Ibn-e-Battuta, the famous Moroccan traveler, if visits now Mogadishu after his initial visit more than 600 year ago….he would be devastated to see the destruction.
Hadi, 15, a young Somali hailing from a nomadic tribe living near Berbera beach area did not find that peace in his turbulent life which he otherwise, minimally enjoyed while strolling on the long wild beach.
He always wished that the beach could be inundated with lots of colourful tourists…He longed for that money in his pocket with which he could buy all those wonderful goods…especially that chocolate thing which he had heard from his friend Aaden — it melts in mouth and tastes great. His life was dull and monotonous other than, gazing and counting the Gulf of Aden sea waves.
Regularly, he would also see foreign fishing trawlers, audaciously trawling and fishing the precious fish from his territory. “ Oh …King Neptune, Lord of the seas, why can’t you do something with your trident and push these foreign trawlers out….”
These trawlers had deprived his father, Uncles and other clan members from fishing in their very own territory. No one to support from the so-called government, who were busy in the civil war and seemed to be oblivious of the great oppression and robbery being done to the citizens of this, otherwise richly resourced country.
Would this go on …forever?
His natural instinct of foretelling the future through his dreams, however, did assure him of good times to come.
His cousin, Sumaya, a year younger than him would not find an appropriate way to console him…except to narrate the story told by her grandmother about the magical path of the sun once it sets in the seas..!
Haadi would often be visited by his friend, Aaden , 25, a part-time teacher who had some experience of working with the foreign trawlers and NGO’s.
He would often tell Haadi about the irony of fate that “despite” having longest and most beautiful beaches in East Africa, and “despite” being situated at the most important geo political location of the sea trade routes and “ despite “ having the best quality of fish in the region and “ despite” having a huge potential for tourism….Somalia remains a war torn, negatively portrayed African country. He tells Haadi that they are being robbed off with such audacity.
Haadi would be perplexed by Aaden mentioning so many “despites”….Aaden in turn would smile and in order to explain Haadi, he would draw a map of the region on the sand explaining him pictorially…which Haadi would only vaguely understand.
For Haadi, Aaden was the only window of the outside world. The information so gathered and the echoes of Aaden’s “despites” would gradually get embedded in Haadi’s mind and heart.
Sumaya was quick to observe Haadi for his deep and disturbed thoughts whenever he returned after meeting Aaden. She would threaten him to complain this to his father Abdullah.
Haadi would never pay any heed to it as he knew the agony through which his father was going through. The fishing boat he owned was broken. He had no money to get it repaired and the net he had was no good in comparison to the ones being used by the fishing trawlers.
All in all, It was frustration for him all the way.
Three years down the time….as the North Easterly winds were blowing madly and waves frustratingly breaking at the beach…an excited Aaden called for Haadi.
After greetings, Aaden informed him secretively that he had joined a group of militia who had enough of sufferings and now had decided to take their fair share from the world.
He had joined the PIRATES OF SOMALIA!
He had come to Haadi to ask him, rather persuade him, to join him. Aaden knew and was fully convinced , through his earlier interactions with him that Haadi had that instinct of predicting the future through his dreams. He thought, he could be a valuable addition to the team of Pirates. Haadi had asked him for some time to think.
Sumaya was furious and almost yelled at Haadi once he told her about his plan of joining the Pirates.
“Are you ignorant of the perils of this adventure”? she asked.
She also told him about the policing of the area being done. Her small radio kept her updated.
On the other hand, Haadi had his own share of convincing arguments. He tried to explain her about the exploitations, Sumaya observing that no counter argument would work…walked away in disappointment as she was more concerned about his safety.
Haadi had already seen in the dream for the goods and bounties he had got by participating in the piracy expedition. His father and Uncles were initially sceptical, but they had, after all, no choice left.
It was a Do or Die sort of expedition. Besides, the only thing they knew was fishing and that too was being deprived by the foreign trawlers…so it was kind of an avenging for them.
The day and time had been decided.
Aaden because of his former connections found out about the incoming Greek oil tanker’s destination and also about the ETA when it would pass through the Gulf of Aden. Arms had been arranged and Haadi had also predicted few days ago about the success of the expedition.
As they were waiting in their boat, one of the pirate, having a knack for music tuned in some station and Haadi was joyously surprised to hear beautiful voice of the unknown female singer.
