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Iran’s Fight for ‘Persian' Gulf Escalates to the Skies

Iran has expelled a Greek airline steward for refusing to take the name “Arabian Gulf” off an on-board computer screen. A "Gulf' War" of words.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 2/21/2010, 10:41 PM / Last Update: 2/21/2010, 11:17 PM

Israel news photo

Iran has expelled a Greek airline steward who refused to remove the name “Arabian Gulf” from on-line computer screens that show the body of water that the Islamic Republic insists is the “Persian Gulf.”

Iranian authorities said that the steward for Iran’s Kish Air used a “forged title” on a domestic flight while displaying the flight map for passengers, some of whom had demanded the description be changed to “Persian Gulf.”

"The Greek steward is also facing a restriction for entering the country because of his improper behavior and irresponsible act," Gholam Reza Rezaeian,  head of Iran's Law Enforcement Police Office for Migration and Foreign Nationals, told the Fars News Agency.

The dispute over the name of the body of water dates back five decades and involves Arab and Iranian pride that previously has been considered grounds for war.

Historical maps used the term “Persian Gulf," reflecting the use by ancient Greek map-makers. However, several attempts were made to use the term “Straits of Hormuz” and “Strait of Basra,” which is the description used by Turkey. Britain unsuccessfully tried naming the body of water the “Britain Sea” when it tried to control the waterway in the 1830s.

Rising nationalist pride in the Arab world in the 1960s prompted the United Arab Emirates to erase the term, and many Arab nations used began using the term “Arabian Gulf.” Iran at the time had relatively little political or economic influence in the English-speaking world.

The Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the country’s rising influence has made the term “Persian Gulf” a cause for national pride.

“The false use of ‘Arabian Gulf’ instead of ‘Persian Gulf’ has developed the sensitivity of all Iranians across the world," the Iranian Press TV agency said this week. “Since Persian Gulf occupies a pivotal place in the Iranian history and culture, the false use of the name of the area has always provoked the Iranian government and people's anger.”