Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
Gulf & Iran's Sovereignty over
the Tunbs & Abu Musâ Islands in Historical Documents
& Tunb Islands
Picture Courtesy of NASA
The Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf is a crescent-shape groove which has demonstrated the
encroachment of the Indian Ocean waters (Makrân Sea, also known as Gulf of Oman) in an span of 900 km long
and 240 km wide in the inferior folds of southern Zagros mountains. The Persian
Gulf and its neighboring countries constitute almost one ninth of the 44 million
square km span of the Asian continent (1). The Persian Gulf has been a valuable
waterway since the beginning of history and as the venue of the collision of
great civilizations of the ancient East, it has a background of several
millenniums (2). Since centuries ago, the Elamites used the Port of Bushehr and
the Khârg Island for dwelling, shipping and ruling over the coasts of the
Persian Gulf as well as transaction with the West Indies and the Nile Valley
(3). In the Latin American geography books the Persian Gulf has been referred to
as the Sea of Parsia (4).
The Latin term "Sinus Persicus" is equivalent to "Persischer Golf" in
German, 'Golf Persique', in French, 'Golfo Persico' in Italian, that all mean
the same (5).
Prior to the coming of the Aryan Iranians to Iranian Plateau around 1000 to 1500
BCE, the Assyrians
named the sea in their inscriptions as the "bitter sea" and this is
the oldest name that was used for the Persian Gulf (6).
An inscription of Darius the Great found in the Suez Canal, used a phrase with a
mention of 'Sea of Pars' which points to the same Persian Gulf.
The Greek historian Herodotus in his book has repeatedly referred to the Red Sea
as the "Arabian Gulf" (7), and Straben, the Greek historian of the second half of the first century BCE and the
first half of the first century CE wrote: "Arabs are living between the Arabian
Gulf and the Persian Gulf" (8).
Ptolemy, another renowned Greek geographer of the 2nd century has referred to
the Red Sea as the "Arabicus Sinus", i.e. the Arabian Gulf. In the
book `the world boundaries from the East to the West' which was written in the
4th century Hegira, the Red Sea was dubbed as the Arabian Gulf.
Today, the most common Arabic works refer to the sea in south Iran as the
"Persian Gulf", including the world famous Arabic encyclopedia `Al-Monjad'
which is the most reliable source in this respect (9).
There are undeniable legal evidences and documents in confirmation of the
genuineness of the term Persian Gulf. From 1507 to 1560 in all the agreements
that Portuguese, Spanish, British, Dutch, French and Germans concluded with the
Iranian government or in any other political event everywhere there is a mention
of the name Persian Gulf (10).
Even in agreements with the participation of Arabs there is a mention of
"Al-Khalij al-Farsi" in the Arabic texts and "Persian Gulf"
in English texts, such as the document for the independence of Kuwait which was
signed between the emir of Kuwait and representatives of the British government
in the Persian Gulf.
The document, which was signed on June 19, 1961 by Abdullah As-Salem As-Sabah,
has been registered in the Secretariat of the United Nations according to
article 102 of the U.N. Charter and can be invoked at any U.N. office (11).
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the name "Persian Gulf" has
been used in geography and history books with less reference to the "Kalij-e
Fars". Such a change has suggested the idea that the "Khalij-e Fars"
had been an old name substituted by a new term "Persian Gulf" (12)
The beginning of 1930s was a turning point in the history of efforts for
changing the name of Persian Gulf when Sir Charles Bellgrave, the British
diplomatic envoy in Iranian island of Mishmâhig,
which today known as Bahrain opened a file for the change in the name of the
Persian Gulf and proposed the issue to the British Foreign Office. Even before
the response of the British Foreign Office he used the fake nam. This was an attempt
to occupy Bahrain, the Tunbs, Abu Musa, Sirri, Qeshm, Hengam and other islands
belonging to Iran and to disclose and thwart the plot of disintegration of
Besides all the disputes that have been made over the name of the Persian Gulf,
the United Nations with its twenty two Arab member countries has on two occasions
officially declared the unalterable name of the sea between Iran and the Arabian
Peninsula as the Persian Gulf.
