Mishmahig Islands (Bahrain), "How was separated from Iran?"
The following summary about Bahrain is based on extracts from the article “Bahrain: the land of political movements”, by Dr. Piruz Mojtahedzadeh, published in Rahavard, a Persian Journal of Iranian Studies, CA, USA VOL.XI, NO.39, 1995.
Dr P. Mojtahedzadeh is a senior research member of Centre for Geopolitics and International Borders studies in University of London, and the Chairman of Board of Directors of the UROSOEC Research Foundation, London.
Mishmahig Island, the present country known as Bahrain is a peninsular located in the southern half of the middle section of the Persian Gulf, which consist of 33 big and small islands. The total areas of these islands are 637 Square Kilometres. Population of Mishmahig is estimated to be half a million. The Shiite population is estimated to be of 75%b of the total, who most of them are from the “Bahaareyneh-gaan”; the decedents of Iranian origin population of the ancient Bahrain.
The Ancient history:
The past civilization of the Bahrain Islands goes back into the depth of history, where “Dilmun culture” thrived two thousands years before Common era.
At the time of second Iranian Empire, the Achaemenids, this land was on the fringe of Iranian territory and when the forth dynasty, the Sasanian Empire was achieving its peak, the encroachment of the Arabs into the Iranian dominion of the southern Persian Gulf started. Shapur I took his forces to Mishmahig and the southern coasts of the Persian Gulf and expelled the alien aggressors.
When Shapour II was only a child, the Arab incursion into the southern coasts of Iranian territory was mounted. As soon as Shapour II grew up, he decided to once and for all cut their hands off Mishmahig and other Iranian territories of the southern coasts of the Persian Gulf forever. To implement such a decision required a hard and unforgettable punishment for the invaders. He sent his army to the region and pushed Arabs out of Iranian territories into the depth of Arabia and restored the security of the Persian Gulf.
What is evident is that the maritime and costal of Bahrain were part of Iranian territory from the beginning of Sasanian Empire until throughout of Iran was occupied by the Arabs Islamic forces and migration of Bedouins from Arabian deserts into southern Iranian territories started.
Buyyid dynasty, freed and reunited much of the country including Mishmahig Islands, after controlling Abbasid caliphs at Baghdad, in Iranian province of Khavarvaran (today known as Iraq), and was part of Iranian realm until 1522 when Portuguese invaded the Island and overthrown the Governor called Jaboor. By In 1602 at the time of soaring power of Safavid dynasty, Iranian forces defeated Portuguese in ports and islands of Hormoz and expelled them from Mishmahig and reunited the islands with the mainland Iran once again.
During this period Mishmahig was administered by the tribes of Iranian origin of “Havaleh” in Zebareh In northern of Qatar Peninsula, when Zebareh was herself under the rule of Government of Fars. Towards the end of Safavid periods though Zebareh Government was ruled namely by Iran, but mostly it was an obstinate and inattentive Government to the centre.
In 1737, when eradication of the local obstinacy was at its apogee, Lotf Ali Khan-e Zand was made in charge by Nader Shah of Afshar dynasty to suppress the rogue ruler of Zebareh. From that time Mishmahig was under the direct rule of Government of Fars and it was the Sheikh Naser Khan, the last Iranian ruler who on behalf of Karim Khan-e Zand the founder of Zandian dynasty would administer the affairs of Zebareh and Mishmahig.
Modern history: The British interference and the implementation of politics of “Depersonalisation of the Persian Gulf”
When Al-Khalifeh of Ban Atebeh of the Arabs entered Zebareh in 1765 political history of Mishmahig and later Bahrain began a new period. It did not take long that he planned to rule Zebareh and Bahrain. Sheikh Naser Khan decided while punishing Bani-havaleh, to put Al Khalifeh in his place. He surrounded Zabaerh but was defeated heavily.
Bahrain in 1783 at the time of ruling of Karim Khan of Zandian dynasty fell into hands of Al Khalifeh and the rule of Iran over these islands was once again stopped.
Al Khalifeh since then was afflicted from encroachment and onslaught from different forces. Vahhabis, Masghatian, Ottoman Turks and finally the English; each one attempted on a few occasions to annex Bahrain to their Dominion.
In 1830 Sheikh Abdul Al Khalifeh declared dependence to the Iranian Government as the Egyptian Mohammad Pasha who took away Arabian Peninsula from Vahhabis on behalf of the Ottoman Empire wanted to know if the people of Bahrain are not in allegiance with Iran, they would ruled by him.
