How do you correct negative perceptions about your culture? Iman Burhan and a collective of young Somali filmmakers in Eastleigh, a neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya, are tackling this question head-on.
By: Jay M.
In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. It’s nine million people who have been battling widespread starvation ever since. America and other European nations saw this as a great opportunity to rob the country of its food supply and dump their nuclear waste in Somalia’s now unprotected seas.
According to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, approximately 12 miles into the ocean from the coast is sovereign territory of the state. Every Somali highjacking that has ever occurred happened within those 12 miles.
As soon as the Somali government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels of nuclear waste into the ocean. Much of that waste can be traced back to European hospitals and factories. Soon after the dumping began, the coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after a 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed ashore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.
While some European ships were dumping, other ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. An estimated $300 million worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea life is being stolen every year by huge European ships illegally fishing in Somalia’s unprotected seas. As a result, the local fishermen have lost their livelihoods, and are forced into starvation.
The fact is, Somali ‘pirates’ are ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade European vessels from illegally fishing and dumping into their waters. With the absence of the government’s navy, the fishermen joined together and formed the National Volunteer Coast Guard of Somalia.
According to ‘Somali Pirate’ code, harming the crew of a ship is strictly prohibited. This is to ensure that governments are less likely to step in and employ do-not-negotiate tactics.
Since the fishing economy have suffered due to European ships looting and dumping in Somali waters piracy is now Somalia’s biggest source of income. It has been estimated that between $339m and $413m has been made within the years of 2005 and 2012. Individual ‘pirates’ usually get $30,000-75,000 each, with a bonus of up to $10,000 for the first man to board a ship and for those bringing their own weapon or ladder.
Somali ‘pirates’ have been branded in the media as maritime gangsters. The image of Somali pirates as senseless, savage thieves can be largely attributed to propaganda by the European and American governments. In April 2009, the Obama administration employed a long-term strategy to restore maritime security off the coast of Somalia. This strategy conveniently places American Navy Gunships in Somali waters.
Also, Hollywood recently made a movie celebrating the ‘true’ story of “Captian Phillips,” who was kidnapped by Somali ‘pirates.’ Though the film was blasted for its many lies and inconsistencies, it made an estimated $107 million domestically, with audiences giving the film a 93% rating.