Persian Gulf naming dispute The Persian Gulf naming dispute
is concerned with the name of the body of water known historically and internationally as the Persian Gulf
: خلیج فارس
), after the land of Persia
(the Western exonym for Iran
). This name has become contested by some Arab countries since the 1960s
in connection with the emergence of pan-Arabism
and Arab nationalism
, resulting in the invention of the toponym "Arabian Gulf" (Arabic
: الخليج العربي
) as well as "Gulf", which are terms still used in some Arab countries.
Parties to the naming dispute of the water body surrounded by them
On almost all maps printed before 1960, and in most modern international treaties, documents and maps, this body of water is known by the name "Persian Gulf
" (see #Persian Gulf or equivalent)
This reflects traditional usage since the Greek geographers Strabo
, and the geopolitical realities of the time with a powerful Persian Empire
comprising the whole northern coastline and a scattering of local authorities on the Arabian Peninsular coast of the Persian Gulf.
It was referred to as the Persian Gulf by all Arab historians and geographers, including the Arab Christian writer Agapius
, writing in the 10th century.
An official letter from former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser
to a Bahraini
official. The name "Persian Gulf" (الخليج الفارسي
) has been used. The document dates before the initiation of Nasser's pan-Arabism
According to authors Philip L. Kohl, Mara Kozelsky, and Nachman Ben-Yehuda in their work Selective Remembrances
, Sir Charles Belgrave
(British adviser to the ruler of Bahrain
) was "the first westerner to use and advocate the name 'Arabian gulf', first in the journal Soat al-Bahrain
(Voice of Bahrain
) in 1955."
Mahan Abedin of The Jamestown Foundation
agrees with this, noting that Arab countries used the term "Persian Gulf" until the 1960s.
However, with the rise of Arab nationalism
during that decade, some Arab countries, including the ones bordering the Gulf, adopted widespread use of the term الخليج العربي
; Arab Gulf
or Arabian Gulf
) to refer to this waterway. Teymoor Nabili
(a senior presenter for Al Jazeera English
) said "ironically, among the major drivers of the movement for change were Arab perceptions that Iran, driven by Washington, had supported Israel during the Arab-Israeli war of 1973".
This, coupled with the decreasing influence of Iran on the political and economic priorities of the English-speaking Western World, led to increasing acceptance, both in regional politics and the mostly petroleum
-related business, of the new alternative naming convention "Arabian Gulf" in Arab countries.
Gerard Mercator's map of 1595 showing Persian Gulf terminology (Mare di Mesendin formerly Persicus sinus
), and Sinus Arabicus (Red Sea).
Map by Abraham Ortelius, dated 1580 using the term "Persicus" (MAR MESENDIN formerly Sinus Persicus
The capture of Baghdad
by the Ottoman Empire
in 1534 gave Turkey
access to the Indian Ocean
via the port of Basra
at the head of the Persian Gulf. This coincided with the early mapmaking efforts of Gerard Mercator
, whose 1541 terrestrial globe attempts to give the most up-to-date information, naming the gulf Sinus Persicus, nunc Mare de Balsera
("Persian Gulf, now Sea of Basra").
However, on his world map of 1569, the name is changed to Mare di Mesendin
(after the peninsula Ra's Musandam
, in modern-day Oman
while his rival Abraham Ortelius
, for the world atlas of 1570, opted for Mare El Catif, olim Sinus Persicus
(after the Arabian port of Al Qatif
), but labelled the entrance to the gulf – the present-day Strait of Hormuz
– as Basora Fretum
(Strait of Basra).
Among all this confusion, the old name gradually reasserted itself in the 17th century, but Turkey still uses the name "Gulf of Basra" (Basra Körfezi
in Turkish today.
Following British attempts to establish control over the seaway in the late 1830s, the Times Journal
, published in London in 1840, referred to the Persian Gulf as the "Britain Sea", but this name was never used in any other context.
The matter remains very contentious as the competing naming conventions are supported by certain governments in internal literature, but also in dealings with other states and international organizations. Some parties use terms like "The Gulf" or the "Arabo-Persian Gulf". Following the Iranian Revolution
of 1979 some people in Islamic groups suggested the use of "Islamic Gulf" or "Muslim Gulf".
