Jay Bahadur Biography
Jay Bahadur is a Canadian journalist and author born in 1984. He became known for his reporting on piracy in Somalia, writing for The New York Times, The Financial Post, The Globe and Mail, and The Times of London. Bahadur has also worked as a freelance correspondent for CBS News and he has advised the U.S. State Department on piracy.
His first book, The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World in 2011, is his account of living with the pirates for several months in Puntland, a semi-autonomous region in the northeast of Somalia. Bahadur currently lives in Nairobi. Bahadur was born in 1984, a native of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Educated at the University of Toronto Schools, he attended the University of Toronto, graduating in 2007 with a B.A. in Political Science, Economics, and History.
Jay Bahadur Career
In the year 2008, Bahadur was working for a market research firm in Chicago. Interested in working as a journalist, Bahadur was told by real journalists to avoid going to school to study journalism and to obtain experience working as a freelancer in “crazy places” instead.
At first , Bahadur wanted to visit Somalia to write about the election in the northwestern part of the country, but the news coverage of the hijacking and capture of the MV Faina by Somali pirates in September 2008 made him switch gears. Deciding to cover the piracy angle, Bahadur contacted journalists in Somalia and made arrangements with Radio Garowe. He quit his job and purchased a ticket to Somalia. Several months before Bahadur arrived, Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout was kidnapped in Somalia and held hostage by gunmen far away from the relatively safe areas of Somaliland and Puntland where Bahadur was working on his interviews.
In January 2009, Bahadur traveled for almost two days to reach the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia. Once there, he met with the pirates and learned about the history of the industry.During his journey, Bahadur discovered information that challenged basic assumptions about the pirates: there were not as many pirates as he was led to believe, they were not controlled by international crime syndicates and they were not working with jihadists.
He visited Africa several times, spending three months in areas that most journalists never visit because most pirates live in Galkayo and Hobyo, where in fact several reporters have been. Bahadur returned from his first trip in March 2009, just before the Maersk Alabama hijacking in April. This timing led to heightened interest in his book and he subsequently sold it to a publisher. Bahadur planned on finishing his first book before 2010, but it took much longer than he expected. His book, The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World was released in the U.S. on July 19, 2011.
Jay Bahadur Age
He was born in 1984.
Jay Bahadur The Pirates of Somalia
On April 8, 2009, the Maersk Alabama, a 17,000-ton United States cargo vessel, was hijacked by four Somali pirates several hundred miles east of Mogadishu. Bobbing in a lifeboat with the skipper, 53-year-old Richard Phillips, they began negotiating with the ship’s owners via cellphone for a multimillion-dollar ransom. For five days, the pirates and their hostage drifted in the Indian Ocean, shadowed by the U.S.S. Bainbridge, a destroyer that arrived at the scene not long after the hijacking.
At dusk on April 12, Navy snipers killed three of the Somalis, and Phillips was rescued unharmed. The surviving pirate was seized and taken to the United States, where he pleaded guilty in a Manhattan courtroom to a host of charges and was sentenced to 33 years and nine months in a federal prison.
The hijacking of the Alabama, the first seizure of an American-flagged vessel in 200 years, drew the country’s attention to the return of a scourge once associated with plank-walks, treasure chests and peg-legged marauders. But, as Jay Bahadur makes clear in “The Pirates of Somalia,” buccaneering has evolved into a very modern activity, complete with night vision goggles, GPS units and even investment advisers.
In the fall of 2008, Bahadur, a young Canadian, quit his job writing market-research reports in Chicago and flew in an aging Russian Antonov to Puntland, a breakaway region of northeastern Somalia that has become, as he puts it, “the epicenter” of the piracy business. Braving the constant threat of kidnapping, he ingratiated himself with pirate bosses and their crews and made a risky trip through the desert to Eyl, the remote enclave where present-day Somali piracy was born.
Bahadur has gone deep in exploring the causes of this seaborne crime wave, charting its explosive growth and humanizing the brigands who have eluded some of the world’s most powerful navies. The way Bahadur tells it, the piracy industry gained force in the 1990s, after the outbreak of Somalia’s civil war.
The first targets, commercial lobster-fishing vessels, were trawling off the coast of Puntland. Because they used steel-pronged drag fishing nets, Bahadur explains, “these foreign trawlers did not bother with nimble explorations of the reefs.” Instead, “they uprooted them, netting the future livelihoods of the nearby coastal people along with the days’ catch.”
