Greater and Lesser Tunbs

Greater and Lesser Tunbs

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Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb ' onMouseout='HidePop("82439")' href="http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Arabic_language">Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

: , Tunb al-kubra and Tunb al-sughra) are two small islands in the eastern Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

, close to the Strait of Hormuz
Strait of Hormuz
The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow, strategically important waterway between the Gulf of Oman in the southeast and the Persian Gulf. On the north coast is Iran and on the south coast is the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman....

. They lie at 26°15′N 55°16′E and 26°14′N 55°08′E respectively, some 12 kilometers from each other and 20 south of the Iranian island of Qeshm
Qeshm
Qeshm Qeshm Qeshm (Persian: قشم - pronounced kē´shm is an Iranian island situated in the Strait of Hormuz, and separated from the mainland by the Clarence Strait/Khuran in the Persian Gulf .-Geography:...

. The Islands are administered by Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 as part of its province of Hormozgan, but are also claimed by UAE as a territory of the Emirate
Emirate
An emirate is a political territory that is ruled by a dynastic Muslim monarch styled emir.-Etymology:Etymologically emirate or amirate is the quality, dignity, office or territorial competence of any emir ....

 of Ras al-Khaimah
Ras al-Khaimah
Ras al-Khaimah is one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates , in the east of the Persian Gulf. It is in the northern part of the UAE bordering Oman's exclave. The capital city and home of most residents is also called Ras al-Khaimah. The city has a population of 263,217 as of 2008. The city...

.

Greater Tunb has a surface of 10.3 km². It is known for its red soil. There are conflicting descriptions about its population: While some sources state there are between a few dozen and a few hundred inhabitants, others describe the island as having no native civilian population. There is reported to be an Iranian garrison and naval station, a fish storage facility and a red-soil mine.
Lesser Tunb has a surface of 2 km² and is uninhabited with the exception of a small airfield, harbor, and entrenched Iranian military unit.
The toponymy of Tonb is in all likelihood of Persian origin. In the local Persian dialect(s) of southern Persia, the noun tonb, with its diminutive tonbu, as it applied to Lesser Tonb (Nāmiuh or Nābiuh Tonb), means “hill” or “low elevation” . The terms have the same meaning in the larger Dari Persian
Dari (Persian)
Dari or Fārsī-ye Darī in historical terms refers to the Persian court language of the Sassanids. In contemporary usage, the term refers to the dialects of modern Persian language spoken in Afghanistan, and hence known as Afghan Persian in some Western sources. It is the term officially recognized...

 language system; this explains in part the traces of tonb and tonbu in the toponyms found in the Bushehr
Bushehr
Bushehr Bushehr lies in a vast plain running along the coastal region on the Persian Gulf coast of southwestern Iran. It is the chief seaport of the country and the administrative centre of its province. Its location is about south of Tehran. The local climate is hot and humid.The city...

 and Lengeh regions, some 300 miles (480 km) apart. There are other toponyms such as Tonb-e Seh in Tangestān
Tangestan County
Tangestan County is a county in Bushehr Province in Iran. The capital of the county is Ahram. At the 2006 census, the county's population was 63,276, in 14,620 families. The county is subdivided into two districts: the Central District and Delvar District...

 and Tonbānu on Qeshm
Qeshm
Qeshm Qeshm Qeshm (Persian: قشم - pronounced kē´shm is an Iranian island situated in the Strait of Hormuz, and separated from the mainland by the Clarence Strait/Khuran in the Persian Gulf .-Geography:...

 island.

Dispute


Reference to Great Tonb as an Iranian island is found in Ibn Balkhi's 12th-century Farsnameh and Hamdallah Mustawfi Kazvini
Hamdollah Mostowfi
Hamdollah Mostowfi was a Persian historian, geographer and epic poet.Mostowfi is the author of Nozhat ol-Gholub , Zafar-Nameh , and the Tarikh e Gozideh . His tomb is a structure with a blue turquoise conical dome, at Qazvin.-References and notes:...

