean. The pirates, one of whom is aged about 15, were subsequently detained in the Netherlands. In the eyes of the world the hijackers are criminals, but to the Somali people they are heroes: "Piracy is the buttered side of our bread."
By Kassim Mohamed (Somalia)
It's the crack of dawn and 58-year-old Zeynab Abdi is busy saying her morning prayers on an old mat. The frail-looking woman wears the face of a 70-year-old. In a soothing voice Zeynab says that she takes care of four orphans left behind by her son who died in a crossfire between the transitional Government of Somalia and the Islamic courts union in Mogadishu back in 2008.
Zeynab lives in Eyl, a small town in the semi-autonomous region of Somalia and has no stable income apart from handouts she receives from pirates. On this particular day, Zeynab goes round her neighborhood to get news whether the pirates have hijacked any ship.
"You know when they get money; it means I can also feed my grandchildren. Piracy is the buttered side of our bread. There are two men, Mohamed and Farole, who help me mostly."
Pillar of strength
The men, just two of the estimated 1500 pirates who transverse the gulf of Aden and the Indian ocean, are a pillar of strength to Zeynab although they are no close relatives of hers.
"In October 2008 when they hijacked a German ship and were paid a lot of money one of the pirates promised to build me a house where I can live. But that didn't materialise as he was killed in a dispute among themselves on how to share the ransom," Zeynab explains.
Massive ransoms have brought rapid development to this former fishing village that now prides itself on being the hub of piracy with businesses and residential houses bringing the once dormant fishing village to life.
Catering for the hostages
With her hands decorated in henna, Anab Farah beams a broad smile. This 26-year-old divorcee runs a restaurant in Eyl where she has been bestowed with the responsibility of catering for the hostages held by pirates in various locations.
"The pirates are important to my work. I get an equivalent of 400 dollars a day though not every day. That's good money here in Eyl." Clapping her hands to underscore what she's saying, Anab breaks into a Somali song that she composed:
"Ya kale, ya kale oo Somalidu dandeeda kafinkara oo aan aheyn burcaat badhet"
(apart from the pirates who else thinks about our plight as Somalis).
"We see piracy as an avenue of development and not a crime. If the pirates give us a platform to survive why not? We will enjoy the fruits of their labour and appreciate them as well," says Anab.
Abdullahi Abdi is one of the seasoned pirates who publically declare that piracy has brought development to the people of Eyl and its surroundings.
"Whenever we hijack ships we re-stock on essentials like food, buy goats for meat and what else we need from the residents and this means we pump money into the economy. How else will these people feed themselves? All the fish in our sea are gone," says Abdullahi while sipping black coffee.
Piracy seems to have taken root and though pirates are condemned by many around the world, for others they put food on the table and are angels in their own way.