A small group of aggrieved fishermen, led by a pirate called Boyah (whom Bahadur interviewed at a farm near the flyblown Puntland capital, Garowe) began capturing the trawlers and holding the crews for ransom. But after the commercial fishermen cut deals with southern warlords for protection, Boyah and his fellow pirates switched tactics, indiscriminately assaulting vessels that sailed into the vicinity of Eyl.
As Somali piracy increased, resourceful characters like Mohamed Abdi Hassan, known as Afweyne (“Big Mouth”), from the central coastal town of Harardheere, brought a new sophistication to the business. Afweyne raised venture capital for his pirate operations, Bahadur writes, “as if he were launching a Wall Street I.P.O.” Criminal gangs like his became highly organized, and the deployment of “motherships” allowed them to operate hundreds of miles from the coast.
When a radical fundamentalist movement called the Islamic Courts Union seized control of the southern half of Somalia in 2006 and declared war on pirates in its territory, the Puntland operations gained unchallenged supremacy. And dodgy coast guard outfits hired by the Puntland government inadvertently provided on-the-job training to aspiring pirates, familiarizing them with sophisticated weapons, assault tactics and advanced navigation systems. In 2009, Puntland’s newly elected president, Abdirahman Farole, a low-key former professor who seemed, Bahadur says, to abhor the pirates, ended the laissez-faire policies of his predecessors. But while he authorized the arrest and imprisonment of pirates, Farole has proven unwilling to attack their bases. To do so would risk plunging clan-fractured Puntland into civil war.
It wasn’t until October 2008 — when NATO, the European Union and the United States committed significant naval forces to patrol the main shipping route — that the international community began to respond. The Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor, a heavily patrolled safety zone, now runs for about 400 miles along the Yemeni side of the Gulf of Aden. Yet lumbering destroyers are often no match for small groups of marauders in nimble skiffs.
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“Hunting pirates,” Bahadur remarks, “must seem like playing a losing game of Whac-a-Mole.” Moreover, what the pirates sometimes lack in technology and firepower, they have compensated for in adaptability. After Western nations began positioning naval vessels outside key harbors, the pirates simply tied their skiffs to the backs of 4×4s and set sail from remote beaches.
The payment of seven-figure ransoms, an inexhaustible supply of unemployed young men, a highly romanticized pirate culture and continued Somali chaos have undermined efforts at interdiction. From 2008 to 2010, Bahadur reports, the number of attacks nearly doubled, with only a small drop in the rate of success.
Bahadur captures the inner workings of Somali piracy in extraordinary detail. The organizational structure of typical pirate cells, he explains, includes not just attackers, interpreters, accountants and cooks: almost every group also has its supplier of khat, a plant flown into Somalia by the ton every day from Kenya and Ethiopia and chewed for an addictive high.
Like low-level urban crack dealers, the pirates at the bottom rung of the hierarchy make barely enough to survive. But, high or low, these brigands practice some peculiar rituals. After receiving his cut of the ransom on the captured ship, one pirate tells Bahadur, each man must toss his mobile phone into the ocean — a precaution to make sure no one can call ahead to his kin to arrange an ambush of his fellow cell members.
Bahadur seems to admire the pirates’ audacity and resourcefulness, yet at the same time he avoids glamorizing them. If the first wave of Somali pirates consisted mostly of “fishermen vigilantes,” Bahadur writes, the new generation is far more cynical, exuding “cold ruthlessness” and demonstrating a proclivity for torture and violence.
Not all of Bahadur’s encounters are edifying. There are too many long-winded conversations with desperadoes who present the same tiresome self-justifications (they were pushed into their crimes because of abuses carried out by commercial fishing vessels) and the same dubious assertions that piracy would disappear if illegal fishing were halted. A lengthy excursion to meet low-level pirates in a maximum security prison in Kenya — a dumping ground for outlaws captured in international waters — doesn’t add much to the narrative.
But the book ends with a flourish, with Bahadur’s account of his road trip to Eyl, a hellhole by the sea where swaggering young pirates lord over a cowed population. Sitting immobilized in the harbor is the MV Victoria, a German freighter hijacked while transporting rice to the Saudi Arabian port of Jeddah. For the captive crew, weeks of boredom and terror end the way such episodes usually do, in this case with a $1.8 million ransom dropped by parachute. A solution to the scourge of Somali piracy, as Bahadur’s brave and exhaustively reported book makes clear, won’t fall into place so easily.