In 1860 the Government of Al Khalifeh repeated the same assertion when the British were trying to overpower Bahrain. Sheikh Mohammad Ben Khalifeh at that time wrote a letter to Nasseredian Shah declaring himself and his brother and all of members of Al Khalifeh and the people of Bahrain to be of Iranian subjects, and in another letter to the Iranian Foreign Minster, Sheikh Mohammad demanded from the Government of Iran to be directly guided and protected in the face of British pressure.
Later on, when the pressure of Colonel Sir Lewis Pelly increased on Al Khalifeh, Sheikh Mohammad requested military assistance from Iran, but the Government of Iran at that time did not had the ability to protect Bahrain from the British aggression. Therefore, the Government of British India eventually overpowered Bahrain and Colonel Pelly in May 1861 signed an agreement with Sheikh Mohammad and later with his brother Sheikh Ali that placed Bahrain under British rule and protection.
When the British forces galloped in Bahrain, they noticed that Sheikh Mohammad ben Khalifeh had hoisted Iranian Flags all over Bahrain’s towers and forts. The British representatives in 1868 signed another agreement with the rulers of Al Khalifeh to the effect Bahrain joined the British protectorate territories in the Persian Gulf. Other agreements of 1880 and 1892 completed ultimately the protectorate status of Bahrain to the British. So Bahrain, which was practically separated from Iran in 1783 but would namely confirm her allegiance to Iran, was practically, namely and officially separated from Iran between the years of 1868 and 1892 for the last time.
The unrest of people of Bahrain in fact began when the Britain colonialism officially established her ultimate and complete dominance over this territory in 1892. The first revolt and widespread uprising took place in the month of March 1895 against Sheikh Essa Ben Ali the then ruler of Al Khalifeh. Sheikh Essa was the first ruler of Al Khalifeh who was ruling on that land without any relations with Iran. SIR Arnold Wilson, the political representative of Britain in The Persian Gulf (the writer of book” The Persian Gulf”), arrived in Bahrain from Masghat at this time. The extent of this uprising developed further and some of the protesters were killed by the British forces.
In 1911 a group of merchants of Bahrain, demanded the restriction of the British influence in Bahrain. The leaders of this movement were arrested and exiled to India. In 1923 the British deposed Sheikh Issa Ben Ali with accused of opposing Britain and set up a permanent representative in Bahrain. This coincided with renewal of Iran` claim over the ownership of Bahrain and Sheikh Essa had been accused of welcoming this development. Also the attachment shown by the People of Bahrain towards the renewal of ownership’s claim by Iran caused concern for Britain. To remedy these problems, Britain dispatched one of the most experienced colonial officers, Sir Charles Belgrave as an advisor to the Emir of Bahrain in 1926. His harsh measures caused to intensify the increasing aversion of people towards him and resulted eventually in his expulsion from Bahrain in 1957. Belgrave’s colonial undertakings were not limited to the violent deeds against the people of Bahrain but a series of dastardly initiatives, which included deiranisation of Bahrain and The Persian Gulf, and the he proposal to change the name of Persian Gulf in 1937 which did not take place but carried out by Abdul Karim Ghasim, the dictator of Baghdad.
In 1927 Reza Shah in a letter to the Allied Nations Community demanded the return of Bahrain. Britain knew well that her weakened domination over Bahrain would be equal to loose control all over the Persian Gulf, decided to bring under control at any cost the uprisings of people of Bahrain. To achieve this the British elements encouraged conflicts between Shiite and Sunni in Bahrain.
The Iranian tendency in the uprising of this period was to such an extent that forced the Members of Parliament of Iran to pass a bill in the November of 1957, to the effect to announce Bahrain as the Fourteenth province of Iran, and two empty seats were considered for the representatives of this province. This action was detrimental for Iran as it caused numerous problems in the international relations, specially with some United Nations bodies, Britain, Saudi Arabia, and numbers of Arab countries and provided a big excuse for Iraqi extremist to extent anti Iranian campaign in the region. This action was against the people of Bahrain as not only caused an increase sense of precaution of Britain and the Government of Bahrain towards the Iranian connection of Bahrain’s people uprisings, but forced the freedom loving people of Bahrain from expressing any Iranian tendency in order to avoid accusation o f dependency to “the expansionist policies of Iran in the Persian Gulf”, which at time was being propagated intensely against her deserving rights in the Persian Gulf.
