History of Qatar
When the Ottomans left at the beginning of World War I in 1915, the British and Ottomans recognized Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al-Thani as the 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 Persian 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 the Qatar Petroleum Company, a subsidiary of the Iraq Petroleum Company, which was owned by Anglo-Dutch, French, and U.S. interests. High-quality oil was discovered in 1940 at Dukhan, on the western side of the Qatari peninsula. However, the start of World War II delayed exploitation of Qatar's oil resources, and oil exports did not begin until 1949.
During the 1950s and 1960s gradually increasing oil revenues brought prosperity, rapid immigration, substantial social progress, and the beginnings of Qatar's modern history. When the U.K. announced a policy in 1968 (reaffirmed in March 1971) of ending the treaty relationships with the Persian 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, as the termination date of the British treaty relationship (end of 1971) approached, the nine still had not agreed on terms of union. Accordingly, Qatar declared independence as a separate entity and became the fully independent State of Qatar on September 3, 1971.
In February 1972, the Heir Apparent, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, deposed his cousin, Ahmed bin Ali Al Thani, and assumed power. Key members of the Al Thani family supported this move, which took place without violence or signs of political unrest. On June 27, 1995, the Deputy Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, deposed his father Khalifa bin Hamad in a bloodless coup. An unsuccessful counter-coup was staged in 1996. The Emir and his father are now reconciled, though some supporters of the counter-coup remain in prison. The Emir 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.
- 1 Prehistory
- 2 Muslim rule
- 3 Post-Islamic Golden Age
- 4 19th–20th centuries
- 5 20th–21st centuries
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Archaeological evidence has dated human habitation of the Qatar Peninsula to 50,000 years in the past, when small groups of Stone Age inhabitants built coastal encampments, settlements, and sites for working flint. Other finds have included pottery from the 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 region was regularly used as rangeland for nomadic tribes from the Najd and Al Hasa regions in Saudi Arabia who constructed seasonal encampments around sources of water. In addition, fishing and pearling settlements were established on those parts of the coast near a major well.
Neolithic period (6500–3800 BC)
The Ubaid period was the period of Mesopotamia which transpired from ca. 6500 to 3800 BC. Remnants of pottery purported to have originated from the Ubaid were uncovered in Qatar during three separate expeditions conducted during the 1970s and 1980s. Microprobe analyses carried out on the potsherds deduce that they originated from southern Mesopotamia. It is hypothesized that the Qatari Peninsula would not have accommodated the necessary conditions for a pottery-making civilization to flourish and that the pottery was produced in Ur and traded down the Persian Gulf settlements.
The most important Ubaid site in Qatar is located in Al Da'asa, on the north east coast of Qatar. The site is alleged to have accommodated a small seasonal encampment, possibly a lodging for a hunting-fishing-gathering group who may have made recurrent visits. This is evidenced by the discovery of fire pits at the site, in addition to flint tools such as scrapers, cutters, blades and arrow heads. Furthermore, many painted Ubaid potsherds and a Carnelian bead were found in the fire pit, which suggested overseas connections.
In an excavation done in Al Khor, several Ubaid graves were found. One grave contained the cremated remains of a young woman with no grave goods. Eight other graves contained grave goods, including beads made of shell, carnelian and obsidian. The obsidian most likely originated from Najran in south west Arabia.
Bronze Age (2100–1155 BC)
The Qatari Peninsula was close enough to the Dilmun civilization in Bahrain to have felt its influence. Around 2100 to 1700 BC, when the Dilmun commenced their maritime affairs, the Qatari inhabitants began diving for pearls in the Persian Gulf. The Qataris were engaged in the trading of pearls and date palms during this era.
It has been argued that while remains of Dilmun settlements were found in Qatar, this does not represent major evidence of any long-lasting habitation. Qatar remained relatively uninhabited during this period due to regular migration by nomadic Arab tribes searching for untapped sources food and water.
Kassite Babylonian-influenced materials dating back to the second millenium BC were found in Al Khor and may reveal evidence of trade relations between the inhabitants of Qatar and Kassite-controlled Bahrain. Some assert that Qatar was the site of the earliest known production of shellfish dye and that the Kassite operated a dye industry which produced purple dye on the coast of Qatar.