The originator of the term Islamic Gulf
is not known, while some people suggest that prominent figures of the early years of the Islamic republic
including Ruhollah Khomeini
, Mehdi Bazargan
, and Sadegh Khalkhali
may have supported the idea. Khalkhali in his May 1979 visit to the UAE suggested the term "Muslim Gulf".
The idea was quickly abandoned after Iran was invaded by its predominantly Muslim neighbor, Iraq
In Arab countries the terms "Gulf" and "Arabian Gulf" are preferred:
The "Gulf" refers to the body of water known as the Arabian Gulf in GCC countries
, or the Persian Gulf as referred to in many other places.
— List of GCC countries, Gulf countries, 
Viewpoint of Iran (Persia) Iran
only uses the term "Persian Gulf" and does not usually recognize the naming when it is referred to as "Arabian Gulf" or just the "Gulf" or by any other alternative. Iran does not consider the latter an impartial usage, and views it as an active contribution to the abandonment of the historical name.
In a 1974 interview by Mike Wallace
in 60 Minutes
, the last Shah of Iran
himself preferred the term "Persian Gulf" while talking to Wallace.
In February 2010 Iran threatened to ban from its airspace foreign airlines, especially those from the Gulf region, who did not use the term "Persian Gulf".
In 2011 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
made a speech to the United Nations General Assembly during which he said that the only correct name of the sea between Iran and the Arabian peninsula was the Persian Gulf, and he dismissed the use of any other names as "illegitimate and void".
Viewpoint of Arabs
Abdel Khaleq al-Janabi, a Saudi Arabian historian, said "It's this name [Persian Gulf] that has been retained by history books and Arab historians, like Ibn Khaldoun
and Ibn al Athir
. It's also in treaties signed between the governors of the gulf and the British who dominated the region from the beginning of the 20th century ... From a scientific and historical point of view, it has been called the Persian Gulf since Alexander the Great
". He said that it was "without foundation" to claim the Romans named it "Arabian Gulf". "Things didn't change until Nasser
came to power and the rise of Arab nationalism. The Arabs then began to use the name 'Arabian Gulf'
", he added.
In an interview with Al Wasat
writer Hussain al-Baharna said one of the reasons for the dispute over naming the "Arabian Gulf as the Persian Gulf" is that the Red Sea was named Arabian Gulf back then[timeframe?]
, which "prevented the Arabian Gulf from being named as Arabian Gulf, and instead the name Persian Gulf became common".
And many prominent scholars and political and religious leaders such as Professor Abdelhadi Tazi
, Ahmad al-Saraf, Abdelilah Benkirane
(Prime Minister of 2011-2013 Morocco), Abdul Monem Saeed, Abdul Khaliq al-Janabi, Qaradawi, Gen. Majdi Omar, Former First Deputy of the Egyptian National Defense Council in recent decades have commented on the authenticity of the name of the Persian Gulf and the lack of justification for changing the name. 
Viewpoint of third parties
The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names
discussed the naming issue during its 23rd session, held in Vienna from 28 March to 4 April 2006. According to the report of the meeting, "It is interesting that from among 6000 existing historical maps published up to 1890, there are only three maps mentioning the names of Basreh Gulf, Ghatif Gulf, and Arabic Gulf, in addition to which the name of small gulfs located at the coast with local utilization can be also named such as Chah Bahar Gulf, Siraf Gulf, Basreh Gulf, Ghatif Gulf, Bahrain Gulf,…. but such names are not applied to the entirety of the Persian Gulf. It is obvious that the promotional use by the Arabs of the three aforementioned maps, whose identity and originality are not clear, in comparison with 6000 maps and more than 200 historical and tourism books from Irastus to Herodotus to Estakhri and Ibn Houghal, who have all called the water body, Persian Gulf, shall lack any value."
The report further notes that "any change, destruction, or alteration of the names registered in historical deeds and maps is like the destruction of ancient works and is considered as an improper action. Therefore, the names of geographical features profiting from a unique historical identity, should not be utilized as political instruments in reaching a political, tribal, and racial objective, or in any clash with national interests and other's values," and finally concludes "...it is worth mentioning that the name of Persian Gulf has been admitted in all the live languages of the world so far and all the countries throughout the world, name this Iranian Sea, just in the language of the people: Persian Gulf. Even Arab brothers do not need to alter a historical name to have a gulf of their own, because there had been a gulf in their own name previously mentioned in the historical and geographical works and drawings, which is called at present the Red Sea (Bahr Ahmar)."
