Very little is known about the country’s history before the 18th century. Until 1766, when the sheikhdom of Qatar was founded, there were probably only a few nomads living on today’s territory. In addition, there were some small fishing villages on the coast.
The country’s modern history begins with the immigration of Kuwaiti families, particularly the Al Khalifahs, who came from the Al-Hasa province of Arabia. The settlement they founded in the second half of the 18th century was called Az-Zubarah and, over the years, became a local trading center. Pearl diving in the surrounding coral reefs played an important role. In 1783 the Al Khalifahs conquered Bahrain, where they still rule today. After leaving Qatar, the country was ruled by various sheiks with limited territorial power, the most famous of whom was Rahmah ibn Jabir al-Jalahimah, who the British believed to be a leader of the so-called pirate coast.The many protected bays in the southeast of the Persian Gulf served as a hiding place for pirates at that time.
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19th and early 20th centuries
According to AbbreviationFinder, the British, who were active in the region, intervened in the country’s political situation for the first time when the city of Doha was destroyed as a result of a war between the royal family in Bahrain and the people of Qatar. They concluded a separate agreement with one of the Sheiks, Muhammad ath-Thani. This fact formed the starting point for the future independence of the country under the rule of the Al Thani family in 1868. The Ottomans occupied the country four years later, but were pushed out of Qatar by Saudi Arabian troops in 1913.
In 1916, Great Britain signed another agreement with Qatar, which gave the British royal family control over the Sultan’s foreign policy and at the same time placed it under British protection, making it a de facto protectorate.
In 1935, the poor country signed an agreement with the Iraqi state oil company, which was to have drastic consequences. After four years of searching, oil was found, but it was not used commercially until 1949.
The British intervened again in the country’s political life when disputes arose between the Sheiks over the income from the oil discoveries. In 1968, Great Britain announced its withdrawal from the area. After negotiations, which also included the neighboring sheikhdoms of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Qatar declared its independence on September 1, 1971. In the same month it became a member of the Arab League and the United Nations.
In 1981, the “Gulf Cooperation Council” followed, along with five neighboring Arab countries, with the aim of joint defense and increased economic cooperation. In view of the revolution in Iran and the Iranian-Iraqi war, the foundation was intended as a protective measure for the relatively small states. Consequently, Qatar’s troops on the side of the US-led armies participated in the Gulf War between 1990 and 1991. The capital Doha served as the basis for their air strikes on French, Canadian and US aircraft.
In 1995 there were renewed domestic conflicts over the oil production and in a palace coup the son of the ruling Sheik Khalifah, Sheik Hamad, came to power, although he was already intended by his father as future ruler. After the son had put down a counter-coup the following year, and disputes over the trillions of state assets in the country between son and father had been settled, he was also recognized as the ruler.
The first free and secret elections since Britain’s independence in 1971 were seen in 1999 as a sign that Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who is open to reform, is striving for a cautious democratic opening of the country. A new constitution entered into force in 2005. It provides for an advisory assembly, of which two thirds are to be elected and one third are to be appointed by the emir. So far, however, all members of this body have been appointed; there is still no general right to vote for the advisory meeting. The emir also lifted the press censorship; Qatar media, however, practice strong self-censorship.For the first time ever in the Gulf region, women can both take part in the elections and be nominated as candidates (work only in municipal council elections, etc.).
At the end of June 2013, the Emir was given power to his son, Crown Prince Tamim. He continues his father’s moderate modernization course.