Iron Age and Babylonian–Persian control (680–325 BC)
Around 680 BC, the Assyrian king Esarhaddon led a successful campaign against Bazu, an area encompassing Dilmun and Qatar. As Assyrian power declined, the Babylonians took control over the the Assyrian-held Arab lands around 612 BC. In 539 BC, the Persians conquered Babylon under Cyrus the Great and incorporated the territories encompassing the Arabian Peninsula into their empire.
Hellenistic period (325–250 BC)
Around 325 BC, Alexander the Great sent his top admiral, Androsthenes of Thasos, to survey the entire Persian Gulf. The requested charts arrived shortly after Alexander died in 323. Seleucus I Nicator was awarded the eastern part of the Ancient Greek Empire after Alexander's death. Starting from 312, he expanded the Seleucid Empire eastward of Babylon, and it has been proposed that the territories encompassed parts of Eastern Arabia. There is archaeological evidence of Greek influence in the Arabian Peninsula, notably in Bahrain and Oman. There is also archaeological evidence in Qatar, as excavations north of Dukhan uncovered potsherds of Selucid characteristic.
Persian control (250 BC–642 AD)
The Parthian Empire gained dominion over the Persian Gulf and Arabian Coast after driving out the Seleucid in 250 BC. As the Parthians were dependent on trade routes through the Persian Gulf, they established garrisons along the coast. Pottery recovered from expeditions in Qatar has demonstrated links to the Parthian Empire.
Qatar played a role in the commercial activity of the Sasanids, contributing two at least two commodities: precious pearls and purple dye.
Under the Sasanid reign, many of the inhabitants in Eastern Arabia were introduced to Christianity after the religion was dispersed eastward by Mesopotamian Christians. Monasteries were constructed in Qatar during this era, and further settlements were founded. The Arab nomads in Eastern Arabia retained their Christian faith for a longer period than the Arab tribes in Western Arabia.
In 628, Muhammad sent a Muslim envoy to a ruler in Eastern Arabia named Munzir ibn Sawa Al Tamimi and requested him to accept Islam. Munzir agreed to the request and most of the Arab tribes converted to Islam. Munzir ibn Sawa's seat of administration has been speculated to have existed in the Marwab or Umm al-Ma'a area of Qatar. This theory is lent credence by an archaeological finding of around 100 small stone-built Islamic-period houses and fortified palaces of a tribal leader in Marwab, which are proposed to have originated from the early Islamic period.
Umayyad period (661–750)
Qatar was described as a famous horse and camel breeding centre during the Umayyad period. Qatar began to benefit from its commercially strategic position in the Persian Gulf during the 8th century. It became a center of pearl trading, also around the 8th century.
During the Second Fitna, a renowned Khawarij commander named Qatari Ibn Al-Fuja'ah, who was described as the most popular, admired and powerful Khawarji leader, led the Umayyads in several battles, including the battle of Tabaristan in 685. He was known as the 'Prince of the Believers' and ruled over the radical Azariqa movement for more than 10 years. There were many revolts against the Umayyad at the end of the seventh century, particularly in Qatar and Bahrain. Ibn Al Fuja'ah led an uprising against the Umayyad caliphs for more than twenty years. Some link the historical root of the state's name to Qatari Ibn Al-Fuja'ah.
Abbasid period (750–1253)
Muslim scholar Yaqut al-Hamawi mentions Qatar in his book Mu'jam Al-Buldan, alluding to its fine striped woven cloaks and the Qataris' skills in improvement and finishing of spears, known at the time as Khattiyah spears.
The Abbasid era witnessed a development in the pearling industry around Qatar. Ships from Basra en route to India and China would make stop in the port of Qatar during this period. Chinese porcelain, West African coins and pieces from Thailand have been discovered in Qatar. Archaeological remains from the 9th century suggest that Qatar's inhabitants used greater wealth, perhaps from pearl trade, to construct higher quality homes and public buildings. However, when the caliphate's prosperity declined in Iraq, so too did it in Qatar.
