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Dhofar (Oman)

Last modified: 2007-04-21 by ian macdonald
Keywords: oman | dhofar |
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image by Željko Heimer, 21 August 2002

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History of Dhofar

Dr. Smith helps to clarify the Dhofar situation in his article in Flag Bulletin XXXIV:6/167 (Nov-Dec 1995):

Despite the autonomy from central rule which various regions in Oman exercised in the past, none of the provinces had officially recognized flags of their own. Unofficially, however, Dhofar, whose capital, Salalah, lies more than 1000 km by sea from Muscat, has had a number of flags expressing local self-rule. In the early 19th century, for example, it was successively under the control of Muhammad Aqil and an American known as Abdullah Lorleyd, who relied heavily on the Mahra tribe for support. Neverthless representatives from Dhofar traveled to Muscat in 1856, 1866, and 1871 to proclaim publicly their loyalty to the new sultans who acceded to power in those years. Those delegations each received a flag, presumably the plain red national flag of Muscat and Oman.

In early 1876 Seyyid Fadhl ibn-Alawi al-Husaini was able to win allegiance of the Mahras and establish control over the province. Rather than proclaiming Dhofar independent, however, he announced that it was a dependency of "the Supreme Empire" - that is, the Ottoman Empire which was then the largest and most powerful Muslim state in the world. This was an era when the Turks and the British were fighting for control over Arab sheikhdoms from Kuwait and other states along the Persian Gulf to the Hadramaut (modern Yemen) and Asir, an Arab kingdom north of Yemen. Fadhl's allegiance to Turkey and his animosity towards Britain may have been based in part on experiences his family had in British-ruled India. Ironically, Fadhl turned to the British political agent at Aden in 1877, to protest the use by unregistered vessels of the red flag of the Ottoman Empire. Fadhl continued to rule Dhofar until January 1879 when he was deposed by local people unhappy with his rule. Although Sultan Said spent much of his reign (1932-1970) in Salalah, his rule did not extend to the hinterland and indeed his presence may have spurred local discontent.

In 1964 the Front for the Liberation of Dhofar (FLD) was established to resist the sultan and the British forces which supported him. Many of the Jabali tribe, who had served in the Trucial Scouts in what is today the United Arab Emirates, wanted a more progressive government in their homeland. At this time also international events were changing alliances on the Arabian peninsula as Britain retreated from world-wide commitments it could no longer afford, especially after the Suez Canal debacle in 1956. Attempting to exploit the polarization created by the Cold War, "anti-imperialist" forces in Dhofar allied themselves with political organizations which sought to liberate neighboring Aden and the British-protected feudal inland states and which drew on financial and logistic support from Communist countries.

Summarized from Flag Bulletin by Chrystian Kretowicz, 7 February 2003

National Liberation Front

[Oman National Liberation Front (Oman)] image by Chrystian Kretowicz, 7 February 2003

Not surprisingly, the Dhofar rebels borrowed for their own use the flag of the National Liberation Front, which in November 1967 was able to seize control of the area it called South Yemen - a horizontal tricolor of red, white, black.

[Peoples Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arabian Gulf] image by Chrystian Kretowicz, 7 February 2003

In early 1968 the Dhofar rebels changed the name of their organization to the Peoples Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arabian Gulf (PFLOAG). Their emblem, showing an arm holding an AK-47 rifle in red, had a background with a map delineating the territory they hoped to liberate, including what are now the independent states of Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. With a secure supply base in the new Peoples Democratic Republic of South Yemen, the PFLOAG rebels presented considerable threat not only to Dhofar but the rest of the sultanate. The withdrawal of the British from the Persian Gulf region in 1971 encouraged Sultan Qaboos to move quickly to suppress the Dhofar revolt. He brought in troops from Iran but he also sought to win the allegiance of the disaffected tribes in Dhofar. In contrast to the rebel leadership, he stressed his allegiance to Muslim values and, in contrast to his father, promised to work for the independence and development of the country. By the time the rebels disavowed interest in the Arabian gulf states in 1975, renaming their party the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman (PFLO), Sultan Qaboos had effectively defeated them militarily. The PFLO flag added the name of the party in red Arabic script to the center stripe of the red-white-black tricolor they had used previously as the FLD and PFLOAG. Evidence is lacking to suggest that this flag was ever displayed in Oman outside Dhofar.

Summarized from Flag Bulletin by Chrystian Kretowicz, 7 February 2003

Peoples Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arabian Gulf coat of arms

[Peoples Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arabian Gulf] image by Chrystian Kretowicz, 7 February 2003

A Chronology of Dhofar

Zufar (Dhofar)

From the World Statesmen

Christian Berghänel, 16 February 2003