Iraqi fishermen suffer in Iran, Kuwait border feud

Tue Jun 16, 2009 6:46am EDT
 
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By Mohammed Abbas

AL FAW PENINSULA, Iraq (Reuters) - Fins and gills flash silver in the dawn light as Iraqi fishermen offload their catch, relieved to be back from waters jealously guarded by two of Iraq's erstwhile war-time foes, Iran and Kuwait.

Iraqi fishermen say they often run into trouble with the Kuwaiti and Iranian navies that patrol maritime borders contested by Iraq and its neighbors, caught on the front line of a dispute that has previously led to war.

"The problem is the borders. They're not defined and that leaves us open to being stopped, robbed and beaten," said fisherman Khalil Abood, standing among mounds of fish spread before buyers at southern Iraq's Al Faw Peninsula docks.

Fellow fisherman Yassin Yasser agrees.

"When we go out, everyone's after us, the Kuwaitis and the Iranians," he said, while expertly treading the flimsy planks between the boats and dock.

Control of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, a stretch of water between Iran and Iraq that passes Faw and opens out into the Gulf, was one of the main reasons for the costly and bitter war between the two countries that lasted through most of the 1980s.

The dispute over the boundary is still not settled, and as recently as 2007 Iran detained 15 British sailors for straying into its territory. Britain said they were in Iraqi waters.

Kuwait and Iraq have also yet to define a sea border in settlement talks since Iraq's 1990 invasion. Some at the docks say Iraqis are viewed with hostility by many Iranians and Kuwaitis still bitter over Iraq's wars against them.   Continued...

 
<p>Iraqi fishermen travel on their boat along the banks of the Shatt-al-Arab waterway off the Faw peninsula nearly 100 km south of Basra province June 15, 2009. Fins and gills flash silver in the dawn light as Iraqi fishermen offload their catch, the men relieved to back from waters jealously guarded by two of Iraq's old war-time foes, Iran and Kuwait. REUTERS/Atef Hassan</p>