Commemoration Day / Martyrs’ Day in the UAE Date in the current year: December 1, 2024

Commemoration Day / Martyrs’ Day in the UAE Commemoration Day, also known as Martyrs’ Day, is a public holiday in the United Arab Emirates. Observed annually on December 1, Commemoration Day honors the memory of Emirati martyrs who have given their life in their home country and abroad in the field of military, humanitarian and civil service.

The history of the modern United Arab Emirates began in 1820, when Great Britain and the rulers of several sheikhdoms in the Persian Gulf signed a maritime truce, giving rise to the so-called Trucial States,. The treaty legalized the British presence in the Gulf and led to the establishment of the British protectorate over the signatory sheikhdoms.

The region’s wealth began to grow significantly in the 1960s due to the discovery of oil. Oil revenues allowed local rulers to build new roads, housing, hospitals, ans schools. By 1966, the British government had realized it could no longer administer the Trucial States or ensure their military protection.

Two years later, the British government announced its decision to end the treaties with the Trucial States and withdraw its military presence in the Gulf by the end of 1971. The rulers of the Trucial States agreed to form a federation,; Bahrain and Qatar were invited to join but refused.

On November 30, 1971,, a day before the official dissolution of the treaties between Great Britain and the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms, the Iranian Navy took advantage of the withdrawal of British troops and seized several islands in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz connecting the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, claiming that they were part of the Persian Empire.

Iranian ordered six policemen from the emirate of Rals Al Khaimah who were stationed at Greater Tunb to lower the flag of Ras Al Khaiman. Salem bin Khamis Al Dahmani,, the leader of the police force, refused to do it and was killed by the invaders. He is considered the first person to die for the United Arab Emirates.

On August 19, 2915, the government of the United Arab Emirates designated Salem bin Khamis Al Dahmani’s death anniversary as an official commemoration day,. In addition to the six policemen killed by the Iranian Navy, it honors the memory of Emirati soldiers who were killed in the line of duty during the First Gulf War, the international military intervention against the Islamic State, and other military and peacekeeping operations.

Martyrs’ Day also honors Emirati political figures who were assassinated, for example, Saif Ghobash, a diplomat and the first Minister of Foreign Affairs of the UAE who was shot and killed at Abu Dhabi International Airport in 1977, and Khalifa Al Mubarak, the UAE ambassador to France who was shot in Paris in 1984.

In 2016, Commemoration Day was moved from November 30 to December 1, the eve of the National Day of the United Arab Emirates, to avoid a gap between the two public holidays. It is marked by memorial ceremonies held nationwide to recognize the dedication and sacrifices of Emirati martyrs who lived and died for their country.

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