's 14th-century Nuzhat al-Qulub. The Tonbs were dominions of the kings of Hormuz
Ormus
The Kingdom of Ormus was a 10th to 17th century kingdom located within the Persian Gulf and extending as far as the Strait of Hormuz...

 from 1330 or so until Hormuz's capitulation to the Portuguese
Portuguese people
The Portuguese are a nation and ethnic group native to the country of Portugal, in the west of the Iberian peninsula of south-west Europe. Their language is Portuguese, and Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion....

 in 1507. The Tonbs remained a part of the Hormuzi-Portuguese administration until 1622, when the Portuguese were expelled from the Persian littoral by the Persian central government. During this period, the human geography, commerce, and territorial administration of the Tonbs, along with Abu Musa
Abu Musa
Abu Musa is a 12-km² island in the eastern Persian Gulf, part of a six-island archipelago near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz. The island is administered by Iran as part of the Iranian province of Hormozgan, but is also claimed by the United Arab Emirates .Abu Musa's inhabitants call it...

 and Sirri islands, became intimately connected with the Province of Fars, notably the Persian ports of Lengeh and Kung, and the nearby Qeshm
Qeshm
Qeshm Qeshm Qeshm (Persian: قشم - pronounced kē´shm is an Iranian island situated in the Strait of Hormuz, and separated from the mainland by the Clarence Strait/Khuran in the Persian Gulf .-Geography:...

 and Hengam islands.

It has been remarked, in the context of the limits of the Persian empire in the Persian Gulf in the middle of the 18th century, that "[a]ll the islands off the Persian coast, from Kharqu and Kharaq in the north to Hormoz and Larak in the south, were rightly Persian, though many were in the hands of Arab tribes". Consistent with this, the British in 1800 were also of the belief that "[a]lthough the King exercises no positive authority over any of [the]islands of the [Persian] Gulf, those on the northern shore are all considered as part of the Empire".

An 1804 map of German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 origin showed the southern coast of Iran as the habitat of the "Bani Hule" tribe and the islands, colored in the same orange, were designated as "Thunb unbenohul". The "Bani Hule" or Howalla were a loosely defined grouping of peoples of distant Arab origin but with longstanding residence on the Iranian coast. Regardless of the spelling of the toponym as "Tonb", be it from the Arabic tÂonb (abode) or from the Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 tonb (hill), the attribution to the larger island of this epithet highlighted the islands' intimate association with the Persian coast and its inhabitants. One of the clans belonging to the Howalla or "Bani Hule" of the Persian coast was that of the Qasimi
Al Qasimi
Al Qasimi is a deeply-rooted Adnani Arabian tribe known for its rich history, bravery and conquests. The Al Qasimi dynasty are from the Ashraaf; they trace their ancesty from Imam Ali. Today, two branches of the Al Qasimi tribe rule the Emirates of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab...

. Their Arab tribal origins are not as clearly established as is, however, their Persian geographical origin immediately prior to their rise to notoriety in the lower Persian Gulf. This occurred in the 18th century.

18th century


During the 1720s the Qasami had emigrated from the Persian coast and established themselves as a force in Sharjah and Julfar (Ras al-Khaimah
Ras al-Khaimah
Ras al-Khaimah is one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates , in the east of the Persian Gulf. It is in the northern part of the UAE bordering Oman's exclave. The capital city and home of most residents is also called Ras al-Khaimah. The city has a population of 263,217 as of 2008. The city...

, now part of UAE). In the period 1747-59, a branch of the Qasemi from Sharjah established itself on the Persian littoral, but it was expelled in 1767. By 1780, the Qasemi branch was re-established on the Persian coast and began to feud with other coastal tribes over pasturage in the islands off Langeh. The Iranian argument for the ownership of the disputed islands is that the Qasami controlled the islands while they were located on the Persian coast, not when they later emigrated to the UAE coast. As of April 1873, the islands were reported as a dependency of the Persian Fars province to the British Resident, which the Resident acknowledged. In the period 1786-1835 the official British opinion, surveys, and maps identified the Tonbs as part of Langeh, subject to the government of the province of Fars. Chief among them were the works of Lt. John McCluer (1786), political counselor John Macdonald Kinneir (1813), and Lt. George Barns Brucks (1829).

19th century


In 1835, the Bani Yas attacked a British ship off Greater Tonb. In the ensuing maritime peace arranged by the Resident Samuel Hennell, a restrictive line was established between Abu Musa and Sirri islands, and pledges were obtained from the tribes of the lower Persian Gulf not to venture their war boats north of the line. In view of Sirri and Abu Musa being pirate lairs themselves, Hennell's successor, Major James Morrison, in January 1836, modified the restrictive line to run from Sham on the Trucial Coast to a point ten miles south of Abu Musa to Sáir Abu Noayr island. In either of its configurations, the restrictive line placed the Tonbs outside of the reach of the war boats of the Qasemi, Bani Yas, and other tribes of the lower Persian Gulf. The 1835 maritime truce was made permanent in 1853 after a series of earlier extensions. Force being no longer a viable option for settlement of disputes, especially on the part of the Qasemi of the lower Persian Gulf , the enforcement of Qasemi's claims to islands such as Abu Musa and Greater Tonb became a subject for the British colonial administration in the Persian Gulf. In that context, the Resident and its agents on several occasions (1864, 1873, 1879, 1881) had been seized with the question of the ownership of the Tonbs, but the British government had refused to go along with the claims of the Qasemi of the lower Persian Gulf.