International Hydrographic Organization
The International Hydrographic Organization
(IHO), an international body for provision of hydrographic information for worldwide marine navigation and other purposes, uses the name "Gulf of Iran (Persian Gulf)" for this body of water, in its standard S-23 (Limits of Oceans and Seas), section 41, published in 1953.
The United States National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
GEOnet Names Server (GNS) is the "official repository of standard spellings of all foreign place names" sanctioned by the Board of Geographical Names
The GNS lists "Persian Gulf" as the Conventional
name, along with 14 Variant
names in different languages, such as "Gulf of Iran", "Gulf of Ajam", "Gulf of Basra", "Arabian Gulf", "Persian-Arabian Gulf", "Gulf of Fars", and "Farsi Gulf".
In Persian Gulf States Country Studies
published in 1993 by the Federal Research Division of the U.S. Library of Congress
, the authors follow the practise of the BGN by using "Persian Gulf" while acknowledging that the governments of Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain "officially reject the use of the term Persian Gulf—as do other Arab governments—and refer to that body of water as the Arabian Gulf".
It is commonly understood to be a friendly gesture of solidarity and support for our host nation of Bahrain and our other Gulf Cooperation Council partners in the region to use the term they prefer
— Spokesman for the United States Fifth Fleet, 
Atlases and other media
Map of Persia
The National Geographic Society
uses the name Persian Gulf to refer to this body of water. In 2004, the society published a new edition of its National Geographic Atlas of the World
using the term "Arabian Gulf" as an alternative name (in smaller type and in parentheses) for "Persian Gulf". This resulted in heavy protests by many Iranians, especially the Internet user community and the Iranology Academy,
which led to the Iranian government acting on the issue and banning the distribution of the society's publications in Iran. On 30 December 2004, the society reversed its decision and published an Atlas Update, removing the parenthetical reference and adding a note: "Historically and most commonly known as the Persian Gulf, this body of water is referred to by some as the Arabian Gulf."
The 2000 AP Stylebook
elaborates: Persian Gulf is the "long-established name" and the best choice. "Some Arab nations call it the Arabian Gulf. Use Arabian Gulf only in direct quotations and explain in the text that the body of water is more commonly known as the Persian Gulf."
In 2004, the Persian Gulf-naming dispute was the subject of a Google bomb
by an Iranian blogger
named Pendar Yousefi.
This was the combined efforts of hundreds of bloggers, webmasters and Persian forums who pointed links with the word Arabian Gulf to a spoof error page found at this link
Some atlases and media outlets have taken to referring to "The Gulf" without any adjectival qualification. This usage is followed by the BBC
and The Times Atlas of the World
. Iran does not consider this an impartial usage and views it as an active contribution to abandonment of the historical name. In June 2006, Iran banned the sale of The Economist
for the above reason, after a map in the magazine labeled the Persian Gulf
as "The Gulf".
The magazine repeated this act in its 18 February 2010 article titled "Iraq, Iran and the Politics of Oil: Crude Diplomacy". It also used the name "Arabian Gulf" in the same article.
had previously put both Persian Gulf and Arabian Gulf on its Google Maps
. After May 2012, it removed both names from the body of water stating that it does not name every place in the world and that it did not want to take a political stance. Iranians complained about the change and started a Twitter campaign asking "Where's the Persian Gulf?".
Google Earth continues to show both names, unless viewed through a server from a Gulf Coast Arab country, in which case it labels it simply "Arabian Gulf."
A planned second Islamic Solidarity Games
in Iran, originally scheduled to take place in October 2009, and later rescheduled for April 2010, was canceled when the Arab World
and Iran could not agree over the use of the term "Persian Gulf" in logos and medals for the Games.
Persian Gulf or equivalent
Map of Persia, Mecran
Heinrich. MARE ERYTHRAEUM 1903
Soulier, E.; Andriveau-Goujon, MER ERYTHREE 1838
Persian Empire in 1747
19th Century reconstruction of 194 BC Eratosthenes
' map, Denoting Persian Gulf
Map of 1531 denoting Sinus Persicus.
