[OSM-talk] Persian/Arabian Gulf Tagging

Bert -Araali- Van Opstal bert.araali.afritastic at gmail.com
Thu Jul 8 14:09:41 UTC 2021

Lot's of context and references were presented, different compromises 
and tagging schemes proposed. Those willing to form a non-biased 
rational opinion, the historical, political, cultural and religious 
motives behind the issue were able and given the opportunity to do so.

The term international waters is an informal term 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_waters>) used to reference 
any waters outside the Territorial waters, Archipelagic waters, 
Contiguous zone and Exclusive economic zones (EEZs), in the UNCLOS III 
agreement mostly referred to as Continental plate and High seas. 
Although it's an informal term it is generally known. 
, )
As you probably know, UNCLOS III is the International Convention on the 
Law of the Sea, ratified since 1994, by consensus and a large group of 
countries around the world.  Some countries have not ratified it but do 
acknowledge adherence and compliance to most of the contents in the 
treaty that apply here.

When it comes to "local use" of the term "Arabic Gulf" the verification 
which we can make is:
- the member states of the GCC 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_Cooperation_Council>), all Arabic 
speaking countries, are the only verifiable authoritative or official 
resource sometimes using the term "Arabic Gulf" for these waters in 
non-official communication.
until now I couldn't find any official document that uses the term 
"Arabic Gulf", neither "Persian Gulf". The GCC member states are all 
constitutional or absolute monarchies. With all due respect, but one 
could question to what extend there opinion reflect the general opinion 
of their people or just the private interests of the monarchies. The GCC 
was established during the Iran - Iraq war and both their logo, the use 
of only Arabic on the logo and the use of "Gulf" in the name (not 
"Persian Gulf" and NOT "Arabian Gulf") reflects the main political 
motives as excluding and acting against Iran. This is publicly and 
internationally known and acknowledged, so it doesn't make sense to deny 
this. No one here makes a statement if this is justified, appropriate 
due to their policies or the policies practised by the Iranians.

- The majority of historical maps, even those in Arabic, refer to the 
waters as "Persian Gulf". "Arabic Gulf" was historically used by a few 
British during the colonial era and Arab countries part of the Arab 
Peninsula (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_Gulf_naming_dispute 
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persian_Gulf_naming_dispute>). So far I 
haven't found any maps or charts, neither current or historical 
established by international communities or authorities that use the 
name "Arabic Gulf". In the contrary, some historical maps exist where 
the Red Sea was named Arabian Gulf instead of the Persian Gulf, which 
adds only more confusion. On some historical Arabic maps, on display in 
Arabic countries of the GCC, "Persian" has been purposely removed from 
"Persian Gulf".

- No one denies the fact that "Arabian Gulf" is used by the GCC, the 
monarchies of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula or their 
supporters. This can justify the use "Arabian Gulf" in the alt_name OSM 
key or some local_name variants, as is already proposed by several OSM 
members here in respect to local use and local communities, being it 
minorities or majorities.

- To my knowledge no one has ever officially requested a name change in 
the international community, being it the UNGEGN 
the FAO or other UN organisations, to change the name from "Persian 
Gulf" to "Arabic Gulf" or use them side by side as official 
internationally recognised names. Some countries use the term "Gulf", as 
the USA does in a minority of instances. I don't make any conclusion 
anywhere for their motives but be aware that the USA is not the world 
community and is the most important party that has not ratified UNCLOS III.
- A personal observation: "Arabic Gulf" is mostly used by Sunni Muslims, 
it's different for Shia Muslims which make up a large group of local 
Arabic speaking people around the Gulf. Again, I don't make a conclusion 
here or take a political, cultural or religious point of view, it is an 
objective yet personal observation both from having visited multiple 
countries in the region, member states of the GCC and Iran.

- Argumentation that the majority, in numbers, of people around the Gulf 
are Arabic speaking and therefore support or use an official name 
"Arabic Gulf" is not supported by independent concrete studies, 
enquiries or surveys, thus should not belong in the OSM name field. 
Neither does the fact that the longest stretch of coastal line around 
the Gulf is occupied by Arabic speaking countries gives neither of the 
states a fundamental right to determine the official international name 
for the international waters.

When it comes to "official use" of the term "Persian Gulf":

- The majority of the international community, being it the UN 
FAO (http://www.fao.org/fishery/facp/IRN/en 
<http://www.fao.org/fishery/facp/IRN/en>), Nautical charts, Wikipedia 
etc... in most cases uses "Persian Gulf", which makes it justified as 
the ONLY name to be used with the OSM key:name.

- The Iranians did bring a comprehensive investigative historical report 
to the UNGEGN. Being it biased or not, complete or not, was not 
concluded in this UN group. Neither should we disrespect the extensive 
and professional work done by the scientists, no matter what nationality 
they have, unless you can come up with significant facts that prove the 
contrary and the courage to present and discuss it publicly, references 
and verification through reputed channels and in the UN.

- Despite the fact that Iran and some other states around the Gulf 
didn't ratify the UNCLOS III, Iran has made multiple bilateral 
agreements, with member states of the GCC, to resolve any territorial 
claims and rights 
All literature and media about them use either "Persian Gulf" or "Gulf" 
or other internationally accepted names when it comes to the formulation 
of the agreements. In most cases, the treaties as signed by both 
parties, use British Admiralty Nautical Maps to illustrate the exact 
boundaries they agreed upon. British Admiralty Nautical Maps use the 
name "Persian Gulf" only.

- All admiralty charts that I found use "Persian Gulf" only 

Opting for the A/B solution is in my opinion trying to force rendering. 
We don't tag or map for the renderer.  If there are renderers that 
display alt_name or local_name keys it's fine, the data is there.

Opting for "Arabian Gulf" in the name key is also forcing rendering. 
Those renderers that display only the name:language fields will be 
different in Arabic, which is not desired, neither for minorities or 
majorities in the world or local community. Searching for a similar term 
on a map in a different language will be confusing.

Opting to leave the name field empty, to ease the situation, even if 
just temporary, doesn't have my support. We don't do this for other 
disputed or conflict areas either and because of it's open and free 
character any user, even unaware of the issue or this discussion might 
change it in a blink as we maintain all other keys. This can incite the 
same vandalism and discussion again with the local communities, so we 
should resolve it.  Don't leave it empty. I also believe that as a 
community we can make a consensus instead of acting and avoiding it like 
Google (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18108246 
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18108246>), being 
disrespectful to any local community, being it Iranian or Arab.
I don't favour the local_name:country option as again these might incite 
the same issues.  As f.i. Qatar, having recently signed some bilateral 
agreements with Iran, might not want to be listed as such user or 
promoter of "Arabian Gulf". This could however work if both terms are 
used to reflect the use of both minorities as majorities.

So my proposal for the compromise remains:
name = Persian Gulf
alt_name = Arabian Gulf; Gulf; Gulf of Iran; Gulf of Basra (in any 
particular order, all same significant)
name:fa = Persian Gulf (translated and as common official term in Farsi);
alt_name:fa = Arabian Gulf; Gulf; Gulf of Iran; Gulf of Basra 
(translated and as common official term in Farsi, any particular order, 
all same significant)
name:ar = Persian Gulf (translated and as common official term in Arabic);
alt_name:ar = Arabian Gulf; Gulf; Gulf of Iran; Gulf of Basra 
(translated and as common official term in Farsi, any particular order, 
all same significant)
Any other name:language fields follow the same principle.


Bert Araali

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