Most of Eastern Arabia, particularly Bahrain and the Qatari Peninsula, were sites of revolt against the Abbasid Caliphate around 868. Mohammed ibn Ali, a revolutionary, roused the people of Bahrain and Qatar into a rebellion, but the rebellion eventually failed and he relocated to Basra. He was later successful in initiating the Zanj Rebellion.
The Qarmatians, a radical Isma'ili group, established a utopian republic in Eastern Arabia in 899. They considered the pilgrimage to Mecca a superstition and once in control of the Bahraini state they launched raids along the pilgrim routes crossing the Arabian Peninsula. In 906 they ambushed the pilgrim caravan returning from Mecca and massacred 20,000 pilgrims.
Post-Islamic Golden Age
Usfurids and Ormus control (1253–1515)
From 1253 til 1320, the Usfurids controlled much of Eastern Arabia. By 1320, Eastern Arabia was controlled by the prince of Ormus. Qatar's pearls provided the kingdom with one of its main sources of income. The Portuguese defeated the Ormus by 1507 after Afonso de Albuquerque destroyed the Ormus fleet. However, after Albuequerque's captains grew rebellious, he was comepelled abandoned the Ormus island. Finally, in 1515, King Manuel I killed Reis Hamed, pressuring Sultan Saifuddin to become a vassal of King Manuel.
Portuguese and Ottoman control (1521–1670)
By 1521, the Portuguese had seized Bahrain, which included mainland Qatar. After the Portuguese seized control, they constructed a series of fortresses along the Arabian Coast. However, there have been no significant Portuguese ruins found in Qatar. The Portuguese focused on creating a commercial empire in Eastern Arabia, and exported gold, silver, silks, cloves, amber, horses and pearls. The population of Al-Hasa submitted voluntarily to the rule of the Ottomans in 1550, preferring them to the Portuguese.
Rule of Bani Khalid (1670–1783)
The Bani Khalid had jurisdiction over Qatar from 1670. In 1766, the Utub tribes Al Jalahma and Al Khalifa migrated from Kuwait to Zubarah in Qatar. 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 Bani Khalid control of Al-Hasa officially came to an end in 1795, but the Al Khalifas claimed Qatar and Bahrain by 1783.
Al Khalifa control (1783–1792)
The Bani Utbah Utub arrived in Zubarah around 1766. By the time of their arrival, the Bani Khalid exercised weak power over Qatar, though the largest village was ruled by distant kin of the Bani Khalid.
Due to Persian aggression towards Zubarah, the Utub and other Arab tribes drove out the Persians from Bahrain in 1783. Al Jalahma seceded from the Utub alliance sometime before the Utub annexed Bahrain in 1783 and returned to Zubarah. This left the Al Khalifa tribe in undisputed possession of Bahrain, who had then transferred their power base from Zubarah to Manama. The Al Khalifa also exerted authority over Qatar, and paid off tribute to the Wahhabis to ward off challenges on Qatar. However, Qatar did not develop a centralized authority because the Al Khalifa had their focuses primarily oriented towards Bahrain. As a result, Qatar went through many periods of 'transitory sheikhs', with the most notable being Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah. By 1790, Zubarah was a safe heaven for merchants who enjoyed complete protection and no customs duties.
In 1788, after Saud ibn Abd al-Aziz was declared crown prince of the Wahhabi, he expanded the Wahhabi territory east-ward into the Persian Gulf. In 1792, amid strong resistance in Al-Hasa, Sulaiman ibn Ufaisan led a raid against Qatar and was ultimately successful in subjugating the region's population.
Wahhabi control (1792–1811)
After defeating the Bani Khalid in 1795, the Wahhabi were attacked on two fronts. The Ottomans and Egyptians assaulted the western front, while the Al Khalifas in Bahrain and the Omanis launched an attack against the eastern front. The Wahhabi allied themselves with the Al Jalahmah in Qatar, who then engaged the Al Khalifas and Omanis on the eastern frontier. Upon being made aware of the advancements by the Egyptians on the western frontier, the Wahhabi emir reduced his garrisons in Bahrain and Zubarah to re-position his troops. In 1811, Said bin Sultan of Muscat capitalized on this opportunity and attacked the Wahhabi garrisons in Bahrain and Zubarah. The fort of Zubarah was burned and the Al Khalifa were effectively returned to power.
