Qatar - Historical Overview
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Qatar, also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is an Arab country, known officially as an emirate, in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south; otherwise, the Persian Gulf surrounds the state. A strait of the Persian Gulf separates Qatar from the nearby island nation of Bahrain. Qatar is an oil- and gas-rich nation, with the third largest gas reserves, and the first or second highest GDP per capita in the world. An absolute monarchy, Qatar has been ruled by the al-Thani family since the mid-19th century and has since transformed itself from a British protectorate noted mainly for pearling into an independent state with significant oil and natural gas revenues.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning off of petroleum revenues by the Emir, who had ruled the country since 1972. His son, the current Amir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, overthrew him in a bloodless coup in 1995. In 2001, Qatar resolved its longstanding border disputes with both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
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In these pages you will find historical information about Qatar.
Origin of the Bani Utbah Tribe
The Al Bin Ali Tribe are the original descendants of Bani Utbah tribe being that they are the only tribe to carry the last name Al-Utbi in their Ownership's documents of Palm gardens in Bahrain as early as the year 1699 - 1111 Hijri. They are specifically descendants of their great grand father Ali Al-Utbi who is a descendant of their great grand father Utbah hence the name Bani Utbah which means sons of Utbah. Utbah is the great grandfather of the Bani Utbah which is a section of Khafaf from Bani Sulaim bin Mansoor from Mudhar from Adnan. The plural word for Al-Utbi is Utub and the name of the tribe is Bani Utbah.Qatar was controlled by Byzantine empire from 112 A.D - 789 A.D, after Roman empire break in to western Roman empire and Eastern Byzantine empire under the capital of Constantinople.
Human habitation of the Qatar Peninsula dates as far back as 50,000 years back, when small groups of Stone Age inhabitants built coastal encampments, settlements, and sites for working flint, according to archaeological evidences. Other finds have included pottery from the Al Ubaid culture of Mesopotamia and northern Arabia (ca. 5000 B.C.), rock carvings, burial mounds, and a large town that dates from about 500 B.C. at Wusail, twenty kilometers north of Doha. The Qatar Peninsula was close enough to the Dilmun civilization (ca. 4000 to 2000 B.C.) in Bahrain to have felt its influence. A harsh climate, lack of resources, and frequent periods of conflict, however, seem to have made it inevitable that no settlement would develop and prosper for any significant length of time before the discovery of oil.
The peninsula was used almost continuously as rangeland for nomadic tribes from Najd and Al Hasa regions in Saudi Arabia, with seasonal encampments around sources of water. In addition, fishing and pearling settlements were established on those parts of the coast near a major well. Until the late eighteenth century, the principal towns were on the east coast—Al Huwayla, Fuwayrit, and Al Bida—and the modern city of Doha developed around the largest of these, Al Bida. The population consisted of nomadic and settled Arabs and a significant proportion of slaves brought originally from East Africa.
The Qatar Peninsula came under the sway of several great powers over the centuries. The Abbasid era (750-1258) saw the rise of several settlements, including Murwab. The Portuguese ruled from 1517 to 1538, when they lost to the Ottomans. In the 1732, the Bani Utbah tribe migrated from Kuwait to Qatar's northwest coast and founded Zubarah. After this migration, the Bani Utbah were very close to the rich oyster banks. After the Persian Occupation of Basra in 1777 many merchants and families moved from Basra and Kuwait to Zubarah. After this movement, Zubarah became a thriving center of trade and pearling in the Persian Gulf region.
The prosperity of Zubarah, which is now in modern Qatar, had also brought it to the attention of the two main powers at the time, Persia and the Oman, which were presumably sympathetic to Sheikh Nasr’s ambitions. Zubara's emerging position as a flourished as a pearling centre and trading port had brought it to the attention of the two main regional powers, Persia and Oman. Bahrain offered great potential wealth because of the extensive pearls found in its waters, however, in 1782, war broke out between the Zubara-based Al Bin Ali trading clan of the Bani Utbah tribe and the Madhkurs. Al Bin Ali were occupying Zubarah, they were also the original dominant group of Zubara.
The battle of Zubarah took place in the year 1782 between the Al Bin Ali from the Bani Utbah Tribe and the Army of Nasr Al-Madhkur Ruler of Bahrain and Bushire. It is well know that the strategist of this battle was Shaikh Nasr Al-Madhkur, his sword fell into the hands of Salama Bin Saif Al Bin Ali after his army collapsed and his forces were defeated.
