By: Mir M.Hosseini
A few years after 1498 when Vasco da Gama travelled from Portugal to India, Alfonso Albuquerque visited the Hormoz Island in 1507 and offered protection to the local ruler. Emir of Hormoz was loyal to the Iranian government and rejected the offer. In 1515, Albuquerque returned with 27 battleships and started an occupation that lasted for almost a century. The Portuguese fortified the Island and used it to regulate passage through Persian Gulf and full control of the trade between India and Europe. Portugal also occupied Gamberon, today's Bandar Abbas. In 1580 Spain defeated Portugal and Shah Abbas succeeded in taking Gamberon back in 1613.
In Oct, 1616, Richard Steel, an English merchant and John Crowther visited the Safavid Royal Court and obtained a decree from Shah Abbas which gave them permission to do trade around Iran. Moreover, a peace treaty with Ottomans in 1618, gave Shah Abbas the opportunity to capture Ras al Khaymah and lay siege on the Portuguese fortress in the Qeshm Island.
As Iran did not have a powerful navy and Portugal easily took Qeshm Island back, Shah Abbas had to enter an alliance with the British against the Portuguese, thus he gave Britain some trade concessions, and promised patronage of silk trade in their favor. In Dec, 1621, Iranian forces headed by Imam Gholi Khan (Imam-Quli Khan son of Allahverdi Khan), accompanied by the British naval units succeeded in taking the Qeshm Island back. Following this victory, Iranians restlessly attacked the strongly fortified Hormoz Island. The English fleet first went to Qeshm, some 15 miles away, to bombard the Portuguese position.
The English forces supplied by the East India Company consisted of five warships and four boats. Persians disembarked to capture the town. The English bombarded the castle and sank the Portuguese fleet, and Hormoz was finally liberated on Apr, 22, 1622. The Portuguese were forced to retreat to another base at Masqat. The remaining Portuguese quickly surrendered. The English casualties were few, but included the famous explorer William Baffin.
The capture of Hormoz (Capture of Ormuz) by an Anglo-Persian force in 1622 after 116 years of occupation entirely changed the balance of power and trade.
The Iran-UK alliance gave the British an upper hand against their major competitors namely; Portugal, France, Holland and Spain until mid 18th century when Britain became the superior power in the Persian Gulf. Great Britain gradually became the authority in charge of security in Persian Gulf until a general agreement in 1825 with neighboring Emirates and Sheikhdoms made this role official. Meanwhile the British extended their political influence in the region and used Bushehr as their headquarters. The British representative in Bushehr, authorized to resolve disputes among Arabs was given the title: The king of the Persian Gulf with no crown.
The importance of this historical event should be measured within the timeframe that coincided with assimilation of many civilizations throughout the world by the European colonists.
April, 30th is celebrated in Iran as the National Persian Gulf Day since 2004, marking anniversary of the Shah Abbas campaign driving the Portuguese colonial forces out of the Strait of Hormuz.