15 January 2005
letter of H. E. Dr. M. Javad Zarif
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Of The Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
To Mr. Gil Grosvenor
National Geographic Society
The incontrovertible historical facts about “Persian Gulf”
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Mr. Gil Grosvenor
National Geographic Society
We learned with strong dismay that the National Geographic Society, in its recently published Eighth Edition of Atlas of the World, departed from the long established practice of respectable and responsible cartographic institutions, including its own, and used an inaccurate and forged name in referring to Persian Gulf.
The incontrovertible historical fact is that the body of water separating Iran and the Arabian Peninsula was always called the “Persian Gulf” by early historians and geographers. This reality has been reflected in all maps dating from many centuries ago which referred to this body of water exclusively and consistently as the “Persian Gulf”. For your ease of reference, I have enclosed maps dating back 5 centuries, which establish this fact.
Your own institution has consistently followed the same practice over the past 90 years including in its Atlas of the World publication for more than 35 years, providing yet another solid proof of what constitutes historical reality and proper terminology in the absence of prevalence of political considerations.
In this context, the practice of the United Nations over the past sixty years is noteworthy in emphasizing on the term “Persian Gulf” as the only correct geographical designation used by the UN Secretariat in referring to this body of water.
The distorted terminology is nothing but a recent politically motivated ploy without any foundation in essence, practice, history or usage. It is unacceptable to give any credence to such a short-sighted political move by institutions and entities that seek to be accurate, apolitical and objective in their decisions and actions. We cannot accept the argument that Persian Gulf is among areas of the world to which more than one geographical name is applicable and did not expect an institution of your reputation to resort to such an unacceptable and unfounded justification. Persian Gulf has always had only one standard geographical designation which is universally recognized. Decisions on nomenclature assigned to geographic places should be made and based on historical and factual data, authentic documents and reliable sources, rather than on the political or fictional considerations.
The Atlas of the World has also made a judgmental reference to the Iranian Islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb. To our regret, the Society has made an unjustifiable and irresponsible judgment about the status of these Islands, despite its pronounced policy of impartiality and objectivity. I should therefore make it clear that these Islands are parts of the Iranian territory and under Iran’s full sovereignty. Iran categorically rejects any claim to the contrary. Indeed, Iran’s sovereignty over these Islands is based on unquestionable legal and historical facts that cannot be disputed by any party or entity. The previous editions of the Atlas clearly show that these Islands are part of the Iranian territory. Therefore, we regard the Society’s judgmental reference to these Islands in the recent edition of the Atlas as an undue attempt to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country.
The recent Edition of this publication has outraged Iranian people inside and outside the country. We have always regarded the National Geographic Society as a renowned and respectable research and publishing institute that has contributed tremendously to the preservation of the world geographic names and maps for so many decades. This unfortunate episode however has not only tarnished the reputation of your institution among Iranian communities but also within scholarly and academic community globally.
The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran regards the recent decision of the National Geographic Society to use a dual name for the Persian Gulf in its Eighth Edition of the Atlas of the World as totally unacceptable, and consequently, considers any references to this Edition of Atlas of the World on the question of the Persian Gulf or Iranian Islands of Abu Mussa and Greater Tumb and Lesser Tumb to be null and void. We also call on the National Geographic Society to take all necessary measures to revise its naming policy on the question of the Persian Gulf and incorrect references to these islands, and take appropriate measures to rectify the current edition of Atlas of the World in order to preserve its pronounced policy of accuracy, impartiality and objectivity.
M. Javad Zarif