Perejil Island, also known to Europeans as Parsley Island, is an uninhabited, small rocky islet found off the coast of Morocco, just 660 feet (200 meters) from the mainland coast. Its sovereignty is disputed between Morocco and Spain. It was the subject of an armed incident between the two nations in 2002 CE.
The name Isla de Perejil means “Parsley Island” in Spanish. Its primary Berber name is Tura, meaning “empty.” International and Moroccan media often mistakenly use the name Laila due to confusion resulting from it being referred to as “the island” (“la Isla”) pronounced in Spanish with an Andalusian accent, rendering laíla or “lah ihla.”
History – Perejil Island
In 1415 CE, Portugal, along with the triumph of Ceuta, took the settlement of the nearby islet from the Marinid Sultanate, an antecedent to the present state of Morocco. In 1580 CE, Portugal came under the autonomy of Philip I of Portugal, who was also King of Spain, forming an Iberian Union under one king without unifying the nations. When the Union split in 1640 CE, Ceuta remained under Spanish sovereignty.
Spain and Morocco dispute the islet’s sovereignty. Local Moroccan shepherds used it for livestock grazing. Still, the vast majority of Moroccans and Spaniards had not heard of the islet until 11 July 2002 CE, when a bunch of Moroccan soldiers set up a base on the islet. The Moroccan administration said that they set foot on the island to monitor illegal immigration, a justification the Spanish government refused as there had been little cooperation on the matter at the time (a repeated source of criticism from Spain). After objections from the Spanish government, led by Prime Minister José María Aznar, Morocco succeeded the army members with cadets from the Moroccan Navy, who then established a fixed base on the island.
This further infuriated the Spanish government, and both nations restated their claims to the islet. Almost all European Union member states completely supported Spain’s objections, except for Portugal and France, whose government issued a statement disapproving of the incident. Morocco’s claims had formal support from the Arab League, except for Algeria, which restated its recognition of Spanish sovereignty over Ceuta and Melilla’s exclusions.
On 18 July 2002 CE, Spain launched Operation Romeo-Sierra, an armed attempt to take over the island. The operation was flourishing, and within hours the Spanish had taken charge of the island and administration of the Moroccan naval cadets. The latter had not resisted the Spanish commando attack force, Grupo de Operaciones Especiales III.
Spain launched the invasion in conjunction with the Spanish Air Force and Spanish Navy. The Spanish shifted the captured Moroccans by helicopter to the HW of the Guardia Civil in Ceuta, who then ultimately transported the cadets to the Moroccan border. Over the same day, the Spanish Legion replaced the commandos. It remained on the island until Morocco, after staunch mediation by the United States, led by Colin Powell, agreed to finally return to the status quo ante that existed before the island’s Moroccan occupation.
The islet is now completely deserted.