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World : Asia : Qatar

Qatar has been inhabited for millennia. In the 19th century, the Bahraini Al Khalifa family dominated until 1868 when, at the request of Qatari nobles, the British negotiated the termination of the Bahraini claim, except for the payment of tribute. The tribute ended with the occupation of Qatar by the Ottoman Turks in 1872. 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, 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. Exploitation was delayed by World War II, and oil exports did not begin until 1949.

During the 1950's and 1960's gradually increasing oil reserves 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 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.

On June 27, 1995, the Deputy Ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, deposed his father Emir Khalifa in a bloodless coup. Emir Hamad and his father reconciled in 1996. Since then, the Emir has announced his intention for Qatar to move toward democracy and has permitted a free and open press and municipal elections as a precursor to parliamentary elections expected to occur in 2003 or 2004.


Because no public dissent is tolerated in Qatar, opposition usually manifests itself in royal family intrigue or behind-the- scenes grumbling by aggrieved parties. The apparent public tranquillity is cultivated by the amir and by the private but closely controlled media. Incidents in the 1980s, however, demonstrated that opposition to the regime existed.

In September 1983, for example, a conspiracy to assassinate the ruler or a GCC head of state was uncovered by Qatari authorities, and seventy people were arrested. Contradictory press reports said that either some military people were involved or that the plot reflected a squabble among members of the ruling family. Qatari security forces learned of the plot from Egyptian intelligence via the Saudi Arabians. Informed that the plotters were backed by Libya, Qatar declared the Libyan chargé d'affaires persona non grata. The target of the plot, according to conflicting reports, was either Shaykh Khalifa ibn Hamad or GCC heads of state who were coming to Doha for a November summit. Since then, there have been other reported assassination attempts.

In August 1985, it was reported that Shaykh Suhaym ibn Hamad Al Thani, one of the amir's brothers, disappointed that the position of crown prince was given to Shaykh Khalifa ibn Hamad's son, Hamad ibn Khalifa, plotted a coup and maintained a cadre of supporters and a cache of weapons in the north of the country. When Shaykh Suhaym ibn Hamad died suddenly, his sons blamed Minister of Information and Culture Ghanim al Kuwari for not responding promptly to the call for medical help. After supporters of Suhaym ibn Hamad and his sons attempted to kill Ghanim al Kuwari, they were imprisoned.

Soon after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Palestinians and Iraqis living in Qatar came under intense government scrutiny. Dozens were deported, and many more were forced to leave after their contracts were not renewed.



Ruled by the Al Thani family since the mid-1800s, Qatar transformed itself from a poor British protectorate noted mainly for pearling into an independent state with significant oil and natural gas revenues. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning off of petroleum revenues by the amir who had ruled the country since 1972. He was overthrown by his son, the current Amir HAMAD bin Khalifa Al Thani, in a bloodless coup in 1995. In 2001, Qatar resolved its longstanding border disputes with both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Oil and natural gas revenues enable Qatar to have a per capita income not far below the leading industrial countries of Western Europe.

The ratio of males to females is almost even at birth. However, between the ages of 15 and 64 years of age, the range that includes 72% of the population, there are 2.4 males to each female. 40% are Arabs and 36% are evenly divided between Pakistani and Indian ethnic groups. 95% are Muslims. Arabic is the official language although English is commonly used as a second language. This is a highly literate population. Approximately 80% can read and write. The life expectancy for males is 70.4 years and 75.48 for females. During their lifetimes, 50% work in services, 49% in industry. Most industries consist of crude oil production and refining, fertilizers, petrochemicals, steel reinforcing bars and cement.

Oil accounts for more than 30% of GDP, roughly 80% of export earnings, and 58% of government revenues. Proven oil reserves of 3.7 billion barrels should ensure continued output at current levels for 23 years. Oil has given Qatar a per capita GDP comparable to that of the leading West European industrial countries. Qatar's proven reserves of natural gas exceed 7 trillion cubic meters, more than 5% of the world total, third largest in the world. Production and export of natural gas are becoming increasingly important. Long-term goals feature the development of offshore natural gas reserves. In 2000, Qatar posted its highest ever trade surplus of $7 billion, due mainly to high oil prices and increased natural gas exports, and managed to maintain the surplus in 2001.


