I. History of Qatar Country
Qatar has been settled since the Stone Age, the first known inhabitants being Canaanite tribes. The country was later subject to various rulers, including Sargon of Akkad (reigned c. 2335-2279 bc), and it was most likely connected with the federation of Dilmun in the 1st millennium BC. Islam swept the peninsula in the 7th century ad, and Qatar then became a part, successively, of the Arab caliphate and the Ottoman Empire.
After the migration to Qatar of the Al Khalifah family from Kuwait in 1766, Iran invaded the peninsula in 1783, but was thrown back. The Al Khalifah moved to Bahrain Island, where they became the ruling family, but Qatar rebelled against their rule in 1867. Assisted by Abu Dhabi’s ruler, the Al Khalifah routed the Qataris and razed the city of Doha. The British then intervened to reduce piracy in the region, and installed the leading Al Thani family as Qatar’s rulers. Their rule was at the sufferance of the Ottoman Turks, but Ottoman attempts to station troops in Qatar from 1871 led to a successful uprising in 1893. In 1916 Qatar became a British protectorate but continued to be ruled as an absolute monarchy by the Al Thanis.
Qatar was proclaimed independent when the British left the Gulf area in 1971, and it then joined the UN. Initially planning to join the federation of the United Arab Emirates, it eventually decided for separate independence. In 1972 the reigning emir, Ahmad bin Ali al-Thani, was deposed by his cousin Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, who attempted to modernize the country by introducing new industries such as steel-processing and fertilizer production. In foreign affairs Qatar tended to lean close to Saudi Arabia, and it contributed substantially to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
B. Recent Disputes
Recurrent disputes with Bahrain over ownership of the artificial island of Fasht ad-Dibal led to a Qatari raid on the island in February 1986, and its subsequent demolition as part of a peace settlement.
Qatar supported Iraq throughout the Iran-Iraq War, but during the 1991 Gulf War its troops and air force were part of the 28-nation allied forces ranged against Iraq, and were especially noted for their contributions in the air and on the ground, particularly during the retaking of the town of Al-Khafji.
Border clashes with Saudi Arabia in September 1992 soured the normally close relations between the two states; a border agreement was reached in May 1993.
On June 27, 1995, the reigning emir, Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, was deposed in a bloodless coup led by his son Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the defence minister and heir-apparent. The new emir won the backing of the royal family, but his ousted father vowed to return and attempted to rally support from other countries for his reinstatement. In February 1996 a reconciliation led to his being allowed to return to Qatar, but not as its reigning emir.
Nationwide elections to a new central municipal council were held in March 1999; women were allowed, for the first time, to vote and contest seats. Continuing a line of reform, the emir established a committee, in July 1999, to prepare a new, permanent constitution.
C. Settled Border Disputes
A long-standing dispute with Bahrain over the potentially mineral-rich Ḩawar Islands was settled by the International Court of Justice in March 2001. Previous hearings had failed to resolve the issue, but both countries have accepted a ruling that the islands belong to Bahrain.
There were also renewed border agreements with Saudi Arabia: over the potentially oil-rich Dawhat Salva zone in 1999; and, in March 2001, over land and sea boundaries that are home to roaming tribes of Bedouin.