Chabahar is a port city on the shores of the Oman Sea, south of Sistan and Baluchestan Province. It is a free port (Free Trade Zone) and is Iran’s southernmost city. The sister port city of Gwadar in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province is about 170 kilometres (110 mi) to the east of Chabahar.
Chabahar is situated on the Makran Coast of the Sistan and Baluchestan province of Iran and is officially designated as a Free Trade and Industrial Zone by Iran’s government. Due to its free trade zone status, the city has increased in significance in international trade. The overwhelming majority of the city’s inhabitants are ethnic Baluch of Iran, who speak their native Baluchi language in addition to Persian.
The name Chabahar is a shortened form of Chahar Bahar meaning “four springs”, a name for a place where all four seasons of the year are spring time.
There is a fishing village and former port named Tis in Chabahar’s neighbourhood, which dates from 2500 BC, known in Alexander the Great’s conquests as Tiz, eventually renamed Tis. In addition, in his book Aqd al-Ala lel-Moghefe al Ahla, Afdhal al-Din abu Hamid Kermani wrote in 1188 CE about the port of Tiz and its commerce and trade. According to the scholar and historian, Alberuni, author of an encyclopedic work on India called “Tarikh Al-Hind”, the seacoast of India commences with Tiz or modern Chabahar. Tis was formerly an active commercial port and was destroyed by the Mongols. There are still some ruins in the village. The Portuguese were the first colonial country to attack the Makran (Oman) Sea. The Portuguese forces under Afonso de Albuquerque gained control of Chabahar and Tis, staying there until 1621 CE. The British, and later the Portuguese in the 17th century (1616 CE), entered this region.
Modern Chabahar dates back to around 1970 CE. when it was declared a municipality and large port projects were started by order of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. A modern naval and airbase was established as part of the Shah’s policy of making Iran into a dominant power in the Indian Ocean. At that time these and other development projects in and around Chabahar involved the extensive participation of foreign companies, especially from the United States. After the 1979 CE. revolution the foreign companies left the projects and Iranian public companies linked to the Ministry of Jahad-e Sazandegi (or jihad for construction) took them over. The Iran–Iraq War caused Chabahar to gain in logistical and strategic importance. War brought insecurity to the Strait of Hormuz and ships were unable to enter the Persian Gulf. Accordingly, Chabahar became a major port during the war. In the 1980s the Iranian government developed a new scheme named the Eastern Axis Development Scheme, which aimed to use Chabahar’s geographical position as a regional development tool to stimulate economic growth in the eastern provinces. The establishment of the Chabahar Free Trade-Industrial Zone in 1992 resulting from the EAD Scheme brought development and encouraged immigration from other parts of the country to Chabahar.