Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
History of Qatar
Like the other Arab emirates on the Persian Gulf— Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, (leaving aside the separate history of Oman)— Qatar has been inhabited for millennia, a part of the Persian Empire and Persian Gulf trade route connecting Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. Societies retain their tribal structures based on extended family kinships and clientage .
Thani bin Mohammed , the founder of the Al-Thani family was elected Sheikh of Qatar, where he ruled in Al-Bida (now known as Doha). The Al Khalifa family of Bahrain occupied the northern part of Qatar until 1868. That year, at the request of Qatari nobles, the British negotiated the termination of the Al Khalifa claim to Qatar, except for the payment of tribute. The tribute ended with the occupation of Qatar by the Ottoman Turks in 1872, when the Al Khalifa family moved to Bahrain.
When the Turks left at the beginning of World War I, the British recognized Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani as Ruler. The Al Thani family had lived in Qatar for 200 years. The 1916 treaty between the United Kingdom and Sheikh Abdullah was similar to those entered into by the British with other Gulf principalities. Under it, the Ruler agreed not to dispose of any of his territory except to the U.K. and not to enter into relationships with any other foreign government without British consent. In return, the British promised to protect Qatar from all aggression by sea and to lend their good offices in case of a land attack. A 1934 treaty granted more extensive British protection.
In 1935, a 75-year oil concession was granted to Qatar Petroleum Company , which was owned by Anglo-Dutch , French, and U.S. interests. High-quality oil (petroleum) was discovered in 1940 at Dukhan , on the western side of the Qatari peninsula. Exploitation was delayed by World War II, and oil exports did not begin until 1949.
When the U.K. announced a policy in 1968 (reaffirmed in March 1971) of ending the treaty relationships with the Gulf sheikdoms, Qatar joined the other eight states then under British protection (the seven trucial sheikdoms--the present United Arab Emirates--and Bahrain) in a plan to form a union of Arab emirates. By mid-1971, however, the nine still had not agreed on terms of union, and the termination date (end of 1971) of the British treaty relationship was approaching. Accordingly, Qatar sought independence as a separate entity and became the fully independent State of Qatar on September 3, 1971.
In February 1972, the Deputy Ruler and Prime Minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad , deposed his cousin, Emir Ahmad , and assumed power. This move was supported by the key members of Al Thani and took place without violence or signs of political unrest. A provisional constitution enacted on 19 April 1972.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning off of petroleum revenues by the corrupt emir who had ruled the country since 1972. On June 27, 1995, the Deputy Ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, deposed his father Emir Khalifa in a bloodless coup. A year later an attempted counter-coup was foiled. Emir Hamad and his father reconciled in 1996, though the deposed ruler has never returned to the country. A permanent constitution was approved on 29 April 2003.
Qatar achieved full independence in an atmosphere of cooperation with the United Kingdom and friendship with neighboring states. Most Arab states, the U.K., and the United States were among the first countries to recognize Qatar, and the state promptly gained admittance to the United Nations and the Arab League. Qatar established diplomatic relations with the U.S.S.R. and the People's Republic of China in 1988. It was an early member of OPEC and a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose rotating presidency it held until December 1997. Oil and natural gas revenues enable Qatar to have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.
Qatar and Bahrain have argued over who owns the Hawar islands . In 2001, Qatar agreed to give the islands to Bahrain in exchange for territorial concessions relating to previous Bahrain claims on mainland Qatar.
The current emir has announced his intention for Qatar to move toward 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, the country's constitution was approved by a democratic referendum. That same year, a woman was appointed to the cabinet as minister of education . This marks the first time a woman has served in the cabinet of a Persian Gulf nation.
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