The first announcement was made through the
document UNAD, 311/Qen on March 5, 1971 and the second was UNLA 45.8.2 (C) on
August 10, 1984. Moreover, the annual U.N. conference for coordination on the
geographical names has emphatically repeated the name "Persian Gulf"
each year (14).
Although using the manufactured "Arabian Gulf" instead of the "Persian
Gulf" has no basis and will not be accepted in any culture or language,
however, it will not diminish our responsibility in expressing the reality and
eliminating ambiguities as the main and oldest inhabitants of the region.
HISTORICAL SITUATION OF GREATER AND LESSER TUNBS, ABU MUSA
"The Greater Tunb Island is limited from north to Qeshm Island, from west
to the Lesser Tunb, from south to Abu Musa and Raas al-Khaima and from east to
Oman (15). The island is called the Greater Tunb, Gap Tunb, Tunb-e Mar, Greater
Tunb-e Mar, etc..." (16).
Since the 7th century post Sasanian era and occupation of the southern shores of
Iranian territories by Arabs (today Persian Gild States) up to the recent centuries the Greater Tunb Island was part
of the states of Fars, Kerman, Mokran and Hormuzgan.
In 1884 it was part of the Persian Gulf ports.
In 1949 together with 29 other islands it was a village under the district of
In 1951, it was part of the village Mazdouqi in Lengeh district of the city of
In 1954, it was a village in Abu Musa district of Bandar Lengeh port city.
In 1958, Abu Musa and Great Tunb districts jointed together and formed a large
district with Kish Island as its center.
In 1976, it became part of the city of Kish.
In 1982, it became part of the city of Abu Musa.
In 1991, the Great Tunb Island was part of the Tunb district of the city of Bu
The Greater Tunb Island due to its far distance from the Strait of Hormuz has no
strategic importance by itself. However, given Iran's strategic situation, it is
considered an important link in the defensive line of Iran in the Strait of
The Lesser Tunb Island is neighboring the city of Lengeh in the north, Abu Musa
Island in the south, the Greater Tunb Island in the east and Faroo and Faroogan
islands in the west. The island is rectangular in shape (19).
1- Institute of Political and International Studies, selected Persian Gulf
documents, volume 1, page 5
2- Ibid, page 5.
3- Mehdi Azimi, "Persian Gulf Political History", Port and Sea, Nos.
41-41, page 2
4- Institute of Political and International Studies, series of articles of
seminar on Persian Gulf issues, page 135
5- Institute for Political and International Studies, selected Persian Gulf
documents, volume 1, page 18, Institute of Political and International Studies,
series of articles of seminar on Persian Gulf issues, page 136.
6- Seyed Hassan Mousavi, "A brief discussion on historical-political
geography of the Persian Gulf...", sociology and humanities of Shiraz
University, page 118.
7- Institute of Political and International Studies, selected Persian Gulf
documents, pages 18-22, Institute of Political and International Studies, series
of articles of seminar on Persian Gulf issues, page 137. Seyed Hassan Mousavi
"A brief discussion on historical-political geography of the Persian
Gulf..." sociology and humanities of Shiraz University, page 118. Mehdi
Azimi, "Persia Gulf Political History", Port and Sea, page 22.
8- Institute of Political and International Studies, selected Persian Gulf
documents, volume 1, page 22.
9- Ibid, page 146.
10- Institute of Political and International Studies, series of articles of
seminar on Persian Gulf issues, page 148.
11- Institute of Political and International Studies, ibid, page 149.
12- Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, "Persian Gulf in return for history",
political and economic, Nos. 105-106, page 26.
13- Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, "Persian Gulf in return for history",
political and economic, Nos. 105-106, page 27.
14- Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, "Persian Gulf in return for history", Nos.
105-106, page 28.
15- Iraj Afshar Sistani, Abu Musa Island and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, page
16- Iraj Afshar Sistani, ibid, page 11.
17- Iraj Afshar Sistani, ibid, page 119.
18- Iraj Afshar Sistani, Abu Musa Island and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs, page
19- Ibid, page 123.
is the Light on the Path to Future"
British Institute of Persian Studies