Yemeni fishermen confused for Somali pirates

24 Oct
Yemeni fishermen in Mukalla port on the Arabian Sea. The dark complexion of some Yemeni fishermen means they are confused for Somali pirates, leaving them vulnrable to attacked by the international navy. Photo: Lindy & David’s Gallery

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:24-10-2011

Sana’a, Oct. 23 — Fifteen Yemeni fishermen were reportedly arrested and beaten on Thursday after they were accused of piracy by an Indian ship tasked with protecting international waters off the coast of Yemen.

This is the second incident in a week after seven men were beaten and their belongings taken, last Sunday, according to According to Umar Salim, the head of the Fishermen Association in Hadramout.

At present, five Yemeni fishermen from Mukala, Hadramout, remain in jail in India after the authorities assumed they were Somali pirates in May.

But according to Umar Salim, the head of the Fishermen Association in Hadramout, the men were fishing in Yemeni waters, five miles off the coast of Mukala.

The issue of assuming Yemeni fishermen to be pirates is not a new one. Since 2010, Indian ships – as part of an international navy fleet concerned with protecting international waters from pirates – have been the most aggressive, and quick to accuse Yemenis of piracy, according to Salim.

He said that they beat the fishermen and take all their belongings. Since June, a number of Yemeni fishermen have been charged in Indian courts as pirates.

Last month, another boat in Yemeni waters was attacked by an Indian ship – the fishermen’s belongings, along with their fish, were thrown overboard. The men were also beaten, according to Shuja’ Al-Mahdi, the head of the Operational Unit at the Yemeni Coastal Guards Authority (CGA).

However, the Indian embassy was unable to comment on the issue at present.

“Some Yemenis are looking to piracy themselves, or even just ‘facilitating’ the piracy of others, be they Yemeni or Somali or even others,” Michael Frodl, head of US consultancy firm C-Level Maritime Risks, told the Financial Times last month. He blamed the situation on the ongoing political crisis in Yemen.

Riad Kahwaji, chief executive of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, seconded the accusations. He told the Financial Times that he sees that there is collusion between Yemeni “coastal actors” and the pirates operating in Yemeni and Somali waters.

“Ships being intercepted so precisely should indicate that there is a sophisticated intelligence network for the pirates, providing them with information on the whereabouts and heading of ships,” said Kahwaji. “You can only gain this information [through] ports overlooking the Gulf of Aden.”

However, Al-Mahdi argued that these allegations had not been proved against any Yemeni “coastal actor”.

He said that the CGA spares no effort in catching the pirates and that the international navy forces should take more care of who they accuse, and arrest, on suspicion of being pirates.

“Most of the fishermen are dark-skinned so they are falsely believed to be Somali,” explained Al-Mahdi.

He added that of those pirates who have been arrested and have been, or are now being investigated, none confessed to having received help from Yemenis.

“Yemenis do not help pirates in one way or another,” said Al-Mahdi. “They are victims of piracy.”

Abu Baker Hadi, a 23-year-old fisherman Hadramout, was beaten last year when he was out fishing with 11 other men.

His father, Hadi Ba Alam, head of the Fishermen Association in Hadramout, accused Indian ships of repeatedly attacking Yemeni fishermen. He said that his son had to swim with the other fishermen after they were all beaten. None, however, were arrested.

According to the CGA, Somalis have hijacked nine Yemeni boats since the beginning of the year. The last one was a week ago.

Records also show that 64 Yemeni fishermen have already been kidnapped this year – but have still not been released. Negotiations between the pirates and the boat owners are ongoing until the owners pay the requested ransoms.

Despite the ongoing issue of piracy and its affects on Yemeni fishermen, Al-Mahdi said more than 45 pirates had been arrested by the CGA so far this year.

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