Al Khalifa control (1811–1868)
Britain's desire for secure passage for East India Company ships led it to impose its own order in the Persian Gulf. In 1820, the General Maritime Treaty was signed between the East India Company and the sheikhs of the coastal areas, which later became known as the 'Trucial Coast', because of the series of treaties between the sheikhs and the British as a means of ensuring safe passage. The agreement acknowledged British authority in the Persian Gulf and sought to end piracy and the slave trade. Bahrain became a party to the treaty, and it was assumed by the British and the Bahraini that Qatar, as a dependency, was also a party to it.
A report compiled by Major Colebrook in 1820 gives the first descriptions in the major towns of Qatar. All of the coastal cities mentioned in his report were situated near the Persian Gulf pearl banks and had been practicing pearl fishing for millenniums. Until the late eighteenth century, all of the principal towns of Qatar including Al Huwaila, Fuwayrit, Al Bida and Doha were situated on the east coast. 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. As punishment for piracy committed by the inhabitants of Doha, an East India Company vessel bombarded the town in 1821. The town was destroyed and three to four hundred natives were forced to flee.
A British survey carried out in 1825 notes that Qatar did not have a central authority and was governed by local sheikhs. Doha was ruled by the Al-Buainain tribe. In 1828, a member of the Al-Buainain tribe named Mohammed bin Khamis killed an inhabitant of Bahrain. The sheikh of Bahrain reacted by imprisoning the offender. The Al-Buainain tribe revolted, leading to the destruction of their fort and expulsion from Doha. This afforded additional jurisdiction for the Al Khalifa in Doha.
In 1839, the residents of Qatar were exposed to skirmishes between forces of the sheikh of Bahrain and the Egyptian military commander of Al-Hasa, owing to the volatile relations between the two parties. At the end of 1839 or beginning of 1940, following the Naim tribe's refusal to pay the Egyptian-demanded tribute, the governor of Al Hasa dispatched troops to lay waste to Qatar. The assassination of a governor in Hofuf ended the expedition prematurely before the forces could reach the country.
Isa bin Tarif, a prominent Qatari chief, and Abdullah Al-Khalifa formed a coalition in 1847 against Mohammed bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, the ruler of Bahrain. In November, Mohammed Al-Khalifa, supported by the governors of Qatif and Al-Hasa, landed in Al Khor with 500 troops. The coalition forces numbered 600 troops. On 17 November, a decisive battle took place in which the coalition forces were defeated after bin Tarif and eighty of his men died. This battle became to be known as the Battle of Fuweirat. After winning the battle, Mohammed Al-Khalifa demolished Al-Bida and moved all of its inhabitants to Bahrain. He sent his brother, Ali bin Khalifa, as an envoy to Al-Bida. However, he did not exercise any administrative powers, and local chiefs were still responsible for local and external affairs in Qatar.
Abdullah bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa, a government official from Bahrain, resided on the coast of Qatar around 1833 to supposedly keep watch over proceedings of the Wahhabi. In 1835 the people of Al Huwailah revolted against the Al Khalifa in Bahrain and opened up a correspondence with the Wahhabi with the help of Abdullah Al-Khalifa. Shortly following the revolt, a peace agreement was signed by both parties following mediation by the son of the Sultan of Muscat. The agreement stipulated that each party should retain its advantage during the war, but that Al Huwailah should be demolished and evacuated with its residents being removed to Bahrain. This agreement was almost immediately violated by nephews of Abdullah Al-Khalifa who incited members of the Al Kuwari tribe to attack Al Huwailah. A dependent of Isa bin Tarif, a prominent leader among the people Al Huwailah, died in a naval encounter during this incident.
