QATAR KNOWLEDGE BASE
A Growing Fact Base:
The political system of Qatar is either an absolute monarchy or a constitutional monarchy, with the Emir of Qatar as head of state and head of government. Under the 2003 constitutional referendum it should be a constitutional monarchy. Sharia Law is the main source of Qatari legislation according to Qatar's Constitution.
Sharia law is the main source of Qatari legislation according to Qatar's Constitution. Sharia law is applied to laws pertaining to family law, inheritance, and several criminal acts (including adultery, robbery and murder). In some cases in Sharia-based family courts, a female's testimony is worth half a man's and in some cases a female witness is not accepted at all. Codified family law was introduced in 2006. In practice, Qatar's legal system is a mixture of civil law and Islamic law.
A Short History:
Qatar achieved full independence from the United Kingdom on 3 September 1971. Arab states were among the first to recognize Qatar, and the country gained admittance to the United Nations and the Arab League in the same year.
Qatar established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, and Communist China in 1988. The country was an early member of OPEC and a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Qatar is a strategic ally of China, with relationship between the two countries growing stronger.
Over the past two decades, Qatar has grown its international profile and punched above its weight in international affairs. It has been "very confident of itself and believes that it has the capabilities and capacity to adopt an independent foreign policy."
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar from 1995 to 2013, helped establish Qatar's reputation as an influential player in Middle East politics. The first major move in this regard was the founding of Al Jazeera, a state-owned news media company.
The country is a member of numerous international organizations and maintains bilateral relations around the globe because, as Islam Hassan Research Analyst at Center for International and Regional Studies- Georgetown University in Qatar argues, the monarchy believes that a way of regime survival here is to have recognition on the regional and international level."
Qatar also uses its massive wealth to purchase influence abroad; its state-funded news media company Al Jazeera serves as a means of exerting international soft power.
Qatar buys influence in Western countries through investments and donations. For example, the country has made large donations to the prominent Washington-based think tank the Brookings Institution, purchased British retailer Harrods, and donated $1 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was U.S. Secretary of State.
Qatar has also cultivated close relationships with Western powers, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom. Al Udeid Air Base hosts American and British air forces. Qatar has invested extensively in London real estate, and the country has also made donations to prominent research centers in the United States. At the same time, Qatar maintains ties to Western adversaries, including Iran, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and extremist elements in Syria.
Qatar has a population of around 1.8 million people, however only 280,000 of these are citizens. The vast majority of the population are migrant laborers who suffer severe human rights abuses including unfit living conditions, abuse by employers, and seizure of passports and other immigration documents. These human rights abuses have caused tensions between Qatar and liberal western democracies. It is also one of the few countries in which citizens do not have to pay any taxes.
According to American sociologist and historical social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein, Qatar is seeking to become a major regional player in Middle East politics. Wallerstein has argued that Qatar aimed to do the same in the Syrian Civil War, and has provided support to extremist elements in Syria. According to Wallerstein, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are competing for influence in regional politics.
Qatar has been influential in political and religious upheavals in the Middle East. Qatar supported several rebel groups during the Arab Spring financially and by asserting global influence through its expanding news group, Al Jazeera.
Some financial economists have interpreted the 2014 Saudi-Qatari rift as the tangible political sign of a growing economic rivalry between oil and natural gas producers, which could “have deep and long-lasting consequences” beyond the Middle East.
In April 2017, an alleged hack of state media led to stories quoting the Emir as enquiring US resentment towards Iran and remarking on Hamas. Doha reported it as false and gave no indication on where it originated. However, news organizations in the region reported the emir's comments as fact. This led to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Egypt and Bahrain cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar on 5 June 2017.
Qatar voiced support for the Turkish invasion of northern Syria aimed at ousting U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds from the enclave of Afrin. Spokeswoman of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lulwah Rashif Al-Khater said that: "The launching of the Turkish military operation last Saturday was motivated by legitimate concerns related to its national security and the security of its borders, in addition to protecting Syria's territorial integrity from the danger of secession. Turkey, a NATO member, has always been a stabilizing factor in the region."
