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Hawar Islands Separatist Movement (Bahrain)

Last modified: 2013-12-07 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: bahrain | hawar islands | secessionist | sun: 14 rays (yellow) |
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[Hawar Islands separatist flag]
image by Ivan Sache

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The Hawar Islands are located 24 km south-west of Bahrain. The archipelago is made of 16 islets, representing a total land area of 38 sq. km. The islands are surrounded with coral reefs and shallows, and were in the past a major center of pearl diving. The population of the archipelago (c. 5,000 inhabitants) mostly concentrates into two fishers' villages.
Official claims on Hawar Islands by both Bahrain and Qatar started in 1935, after oil had been found in Bahrain in 1925. An armed conflict started in August 1937. In 1939, the British Resident in Manama, the capital city of Bahrain, ruled that Hawar Islands belonged to Bahrain. Qatar, however, resumed claims on the islands in 1960.
In June 1975, the Emir of Qatar denounced the 1939 agreement and attempted to purchase the islands. In April 1978, the Qatari coast guard prevented Bahraini fishers from entering the waters surrounding Hawar Islands. Bahrain answered with naval manoeuvres and was accused by Qatar of violating its territorial waters.
On 26 April 1986, Qatari troops landed on the Fasht-el-Dibal islet and captured 29 Bahraini workers, who were liberated 13 days later. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council attempred to mediate between the two parties. As a result, Bahrain claimed the Zubara area, which had previously belonged to the Khalifa family, ruler of Bahrain, and Qatar claimed in November 1991 the coral reef of Qitat Jaradah, located off Hawar islands. Bahrain took a tougher stand when its oil stocks started to decrease. On 17 April 1992, Qatar declared new territorial water borders extending over 12 miles, and claimed a 22-mile area in which it could exert sovereignty. Bahrain immediatly litigated these borders and applied to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
On 16 March 2001, the Court granted to Bahrain sovereignty on the Hawar Islands and Qitat Jaradah shallows, and to Qatar sovereignty on Zubara and the shallows surrounding the islet of Fasht-el-Dibal. Free circulation between Bahrain and the Hawar Islands was also guaranteed. The agreement was placed under the supervision of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Source: M. Corbic. L'archipel des îles Hawar, terre de contestations. Franciae Vexilla [frv] #26/72, June 2002, pp. 7-8
Ivan Sache, 16 Jun 2002


Hawari separatists have a representative in France, who advocates the creation of an independent Emirate of Hawar islands. The source, however, does not say what real support the separatist movement has in Hawar Islands.
The flag of the separatist movement was seen in Paris on 1 May 2002. The flag is a dark red rectangle with a white triangle at hoist. The triangle is separated from the red field by a green border, and there are two thin green stripes in the upper and lower parts of the flag. A 14-ray yellow sun outlined in brown is placed inside the white triangle.
Dark red stands for the national pride and the fatherland, green for spring, and white for purity.
Source: M. Corbic, op. cit.
Ivan Sache
, 16 Jun 2002