The state religion is Islam, as interpreted by the conservative Wahhabi order of the Sunni branch. Islam is a system of religious beliefs and an all-encompassing way of life. Muslims believe that God (Allah) revealed to the Prophet Muhammad the rules governing society and the proper conduct of society's members. It is incumbent on the individual, therefore, to live in a manner prescribed by the revealed law and incumbent on the community to build the perfect human society on earth according to holy injunctions. Islam recognizes no distinctions between the religious institution and the state. The distinction between religious and secular law is a recent development that in part reflects the more pronounced role of the state in society and Western economic and cultural penetration. The impact of religion on daily life in Muslim countries is extensive, usually greater than that found in the West.

Islamic beliefs are based on the revelations received by Muhammad from God and the angel Gabriel in the 6th century A.D. So intrinsic is religious ideology within this culture that the Islamic calendar begins in 622, the year Muhammad moved to Medina, where his activities were centered.

Most citizens belong to the Sunni sect of Islam. However, a minority is Shia. Although originally political in nature, the differences between Sunni and Shia interpretations rapidly took on theological overtones. In principle, a Sunni approaches God directly: there is no clerical hierarchy. Some duly appointed religious figures, such as imams, however, exert considerable social and political power. Imams usually are men of importance in their communities, but they need not have any formal training. Committees of socially prominent worshipers usually are responsible for managing major mosque-owned lands. In most Arab countries, the administration of waqfs (religious endowments) has come under the influence of the state.

Qadis (judges) and imams are appointed by the government.

The major duties of Muslims are found in the five pillars of Islam, which set forth the acts necessary to demonstrate and reinforce the faith. These are the recitation of the shahada ("There is no god but God [Allah], and Muhammad is his prophet"), daily prayer (salat), almsgiving (zakat), fasting (sawm), and pilgrimage (hajj). The believer is to pray in a prescribed manner after purification through ritual ablutions each day at dawn, midday, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall. Prescribed genuflections and prostrations accompany the prayers, which the worshiper recites while facing toward Mecca. Whenever possible, men pray in congregation at the mosque with an imam, and on Fridays they are required to do so. The Friday noon prayers provide the occasion for weekly sermons by religious leaders. Women may also attend public worship at the mosque, where they are segregated from the men, although most frequently women pray at home. A special functionary, the muezzin, intones a call to prayer to the entire community at the appropriate hour.

The Government and ruling family are linked inextricably to Islam. The Minister of Islamic Affairs controls the construction of mosques, the administration of clerical affairs, and Islamic education. The Amir participates in public prayers during both Eid holiday periods, and personally finances the Hajj journeys of poor pilgrims who cannot afford to travel to Mecca.


The crime rate in Qatar is low compared to industrialized countries, with the important exception of murder. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Qatar. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Qatar will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 1999 was 2.11 per 100,000 population for Qatar, 1.00 for Japan, and 4.55 for USA. For rape, the rate in 1999 was 1.72 for Qatar, compared with 1.47 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 1999 was 1.34 for Qatar, 3.34 for Japan, and 147.36 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 1999 was 7.09 for Qatar, 15.97 for Japan, and 329.63 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 1999 was 34.10 for Qatar, 206.01 for Japan, and 755.29 for USA. The rate of larceny for 1999 was 136.01 for Qatar, 1267.95 for Japan, and 2502.66 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 1999 was 11.49 for Qatar, compared with 34.01 for Japan and 412.70 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 193.86 for Qatar, compared with 1529.75 for Japan and 4184.24 for USA. (Note: data were not reported to INTERPOL by the USA for 1999, but were derived from data reported to the United Nations for 1999)


Between 1995 and 1999, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 1.52 to 2.11 per 100,000 population, an increase of 38.8%. The rate for rape decreased from 5.23 to 1.72, a decrease of 67.1%. The rate of robbery increased from .67 to 1.34, an increase of 100%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 4.05 to 7.09, an increase of 75.1%. The rate for burglary decreased from 58.18 to 34.10, a decrease of 41.4%. The rate of larceny increased from 78.58 to 136.01, an increase of 73.1%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 10.12 to 11.49, an increase of 13.5%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 158.35 to 193.86 per 100,000 population, an increase of 22.4%. One crime, larceny, accounts for the bulk of this increase.


