Once part (albeit a backwater part) of the Ottoman Empire, Imeyrib was taken under Spanish “protection” beginning in the 15th century, largely to curb pirates operating from its coast that were preying on fleets plying the New World trade routes. The then-governor did not resist the occupation and in fact quickly aligned himself with the Spanish, who allowed him to keep his title and lands.

By the 1960s, however, discontent with the Spanish protectorates and begun to grow, especially given Francoist Spain’s intransigence on a number of religious issues, which culminated in the bombing of an under-construction cathedral in the territory in 1969. The crown prince of Imeyrib, Mahmoud VII, took the opportunity to depose his father and declared himself Sultan of the territory.

Following a series of short, sharp engagements with Spanish troops, the protectorate ended in 1975 following the death of Franco and the general disengagement of Spain from colonial affairs. Mahmoud VII has ruled as Sultan since then, with his absolute authority enshrined in the constitution. Many Imeyribis, however, see him as a puppet of the West and there has been increasing, if suppressed, interest in a more democratic Islamic republic to replace his rule if and when he dies, as Mahmoud has no heirs.

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