The Wahhabi concocted a plan to invade Bahrain in 1851. In February, the Wahhabi emir Sheikh Faisal bin Turki left from his headquarters in Nejd with a platoon of troops with the intent to attack Bahrain and the coasts of Qatar. Several negotiations and offers were made on behalf of Mohammed Al-Khalifa but these were met by rejections by Faisal bin Turki. Sheikh Ali bin Khalifa attempted to enlist support in Qatar, but when Faisal's forces reached Al-Bida in May, Mohammed bin Thani was persuaded to grant support for Faisal. On June 8, forces loyal to Mohammed bin Thani took possession of the Borj Al-Mah, a tower which commanded wells. It was situated close to Ali bin Khalifa's residence in the Al-Bida fort. Mohammed Al Khalifa attempted to negotiate a protective treaty with the British to halt Faisal's advances and was initially unsuccessful in doing so, but the British reconsidered their position after an intelligence report and situated a naval blockade in Manama. In July, a Wahhabi ally Al Qais attacked an Al Khalifa naval blockade and lost over 150 troops in the encounter. Accompanying a peace treaty on 25 July 1851, the sheikh of Bahrain agreed to pay a fee of 4,000 German crowns in return for the restoration of Al-Bida fort and the disassociation of the Wahhabi from the inhabitants of Qatar.
The peace treaty collapsed by 1852 when Faisal bin Turki moved the sons of Sheikh Abdullah Al-Khalifa to Dammam. As a counter-measure, Mohammed Al-Khalifa attempted to remove residents of Al-Bida and Doha who were suspected of being loyal to the Wahhabi by imposing an economic blockade on the inhabitants by preventing them from engaging in pearl fishing. The blockade continued until the end of 1852. In February 1853, the Wahhabi began marching from Al-Hasa to Al Khor. The Qataris assured the Al Khalifa that they would not cooperate with the Wahhabi if they crossed into their borders. Sheikh Ali bin Khalifa was sent to Qatar to act as a collaborator with the local resistance against the Wahhabi. The Al Khalifa and Wahhabi eventually reached a British-mediated peace agreement in 1853.
As early as 1859, hostilities were provoked again after the Bahraini chief stopped paying tribute to the Wahhabi emir and instigated tribes of Qatar to attack Wahhabi subjects. This was in response to the Wahabbi's harboring of Bahraini fugitives in Dammam. After Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki threatened to attack Bahrain, the British navy dispatched a ship off the coast of Dammam to prevent any attacks. The hostilities were escalated in May 1860 when Abdullah bin Faisal threatened to occupy the coast of Qatar until the annual tribute was paid. In May 1861, the Bahraini signed a treaty with the British government, in which the British agreed to recognize Bahrain's independence and offer it protection. It also recognizes Qatar as a dependent of Bahrain. The treaty was ratified by the Indian government in February 1862. Proceeding the agreement, the Al Khalifa authority over the affairs of Qatar had started deteriorating. Gifford Palgrave described Mohammed bin Thani as the acknowledged governor of the Qatar Peninsula in 1863.
In April 1863, the sheikh of Bahrain forced certain individuals to vacate Al Wakrah and captured the town's chief, Mohammed bin Saeed Bu Kuwara, due to his alleged links with the Wahhabi. In 1866, a British report stated that Qatar was paying a zakat of 4,000 German crowns to the Wahhabi while Bahrain was not, in encroachment of the 1861 treaty. It also contended that the Al Khalifa were taxing the people of Qatar the same annual tax.
In June 1867, a representative of Sheikh Mohammed Al Khalifa seized a Bedouin of Al Wakrah and deported him to Bahrain. Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani demanded his release, but the representative refused. This prompted Mohammed bin Thani to expel the representative from his headquarters in Al Wakrah. Upon receiving news, Sheikh Mohammed Al Khalifa released the prisoner and expressed his desire of renewed peace talks. Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, the son of Mohammed bin Thani, traveled to Bahrain on his behalf. He was imprisoned on arrival and a large number of ships and troops were soon sent to punish the people of Al Wakra and Al Bidaa. Abu Dhabi joined on Bahrain's behalf due to the belief that Al Wakrah served as an assylum for fugitives from Oman. Later that year, the combined forces sacked the two aforementioned Qatari cities with 2,000 men in what would come to be known as the Qatari–Bahraini War. A British record later stated "that the towns of Doha and Wakrah were, at the end of 1867 temporarily blotted out of existence, the houses being dismantled and the inhabitants deported". In June 1868, Qatari tribes retaliated against Bahrain and a battle ensued in which 60 boats were sunk and 1000 men were killed. Afterwards, the Bahraini sheikh agreed to free Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed in return for captured Bahraini prisoners. This attack, and the Qatari counterattack, prompted the British political agent, Colonel Lewis Pelly, to impose a settlement in 1868. Pelly's mission to Bahrain and Qatar and the peace treaty that resulted were milestones in Qatar's history. It implicitly recognized the distinctness of Qatar from Bahrain and explicitly acknowledged the position of Mohammed bin Thani as an important representative of the Peninsula's tribes.