Qatar has a discretionary system of law controlled by the Amir, although civil codes are being implemented; Islamic law dominates family and personal matters. Citizens do not have the right to change their government or the political system peacefully. The political institutions combine the characteristics of a traditional Bedouin tribal state and a modern bureaucracy. Under the amended Provisional Constitution, the Amir must be chosen from and by the adult males of the Al-Thani family. The Government does not permit political parties or organized opposition groups.

The Amir exercises most executive and legislative powers, including appointment of cabinet members. In 1999 citizens elected a 29-member Central Municipal Council. For the first time, men and women age 18 and older were permitted both to vote and to run as candidates in free and fair elections. The Council is a nonpartisan body that addresses local issues such as street repair, green space, trash collection, and public works projects. Its role is to advise the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture. The Council does not have the authority to change policy.

In November 1998, the Amir announced the formation of a committee to draft a permanent constitution that would provide for parliamentary elections. The constitutional committee was inaugurated in July 1999 and includes 36 government officials, academics, and prominent business leaders. In addition to subcommittees on the legislature, executive, and judiciary, it includes a subcommittee on human rights. The committee has met regularly and is expected to complete a draft constitution by mid-2002.

The percentage of women in government or politics does not correspond to their percentage of the population. Impediments that prevent or hinder women from participating in politics include lack of experience and role models, and the traditional society, in which women are expected to be mothers and caretakers.


The country has efficient police and security services. The civilian security force, controlled by the Interior Ministry, consists of two sections: The police and the General Administration of Public Security. An independent state security investigative unit (Mubahith) which reports directly to the Amiri Diwan (the office of the Amir), performs internal security investigations, gathers intelligence, and is responsible for sedition and espionage cases. There also is an independent civilian intelligence service (Mukhabarat), which also reports directly to the Amiri Diwan.


The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the police have the discretion to arrest persons based on minimal suspicion. There were no reports of arbitrary detention in security cases, as had been the case in the past. The authorities generally charge suspects within 48 hours. Suspects usually are presented to the Attorney General within 24 hours of arrest. The Attorney General decides whether to hold the suspect up to a maximum of 4 days, after which time the suspect is presented before a judge, who may order the suspect released or remanded to custody to await trial. Judges may extend pretrial detention for 1 week at a time to allow the authorities to conduct investigations or order the release of the suspect through bail. Lengthy pretrial detention is not known to occur. The accused is entitled to legal representation throughout the process. There are no provisions for making legal counsel available to indigents at state expense. Suspects who are detained in security cases are generally afforded access to counsel; however, they may be detained indefinitely while under investigation. There were no cases of incommunicado detention during the year.

In March, 2001, former Ministry of Education official Abdulrahman Al Nuaimi, who had been imprisoned since 1998 after publicly criticizing the Amir for purportedly anti-Islamic actions, was pardoned by the Amir and released.


The judiciary is nominally independent; however, most judges are foreign nationals who hold residence permits granted by the civil authorities, and thus hold their positions at the Government's pleasure. The number of citizen judges is increasing. The Amir appoints all judges for renewable 3-year terms.

Responsibility for the judiciary is shared among the bureaucracies of three ministries. Adlea (Civil Law) Courts are subordinate to the Ministry of Justice, Shari'a (Islamic law) courts fall under the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, and Prosecutors fall under the Ministry of Interior.

