Friday, December 25, 2009

Ashuradeh Island

Ashuradeh (جزیره آشوراده) is the only island of the Iranian coast of the Caspian Sea and has a sandy surface of 800 hectares. It is located on the eastern end of the Miankaleh peninsula in the Golestan province of Iran, 3 kilometers from Bandar Torkaman and 23 kilometers from Gorgan. The island can be reached via Bandar Torkaman and its approximate altitude is about -28 from free sea level. Ashuradeh is one of the main areas for fishing sturgeon, the fish that provides one of Iran’s invaluable assets, its caviar. Over 40% of Iran's caviar is produced near Ashuradeh Island. Prior to the 80s, Turkman was one of the significant active ports of the country, both attracting tourists and functioning as the base for oil export to the Soviet Union. The situation of the port however declined during the 8-year Iran-Iraq war, leaving the one and only island of the Caspian Sea paralyzed.  

Initially the island was connected to the mainland. However, as a result of digging the manmade Khozeini Canal the land that connects this island to the shore has been cut off and the connection with Miankaleh peninsula has been interrupted so Ashuradeh has become an independent Island. From its southern border, Ashurzadeh is bounded to the Gorgan bay and southern coast of Torkaman port, from the western part to Khozeyini Canal and from the north it is bounded to Caspian Sea. In the most historical resources Ashuradeh is known as an archipelago containing three Islands. Gradually over time the two smaller islands at the end of it have been submerged, leaving the one remaining island.  

Ashuradeh Island generally has the eco system of dry regions. There are limited types of agricultural coverage including, but not limited to, fruit trees. Wild life also exists in the area. The island is the habitat for two groups of immigrant and native birds and also some mammals.  

The island generally has moderate temperatures. The rainfall of the region decreases from south to north, so Ashuradeh as one of the eastern part of this region, has the minimum rainfall. Wind has great effect on Island’s environment. Intensive winds move the sand and create waves on the sea. Generally the wind blows from eastward although in the winter it is replaced with a south-western blowing wind with Siberian origin. The continuous winds moderate the weather and decrease the humidity of air in the summer at the island.  

Ashuradeh was formerly inhabited by 300 families, but the village is now deserted. This island was occupied by Russian forces in 1837 despite protests from Iran. Following the occupation, the Russian Army maintained a military post on the island for a few decades. During the reign of Mohammad Shah Qajar, the Russians built some commercial and residential buildings and also a military castle on the island. At that time the inhabitants of the island were mainly Russian and there were few Iranians. The Russians vacated the island following the collapse of the Tsar government. In the age of Reza Shah a castle was built in the island which was used as a border post up to until a few decades ago. At the present there are two historical buildings in the island; the Russian castle and the house of Russian Minister Plenipotentiary.  

Iranian habitation in this Island started in the 1950s as during these years Iran fisheries established facilities there, thus attracting many Iranians to the island for commercial purposes. Today, the island's life is limited to fishery establishments and its raspberry bushes serve as a shelter to the jackals, which were doomed to stay in this sandy island for their lifetime once Ashuradeh was separated from the Miankaleh peninsula. For many of the residents of Golestan Province, Ashuradeh is a waterless and plantless island, where there is no flow of life. Meanwhile, tourists consider it as the only island in the Caspian Sea with sandy grounds, sour pomegranate trees and raspberry bushes and sturgeon.  

In 2005 an agreement was signed to reconcile on constructing tourism facilities in this peninsular region while observing the environmental measures. But the future of the project still remains uncertain. After several disputes over Ashuradeh and its endangered natural habitat, the tourism project was suspended with the final decision resting upon a ruling by the court. 

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