Ottoman control (1871–1916)
The Ottoman Empire expanded into Eastern Arabia in 1871. After establishing themselves on the coast of Al-Hasa, the Ottomans advanced on Qatar. Al Bida had served a base of operations for Bedouins harassing the Ottomans in the south. Abdullah II Al-Sabah of Kuwait was sent to Al Bida to secure a landing for the Ottoman troops and brought with him four Ottoman flags for the most prominent rulers in Qatar. Mohammed bin Thani accepted the flag, but he sent it to Al Wakrah and continued hoisting the Arab flag above his house. Jassim Al Thani accepted the flag and flew it above his house. A third flag was given to Ali bin Abdul Aziz, the ruler of Al Khor. The British reacted negatively to the Ottomans advancements, and after receiving no response to their objections, the British gunboat Hugh Rose arrived in Qatar on 19 July 1971. After inspecting the situation, Sidney Smith, the assistant political resident in the Gulf, discovered that Qatar flew the flags willingly.
To further add to British apprehension, Jassim Al Thani, who assumed his father's role around this period, authorized the Ottomans to send 100 troops and a field gun to Al Bida in December 1871. By January 1972, the Ottomans incorporated Qatar into their dominion. Qatar was designated a province in Najd under the control of the sanjak of Najd. Jassim Al Thani was appointed as the Kaymakam (sub-governor) of the district and most other Qataris were allowed to keep their positions in the new government.
On 16 August 1873, assistant political resident Charles Grant the Ottomans sent a contingent of 100 troops from Qatif to Zubarah under the leadership of Hossein Effendi.
The question of 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.
Battle of Wajbah
In February 1893, Midhat Pasha arrived in Qatar in the interests of seeking unpaid taxes and accosting Sheikh Jassim's opposition to proposed Ottoman administrative reforms. Sheikh Jassim, fearing he would face death or imprisonment, moved to Wajbah (10 miles west of Doha), being accompanied by several tribal members. Midhat demanded that Sheikh Jassim disband his troops and pledge his loyalty to the Ottomans. However, Sheikh Jassim remained adamant in his refusal of compliance with Ottoman authority. In March 1893, in response to Sheikh Jassim's defiance, Midhat imprisoned his brother, Sheikh Ahmed bin Muhammed Al Thani, in addition to 13 prominent Qatari chiefs, on the Ottoman corvette Merrikh. After having declined an offer from Sheikh Jassim to release the captives for a fee of ten thousand Liras, he ordered a column of approximately 200 Ottoman troops to advance towards Sheikh Jassim's fortress in Wajbah, which signaled the beginning of the Battle of Wajbah.
No sooner than the Ottoman troops reached Wajbah had they came under heavy gunfire from Qatari infantry and cavalry, which numbered between 3,000 to 4,000 troops. The Ottoman troops retreated to Shebaka fortress, where they once again sustained casualties from a Qatari incursion. After retreating to the fortress of Al-Bida, Sheikh Jassim's advancing column besieged the fortress and cut off the water supply of the neighborhood. The Ottomans conceded defeat and agreed to relinquish the Qatari captives in return for the safe passage of Midhat Pasha's cavalry by land back to Hofuf. Although Qatar did not gain full independence from the Ottoman Empire, the result of the battle forced a treaty that would later form the basis of Qatar emerging as an autonomous separate country within the empire.
British control (1916–1971)
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 from external threats, 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," Abdullah bin Jassim 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. The al Thanis were merchant princes, reliant on trade and especially the pearl trade, and depended on others to do their fighting for them, primarily the Bini Hajar i.e. Al Hajiri/Hajeri who owed their allegiance to Ibn Saud, Emir of the Nejd and Al Hasa. Despite numerous requests by Abdullah bin Jassim — for strong military support, for weapons, and even for a loan — the British were reluctant to become involved in inland affairs and 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 (see below).