There are two types of courts. The Adlea courts have jurisdiction in commercial, national security, all forms of trafficking (including drugs, contraband, and persons), and criminal matters. The Shari'a courts have jurisdiction in family, inheritance, deportation, wrongful injury, and most other civil cases. The law provides for the establishment of ad hoc state security courts. Although there have been no cases before these courts since the current Amir assumed power, they have not been abolished formally by law and remain an option. Defendants tried by all courts have the right to appeal. The Appeals Court is the highest in the country.

The Shari'a courts apply most principles contained in the draft Family Status Law, which covers marriage, inheritance, and juvenile matters, to cases currently under adjudication. Some provisions of the legislation continue to be debated. Shari'a trials usually are brief. Shari'a family law trials often are held without counsel; however, an increasing number of litigants, especially women, use lawyers to present their cases. After both parties have stated their cases and examined witnesses, judges usually deliver a verdict after a short deliberation.

Criminal cases normally are tried within 2 to 3 months after suspects are detained. Suspects are entitled to bail, except in cases of violent crime. Citizens or noncitizens may provide bail. Foreigners who are charged with minor crimes may be released to a citizen sponsor. They are prohibited from departing the country until the case is resolved. Defendants in the civil courts have the right to be represented by defense attorneys.

Both Muslim and non-Muslim litigants may request the Shari'a courts to assume jurisdiction in family, commercial, and civil cases. Trials in both the Adlea and the Shari'a courts are public, but the presiding judge can close the courtroom to the public if the case is deemed sensitive. Lawyers in the past did not play a formal role except to prepare litigants for their cases; however, an increasing number of litigants avail themselves of a lawyer to present their cases, particularly in divorce cases. In such cases, lawyers prepare the litigants and speak for them during the hearing. Non-Arabic speakers are provided with interpreters. Defendants are entitled to legal representation throughout the trial and pretrial process.

Foreigners are disadvantaged, especially in cases involving the performance of contracts. However,


The law prohibits torture, and unlike in the previous year, there were no allegations of torture by security forces. There were unconfirmed allegations in previous years that some of the defendants in the trial of the 1996 coup plotters had been tortured while in police custody; government officials have denied the allegations. The Government administers most corporal punishment prescribed by Islamic law but does not allow amputation. Punishments are not administered publicly.

The International Committee of the Red Cross visited prisons in 2000; no other organization has requested to visit the prisons. Prison conditions generally meet international standards. Women are held separately from men, and juveniles are held separately from adults. Pretrial detainees are held separately from convicted prisoners


According to a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) on family issues, domestic violence against women occurs, but is not widespread. According to Shari'a, all forms of physical abuse are illegal. The maximum penalty for rape is death. Shari'a provides for no punishment for spousal rape. The police investigate reports of violence against women. In the past few years, the Government has demonstrated an increased willingness to make arrests in cases of domestic violence, whether against citizens or foreigners. However, offenders who are citizens usually received lighter punishments than do foreigners. There were no arrests or convictions for domestic violence during the year.

Employers mistreated some foreign domestic servants, especially those from South Asia and the Philippines. In most cases, the mistreatment involved nonpayment or late payment of wages, but also included rape and physical abuse. Foreign embassies provide shelter for maids who have left their employers as a result of abuse or disputes. Abused domestic servants usually do not press charges for fear of losing their jobs.

The legal system allows leniency for a man found guilty of committing a "crime of honor," a euphemism that refers to a violent assault against a woman for perceived immodesty or defiant behavior; however, such honor killings are rare.

The activities of women are restricted closely both by law and tradition. For example, a woman is prohibited from applying for a driver's license unless she has permission from a male guardian. This restriction does not apply to noncitizen women. The Government adheres to Shari'a as practiced in the country in matters of inheritance and child custody. Muslim wives have the right to inherit from their husbands. However, they inherit only one-half as much as male relatives. Non-Muslim wives inherit nothing, unless a special exception is arranged. In cases of divorce, Shari'a is followed; younger children remain with the mother and older children with the father. Both parents retain permanent rights of visitation. However, local authorities do not allow a noncitizen parent to take his or her child out of the country without permission of the citizen parent. Women may attend court proceedings but generally are represented by a male relative; however, women may represent themselves. According to Shari'a, the testimony of two women equals that of one man, but the courts routinely interpret this on a case-by-case basis. A non-Muslim women is not required to convert to Islam upon marriage to a Muslim; however, many make a personal decision to do so. A noncitizen woman is not required to become a citizen upon marriage to a citizen. Children born to a Muslim father are considered to be Muslim.