Regional map showing the word Bahr Fars
, ("Persian Sea") in Arabic, from the 9th century text Al-aqalim
by the Persian geographer Istakhri
's map circa 1548 is denoted by cartographic historian Gerald Tibbetts as the first "modern" map of the area, denoting Golpho de Persia
French map dated 1740 denoting Golfe de Perse.
An 1808 British map depicting the "Persian Gulf".
A Saudi ARAMCO
map from 1952 using the term "Persian Gulf" (الخليج الفارسي
Altkolorierte Kupferstich-Karte. v. Willem Janszoon Blaeu.
This very important map uses Persian gulf and elcatif for this gulf and Arabian gulf for the red sea and shows that elcatif doesn't mean Arabian gulf. Jacob van Merus, 1680, Amesterdam
Regno di Persia con le notitie delle ... Publication Date 1679 Scarce map extending from the Eufrate to the Indo.Showing major rivers, mountains and cities. From Il Mercurio Geografico, printed by De Rossi
Perse Turquie Asiatique et Arabie old map Desnos 1766
Persian Gulf antique map La Perse Bellin 1764
Caucasus Old Map Royame de Perse Georgie Bonne 1780.
Persia Sive Sophorum regnum Old map Persia Merian 1638
Amsterdam / 1640 circa by Jansson
map of Asia in the shape of the mythical winged horse Pegasus. Print in 1581 Hannover by Henrich Bunting
Amsterdam / 1685 (1700 ca) First issued by Justus Danckerts, this example is done by his son "T[heodorus] Danckerts,"
Nuremberg / 1744 Colored By Religions Detailed map of Asia, based upon Johann Mattheus Haas' stereographical projection of the world.
important Jodocus Hondius corrected mistake of using "Arabian Gulf" for two different regions and updated map of Asia. Published in Amsterdam 1620 Ca
Published in Amsterdam by Nicholas Visscher the Elder.1670.
A.K. Johnston -1850-Edinburg
D'Anville- 1788, Published by L. Harrison in England
George Rollos, 1770 published in london
George Rollos 1770 London
Guillaume de L'Isle - 1731- Paris
J. Rapkin, Published by Tallis.-1851-london
Jan Huighen van Linschoten, Henricus Florent Langren- 1596-Amsterdam
John Cary- London -1801.jpg
Location of Persian gulf and Arabian gulf by Janssonius, Joannes- 1640-Amsterdam
Mercator, Belgium, 1578
P. Santini- 1779-Venice
Published by D'Apres de Mannevillette-1775-paris.jpg
Robert- 1760- Paris.jpg
The London Geographical Institute 1890, Published by George Philip & Son.jpg
V. Levasseur - Paris- 1838.jpg
Amsterdam J. Covens et C. Mortier,1720.jpg
Strasbourg 1525 by Lorenz (Laurent) Fries.jpg
Rigobert Bonne- 1771 Paris.jpg
Published by Pieter van der Aa-Leiden-1713
Published by Frederick De Wit- Amsterdam-1680 ca
Published by Sebastian Münster-Basle-1542
Die beyden Halbkugeln-Vienna-1790
Mappemonde a l'usage du Roy Par Guillaume Delisle Premier-Geographe de S.M. . . . 1720 (Shows De Gama Land)
Hemisphaerium Orbis Antiqui Cumzonis Circulis et Situ Populorum Diverso-Amsterdam- 1660 (1708)
The World Agreeable to the latest Discoveries-London- 1754
Mappe Monde Carte Universelle de la Terre Dressee Sur les Relations les plus nouvelles, Soumises aux Obseravtions Astronomiques-Paris-1755
Persia, Caspian Sea, done by ye Czar, and Part of Independent Tartary With His Tract from Astracan in Gilan in Persia Above 2700 English MIles
Middle East Antique map Babylon Assyriens Philippe 1787
Persia Kingdom Ormus Strait Hormuz Old plan Bellin 1756
Japanese Map of Saudi Arabia-1874-Published by Naito
Carte De La Turquie De L'Arabie et De La Perse, Dressee sur les Memoires les plus recens rectifiez par les Observations de Mrs. de l'Academie Royule, des Sciences-Amsterdam-1720
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Last edited on 6 March 2021, at 01:18
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