The scramble for oil raised the stakes in regional territorial disputes and highlighted the need to settle the national borders. The first move came in 1922 at a boundary conference in Uqair when the prospector Major Frank Holmes tried to include Qatar in an oil concession he was discussing with Ibn Saud. Sir Percy Cox, the British representative, saw through the ploy and drew a line on the map separating the Qatar Peninsula from the mainland. The first oil survey took place in 1926 under the direction of a geologist of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, George Martin Lees, but no oil was found. The oil issue raised its head again in 1933 after an oil strike in Bahrain—Lees had already noted that, in such an eventuality, Qatar should be investigated again. After lengthy negotiations between Anglo-Persian representatives and Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim, on 17 May 1935 the sheikh put his signature to a concession agreement for a period of 75 years in return for 400,000 rupees on signature and 150,000 rupees per annum with royalties. As part of the agreement, Great Britain made more specific promises of assistance than in earlier treaties. Anglo-Persian transferred the concession to the IPC subsidiary Petroleum Development (Qatar) Ltd. in order to meet its obligations under the Red Line Agreement.
In 1936, 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 Abdullah bin Jassim'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. Abdullah bin Jassim 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.
Drilling of the first oil well began at Jebel Dukhan in October 1938 and, over a year later, the well struck oil in the Upper Jurassic limestone which, unlike the Bahraimi strike, was similar to Saudi Arabia’s Dammam field discovered three years before. Production 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 Abdullah bin Jassim went into debt and, in preparation for his retirement, groomed his favored second son, Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, to be his successor. Hamad bin Abdullah's death in 1948, however, led to a succession crisis in which the main candidates were Abdullah bin Jassim's eldest son, Ali bin Abdullah Al Thani, and Hamad bin Abdullah'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 Abdullah bin Jassim when several of his relatives threatened armed opposition if they did not receive increases in their allowances. Aged and anxious, Abdullah bin Jassim 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 bin Abdullah as ruler in 1949.
The 1950s saw the cautious development of government structures and public services under British tutelage. Ali bin Abdullah was at first reluctant to share power, which had centered in his household, with an infant bureaucracy run and staffed mainly by outsiders. Ali bin Abdullah'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 bin Abdullah's retinue, marched through Doha. This and other demonstrations led Ali bin Abdullah 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 bin Abdullah could not handle the family pressures this engendered. That Shaykh Ali bin Abdullah 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 bin Abdullah 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 1968 Britain announced its intention of withdrawing from military commitments east of Suez, including those in force with Qatar, by 1971. For a while, the rulers of Bahrain, Qatar, and the Trucial Coast contemplated forming a federation after the British withdrawal. A dispute arose between Ahmad ibn Ali and Khalifa ibn Hamad, however, because Khalifa ibn Hamad opposed Bahrain's attempts to become the senior partner in the federation. Still giving public support to the federation, Ahmad ibn Ali nonetheless promulgated a provisional constitution in April 1970, which declared Qatar an independent, Arab, Islamic state with the sharia (Islamic law) as its basic law. Khalifa bin Hamad was appointed prime minister in May. The first Council of Ministers was sworn in on January 1, 1970, and seven of its ten members were Al Thani. Khalifa bin Hamad's argument prevailed with regard to the federation proposal. Qatar announced its independence on September 1, 1971 and became an independent state on September 3. That Ahmad ibn Ali issued the formal announcement from his Swiss villa instead of from his Doha palace indicated to many Qataris that it was time for a change. On February 22, 1972, Khalifa ibn Hamad deposed Ahmad ibn Ali, who was hunting with his falcons in Iran. Khalifa ibn Hamad had the tacit support of the Al Thani and of Britain, and he had the political, financial, and military support of Saudi Arabia.
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 Emir, 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 Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, deposed his father Emir Khalifa in a bloodless coup. An unsuccessful counter-coup was staged in 1996. The Emir and his father are now reconciled, though some supporters of the counter-coup remain in prison. The Emir 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. In 2013 Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa stepped down from his position and gave the leadership to his son and heir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad which makes Sheikh Tamim the youngest Arab leader at the age of 33.
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