Women largely are relegated to the roles of mother and homemaker, but some women are now finding jobs in education, medicine, and the news media. Professional opportunities for women are increasing. Many serve as senior professionals in government service, education, health, and private business. Women make up almost 40 percent of the workforce. The Government has publicly encouraged women to work and is a leading employer of women, who constitute approximately 45 percent of the government workforce, and include university professors, public school teachers, and police. Women appear to receive equal pay for equal work; however, they often do not receive equal allowances. These allowances generally cover transportation and housing costs. During the year, a nongovernmental working committee was established to make recommendations on how the Government could provide housing allowances for female government employees, in particular single women, who currently do not receive any housing benefits.

Although women legally are able to travel abroad alone, tradition and social pressures cause most to travel with male escorts. There also have been complaints that citizen husbands take their foreign spouses' passports and, without prior approval, turn them in for Qatari citizenship documents. The husbands then inform their wives that the wives have lost their former citizenship. In other cases, foreign wives report being forbidden by their husbands or in-laws to visit or to contact foreign embassies.

The Government actively supports women's education. Females constitute approximately two-thirds of the student body at Qatar University. Increasingly women receive government scholarships to pursue degrees at foreign universities.

A draft Family Status Law covering marriage, inheritance, divorce, and child custody is under review by the Ministry of Justice, after which it will be submitted to the Advisory Council and the Cabinet. Women have actively participated in drafting the law by forming committees, organizing and chairing public meetings and discussions, actively provoking debates on the issues, and publicizing the draft law.

There is no independent women's rights organization, nor has the Government permitted the establishment of one. One NGO seeks to improve the status of women and the family under both civil and Islamic law. This NGO is run entirely by women, and focuses on the health and education of, and provision of assistance to, women and children, particularly the poor.


The Government demonstrates its commitment to citizens' children's rights through a well-funded, free public education system (elementary through university) and a complete medical protection program. Education is compulsory for citizens (both boys and girls) through the age of 18. On October 29, the Amir issued a decree making education through primary school (the equivalent of 9th grade) compulsory and free for all noncitizen resident children. Medical coverage for noncitizen children is limited.

Very young children, usually of African or South Asian origin, are used as jockeys in camel races.

There is no societal pattern of abuse of children.

The Supreme Council for Family Affairs, in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior, set up a hotline called the Friendly Line for use by children. The system allows both citizen and noncitizen children to call in with questions and concerns ranging from school, health, and psychological problems to concerns about sexual harassment


The law prohibits prostitution and trafficking in persons; however, there were reports that both children and women were trafficked to the country.

Children age 4-15, mostly of African, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi origin, are used as jockeys in camel races. Guardians and handlers, who often pose as parents, bring the children into the country and supervise their training. They live in difficult conditions and train on a daily basis to become riders.

The country also is a destination for trafficked women and girls. Women from East Asia, South Asia, and Africa travel to the country to work as domestic servants and some have reported being forced into domestic servitude and sexual exploitation.

The Government does not investigate or prosecute traffickers actively. The Government repatriates victims of trafficking upon discovering their presence and does not provide assistance to victims. It does not support public awareness campaigns regarding the problem of trafficking of women and girls. A national campaign to set the minimum age of 15 and minimum weight of 100 pounds for camel jockeys was undertaken in April. The Supreme Council for Family Affairs claims that it is a top priority, and it is the subject of an ongoing media and public awareness campaign.


Internet research assisted by Eileen C. Seammen

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