She was singing in the local language - everyone enjoyed it, except Aaden who had that tinge of sadness in his eyes. He said with a touch of nostalgic sadness that there was a time of merry and joy in their beautiful country. Beautiful songs were composed and sung.
All lost somewhere.
He was however upbeat once he vowed that God willing, those happy times would return and these lost and forgotten songs would be rediscovered and played on the radio stations of Somalia!
On sighting of the oil tanker, the attack commenced. It was morning time and everything went smoothly, more like a cake walk. They just fired some warning shots and ordered the crew of the tanker to stop the engines and lower the Jacob ladder.
They could see panic and fear onboard . The boarding was quick and pretty soon the pirates had looted everything valuable from the ship and the crew. They had to hurry back as they knew that the the rescue force would not take long to arrive .
On return, the looted booty was justly distributed. When Haadi gave his share to his father, he was both happy and sad. He never had thought of this future for his son. He had decided that once his own boat and net is ready, he won’t allow Haadi to continue with these dangerous expeditions.
Aaden on the other hand, had bigger dreams. He thought the piracy would give him economic stability and in parallel would also highlight the plight of his people internationally. He was confident that some ray of hope would come out of the prevailing grim situation.
The expeditions to follow were of minimal success in terms of looted booty. The ships were more careful now and in one attack they even faced resistance.
Sumaya was totally against all of this and continuously tried to convince Haadi to do some alternate work. Haadi promised her that once he had saved some money to buy his own fishing trawler he would quit these dangerous piracy expeditions.
A year later..
International Navies had made a Coalition to counter the piracy in Gulf of Aden. A task force comprising of men- of — warships of different countries were tasked to patrol the region to ensure safe passage to merchant ships.
At times,they even use to escort them to safe waters. In a way, the issue was highlighted. The irony , however, remained that only one sided story was being aired depicting the pirates as the main villains and not mentioning about the root cause of this.
It was a moment to rejoice once some NGO’S stepped in and told the world about the plight of the poor Somalis and the reason they had picked up arms to attack the ships and loot them.
Some NGO’S also arranged for funds to try to provide a decent living to the deprived fishermen. It was also stressed upon the International Maritime Community to abide by the maritime laws and respect the territorial integrity of the maritime frontiers and accordingly safeguarding the interest of the local fishermen.
So, something was at least started. But the scale of steps being initiated were perhaps not enough and that’s the reason that the piracy didn’t stop completely. Probably they wanted to happen something concrete on ground.
It was noon time when Haadi was visited by Aaden. He told him about the planned expedition in which they had thought of boarding the container ship, taking it hostage and demanding for a huge amount as ransom.
The arrangements were complete and he had come to Haadi to ask for his dream prediction. Haadi was not satisfied with this expedition, but Aaden had more confidence in himself now, so he brushed aside Haadi’s apprehensions and told him to be ready on the given date and time.
It was in the broad day light that they attacked the ship with the similar pattern. Boarding was fast and they took the crew hostage without any resistance.
They were, however, unaware that they had fallen into a trap. The Captain of the ship had already alerted the task force ships in the area against piracy and a helicopter had already been dispatched with highly trained commandos on it.
Aaden and his comrades were waiting for the ransom money which they had been assured of by the Captain. They spotted the helicopter and understood that they had been trapped. They tried for the encounter but the Commandos were too good for them. They lost three of their comrades before laying down arms to surrender.
Haadi being the youngest apprehended requested the authorities to give them a fair trial and hearing. During one of the hearings he profoundly wept and divulged everything to the judge, of all the causes of his tumultuous journey to become a pirate.
Aaden on his part promised to give complete information about the network if leniency would be shown to him and his comrades. He also requested the authorities that they are ready to face the lawful punishment but also requested to address the genuine reservations of his people.
Today, the area is recovering gradually and the issue has been internationalized. Piracy is under control and at least the sense seems to prevail that the root cause has been identified and remedial actions are being taken accordingly.
Hopefully, Somalia would find it’s due and rightful share on the world map.
The tourists would show their presence on the white sand beaches of this beautiful country and King Neptune would protect the poor fishermen of the area. Who knows, another Ibne battuta visits someday to the shores of Somalia and is greeted with that wonderful platter!