TODAY is the 50th anniversary of the day when the State of Qatar declared its independence from the United Kingdom.

Like every other one of the 65 countries that have voted to become completely independent of Britain, Qatar has shown no sign of returning to the UK’s fold. Let’s hope UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is in Qatar for talks about how to deal with the Taliban after their takeover of Afghanistan, has remembered to take a present to mark the country’s historic anniversary.


THE State of Qatar occupies the Qatari Peninsula which juts out from the Arabian Peninsula into the Persian Gulf. The mainly desert peninsula – it has no natural lakes of any size – was occupied for centuries by Bedouin nomadic tribes but was not well populated or settled before the coming of Islam to the region.

The area thrived under the Islamic caliphate and became a world-renowned centre of pearl production.

The Qatari Peninsula was occupied by several local and foreign rulers such as the Al Khalifa family, who ruled nearby Bahrain. Coming under the control of the Ottoman Empire, the Thani dynasty effectively gained power in Qatar in the early 19th century, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani became emir of the country in 1913.

It was he who signed a deal to become a British protectorate in 1916 after the Ottoman Empire withdrew, and he was still in power when oil was discovered in 1940. Basically, after that the UK supported the Thani family and Britain got access to their oil.

In the 1960s, Britain signalled its intention to withdraw from the Gulf, and at first Qatar and Bahrain were part of the Trucial States that would later become the United Arab Emirates, but both countries withdrew and proclaimed their independence, Qatar doing so on September 3, 1971, and Bahrain becoming independent a few weeks earlier.

Doha was confirmed as Qatar’s capital after independence, just as it had been under the protectorate.

The National:

British Conservative politician Edward Heath on a visit with Qatar’s then deputy ruler Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani in 1968


IT is important to note that Qatar gained its full independence after years of growing autonomy and by negotiation with the UK, and has generally remained on friendly terms with Britain.

The oil boom of the 1970s enriched Qatar and put huge power in the hands of the rulers, the Thani family.

Depending on which propaganda you believe, Qatar started out in 1971 as an absolute monarchy and then became a constitutional monarchy after later reforms – but the truth is that nothing happens in Qatar without the approval of the royal family. The royals are led now by the eighth emir, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani whose father Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Hamad bin Abdullah bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani seized power from his father in a bloodless coup in 1995. It was Sheikh Hamad’s expansionist policies which transformed Qatar into a major power in the Gulf. He backed the west against Iraq during the wars in Kuwait and Iraq, and allowed US bases on his country’s soil. He managed to maintain links with Iran and also founded the media group Al Jazeera, allowing some liberalisation in his country but maintaining a strong grip on power.

The fact that Qatar has the world’s third-largest reserves of oil and natural gas has given independent Qatar astonishing wealth and an influence far beyond its size. It has a population of three million, but four-fifths of them are foreigners brought to work in Qatar. The country regularly tops the list of per capita GDP and its citizens largely enjoy the benefits of its wealth.


IT certainly did. As far back as 2012, Qatar allowed the Taliban to open an office in Doha and has maintained links with them ever since.

The meetings which led to former president Donald Trump signing the USA out of its longest war also took place in Doha.

In the last few weeks, Qatar has facilitated the exit of 40,000 refugees from Afghanistan. They will be cared for in Qatar until they can move on safely.


EMIR Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani technically rules with the assistance of prime minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, and there is a legislative council which is supposed to be elected but hasn’t been so yet.

Qatar’s dependence on foreign workers is not a problem, according to the current ruler, who has said “in Qatar, they find security and a dignified livelihood”.

Many people would disagree with that – not least because of the numbers killed and injured during the rush to create the infrastructure for the Fifa World Cup finals, which will be held in Qatar next year, the first Arab country to host the tournament.

Expect Qatar to become the focus of human and workers’ rights next year as the World Cup approaches.