Out of the total population of approximately 1.7 million (2011 est.), the make-up of ethnic groups is as follows: Qatari (Arab) 20%; other Arab 20%; Indian 20%; Filipino 10%; Nepali 13%; Pakistani 7%; Sri Lankan 5%; other 5%.
During the 19th century, the time of Britain’s formative ventures into the region, the Al Khalifa clan reigned over the northern Qatari peninsula from the nearby island of Bahrain to the west.
Although Qatar had the legal status of a dependency, resentment festered against the Bahraini Al Khalifas along the eastern seaboard of the Qatari peninsula. In 1867, the Al Khalifas launched a successful effort to crush the Qatari rebels, sending a massive naval force to Al Wakrah. However, the Bahraini aggression was in violation of the 1820 Anglo-Bahraini Treaty. The diplomatic response of the British to this violation set into motion the political forces that would eventuate in the founding of the state of Qatar on December 18, 1878.
Qatar has been ruled as an absolute monarchy by the Al Thani family since it was established in December 1878. Qatar has an unelected, monarchic, emirate-type government. There are no democratic institutions or elections, and power is assumed on a hereditary basis. Its legal system combines limited aspects of Islamic (or Sharia) and civil law codes in a discretionary system of law totally controlled by the Emir. Although civil codes are being implemented, Islamic law is used in family and personal matters. The country has a parliament called Municipalities court that composes of ordinary citizens representing every populated area in Qatar. The country has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction.
Qatar has bilateral relationships with a variety of foreign powers. It has allowed American forces to use an air base to send supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan. It has also signed a defense cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, with whom it shares the largest single non-associated gas field in the world. It was the second nation, the first being France, to have publicly announced its recognition of the Libyan opposition’s National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya.
Qatar sought to secure growing threats of geographically being in a volatile region with nuclear threats within close proximity and mistrust by inviting the US to create a full-functioning military base. Sheikh Hamad’s coup in 1995, to topple his father, reinvigorated its foreign policy, allowing it to step out of Saudi Arabia’s shadow and unaligned its policies from them and surprised the region. Speculation of a Saudi Arabian sponsored coup attempt in the late 1990s to reinstate the ousted Emir’s father and border disputes led to obstreperous relations resulting in Riyadh withdrawing diplomatic representation in 2002 to 2007. Launch of Al-Jazeera certainly did not help; it bred mistrust within the region and questioned the motives behind it and Qatar’s road to modernity in relation to the various countries it affected.
Qatar is a destination for men and women from South Asia and Southeast Asia who migrate willingly, but are subsequently trafficked into involuntary servitude as domestic workers and laborers, and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. The most common offence was forcing workers to accept worse contract terms than those under which they were recruited. Other offences include bonded labor, withholding of pay, restrictions on movement, arbitrary detention, and physical, mental, and sexual abuse.
According to the Trafficking in Persons Report by the US State Department, men and women who are lured into Qatar by promises of high wages are often forced into underpaid labor. The report states that Qatari laws against forced labor are rarely enforced and that labor laws often result in the detention of victims in deportation centers, pending the completion of legal proceedings. The report places Qatar at tier 3, as one of the countries that neither satisfies the minimum standards nor demonstrates significant efforts to come into compliance.
Barwa, a Qatari contracting agency, is constructing a residential area especially for laborers known as Barwa Al Baraha (also called “Worker’s City”). The project was launched after a recent scandal in Dubai’s labor camps. The project aims to provide a reasonable standard of living as defined by the new Human Rights Legislation. The Barwa Al Baraha will cost around $1.1 billion and will be a completely integrated city in the industrial area in Doha. Along with 4.25 square meters of living space per person, the residential project will provide parks, recreational areas, malls, and shops for laborers. Phase one of the project was set to be completed by the end of 2008 and the project itself is set to be completed by the middle of 2010.
