History According to the Former Emir of Qatar

History According to the Former Emir of Qatar

Tuesday, 13 March, 2018 - 08:00
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.
For some, truth is not that important; what is more important is what can be presented to people. This is what Doha is trying to do, presenting fiction as fact, such as a documentary it has produced that fabricates the story of former Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani’s coup against his father, and claims that there was a plot to bring the father back to power.

Because of the coup’s scandal, and since it detracts from the current government’s legitimacy, I never expected Qatar, which has the worst reputation in the Gulf, to talk about its recent history in the first place.

The story of the coup is so bad that it cannot be whitewashed with fabricated documentaries and false testimony. Its history is still fresh, most of its witnesses are still alive, and given its alliance with Iran, Hamas, “Hezbollah”, Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra Front, Doha’s reputation is now even worse.

The tragedy began when Sheikh Hamad, who still rules Qatar from behind the scenes, overthrew his father in 1995 and shook the entire Gulf society. Sheikh Hamad’s "new version of history" claims that three countries conspired against him and tried to stage a coup the following year.

But in 1996, and for seven consecutive years, Qatar was guarded only by a small defense force, along with its police. Qatar was still a city-state whose population at the time did not exceed half a million, only a quarter of them locals. Thus, it would not have been difficult for a big country such as Saudi Arabia, which shares land and sea borders with Qatar, to intervene if it wanted to, but it did not, neither did the other Gulf states.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Treaty governs the six geographically and tribally interrelated states. Had they really desired regime change then, they could have done that easily and legally, because the legitimacy was with the father, Sheikh Khalifa, who was betrayed by his own son and ousted from power. Yet the Gulf states did not intervene, except by trying to contain the conflict between the father and son, and end the dispute amicably.

Indeed, when Abu Dhabi hosted the deposed Sheikh Khalifa, it asked him to respect its laws and refrain from political activity. Riyadh did the same. I actually met the angry and hurt father in his hotel suite in Abu Dhabi at the time when I was working on a film about the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, whose liberation he had a role in. I recall then that Abu Dhabi did not want us to talk about the coup during our interview.

No one should ever think that overthrowing Sheikh Hamad in 1996 would have been difficult had the Gulf states wanted to do so. They could have considered his coup-government illegitimate, maintained the legitimacy of his father as ruler, entered Doha with him and seized it in one day.

The capital’s residents would not have resisted the return of their deposed emir, who was not known for using violence against or mistreating his citizens. His son, on the other hand, has expelled 5,000 citizens from Al-Murrah tribe and stripped them of their nationality only because some of them did not support the coup.

The truth is that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain committed a historic mistake when they trusted Sheikh Hamad, hosted his father and the 5,000 expelled Qataris, and only tried to bring about reconciliation. They should have returned Sheikh Khalifa to power. Perhaps this is what prompted him to attempt a weak counter-coup that failed because his son was informed about it by his spies within Sheikh Khalifa’s inner circle.

Had Riyadh sought to overthrow Sheikh Hamad, it would have succeeded because it had the legitimate ruler on its side. There was no US base and no large Qatari forces protecting Sheikh Hamad and the distance between the Saudi border and Doha is only 94 km.

Sheikh Hamad did not dare falsify the truth at the time. He did not accuse his neighbors, as he does now, because he knew that Saudi forces could have returned his father to his palace in Doha within hours, and most governments and Qataris would have supported the return of legitimacy. But the Kingdom did not do that because the Gulf states usually avoid interfering in the disputes of royal families.

But why has Sheikh Hamad, hiding behind his son Tamim, the current emir, decided to produce a documentary claiming that he was the target of Saudi-Emirati-Bahraini intrigues? The reason is that he has no other way to justify to his people why he is plotting against regional countries except by inventing fairy tales.

It is pity that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain did not conspire and intervene to bring back Sheikh Khalifa to power. Had they done so, they would have changed the region’s history for the better.
Obviously, ever since Sheikh Hamad’s coup, the region has been suffering from extremism and chaos.

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