View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Gulf: The Arabian or Persian Gulf?

The story in today’s Gulf News about ‘Dead Whale most likely Struck by a Ship’, reported that it was found in the ‘Arabian Gulf’.

Is the stretch of water between the UAE and Iran, the ‘Arabian Gulf’ or the ‘Persian Gulf’? It depends which side of the ditch you are living! But recently these waters have been muddied by a certain amount of name calling.

Try out a Google Search with the phrase ‘Arabian Gulf’. This is what will surface. At the moment the top ranking has this heading, Arabian Gulf, and if you click this is what you will read:

“The Gulf You Are Looking For Does Not Exist. Try Persian Gulf”

“The gulf you are looking for is unavailable. No body of water by that name has ever existed. The correct name is Persian Gulf, which always has been, and will always remain, Persian.”

This message appears to have a web site all of its own: Arabian Gulf.

At the bottom of the page there is a question, What is this page? If you click it, you will discover more about the controversy, that even relates to the National Geographic.

People in Iran must be clicking this site non stop to get this site and story at the top of the Google rankings when people search ‘The Arabian Gulf’.

One of the next listings in the Google search is the increasingly popular Wikipedia. In a short post it says:

“The controversial term Arabian Gulf, the subject of the Persian Gulf naming dispute.”

Wikipedia has a larger entry for the Persian Gulf. Under an Etymology section Wiki says:

“There has never been consensus on the name for the past 25 centuries.”

“In the time of the Greek Empire it became known as the Persian Gulf.”

It also mentions the naming dispute saying this:

“Since the 1960s with the rise of Arab nationalism (Pan-Arabism), starting with Gamal Abdel Nasser's Arab Republic of Egypt, some Arab countries, including the ones bordering the Persian Gulf, have adopted the term "Arabian Gulf" (in Arabic: الخلیج العربي al-khalīj al-ʿarabī) to refer to the waterway.[6] This is controversial and not commonly used outside of the Arab world, nor is it recognized by the United Nations[7][8][9] and other international organizations. The United Nations on many occasions has requested that only "Persian Gulf" be used as the official and standard geographical designation for the body of water.[10]”.

“Most recently, at the Twenty-third session of United Nation in March-April 2006, the name 'Persian Gulf' was confirmed again as the legitimate and the official term to be used by members of United Nation.”

One might think the subject might be closed after the UN confirmation but look further down on the Google search listings and you will find this page from Shaikh Mohammed’s [the ruler of Dubai] site:

The Arabian Gulf. This includes his description of the history of these waters and the name he gives to the gulf is the ‘Arabian Gulf’.

A pro-Iranian article by K Darbandi in the Asian Times (27 October 2007) is entitled, ‘Gulf renamed in aversion to 'Persian'.

Among other things, he claims the following:

“Various branches of the United States armed forces have issued directives to their members to use the "Arabian Gulf" when operating in the area. This is claimed to be due to increased cooperation with Arab states of the Persian Gulf, but also to follow local laws that ban the use of "Persian Gulf".

“American universities in the region have also dropped references to "Persian Gulf" in their teaching materials.” e.g. American University of Sharjah,

“By law, teachers in UAE public schools are prohibited from uttering the phrase "Persian Gulf" in classrooms.”

No sources are given for these claims so they come without authentication. (Can anybody provide it?)

Other articles circulating recently are stating that the French government, which has been working closely with the UAE, has taken to calling the gulf, ‘The Arabian Gulf’.

So the controversy is raging.

What do you think the Gulf should be called and why? No propaganda. Just reasoned comments please.

Geoff Pound

Images: The Gulf.

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