Middle Eastern country, a small peninsula into the Persian Gulf bordering Saudi Arabia. (Also some surrounding islands, some of which are in dispute since Bahrain also claims them.) The CIA World Factbook says "closest approximation of the native pronunciation falls between cutter and gutter, but not like guitar." It is a monarchy which became independent from the United Kingdom in 1971. Its major industry is oil, and there is also a lot of natural gas. There are a lot of people from other countries there; depending on your source, the percentage of the population that is Qatari by ancestry is only from 25% to 40%; many of the rest are from Pakistan or other Muslim countries outside the Middle East.

The Al-Khalifas, who today govern Bahrain, also settled on the small peninsula that was located opposite their island. However, the Al-Khalifas failed to hold on to their mainland colony, and the region, modern-day Qatar, came under the control of the Al-Thani clan. Despite a treaty between the Al-Khalifas and Britain, Qatar was assimilated into the Ottoman Empire, which was currently in a brief period of prosperity, in 1872.

After World War I, the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Qatar then came under British control. The United Kingdom acknowledged the Al-Thanis as legitamite rulers. Also, they provided military protection. In exchange, Great Britain had complete control over Qatar's foreign affairs. In 1968, the British withdrew all of their troops east of the Suez Canal. The Al-Thanis tried to retain their protectorate status by appealing to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, but they failed. In 1971, Qatar became an independant nation under the rule of Sheikh Ahmad.

Immediately after independence was gained, a coup overthrew the government and Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad Al-Thani came to power. Under Khalifa’s leadership, Qatar used its significant oil revenues to modernize the country. For the most part, Qatar has counted Saudi Arabia as one of its closest allies. Qatar was also instrumental in the formation of the Gulf Co-operation Council. The GCC, which was formed in 1981, aims to establish a trade structure similar to the European Union in the Gulf area.

Although Qatar supported its fellow Arabs in the wars between Iraq and Iran, Qatar did not involve itself as much as its neighboring nations. However, Qatar was an active participant during the peace negotiations. Qatar also participated in the alliance to liberate Kuwait from Iraq in 1990. During the early 1990s, Qatar got into arguments with the neighboring nations. In July 1991, the GCC was forced to intervene in a border dispute with Bahrain. Each nation claimed to possess the Hawar Islands, which were reputed to be rich in oil. In 2001, the International Court of Justice settled the matter, mostly in Bahrain's favor. A second border dispute, this time with Saudi Arabia, began in 1992. This dispute was resolved approximately the same time as the first dispute. Qatar’s Arab neighbours became concerned with its commercial ties with Israel. In addition, Qatar was one of a few nations to maintain friendly relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

These foreign policies caused without doubt divisions in the ruling family. The divisions were ended in 1995 when the Emir was overthrown by his son, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, in a bloodless coup. Although prominent supporters of the deposed Emir tried to pull off a counter-coup, the attempt failed in February 1996.

In the new regime, Sheikh Hamad formed a new government ran by the loyal members of his family. For the first time, a woman was appointed to a ministerial post. Since the regime change, Sheikh Hamad has started a slow process of democratisation; 1999 brought the first municipal elections in Qatar ever, and a constitutional commission was created to form a model of an elected national parliament. Their report is expected soon.


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