Qatar: a tiny state with global ambitions
The Emir of Qatar, who was on a three-day state visit, owns large slices of London and has £50 billion in the bank – but there are clouds on the horizon. Richard Spencer reported on 28 Oct 2010 at:
“The emirate’s history started with Britain: it is how it came into being. While many of the Gulf emirates, from Dubai to Kuwait, were once protectorates, the al-Thani family has particular reason to be grateful. The British, always with an eye to making new friends for sound strategic reasons, intervened in the middle of the 19th century in a regional feud involving the ruling family of neighboring Bahrain. We employed a local merchant to negotiate a settlement. Out of the settlement, somewhat mysteriously, was formed a new statelet; its name was Qatar. The negotiator, one Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, became its ruler. His descendants have run the place ever since.
Hardly surprisingly, the ties with Britain remained strong, even after independence in 1971. Good relations were maintained when, like many Gulf princes, the Emir trained at Sandhurst – always a good place to learn the art of international contact-building, as well as international warfare. He cemented the family’s place in the British establishment by giving his son a traditional public-school education. Because of its record in taking well-connected foreign pupils for whom English was a second language, he chose the West Country school Sherborne for the boy who is now the Crown Prince. The family grew to love the place, nestling amid the hills and honey-colored hamstone cottages of Dorset. So the Emir did what any self-respecting monarch would do: he paid it to set up a branch back home, and Sherborne School Qatar opened last year.
Money wasn’t a problem, of course. Qatar has been pretty comfortable for some time, ever since oil was discovered in the 1940s. But the thing that made all the difference to its cash pile – now estimated at well over £50 billion, including the Emir’s personal wealth and the Qatari sovereign wealth fund – was something called the Main Cryogenic Heat Exchanger (MCHE).
Over the past four decades, the ever-improving technology of the MCHE has revolutionized life in Qatar and made Sheikh Hamad a force to be reckoned with. At the start of the 1970s, power, both industrial and political, meant oil. Everyone knew that when you drilled into oilfields, vast amounts of gas were released, but no one really knew what to do with it. It had some local use, pipelined to cookers, but you could hardly send it round the world in tankers, like petrol.
Until the MCHE, that is. The exchangers can cool natural gas to –160C, shrink it, and turn it into liquid. As they became increasingly efficient when they were used on a mass scale, the balance of power suddenly swung in favor of places, such as Qatar, which produced lots of the gas. Huge vats round the world, including two new ones in Milford Haven, now store liquefied Qatari gas.
So while Saudi Arabia may be rich, Qatar is richer, at least per head of population. In fact, Qatar now vies with Luxembourg for the title of richest country per person in the world. And while the Saudi royal family has only recently started to modernize the way it runs its feudal kingdom, Sheikh Hamad – as can perhaps most easily be seen in the person of his ever-present second wife, Sheikha Mozah – has a considerable head-start.
No one is claiming that Qatar is a democracy. The Emir came to power in a rather less than modern way – deposing his father in a coup, while he was away in Switzerland. He still holds the reins of power, but he has followed the lead of the United Arab Emirates in allowing alcohol – within the precincts of posh hotels and the privacy of expats’ homes – and welcoming foreign investment. He set up Al Jazeera, the cable news television channel that has revolutionized the media in the otherwise heavily censored Arab world. On the international stage, too, he has carved out a very unusual position for himself, since his startling accession in 1995.”
Mideast turmoil highlights big ambitions of tiny Qatar
By: Brian Murphy of The Associated Press wrote on Feb 04, 2011, at: http://www.680news.com/news/world/article/178927–mideast-turmoil-highlights-big-ambitions-of-tiny-qatar
“Qatar is seen by some as leaning toward the protest movements in the region, but it’s among the most autocratic Gulf States, with virtually all power in the hands of the ruling clan.
It also plays wide political margins. It maintains close relations with Iran and militant groups such as Hamas while hosting the U.S. base and branches of institutions such as Northwestern University and the Brookings think-tank.
It defied Arab hard-liners and allowed Israel to open a trade office in 1996, only to order it closed in January 2009 after Israel invaded the Gaza Strip.”