In response to attacks on Zubarah by Nasr Al-Madhkur who ruled Bahrain and Bushehr in Persia, the Bani Utbah whom which Shaikh Isa Bin Tarif, Chief of Al Bin Ali belongs to liberated Bahrain from the Persians in 1783.
After the Bani Utbah Liberation of Bahrain in 1783, the Al Bin Ali were a practically independent status in Bahrain as a self governed tribe. They carried a distinguished flag with four red stripes with three white stripes called the Al-Sulami flag as they call it in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Eastern province in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was raised on their ships during wartime and in the pearl season and on special occasions such as weddings and during Eid and in the “ Ardha of war ”. Al Bin Ali were known for their courage, persistence, and abundant wealth. Later, different Arab families and tribes mostly from Qatar moved to Bahrain to settle there since the Persians have been expelled from the Island. These families and tribes were Al Khalifa, Al-Ma'awdah, Al-Fadhil, Al-Mannai, Al-Noaimi, Al-Sulaiti, Al-Sadah, Al-Thawadi, and other families and tribes. Most of these tribes settled in Muharraq, the capital of Bahrain and the center of power at that time since the Al Bin Ali lived there. There is a neighourhood in Muharraq city named Al Bin Ali and it is the oldest and biggest neighborhood in Muharraq, members of this tribe lived in this area for more than three centuries.
Fourteen Years later after the liberation of Bahrain by the Bani Utbah, the Al Khalifa migrated to the more desirable location of Bahrain in 1797 as settlers, in which they settled in Jaw and later moved to Riffa. They later established a sheikhdom that endures to this day since 1820 after sigining their first treaty of several treaties with the British to secure their rule and protect British Interests.
In the early nineteenth centuries, continuing bloody conflict involved not only the Al Khalifa, the Al Jalahima, and the Iranians but also the Omanis under Sayyid Said ibn Sultan Al Said, the nascent Wahhabis of Arabia, and the Ottomans. The period also saw the rise of British power in the Persian Gulf as a result of their growing interests in India. Britain's desire for secure passage for East India Company ships led it to impose its own order in the gulf. The General Treaty of Peace of 1820 between the East India Company and the sheikhs of the coastal area—which became known as the Trucial Coast because of the series of treaties between the sheikhs and the British—was a way of ensuring safe passage. The agreement acknowledged British authority in the gulf and sought to end piracy and the kidnapping of slaves. Bahrain also became a party to the treaty, and it was assumed by the British and the Bahrainis that Qatar, as a dependency, was also a party to it.
But when, as punishment for piracy, an East India Company vessel bombarded Doha in 1821, destroying the town and forcing hundreds to flee, the residents had no idea why they were being attacked.
In the year 1843, Shaikh Isa Bin Tarif was one of the men who assisted Shaikh Mohamed Bin Khalifa to overthrow the ruler of Bahrain who was Shaikh Mohamed's great uncle Shaikh Abdulla Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa whom was also Shaikh Isa Bin Tarif's enemy. Shaikh Isa Bin Tarif was the uncle of Shaikh Ali Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa the fifth Al-Khalifa Ruler of Bahrain, Shaikh Ali was Shaikh Mohamed's half brother sharing the same father. After helping Shaikh Mohamed in ousting Shaikh Abdulla from rulership of Bahrain, Shaikh Isa Bin Tarif and his tribe Al Bin Ali decided to move to the town of Al-Bida (known today as Doha) and re-established it after the removal of the Al-Sudan Tribe from it. In Al-Bida, Shaikh Isa Bin Tarif built a wall to the sea from both the East and West. In Al-Bida, Shaikh Isa Bin Tarif was considered as the Shaikh of Al-Bida which at that time meant the Shaikh of Qatar since power was centralised in Al-Bida.
His last battle was in the Battle of Fowairat also known as the battle of um sumwaya which took place at the end of 1847 in Qatar against Shaikh Mohamed Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Ruler of Bahrain in which Shaikh Mohamed's forces were defeated. But hours after the finish of the battle one of Shaikh Mohamed's followers killed Shaikh Isa Bin Tarif.
In 1867, when a large Bahraini force sacked and looted Doha and Al Wakrah. This attack, and the Qatari counterattack, prompted the British political agent, Colonel Lewis Pelly, to impose a settlement in 1868. His mission to Bahrain and Qatar and the peace treaty that resulted were milestones in Qatar's history because they implicitly recognized the distinctness of Qatar from Bahrain and explicitly acknowledged the position of Muhammad ibn Thani ibn Muhammad, an important representative of the peninsula's tribes.
