520 KM SE OF OMAN – Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me) may be a funny Disney exhibit but there is nothing funny about piracy.
It’s odd, isn’t it, how Hollywood and popular culture take what are very serious issues and make them seem innocuous. Think how Ralph Kramden used to say ‘One day Alice, straight to the moon’ to his wife (belittling wife abuse) in the 1950s TV show The Honeymooners. Or the 2017 film The Death of Stalin (for the record I thought it was brilliant satire: victims of Stalin’s purges and Soviet brutality may differ).
Then there is piracy. I am guessing that for most of us in the 21st century the first image that comes to mind when we think pirates is Jack Sparrow (yep, Disney again!). How can these guys be seen as violent when all we can picture is Johnny Depp?
Except that piracy is no laughing matter.
Many may surmise that this form of violence went the way of the age of sail. Nothing would be more wrong. While the number of pirate attacks has declined by more than half since 2010 there were still 162 such incidents last year.
And sometimes, the pirates are terrorists…kinda.
On this day in 2011
Somali pirates seized a Mongolian-flagged bulk carrier off the coast of Oman, and its Vietnamese crew of 24 people. A report from that year noted that piracy worldwide was costing the global economy $7-12 billion a year, with Somali sea-bandits in particular driving up the cost of Shipping through the Indian Ocean.
While the particular affiliation of these pirates was hard to make out, the Al Qaeda (AQ)-linked Al Shabaab was known to work alongside these violent criminals as a way to make money. In 2011, 54 percent of all pirate attacks were perpetrated by Somalis.
No, piracy is not normally an act of terrorism as there is no ideological, political or religious motivation driving it. But when a known terrorist group is involved, one could make the case that it is indeed terrorist in nature.
And it is not funny.