Bahrain re-opens border dispute with Qatar

Despite a 2001 ruling that resolved the dispute, Bahrain cites entitlement to “what was cut off forcibly” from its land.

Hawar-Zubarah bahrain qatar
The Bahrain-Qatar border dispute began in the mid-1900s, mainly over the Hawar Islands and the town of Zubara.

Bahrain has claimed the right to take Qatari territory, as tensions between the two Gulf countries heighten amid political deadlock.

A press release published on the country’s state news agency on Saturday said that Bahrain has “every right to claim what was cut off forcibly from its land and to dispute the legitimacy of the Qatari rule”.

The statement, which references a historic border dispute that was solved by an international court in 2001, did not specify whether Bahrain intends to take any action.

It comes in the context of a broader crisis in the Gulf, in which Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a sea, land and air blockade.

The blockading countries have accused Qatar of supporting “terrorist” groups and have issued a list of demands, including the closure of the Doha-based Al Jazeera network. Qatar has vehemently denied the accusations and rejected the demands.


In recent weeks, Bahrain has stepped up threats against Qatar, vowing last week that it would not attend the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit, which usually takes place in December, if Qatar attended.

Last week, the country imposed visa requirements on Qatari nationals and residents, in a move that Qatar called “unprecedented”.

Border dispute

The Bahrain-Qatar border dispute began in the mid-1900s, mainly over the Hawar Islands and the town of Zubara.

In 1991, Qatar referred the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), after decades of failed Saudi mediation and a narrowly avoided armed confrontation between the two countries.

The issue was resolved in 2001 when the ICJ, the principal judicial branch of the United Nations, decided that Bahrain had claim over the Hawar Islands, while Qatar was awarded Zubara and the Janan Islands.

Despite the issue being resolved 16 years ago, the Bahraini government said in its statement on Saturday that it had “endured the intolerable and conceded many of its internationally documented historic rights” for the benefit of the Gulf countries.


Alluding to the creation in 1981 of the GCC – a political and economic alliance of Gulf countries – the statement said that Bahrain had “agreed to postpone the claim of its rights, accepted the losses and gave up what is rightfully hers in order to ensure the unity of the Gulf”.

Jocelyn Sage Mitchell, a political science professor at Northwestern University in Qatar, said that Bahrain was merely “throwing out complaints that are long-standing and are still simmering”.

“If they decided that they wanted to re-pursue their territorial claims over this, that would be in contravention of the international community,” Mitchell told Al Jazeera.

“That would be something that would be very surprising and an ill-advised move on Bahrain’s part.”

Source: Al Jazeera