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Bir Tawil – Land of No Country

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  • Context (PIB): Bir Tawil is the only place on earth that belongs to no country.
  • It is ruled by no state, inhabited by no permanent residents and governed by no laws.
  • It is wedged between the borders of Egypt and Sudan and yet claimed by neither.
  • Its unusual status is a byproduct of British colonial machinations in northeast Africa.
  • After decades-long fighting between Egyptian and British forces on the one side and Mahdist rebels in Sudan on the other, the border is decided as the 22nd parallel, cutting through the Nubian desert.
  • But three years later, however, the British drew up another document. This document assigned:
    1. Bartazuga Mountain (south of the 22nd parallel), inhabited by the Ababda tribe, with stronger ties to Egypt than Sudan, to Egypt.
    2. Hala’ib, a triangular area bordering the Red Sea (north of the 22nd parallel), inhabited by the Beja people, with stronger ties to Sudan than Egypt, to Sudan.
  • After independence in 1956, Sudan claimed the mineral-rich Hala’ib triangle.
  • But Eygpt denied the claim, saying that reassignment was temporary.
  • As a result, both countries avoid asserting sovereignty over Bir Tawil (near Bartazuga mountain) to avoid renouncing their claims to the more valuable Hala’ib triangle.
  • So. in practice, Bir Tawil has the legal status of terra nullius (nobody’s land).

Bir Tawil

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