In the period 1836-86 the official British surveys, maps, and administrative reports continued to identify the Tonbs as part of Langeh, subject to the government of Fars province. Among them were the works of Lt. Colonel Robert Taylor (1836), the Resident A.B. Kemball (1854), the Resident Lewis Pelly
Lewis Pelly
Sir Lewis Pelly, KCSI, , was Conservative Member of Parliament for Hackney North from 1885 to 1892 and an East India Company officer.-Early years:...

 (1864), The Persian Gulf Pilot (1864), an admiralty publication, the 1870 (second) edition of The Persian Gulf Pilot, and the 1886 Map of Persia, which was issued by the intelligence branch of the British war office and showed the Tonbs in the color of Persia.

Up until this date (1886) the British acknowledged Persian ownership of the islands. In February 1887 the Persian central government reorganized the ports of Bushehr, Langeh, and Bandar Abbas
Bandar Abbas
Bandar-Abbas or Bandar-e ‘Abbās , also Romanized as Bandar ‘Abbās, Bandar ‘Abbāsī, and Bandar-e ‘Abbās; formerly known as Cambarão and Port Comorão to Portuguese traders, as Gombroon to English traders and as Gamrun or Gumrun to Dutch merchants) is a port city and capital of Hormozgān Province on...

, together with their dependent districts and islands, into a new administrative unit called the Persian Gulf Ports and placed it under the charge of a member of the Qajar royal family, dissolving the Qasami governorship later in September. These and other Persian actions prompted the British to change their stance on the ownership of the islands due to suspicion that the new Persian policy was influenced by German and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n interests. By August 1888, Britain decided to acquiesce in the Persian actions on Sirri, leaving alone the concerns over Tonb, even though the Persian government's rebuff of the British protests had coupled their claim to Sirri with one to Tonb). The British regard for the Persian claim to Sirri (and perhaps Tonb) was affected significantly by the depiction of the Tonbs and Serri in the same color as that of Persia in the 1886 Map of Persia, which Naser-al-Din Shah Qajar of Persia now astutely cited against the British when they protested the Persian actions on Sirri. The British acquiescence in the Persian claim to Serri demeaned the very theory on which the protest had been based.

The Qasemi administrators of Langa were of the same original stock as the Qasemi of the lower Persian Gulf; however, their rise on the Persian littoral and to the political administration of Langa and its dependencies were attributable primarily to their distance from the politics and piratical activities of their kinsmen in Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah . Consequently, when the British government pacified the tribes of the lower Persian Gulf, which it had labeled as "pirates" (hence the term "Pirate Coast"), in a series of naval engagements in the early 19th century, and then exacted from them a general surrender in 1820 and a maritime truce in the 1830s (hence the term "Trucial" Shaikhdoms), the Qasemi of the Persian coast were spared the ravages and humiliation suffered by their namesake in the lower Persian Gulf. The view that the Qasemi of Langeh had administered the Tonbs, Abu Musa, and Serri islands as the lieutenants of the Qasemi of the lower Persian Gulf was rebutted in later years by a legal adviser at the British foreign office in 1932 and the head of its eastern department in 1934.

Besides the Persian territorial and political ambitions in the Persian Gulf, in the period 1888-1903 the British government was worried equally about French intrigues, and Russian and German naval and economic interests in the region. It had already been determined by the British that the Persian actions on Sirri and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf were inspired by Russia. In pursuit of a forward policy based on Curzon's views, which included the marking of the territories under their direct and indirect colonial control, the British government undertook a project to erect flagstaffs in a number of locations in the Persian Gulf.

