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 (Persian: خلیج فارس), after the land of Persia (the traditional name of 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) (used in some Arab countries), the Gulf, and other alternatives such as the Gulf of Basra as it was known during the Ottoman rule of the region.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Proposed alternatives
- 3 Viewpoint of Iran
- 4 Viewpoint of Arabs
- 5 Viewpoint of third parties
- 6 Gallery
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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 Ptolemy, and the geopolitical realities of the time with a powerful Persian Empire comprising the whole northern coastline and a scattering of local emirates on the Arabian coast. It was referred to as the Persian Gulf by the Arabs scholars among them Arabic Christian writer Agapius, writing in the 10th century.
According to authors Philip L. Kohl, Mara Kozelsky, and Nachman Ben-Yehuda in their work Selective Remembrances, Sir Charles Belgrave was "the first westerner to use and advocate the name 'Arabian gulf', first in the journal Soat al-Bahrain (Voice of Bahrain) in 1955." According to the book" Documents on the Persian Gulf's name, the first serious encouragement to change the name to the "Arabian" Gulf goes back to the book of The Golden Bubble: Arabian Gulf Documentary 1957 by "Roderic Owen".  According to Mahan Abedin of The Jamestown Foundation, the first proposal to change the name to the "Arabian" Gulf goes back to the 1950s by Belgrave, then the British adviser to the ruler of Bahrain. Arab countries used the term "Persian Gulf" until the 1960s, but with the rise of Arab nationalism during that decade, some Arab countries, including the ones bordering the Persian Gulf, adopted widespread use of the term الخليج العربي (al-Khalīj al-ʻArabī; Arab Gulf or Arabian Gulf) to refer to this waterway. 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.
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" in Turkish today.
Following British attempts to control 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. Using the term "Persian Gulf" is impolite at least for GCC countries and nationals , whereas, Iran and many Iranians find the term "Arabian Gulf" offensive. Most other people or countries probably don't care that much one way or another.— List of GCC countries, Gulf countries, 
Viewpoint of Iran
Iran only uses the term "Persian Gulf" and does not recognize the naming when it is referred to as "Arabian Gulf" or just the "Gulf". 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.
Iran designates 30 April as National Persian Gulf Day. The date coincides with the anniversary of Abbas I of Persia's successful military campaign when the Portuguese navy was driven out of the Strait of Hormuz in the Capture of Ormuz (1622). The decision was taken by the High Council of Cultural Revolution, presided over by former President Mohammad Khatami, noting that the campaign launched in 2009 by certain Arab states to rename Persian Gulf was the driver behind the decision. The Iranian postal authority has issued a series of stamps commemorating the day.
Viewpoint of Arabs
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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, Bahraini 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, which "prevented the Arabian Gulf from being named as Arabian Gulf, and instead the name Persian Gulf became common".
Viewpoint of third parties
According to a book Documents on the Persian Gulf's name (pp 92–98), the United Nations Secretariat and its specialized agencies have requested its staff to use only "Persian Gulf" as a standard geographical designation.
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, the Convenor "noted that countries could not be prohibited from using or creating exonyms."
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 (BGN). 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".
Since about 2009, due to increased cooperation with Arab states of the Persian Gulf, various branches of the United States armed forces have issued directives to their members to use the "Arabian Gulf" when operating in the area to follow local conventions ("Persian Gulf" is still used in official publications and websites). The practice of the United States Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is to use "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
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.
Google 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.
In association football, the top tier of the Iranian football league system was named the Persian Gulf Cup in August 2006 to promote the Persian naming. The Iran national football team does not take part in the Arabian Gulf Cup for national teams surrounding the waters.
The top football league in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was founded in 1973 as the UAE Football League. In 2007, the name was changed to UAE Pro-League. Starting from the 2013–14 season the name was changed to UAE Arabian Gulf League, as well as their League Cup and Super Cup competitions. The name change has been viewed as a revival of the Persian Gulf naming dispute with Iran accusing the United Arab Emirates of racism, and the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran barring the transfer of Javad Nekounam to a UAE club. Similarly, the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation was founded in 2016 for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
Persian Gulf or equivalent
19th Century reconstruction of 194 BC Eratosthenes' map, Denoting Persian Gulf
Regional map showing the word Bahr Fars, ("Persian sea") in Arabic, from the 9th century text Al-aqalim by the Persian geographer Istakhri
Giacomo Gastaldi's map circa 1548 is denoted by cartographic historian Gerald Tibbetts as the first "modern" map of the area, denoting Golpho de Persia
A Saudi ARAMCO map from 1952 using the term "Persian Gulf" (الخليج الفارسي).
Arabian Gulf, Sea of Musandam, Gulf of Basra or Gulf of Qatif
1626 map calling it "Sea of Qatif", or the Arabian Gulf
Jan Jansson's map, 17th century (MARE ELCATIF formerly SINUS PERSICUS).
The Ottoman Cedid Atlas of 1803 calling it the Gulf of Basra
- Terminology section in the Gulf War article
- Territorial disputes in the Persian Gulf
- Gulf Cooperation Council
- Macedonia naming dispute
- Sea of Japan naming dispute
- Achaemenid inscription in the Kharg Island
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- Bosworth, C. Edmund (1980). "The Nomenclature of the Persian Gulf". In Cottrell, Alvin J. (ed.). The Persian Gulf States: A General Survey. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. xvii–xxxvi.
Not until the early 1960s does a major new development occur with the adoption by the Arab states bordering on the Gulf of the expression al-Khalij al-Arabi as a weapon in the psychological war with Iran for political influence in the Gulf; but the story of these events belongs to a subsequent chapter on modern political and diplomatic history of the Gulf. (p. xxxiii.)
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Since the 1960s, there has been a dispute over the name of the Persian Gulf, namely, whether in the Arabic language it should be called the ... In possibly every map printed before 1960 and in most modern international treaties, documents and maps, this body of water is known by the name 'Persian Gulf, reflecting traditional usage since the Greek geographers Strabo and Ptolemy, and the geopolitical realities of the time with a powerful Persian ...
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After World War II, some circles decided to change the name of the Persian Gulf to Arabian Gulf. Although the government of Persia opposed the move vehemently, in some editions of a few maps and atlases the term Persian was omitted, leaving only 'The Gulf' (e.g., The Times Atlas, p. 39), while the historical term Persian Gulf mostly remained intact, as in the National Geographic Atlas. (p. 77; fig. 7.)
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