The Strait of Hormuz has been in the news for some time now: a crucial point in petroleum shipping it is a gateway for the Persian gulf countries that have no other way of shipping out their oil, around 20% of world production. Held between the northern most part of Oman and the UAE, and south of Iran it has not been without controversy, with Iran issuing threats on more than one occasion to close the strait, in an effort to show its strength and prowess against western powers. But this is not the only issue surrounding the area.

I’ve been back in the UAE for about a week now and wherever I am I always try to sit at one point in the day and read the papers. They’re not quite like back in the UK: any critique of government is incredibly well worded and the local papers rarely have a front page without at least one picture of a top Sheikh looking good. Often they focus on fluff stories, with more serious news hidden in tiny columns near the back. But there was one story on the front page of the Khaleej Times that caught my eye.

…causing the decade long Iran-Iraq war…

Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of the Island of Abu Musa; I’ve lived in the UAE most of my life and I hadn’t heard of it. Abu Musa is a tiny island in the Persian Gulf, just west of the Strait of Hormuz. It was UAE administered until Iran stepped in and claimed it. There was little disagreement until the 1980s when the UAE brought its case to the UN and Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, sighted one of the reasons for its attacking Iran and causing the decade long Iran-Iraq war was to free the Islands from Persian control.

The Islands are a sore subject and this week President Ahmedinejad visited Abu Musa and caused uproar. According to the local papers, the UAE has recalled its envoy and Arab countries have expressed support for the Emirati claims. This is, of course, in the local papers, I don’t have access to Iran news media currently and I don’t know the whole story but that’s my point, no-one’s being shown the whole story.

A lack of knowledge of where our troops are going has caused problem after problem…

Another item in the Strait of Hormuz to catch my eye was that of the coast of Kumzar on the Northern tip of Oman: the only place in the world where the language Kumzari is spoken. The Kumzari language is largely Persian-base, but with a lot of Arabic added as well as snippets from European languages that have stayed from passing colonisers. The Kumzaris have fought with and against people before in the Strait of Hormuz but they’re worried about it now. Some reports put speakers of the language at as little as 4,000 and they don’t want to lose anymore.

These stories caught my eye because they are important but little-known. They are seldom mentioned; very rarely outside of the region and never in countries like the UK and USA who would most likely be involved if anything were to happen around the Strait. A lack of knowledge of where our troops are going has caused problem after problem before, one feels like maybe the lesson hasn’t been learned.


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Grew up in the Middle East, currently studying Arabic and Linguistics in central London. Write a lot...

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