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Why Persian Gulf?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Salimeh Daremi

Much has been said and written about the origins of the name “Persian Gulf.” Certainly, geographers follow principles in naming lands and seas which are affected by the names of nations or races living nearby. On the other hand, this principle has been followed more strictly for naming seas and they have been named after the land which has been naturally closer to them. Examples include the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the China Sea.

Ancient Persians, who inhabited south of Iran, had established ties to most nations living in Asia and Southwest Asia. Due to this reason, the Greeks called the sea in the south or Persia as “Persian Gulf” and therefore, the name has not been influenced by racial considerations.

Greeks have written the most ancient books of geography five centuries B.C. Since the name “Persian Gulf” has been mentioned in books written two centuries B.C., it is clear that they had taken that name from their ancestors. Examples include written works of Strabon and Ptolemy. Strabon has mentioned the abode of Arabs to be located between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf while Ptolemy has called southern sea of Iran as Persicus Sinus.

Romans have also called it the Sea of Persia. Some Arab researchers and writers have also used “Persian Gulf” in their works. Even some old Islamic geographers have used the name “Persian Sea” to include not only the present-day Persian Gulf, but also the Sea of Oman. Abu Ali Ahmad ibn Omar ibn Rasteh in his book, Taqvim al-Buldan, has explained about Hejaz and Yemen and other Arabic territories and has located them in a place between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Also, in the oldest book of geography, that is, al-Masalik wal Mamalik, the southern sea of Iran has been called “Persian Sea” and ibn ul-Faqih has mentioned “Persian Sea” in his book, al-Buldan.

Apart from historical evidence, there is undeniable legal evidence to originality of the Persian Gulf. What follows is a brief explanation of such evidence.

The first general and important agreement signed by Arab Sheiks of the Persian Gulf, which was binding for them, was the general agreement of 1820. It was signed by a British general and eleven chiefs of Arab tribes. It is known as the General Treaty with the Arab Tribes of the Persian Gulf. Throughout the documents, the southern sea of Iran has been called Persian Gulf.

All the following documents, to which Arabs have been a side, have mentioned Persian Gulf. An authentic example of such agreements is a letter which has been sent by the Emir of Kuwait to representatives of the British government in the Persian Gulf. In that letter, which is indeed Kuwait’s letter of independence, Persian Gulf has been clearly used. That letter has been registered by the United Nations according to Article 102 of its charter. Importance of contracts which according to which countries gain independence cannot be denied in international law, so that, some legal experts consider independence treaties signed in past decades and registered by the United Nations to be of the same significance as contracts which have given birth to international law. As a result, Arabs living along the southern coasts of the Persian Gulf and Arab countries of the region, who have signed such contracts and benefited by them, should also oblige with their obligations. On the other hand, independence treaties antedate the use of the forged phrase, the Arabian Gulf.

Another important legal point is the vastness of waters which are under sovereignty of the Iranian government according to international law. In view of the number of the Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf, there is no doubt that most of that gulf belongs to Iran and under its sovereignty. In addition, mention should be made of some maps which have been drawn on the order of the British government showing the east of Suez Canal, especially India and Persian Gulf. They are important because in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Great Britain ruled the seas and supported Persian Gulf sheiks. Those maps include, inter alia, the map of “Persian Empire” (1770), “New Map of Persian Empire” (1794), Iran map in Thomson’s Atlas (1818), map of Iran along with part of the Ottoman Empire (1831), map of Iran as drawn by War Ministry intelligence (1886), as well as map of Iran, Afghanistan and Baluchestan drawn under the supervision of Lord Curzon in 1891-1892.

Iran is the biggest country neighboring the Persian Gulf and has the longest shores along it. Also, its population cannot be compared to other nations living to the south of the Persian Gulf. Therefore, even if the southern Iranian sea did not have a historical name and geography experts wanted to put a name on it, they could not have found a better name than Persian Gulf.

In conclusion, historical, legal, and social evidences prove that the southern Iranian sea should be called Persian Gulf and insistence of some Arab states to justify their claims is based on nothing but pure sentimentalism. Such efforts by some radical Arabs will cause nothing but discord in the region while all international organizations and atlases have used Persian Gulf and even some Arab academicians and scholars have scoffed at the forged name, Arabian Gulf.

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