In the pursuit of British imperial considerations the lack of regard for Persian sensibilities was no vice. Already, in 1901 a British government memorandum openly suggested that, where strategic necessity required, Britain would seize any of the Persian islands, and in March 1902 Curzon recommended that the British navy hoist a flag on Qeshm island in the case of necessity. On June 14, 1904 the Persian government removed its presence from Abu Musa and Greater Tonb subject to the reservations, as reported by the British minister. In a note to the British minister, the Persian foreign minister stated that neither party should hoist flags in the islands until the settlement of the question of ownership, but the shaikh of Sharjah hoisted their flags three days later. In the Iranian annals of the diplomatic history of the Tonbs and Abu Musa, the Persian agreement to withdraw from the islands on 14 June 1904, subject to reservations, is known as the "status quo agreement." The re-flagging of the islands by Sharjah three days after the withdrawal of the Persians violated the status quo agreement, rendering moot the legal relevance of any subsequent presence and activity by Sharjah on the islands and also any by Ras al-Khaimah with respect to the Tonbs from 1921 onward.

In the period from 17 June 1904 until the recognition of Ras al-Khaimah as a separate shaikhdom by Britain on 7 June 1921, the Tonbs remained under the administration of the shaikh of Sharjah. From 7 June 1921 until 30 November 1971 the islands were administered by the shaikh of Ras al-Khaimah.

20th century


During the 20th century, several attempts at negotiations were made, with various tradeoffs under consideration: according to one proposal, Iran would recognise Arab ownership of Abu Musa in return for the emirates recognising Iranian ownership of the Tunb Islands; according to others, one side would lease or sell the Tunb Islands to the other. However, no agreement was ever concluded. In 1971, shortly before the end of the British protectorate and the formation of the UAE, Iran seized semi-control of Abu Musa under an agreement of joint administration together with Sharjah, with both sides nominally upholding their separate claims. A day later, on 30 November 1971, Iran forcibly seized control of the Tunb Islands and Abu Musa, against the resistance of the tiny Arab police force stationed there. The Iranians were instructed not to open fire, and the first shots came from the Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 resistance which killed four Iranian marines and injured one. According to some sources, the Arab civilian population of Greater Tunb was then deported, but according to others the island had already been uninhabited for some time earlier.

Present situation


In the following decades, the issue remained a source of friction between the Arab states and Iran. The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf , also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council , is a political and economic union of the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf and constituting the Arabian Peninsula, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates...

 repeatedly declared support for the UAE claims. Bilateral talks between the UAE and Iran in 1992 failed. The UAE have attempted to bring the dispute before the International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

, but Iran refuses to do so. Tehran says the islands always belonged to it as it had never renounced possession of the islands, and that they are an integral part of Iranian territory. The Shaikhdom of Ras al-Khaimah
Ras al-Khaimah
Ras al-Khaimah is one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates , in the east of the Persian Gulf. It is in the northern part of the UAE bordering Oman's exclave. The capital city and home of most residents is also called Ras al-Khaimah. The city has a population of 263,217 as of 2008. The city...

 argue that the islands were under the control of Qasimi sheikhs
Al Qasimi
Al Qasimi is a deeply-rooted Adnani Arabian tribe known for its rich history, bravery and conquests. The Al Qasimi dynasty are from the Ashraaf; they trace their ancesty from Imam Ali. Today, two branches of the Al Qasimi tribe rule the Emirates of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab...

 , a branch of which administered the port of Bandar Lengeh
Bandar Lengeh
Bandar Lengeh is a harbor city in, and capital of Bandar-Lengeh County, in Hormozgan province of Iran on the coast of the Persian Gulf. The harbor is 280 km from Lar, 192 km from Bandar Abbas, and 420 km from Bushehr. The weather in Bandar Lengeh is hot and humid, typical of coastal...

 for the Persian government from ca. 1789 to 1887, and UAE as the successor to the tribal patrimony of the tribe, may inherit their rights. Iran counters by stating that the local Qasimi rulers during a crucial part of the previous centuries were actually based on the Iranian, not the Arab, coast, and had thus has been Persian subjects. UAE always refer to these islands as "occupied".

Sources

  • Haghshenas, Seyyed Ali
    Seyeed Ali Haghshenas
    Seyeed Ali Haghshenas Kamyab , born 10/9/1975 in Tehran, is an Iranian writer and journalist.Haghshenas is also Founder & Chairman of Iran Taekwondo Association, ,Iran martial arts Professionals union and G.S of Iran N.G.Os Sport Society.- Books :*Lebanon social and political structure and...

    , Iran Historical Sovereignty over the Tunbs and Bu mousa Islands. Published in 2010, Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

    , Tehran
    Tehran
    Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

    .