With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into eastern Arabia in 1871, Qatar became vulnerable to occupation. Mohammed bin Thani opposed Ottoman designs on Qatar, but his son, Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, accepted Ottoman sovereignty in 1872. Although Jassim bin Mohammed privately complained of the Ottoman presence, he hoped that with Ottoman support he could dominate those sheikhs in other towns who opposed him and rebuff Bahrain's claims on Az Zubarah. The question of Az Zubarah became moot in 1878, however, when Jassim bin Mohammed and his brother Ahmed bin Muhammed destroyed the town as punishment for the piracy of the Naim, a tribe that resided in the north of Qatar but was loyal to the sheikh of Bahrain. Moreover, Jassim bin Mohammed's ambivalent relations with the Ottomans deteriorated to the point that in 1893 they sent a military force to Doha to arrest him, ostensibly over his refusal to permit an Ottoman customhouse in Doha. Fighting broke out, and Jassim bin Mohammed's supporters drove out the Ottoman force.
The Ottomans officially renounced sovereignty over Qatar in 1913, and in 1916 the new ruler, Jassim bin Mohammed's son, Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, signed a treaty with Britain bringing the peninsula into the trucial system. This meant that in exchange for Britain's military protection, Qatar relinquished its autonomy in foreign affairs and other areas, such as the power to cede territory. The treaty also had provisions suppressing slavery, piracy, and gunrunning, but the British were not strict about enforcing those provisions.
Despite Qatar's coming under British "protection," Abd Allah ibn Qasim was far from secure: recalcitrant tribes refused to pay tribute; disgruntled family members intrigued against him; and he felt vulnerable to the designs of Bahrain, not to mention the Wahhabis. Despite numerous requests by Abd Allah ibn Qasim—for strong military support, for weapons, and even for a loan—the British kept him at arm's length. This changed in the 1930s, when competition (mainly between Britain and the United States) for oil concessions in the region intensified. In a 1935 treaty, Britain made more specific promises of assistance than in earlier treaties in return for the granting of a concession to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
The scramble for oil, in turn, raised the stakes in regional territorial disputes and put a dollar value on the question of national borders. In 1936, for example, Bahrain claimed rule over a group of islands, the largest of which is Hawar, on the west coast of Qatar because it had established a small military garrison there. Britain accepted the Bahraini claim over Abd Allah ibn Qasim's objections, in large part because the Bahraini shaykh's personal British adviser was able to frame Bahrain's case in a legal manner familiar to British officials. The question of domain continued in the early 1990s. Triggered by a dispute involving the Naim, the Bahrainis once again laid claim to the deserted town of Az Zubarah in 1937. Abd Allah ibn Qasim sent a large, heavily armed force and succeeded in defeating the Naim. The British political resident in Bahrain supported Qatar's claim and warned Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, the ruler of Bahrain, not to intervene militarily. Bitter and angry over the loss of Az Zubarah, Hamad ibn Isa imposed a crushing embargo on trade and travel to Qatar.
Oil was discovered in Qatar in 1939, but its exploitation was halted between 1942 and 1947 because of World War II and its aftermath. The disruption of food supplies caused by the war prolonged a period of economic hardship in Qatar that had begun in the 1920s with the collapse of the pearl trade and had increased with the global depression of the early 1930s and the Bahraini embargo. As they had in previous times of privation, whole families and tribes moved to other parts of the Persian Gulf, leaving many Qatari villages deserted. Even Shaykh Abd Allah ibn Qasim went into debt and, in preparation for his retirement, groomed his favored second son, Hamad ibn Abd Allah Al Thani, to be his successor. Hamad ibn Abd Allah's death in 1948, however, led to a succession crisis in which the main candidates were Abd Allah ibn Qasim's eldest son, Ali ibn Abd Allah Al Thani, and Hamad ibn Abd Allah's teenage son, Khalifa ibn Hamad Al Thani.
Oil exports and payments for offshore rights began in 1949 and marked a turning point in Qatar. Not only would oil revenues dramatically transform the economy and society, but they would also provide the focus for domestic disputes and foreign relations. This became frighteningly clear to Abd Allah ibn Qasim when several of his relatives threatened armed opposition if they did not receive increases in their allowances. Aged and anxious, Abd Allah ibn Qasim turned to the British, promised to abdicate, and agreed, among other things, to an official British presence in Qatar in exchange for recognition and support for Ali ibn Abd Allah as ruler in 1949.
