Seyyed Abbas Mojtahedi, a researcher and senior advisor to the head of the Persian Gulf Studies Center, explains about the activities of his center in an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times.
According to him, the Tehran-based think tank is trying, through scientific and historical proofs, to indicate to those who knowingly or unknowingly use fake names of “Gulf” or “Arab Gulf” in lieu of its real historical name of “Persian Gulf”. In an editorial directive released on August 18, 1994 by the United Nations it is explicitly stated that the full term of “Persian Gulf” should be used and not the short term.
The following is the full text of the Tehran Times interview with the researcher:
Q: Why is the name “Persian Gulf” so important to Iranians?
A: It is not only important but it is the matter of our national interest. The Persian Gulf is not just a name, it is much more than that. The name symbolizes Iran’s glory and history.
Q: Mr. Mojtahedi, as an Iranian researcher what have you done to provide authentic sources to prove your idea through mass media?
A: Good question! As a researcher as well as senior advisor to the managing director, I am working with the Persian Gulf Studies Centre (PGSC), Iran’s leading non-governmental organization on Persian Gulf and Middle East topics, for the past seven years. You can check out our site address at: www.persiangulfstudies.com I have three books on this topic, one in Farsi and two in English. Last year we made a PDF file by the name “Why Persian Gulf”. In this unique file we explained, according to the facts and documents, that the correct and standard geographical name of this waterway is Persian Gulf. The file is accessible to everyone and can be shared easily via email. “Why Persian Gulf” has been welcomed by Iranians and even non-Iranians throughout the world, because it is a fact-based document. I believe all the eighty million population of Iran should keep this PDF file handy. Many people are emotionally involved in this case, the name issue, but there is no need, because we have a very strong case; we have the upper hand. I am ready for any debate concerning this issue, anytime, anywhere.
Q: You have been active to introduce the realities and documents to the world about the name Persian Gulf for many years. Do you believe you have done enough?
A: Of course not! Persian Gulf Studies Centre needs more budget! I will promise you here that if the government or private sectors solve our budget problem, we will fight the incorrect and fake names of “Gulf” and “Arab Gulf” that Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCC) are trying hard to coin it with their petro-dollars in the world. They are going to have a tough time though.
Q: Could you please name some of the reliable authentic sources on the name of Persian Gulf?
A: First, you can check out the name of Persian Gulf on tens of thousands of historical maps, or just simply log into our online museum at:www.persiangulfstudies.com/museum for a complete list of the maps.
Second, you can also refer to the highest legal source of the world namely United Nations Organization and UNGEGN (United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names).
Third, refer to the famous and reputable sources like Oxford School Atlas, National Geographic Society, Royal Geographical Society, Encyclopedia Britannica, Rand-McNally and many more. Would you like more?
Q: Please tell us more about your activities.
A: As a researcher, 14 years ago I began concentrating on the Persian Gulf’s name issue and also seven years ago with my very good friends and Persian Gulf experts Mr. Parsapour and Mr. Rezaee we established an NGO by the name: Persian Gulf Studies Centre with one main purpose: Defending the name “Persian Gulf” and our beloved leader “Imam Khamenei” internationally. Now that we have formed a team, we are stronger. I have a small collection of atlases including school atlases from around the world. I spent 10 years of my life in the UK and India. Normally everywhere the name of the waterway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula is Persian Gulf, but in case we find it otherwise, we will convince them and they will correct it. Usually they are friendly, because we present them with valid and reliable sources on the basis of geography and history which has nothing to do with our patriotism, politics or voting system on the internet!
For instance, almost four years ago, we found a school atlas in India by the name OBS school atlas that was using the term “The Gulf” for this waterway! So we started to contact them and I sent them the documents through the post. The senior cartographer of the school atlas, a gentleman by the name “Srinivas”, accepted the mistake and promised me that the new version of OBS school atlas (2015) will have the correct name of the “Persian Gulf” on it. Then in the beginning of the year 2015, the new version of the OBS school atlas with name “Persian Gulf” came out. Mr. Srinivas was the first person to inform me about the new version of the map via email. In addition, Iranian consulate in Hyderabad (India) sent me the new version of the OBS school atlas by the post. All the documents of this almost three-year rally, which included emails, regular mails, etc., is available in our archives.
The point is that the OBS school atlas is one of the best quality atlases of India, covering almost 1.3 billion people. It also reaches to millions of other people in the Indian subcontinent, including those in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. I think now you can imagine how important this work was and what Persian Gulf Studies Center has done for Iran. I have to say here that Iran and India are historical friends and we should never forget our historical friendship with India and Pakistan. The other country is Turkey. I have been five times to Turkey. In all their English newspapers they normally use the term “Persian Gulf” but in Turkish media they mostly use the term “Basra Korfezi (Gulf of Basra)” for this waterway! I have to tell you that Gulf of Basra is a small part of the Persian Gulf just like Gulf of Bushehr or Gulf of Bahrain and it’s wrong to refer to it as the entire Persian Gulf.
In fact the roots of this case go back to the Ottoman era. On the other hand, Turkey’s most famous and number one atlas is called “Buyuk Atlas” by Professor Sabri Duran who uses the name Iran Korfezi (Gulf of Iran, that is same to the Persian Gulf) for this waterway. Turkey’s second famous atlases and school atlases are published by “inkilap” publications and by Prof. Ibrahim Atalay that uses both names of Basra Korfezi and Iran Korfezi for this waterway. I contacted Prof. Ibrahim Atalay and he confirmed that the correct geographical name of the waterway between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula is “Iran Korfezi (Persian Gulf)”. FYI, proof of contact is also available. Eliminating the name Basra Korfezi from Turkish atlases and media is difficult but not impossible. In order to do more research, the Persian Gulf Studies Center is ready to do so, but unfortunately we are currently facing with insufficient budget. If government or private sectors solve our budget problem, I promise that in the near future you will hear the name “Iran Korfezi” more than “Basra Korfezi” in the Turkish media, and that you will not find any atlas or school atlas in Turkey with the name “Basra Korfezi” inside.
I have to add here that despite some disagreements, Iran and Turkey are natural allies in the region. We are two strong countries with a combined population of almost 160 million (80 million Iran and 80 million Turkey). Just like Iran, India and Turkey have a rich culture and history and more than that they are our friends. Always remember that India is our historical friend and Turkey is our natural ally.
Q: Finally, you know that the UAE is claiming the three islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa in the Persian Gulf, what is PGSC’s viewpoint on this issue?
A: I’m sorry for saying it so bluntly. The UAE’s existence goes back to 1971 and Iran’s history and existence goes back to 2,600 years; but the UAE have claims ownership over Iranian islands). If it is just the matter of claims, let us reclaim the island of Bahrain! Does our claim sound cool to (P)GCC? Furthermore, the country called the UAE today was not there before 1971; it was a part of Oman. We have some old maps in our archives that proves this; plus we have hundreds of documents that shows all of these three islands of Tunbs and Abu Musa belong to Iran. We are not against the talks at all. Dialogue is for civilized people but also civilized people should respect the law and obey the regulations made by the highest legal source of the world that is the United Nations Organization about the name “Persian Gulf”. Before any talks, the UAE should officially accept the name “Persian Gulf” for this body of water and then the talks will be possible, and of course, it will be based on facts and that is through documents. Honestly speaking, I think the UAE’s problem is not Iran or the islands because with these so-called claims they go nowhere. I think their problem is their consulting team and they have to change it. There is an idiom that says “problem recognized is a problem half solved”.
Image: Kish Island in Persian Gulf (Kishyab.com)