Fanack Home / Qatar / Past to Present of Qatar / Independence


Stamp issued on the occasion of Independence Day, 3 September 1971, with a portrait of Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani
Stamp issued on the occasion of Independence Day, 3 September 1971, with a portrait of Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani

In 1968, Britain announced its intention to withdraw from the Gulf. Ahmad and Khalifa seemed in favour of joining the other sheikhdoms of the southern Gulf in what was to become the United Arab Emirates. But Khalifa changed his mind and on 1 September 1971 Qatar became an independent state. Ahmad, now Emir of Qatar, did not return from Switzerland to attend the celebrations. On 22 February 1972, while hunting in Iran, he was informed that his cousin had deposed him.

Khalifa bin Hamad broke with Ahmad’s policy of buying off the family at the cost of national development. He cut back family allowances and increased state spending. Rising oil prices and the nationalization of the oil industry in 1976 allowed him to invest heavily in education, health care and the creation of state jobs for Qatari nationals. A benevolent welfare state was born, coupled with an increasingly uncontrollable bureaucracy.

In May 1989, a Supreme Council of Planning, presided over by Crown prince Hamad bin Khalifa, was formed. It aimed to reduce Qatar’s dependence on oil through industrial diversification and agricultural development. But its only fruit was the costly development of an immense offshore gas field to the north of Qatar. When production from the so-called North Field started in 1991, dependence on oil was only partly exchanged for dependence on gas.

Khalifa’s rule also brought some political reform. He established an Advisory Council, whose members he personally elected. Ahmad’s supporters in government and bureaucracy were replaced by Khalifa’s allies. Khalifa’s position therefore seemed secured, but when oil revenues dropped, discontent resurfaced.

Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani studying the development of offshore gasfields
Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani studying the development of offshore gasfields

On 27 June 1995, Hamad bin Khalifa deposed his father in a bloodless coup. The modern minded Hamad, who had received a military education at British Sandhurst, was warmly welcomed by Britain and America. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which had favoured his more traditional, Islamic oriented father, were less amused. A year later, Hamad survived a counter-coup plot. Arrests followed quickly, and in 2001 nineteen defendants – all from Qatar – were sentenced to death. Although it is generally assumed that Khalifa bin Hamad was among the plotters, Hamad and his father officially reconciled some months after the ‘incident’. However, Khalifa did not return to Qatar until 2004.

Further Reading

Recent discoveries indicate human presence in Qatar in pre-historic times, but for most of its history the arid climate ...
At the end of the 19th century, Qatar became an intermediary vantage point for the British fleet. The region gained sign...
On 25 June 2013, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani announced that he would hand over power to his son and Crown Prince Tam...

We would like to ask you something …

Fanack is an independent media organisation, not funded by any state or any interest group, that distributes in the Middle East and the wider world unbiased analysis and background information, based on facts, about the Middle East and North Africa.

The website grew rapidly in breadth and depth and today forms a rich and valuable source of information on 21 countries, from Morocco to Oman and from Iran to Yemen, both in Arabic and English. We currently reach six million readers annually and growing fast.

In order to guarantee the impartiality of information on the Chronicle, articles are published without by-lines. This also allows correspondents to write more freely about sensitive or controversial issues in their country. All articles are fact-checked before publication to ensure that content is accurate, current and unbiased.

To run such a website is very expensive. With a small donation, you can make a huge impact. And it only takes a minute. Thank you.