Peace brokering and peacekeeping activities - The First Contact Group Meeting on Libya was held in Doha, Qatar on 3 April 2011
The onset of the Arab spring in January 2011 complicated Qatar's ability to mediate having forced Gulf leaders to side with revolutionaries or the longstanding autocratic regimes. Sheikh Hamad stated in that Qatar would support the uprisings, a position that clashed with neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar provided extensive support, in funding and weapons, to Libyan revolutionaries and aided in the removal of Muammar Gaddafi by mobilising Arab support behind NATO airstrikes. In Egypt, Qatar supported President Mohamed Morsi and has suffered from strained relations with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi following Morsi's removal. In Syria, Qatar has provided arms and funding to various opposition groups.
Starting in 2013 Qatar was accused of financing Islamic extremists in Syria, a charge which has been refuted by Emir Sheikh Tamim on CNN and by Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Attiyah in an opinion piece in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
According to the Royal United Services Institute, Qatar plays an important role in Syria and Iraq as an interlocutor between Western powers and resistant groups that cannot be engaged directly. This role is consistent with Qatar's efforts as an interlocutor with the Taliban in Afghanistan, hosting a small Embassy in Doha where US officials are able to meet with the Taliban behind closed doors.
Prior to the abdication of Emir Sheikh Hamad, Qatar's mediation was fronted by the Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmad Abdullah Al Mahmud. On 4 May 2009, the Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmad Abdullah Al Mahmud announced that Chad and Sudan had agreed to end hostilities against each other and to normalize relations during Qatari-mediated talks in Doha; however the agreement quickly broke down.
Qatar also brokered an agreement between the Sudanese government and the strongest Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, in Doha in February 2010. The agreement fell apart in May 2010 and the conflict is ongoing.
In June 2010, Qatari peacekeeping forces deployed in the disputed Ras Doumeira area on the border between Djibouti and Eritrea after the latter withdrew from the area. The intention was to help start bilateral negotiations and solve the territorial dispute which had turned violent. Qatar withdrew its 450 troops from the Djibouti-Eritrea border in June 2017 after the two countries severed ties with Qatar.
In a controversial bidding process marred by bribery and corruption scandals, Qatar was selected to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar will be the first Middle Eastern country to host the popular international sporting event. Qatar-funded Qatar Airways has gone on an aggressive expansion campaign by competing with nearby Emirates Airline to reach more destinations and serve more passengers.
The sixty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly was presided over by former permanent representative of Qatar to the UN Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser. The country has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.
In September 2013, Qatar funded 70% of a US$16 million mosque to be built in Slovenia (the only mosque in that country). It is due for completion in 2016. Due to its natural resource revenue and low indigenous population, Qatar has been able to take bold moves in expanding its global presence, particularly its regional role following the Arab Spring funding the oppositions in the Libyan Civil War and the Syrian civil war, as well as the Islamist government of Egypt (which was opposed by other fellow GCC states).
According to the UN OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service, Qatar’s international aid increased from less than $10 million annually in the pre-Arab Spring period to the hundreds of millions following the event. For example in 2012, according to the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country donated more than QAR3 billion (or c. £524 million) through both governmental and non-governmental aid to nearly 100 countries across the globe.
Qatari leadership has since pledged publicly to reduce suffering of victims and to achieve and support global partnerships for the achievement of foreign countries’ Millennium Development Goals. The state is currently engaged in investments in a wide range of humanitarian and developmental sectors.
Aims: According to the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, helping countries achieve internationally agreed development goals is the main objective of the program. Additionally, poverty reduction, including through employment creation in rebuilding and infrastructure projects, improved health and education as well as better management of the environment, are the main areas of focus of Qatar’s international cooperation.
Qatar also promotes dialogue through soft power diplomacy initiatives in regional and international affairs, hoping to consolidate peace and stability, in addition to good relations with neighbouring countries and strategic alliances with major powers.
Areas of focus: Qatar’s foreign aid focuses principally on the Arab world. For example in 2013, around 93 percent of Qatar’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) went to countries in the region. Syria was the largest recipient, receiving $422 million, with much of this going towards humanitarian needs. Morocco, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon were among the other main recipients.