The 1950s saw the cautious development of government structures and public services under British tutelage. Ali ibn Abd Allah was at first reluctant to share power, which had centered in his household, with an infant bureaucracy run and staffed mainly by outsiders. Ali ibn Abd Allah's increasing financial difficulties and inability to control striking oil workers and obstreperous shaykhs, however, led him to succumb to British pressure. The first real budget was drawn up by a British adviser in 1953. By 1954 there were forty-two Qatari government employees.
A major impetus to the development of the British-run police force came in 1956 when about 2,000 demonstrators, who coalesced over issues such as Gamal Abdul Nasser's pan-Arabism and opposition to Britain and to Shaykh Ali ibn Abd Allah's retinue, marched through Doha. This and other demonstrations led Ali ibn Abd Allah to invest the police with his personal authority and support, a significant reversal of his previous reliance on his retainers and beduin fighters.
Public services developed haltingly during the 1950s. The first telephone exchange opened in 1953, the first desalination plant in 1954, and the first power plant in 1957. Also built in this period were a jetty, a customs warehouse, an airstrip, and a police headquarters. In the 1950s, 150 adult males of the Al Thani received outright grants from the government. Shaykhs also received land and government positions. This mollified them as long as oil revenues increased. When revenues declined in the late 1950s, however, Ali ibn Abd Allah could not handle the family pressures this engendered. That Shaykh Ali ibn Abd Allah spent extravagantly, owned a villa in Switzerland, and hunted in Pakistan fueled discontent, especially among those who were excluded from the regime's largesse (non-Al Thani Qataris) and those who were not excluded but thought they deserved more (other branches of the Al Thani). Seniority and proximity to the shaykh determined the size of allowances.
Succumbing to family pressures and poor health, Ali ibn Abd Allah abdicated in 1960. But instead of handing power over to Khalifa ibn Hamad, who had been named heir apparent in 1948, he made his son, Ahmad ibn Ali, ruler. Nonetheless, Khalifa ibn Hamad, as heir apparent and deputy ruler, gained considerable power, in large part because Ahmad ibn Ali, as had his father, spent much time outside the country.
Although he did not care much for governing, Ahmad ibn Ali could not avoid dealing with family business. One of his first acts was to increase funding for the shaykhs at the expense of development projects and social services. In addition to allowances, adult male Al Thani were also given government positions. This added to the antiregime resentment already felt by, among others, oil workers, low-ranking Al Thani, dissident shaykhs, and some leading individuals. These groups formed the National Unity Front in response to a fatal shooting on April 19, 1963, by one of Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ali's nephews. The front called a general strike, and its demands included a reduction of the ruler's privileges, recognition of trade unions, and increased social services. Ahmad ibn Ali cracked down by jailing fifty leading individuals and exiling the front's leaders. He also instituted some reforms, eventually including the provision of land and loans to poor Qataris.
Largely under Khalifa ibn Hamad's guiding hand, the infrastructure, foreign labor force, and bureaucracy continued to grow in the 1960s. There were even some early attempts at diversifying Qatar's economic base, most notably with the establishment of a cement factory, a national fishing company, and small-scale agriculture.
In contrast to his predecessor's policies, Khalifa ibn Hamad cut family allowances and increased spending on social programs, including housing, health, education, and pensions. In addition, he filled many top government posts with close relatives.
In 1993 Khalifa ibn Hamad remained the amir, but his son, Hamad ibn Khalifa, the heir apparent and minister of defense, had taken over much of the day-to-day running of the country. The two consulted with each other on all matters of importance.
On June 27, 1995, the Deputy Amir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, deposed his father Amir Khalifa in a bloodless coup. An unsuccessful counter-coup was staged in 1996. The Amir and his father are now reconciled, though some supporters of the counter-coup remain in prison. The Amir announced his intention for Qatar to move toward democracy and has permitted a freer and more open press and municipal elections as a precursor to expected parliamentary elections. Qatari citizens approved a new constitution via public referendum in April 2003, which came into force in June 2005. The current emir has announced his intention for Qatar to move towards democracy and has permitted a nominally free and open press and municipal elections. Economic, social, and democratic reforms have occurred in recent years. In 2003, a woman was appointed to the cabinet as minister of education.
Qatar and Bahrain have argued over who owns the Hawar Islands. In 2001, the International Court of Justice gave Bahrain sovereignty over Hawar Islands while giving Qatar sovereignty over smaller disputed islands and the Zubarah region on mainland Qatar. During the trial Qatar provided the court with 82 forged documents to substantiate their claims of sovereignty over the territories in question. These claims were withdrawn at a later stage after Bahrain discovered the forgeries.