The emergence of Somali piracy in the early 2000s was the first major, visible outbreak of an ancient crime on the world’s oceans in more than two centuries. Its roots lie in illegal fishing: foreign trawlers steal fish up and down the African coast, wherever natives aren’t strong enough to defend their waters. By 2005, organized pirate gangs had moved on to capturing cargo ships, tankers and, eventually, individuals on land who had nothing to do with illegal fishing.
Michael Scott Moore was kidnapped by pirates in 2012 on a reporting trip to Somalia and held hostage for two and a half years. His book about the ordeal, The Desert and the Sea, was published in July. During our first fall event, Moore discussed widely held beliefs—some which are untrue—surrounding Somali pirates. Beyond illegal fishing, we were able to learn what Moore gleaned about Islam and U.S. hostage policy. In conversation with Michael was Salpi Ghazarian the director for USC Institute of Armenian Studies.