At this time, Britain carried out the dastardly cogitation to change the demographic face of Bahrain. This policy of “Deiranisation” in Bahrain consisted of importing a large number of different Arabs and others from British colonies as labourers into Bahrain. At the same time it is noteworthy that the demonstrations of year 1956 forced the rulers of Al Khalifeh to leave Manama (The capital of modern Bahrain) and reside in the village of Refae Al Gharbi and only Sunni Arab servitors as their bodyguards were allowed to live in that village.
However the Government of Al Khalifeh is considered a flexible and liberal Government to compare to all the Arab Governments of the Persian Gulf, especially in comparison to the Governments of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and to the dictatorship of Iraq. The reason for this flexibility should be looked into the following two nokteh: Firstly, the Arabs of Al Khalifeh (Bani Atub) found themselves from the beginning of their arrival among Iranians and could never do away with this notion of “Unwanted guests”, secondly the synthesis of population of Bahrain has been and is different the region Emirates.
While the other Emirates have been tribal communities, which have grown around the dominating tribe, Bahrain has been an urban society from the ancient times like the societies of Iran and Mesopotamia. For this reason the rulers of Bahrain have not been able to deprive every members of society from taking part in the affairs of the country.
In 1965, Iran began dialogues with Britain in anticipation to determine her borders in the Persian Gulf. It was not long enough that the endurance of these talks became impossible as both parties realised with the existing extensive differences over borders and territory in the region; including the dispute relating to the dominion of Bahrain, the determination of maritime borders between the northern and southern countries of the Persian Gulf is not feasible.
At the same time Malek Faisal, the King of Saudi Arabia arrived in Iran, which included the creation of Islamic Conference; and the decision to determine the maritime borders of the two countries. In return, it was agreed that Shah of Iran would visit Saudi Arabia in 1967. A week before this visit, the Saudis received Sheikh Essa Ben Salman Al Khalifeh, the Emir of Bahrain as a head of state in Riyadh. This caused the cancellation of Shah's visit and the relation between the two countries tarnished severely. The mediation by Sultan Hasan, the king of Morocco repatriated the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Eventually Iran and Britain agreed that the matter of Dominion of Bahrain to put to international judgment and requested the United Nations General Secretary to take on this responsibility.
It was a Plebiscite and not a Referendum!
Iran was trying hard so that the destiny of Bahrain would be determined through a referendum. Britain was sternly opposed to this and the Government of Bahrain was not in any way prepared to accept such a referendum. The reason for opposing was that the Government of Al Khalifeh saw the legal concept of holding such a referendum would be to negate the 150 years of his rule in Bahrain. Finally Iran and Britain agreed to instead of holding Referendum, to request United Nations through conducting a Plebiscite (Nazar khaahi e oumoumi; opinion poll) in Bahrain, to determine the political future of that territory. Outant The then General Secretary of the United Nations, in reply to the letters of Iran and Britain in the month declared in the month of March 1970, his readiness to fulfil this mission and Sinior Vittorio Winspere Guicciardi the Manager of The United Nation office in Geneva was put in charge to execute the task. Guicciardi and his colleagues entered in Bahrain and began the task of conducting the Plebiscite on 30 March 1970. This mission continued more than two weeks and during this period Guicciardi conducted meetings with the leaders of different groups and classes of people of Bahrain and finally surrounded his report no. 9772 to the General Secretary of the United Nations. Clause 57 of this report indicates: (the result of investigation has convinced me that the absolute majority of people of Bahrain demand that their territory to be officially recognised as an independent country with complete soverngnity and freedom of choosing relations with other nations.)
The report of Guicciardi was surrounded to the Security Council of the United Nations and in the meeting of 11th May 1970 was discussed. Following the ratification of this report, the mentioned resolution of Security Council was conveyed to the Governments of Iran and Britain. The Governments of Iran reported the result of the mission and the resolution of the United Nations to the two assemblies (The lower and upper houses of Parliaments). The report of The Government was ratified by Iranian National Assembly (Mjles-e Shoray-e Melli) in 14th of May, and by Iranian Senate (Majles-e Sena) on 18th of May.
*** Note: This article is the courtesy of CAIS at SOAS (Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies).