Qatar is buzzing today over former Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s move to hand power over to his fourth son, Sheikh Tamim. Sheikh Hamad made his abdication official in remarks broadcast this morning at 8am, and today has been declared a state holiday.
Here’s the latest:
UPDATE | 7:35pm
Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Thani, brother and advisor to Sheikh Hamad and Qatar’s prime minister from 1996-2007, has given an interview to Qatar Television, offering up insights into the succession.
In translated remarks published by Qatar News Agency, Sheikh Abdullah denied that Sheikh Hamad had stepped down as Emir for medical reasons. “The health of his highness is good and he is regularly doing sport exercises,” he said.
The former Emir’s brother said Sheikh Hamad had indicated to him three years ago that he would be stepping down to bring a younger generation into government.
Sheikh Abdullah also insisted that Sheikh Tamim would continue his father’s legacy, pushing education, healthcare and sport in the country, and said Sheikh Hamad had worked for 15 years to bring the FIFA World Cup to Qatar.
Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Emir visited Doha this afternoon, and was received at the airport by Qatar’s current prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani.
The Kuwaiti leader Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jabir Al Sabah offered his congratulations to Sheikh Hamad and Sheikh Tamim before returning home this evening.
UPDATE | 4:52pm
Here’s the video of Sheikh Hamad’s last speech as Emir of Qatar. Scroll down to an earlier update to view the embedded English translation.
UPDATE | 3:41pm
Congratulations to the new Emir have been coming in from around the world.
Saudi Arabia’s 90-year-old King Abdullah sent this message to Sheikh Tamim:
“We are happy to express to you in the name of the people and Saudi Arabia’s government and in our name, our sincerest congratulations,” King Abdullah said in a statement published by the KSA state news agency, SPA.
“We are confident that you will continue the journey of your father and his efforts in serving the state of Qatar and its brotherly people as well as strengthening relations between the two nations.”
UAE President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan also sent a congratulatory cable, stressing the depth of brotherly relations between the two countries,UAE news agency WAM says.
Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary William Hague has called the news “historic.”
“I wish to thank His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani for the friendship and support that he and the people of Qatar have offered the United Kingdom under his leadership” he said in a statement.
“Our relationship is stronger than ever and the British Government looks forward to enhancing them further under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.”
UPDATE | 2:45pm
It’s incredibly quiet out on Doha’s streets today. Doha News took a drive around this morning, and despite a public holiday freeing many from their workplaces and schools, the streets were almost empty.
Outside the Emiri Diwan, the only sign of activity was a fleet of empty, luxury limousines emerging from the gates, presumably having just dropped off dignitaries on their way to wish Sheikh Tamim well.
The only other sign that something is afoot are the hundreds of cones out on the roads around the Diwan, blocking off parking spaces.
Meanwhile, Souq Faleh was draped with Qatari flags.
It seems that shopping is the order of the day, with residents reporting malls packed with families, and large queues at the cinema at Villaggio (photo by Nabil Nashar on Twitter):
What are you doing today?
UPDATE | 1:47pm
CNN Arabic is reporting that Sheikh Tamim’s first decree will be a 10 percent pay rise for Qataris, quoting an unnamed diplomatic source.
The source told CNN that the raise would be announced in the new Emir’s first speech.
Whether the increase will only apply to public sector workers, or to Qatari workers in private companies as well, remains unclear.
If true, the rise is the first major pay hike since 2011, when Sheikh Tamim was crediting with raised salaries for all nationals working in the public sector by 60 percent, and military salaries by 120 percent.
That raise – and this one too, if it is confirmed – caused concern amongst business analysts worried about the rising cost of living in Qatar.
UPDATE | 12:51pm
“There has been a fundamental inconsistency given Qatar’s public support for the Arab Spring, but yet persisting authoritarianism at home (jailing of the poet, arrests of other Qatari nationals, etc.).It’s likely that the Emir wanted to unseat much of the entrenched, elderly, and conservative hierarchy to allow Qatar to transition more smoothly towards constitutional monarchy and political liberalization.The appointment of the new, younger Emir, likely followed by a shake-up of ministers and possibly even the prime minister may be an effort to effect this necessary change.”
“The stepping down of the Emir, while still alive and aged only 61, will not be welcomed by entrenched autocrats in the other Gulf monarchies. As with Qatar’s support for the Arab Spring, this will probably be viewed as a dangerous precedent for their still traditional monarchies,” he said.
UPDATE | 12:21pm
In the international media today, Qatar has been credited for accomplishing a peaceful transition to power – no small feat in a region rife with instability. But some groups are saying true praise will only be deserved once Sheikh Tamim tackles some of the country’s most sensitive issues.
In a post on his website, Michigan-based Middle East scholar Juan Cole shares his wish list of reforms to be made during the new Emir’s reign:
Sheikh Tamim will likely revive the plan to move to an elected consultative assembly. But what would really change the Gulf would be for him to accept becoming a constitutional monarch. Kuwait was, 6 years ago, the closest of the GCC countries to that form of government, but it has become much more authoritarian. It is a hard sell for Qatar to promote democracy elsewhere in the Arab world, yet to lack it at home in Doha…
Another really important innovation Sheikh Tamim could pursue would be to offer citizenship to long-time residents, to regularize immigration laws and establish a path to citizenship for immigrants, and to allow unions, strikes and more justice for the workers who are making Doha run.
Cole also calls for the pardon of Qatari poet Mohammad Al Ajami, who faces 15 years in prison for inciting to overthrow the regime and for an opening up of Qatar’s local press, in the spirit of robust Al Jazeera, which Sheikh Hamad founded to give people a voice across the region.
International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrows has also weighed in, urging the global community to continue pressuring Qatar to improve its human rights record ahead of the 2022 World Cup:
Despite Qatari attempts to whitewash their image in the face of increasing international condemnation, the conditions for workers are arguably getting worse as the world’s richest country ramps up infrastructure projects ahead of the 2022 World Cup. The overdrive to build roads and stadiums is literally costing workers their lives.
As Qatar plans its leadership transition, from unelected father to unelected son, perhaps it’s time for the UK, USA, France and other allies to start pushing for a more meaningful transition, a change to the lives of nearly 90 percent of Qatar’s population, the ones who create the wealth, build the towers and dig the gas out of the ground.
UPDATE | 11:40am
Hamad Medical Corp. has said its outpatient adult clinics will be restricted to patients in need of “clinically urgent” care today, on the occasion of the public holiday. All inpatient services will operate as usual and the pediatric emergency center will continue to stay open.
UPDATE | 11:16am
Gulf News has published an article titled “Line of succession: The Al Thani rule in Qatar,” describing the reign of all six of the country’s emirs before Sheikh Tamim.
Of note – Qatar’s second ruler, Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, was also 33 years old when he became the Emir in 1913. During his reign, Qatar signed a protection treaty with the British government. The drilling of the country’s first well and the discovery of oil in 1940 was also made during his rule. Read the full story here.
UPDATE | 10:05am
As Sheikh Tamim spends several hours today accepting the well wishes of his countrymen, analysts are already discussing the big shoes he will soon have to fill, especially in the international arena.
Over the past nine years or so in his capacity as Heir Apparent, the 33-year-old has managed the majority of Qatar’s domestic affairs, including education, finance and sports.
But it is the Prime Minister/Foreign Minister who has been the face of Qatar’s international forays, most recently in Libya, Egypt and Syria. Because Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al Thani is expected to step down tomorrow, some anticipate that Qatar will start to keep a lower global profile in the coming years – which could be just what the country needs, Time Magazine asserts:
“Doha’s attempt to supplant regional powerbrokers like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey with a combination of cash, brio and pugnacious foreign policy has somewhat backfired. Countries like Libya, Tunisia and Egypt that once welcomed Qatar’s generous financial help in the wake of their revolutions, have grown suspicious of what they see as Qatari support of Islamist groups.
Older, more established countries in the Gulf view Qatar as a disruptive upstart, dangerously close to the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria, in particular, could well prove Qatar’s downfall. What once looked like a quick success in the mold of previous Arab uprisings has turned into a bloody quagmire. If Assad survives, Qatar’s standing in the region, after more than billions of dollars spent on weapons and aid to the rebels, would be irreparably damaged.”
UPDATE | 9:33am
Here’s the full English text of Sheikh Hamad’s farewell address as Emir (courtesy of Al Jazeera):
UPDATE | 9am
Reaction to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s speech has been pouring in on Twitter. Here’s a taster of what people have been saying:
#ThankYouHamad : you’re the best Emir and father in the history which will never ever be forgotten from all people. ❤— FATMA★ (@__FKM)
Today Qatar is the only country in the world with two living former monarchs.— שחררו את פלסטין (@SultanAlQassemi)
First time in a few years that a # tag to do with a power change in a ruling Mid-East governmentt is overwhelmingly positive. #Qatar— Riyaad Minty (@Riy)
18 great years of our lives. Thank you, your Highness for everything you have done for #Qatar and for us all. We will never let you down.— Reem- ريـــم (@Reem_AlHarmi)
This is a big day for Qatar, it certainly won it a lot of soft power — probably more power than it tried to gain over the past two years.— Hassan Hassan حسن (@hhassan140)
Perhaps this is #Qatar‘s finest day: do your best for your country, never forget you are there for the greater good, know when to move on.— Emily (@expatemily)
Qatar Television is now broadcasting images of supporters greeting the former and new Emir at the Emiri Diwan.
UPDATE | 8:31am
Al Jazeera has posted the full text of Sheikh Hamad’s speech in English. Some excerpts:
God Almighty is aware that I had not desired power for the sake of power; nor endeavoured to rule for personal motives; yet it has always been the nation’s interest; and that interest has dictated that we lead through a new chapter…
Our young men have proven over the past years that they are a people of resolve and fortitude; capable of accommodating the spirit of their time; realising its necessities fully and profoundly; coping with its newest; and above all contributing by their original thinking and creative initiatives.
Thanks to all this, I recall the words of the fourth Caliph, Ali bin Abi Taleb, May Allah be pleased with him, who said: ‘Teach your children other than that what you were taught; as they are created for a time other than yours.’
Read the full text here.
UPDATE | 8:16am
After the Emir’s goodbye speech, many questions remain. Including:
— Niamh McBurney (@blondearabist)
UPDATE | 8:14am
According to the New York Times, the Emir’s speech has kicked off a “two-day process” to succession. Citing an anonymous Qatari official, the newspaper said the next steps are:
An event known as a “mubaya,” in which prominent citizens welcome his successor. The new emir is (then) expected to deliver his first speech on Wednesday, the same day the cabinet is to resign and the new one, minus at least Prime Minister Hamad, is to be sworn in.
Incidentally, Thursday, June 27, marks the 18-year anniversary of Sheikh Hamad’s ascension to the throne, in which he overthrew his father in a bloodless coup.
UPDATE | 8:07am
After a seven-minute address in which Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani thanks supporters, praises the younger generation as capable and ready to take on responsibility, he officially passes the power to his son, Sheikh Tamim.
(Screenshot courtesy @SweetyMatthewB)
UPDATE | 8:05am
Emir: “God Almighty said in the Holy Scripture if they had only remained on the right path we should certainly have bestowed on them rain in abundance.”
Thanking supporters, he adds “My goal has always been to provide stability, security and prosperity.”
UPDATE | 8:03am
Emir: “I declare that I will hand over the reigns of power to Sheikh Tamim…and I am fully certain he is up to the responsibility.”
UPDATE | 8:02am
“Time has come to turn a new leaf,” Emir says. “You our children are the munitions of these homeland…we have always thought well of you, pinning hopes on you.”
UPDATE | 8am
UPDATE | 7:58am
Many Qatar residents are glued to their TV screens and computers this morning, waiting for Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani to make his final public address as Emir of Qatar.
In Doha, netizens have been expressing a lot of love for the Emir and all that he’s accomplished during his reign, with many referring to him as being like a “father” to the nation’s people. But outside of the country, some have taken a more critical view.
— Mohammed Al-Mannai (@AlMannai_M)
UPDATE | 7:47am
The Emir is expected to make a televised address to the public around 8am today. It will be aired live on Al Jazeera in Arabic and at least in part on Al Jazeera English, as well in Arabic on Qatar TV and Al Rayyan TV. Will you be tuning in?
UPDATE | 7:35am
Al Jazeera English has a report this morning recounting Sheikh Hamad’s accomplishments during his reign, including backing the “Arab Spring” uprisings and transforming this small Gulf nation into an internationally-recognized political and economic power.
In an interview with AJE, Al Arab newspaper Managing Editor Abdullah Al Athbah reiterates the point that no real policy shift is expected under Sheikh Tamim, due to the closeness between father and son over a 10-year grooming period.
UPDATE | 7:20am
Qataris are invited to pledge their allegiance to Sheikh Tamim as the new Emir of Qatar over the next two days.
During that time, Sheikh Tamim will receive citizens at the Emiri Diwan from 9am until 11:30am and 3:30pm to 6pm on Tuesday; and from 8am to 11:30am on Wednesday, QNA reports.
UPDATE | 7:14am
In what may be one of his last decrees as Emir, Sheikh Hamad has extended the duration of the country’s Advisory (Shura) Council, essentially postponing long-awaited legislative elections once again.
According to a QNA report posted late last night:
The report did not specify how long that extension would be. The Advisory Council’s term was last extended in 2010, until 2013, based on the constitutional provision that “extending the council’s term is permitted if it is found to be in the public’s best interest.”
The council’s term was set to expire at the end of this month, after which elections were supposed to be held, as promised by the Emir during his inaugural speech of the Qatari Advisory Council in November 2011.
But no mention of these elections were made this year, and it remains unclear when they will actually be held.
UPDATE | 6:57am
Last night, the Emir declared today (Tuesday) to be a national holiday, with QNA reporting that all banks and financial institutions would be closed for the day.
Government employees are also expected to have the day off. But some confusion has ensued as to what the holiday means for schools and those working in the private sector.
On Twitter, the Supreme Education Council declared today a holiday for all independent (government) schools.
صرح المجلس الأعلى للتعليم بأنه تقرر أن يكون يوم غداً الثلاثاء 25 يونيو 2013 إجازة رسمية في جميع المدارس المستقلة في دولة قطر— الأعلى للتعليم (@SEC_QATAR)
But parents of children enrolled in private schools have gotten mixed messages.
Several British schools, including Doha College, Doha British School, DESS and Parkhouse, sent emails saying that no classes would be held today. But other private schools have said children will not have the day off.
As far as the private sector goes, malls and other public places are expected to remain open, as they always are during public holidays. Many companies are requiring shift-workers to report to work, with only non-essential employees being given the day off. If you’re unsure about whether you’re supposed to report to work, it’s best to check with your boss. What’s your status?
Credits: Reporting and editing by Shabina S. Khatri, Tory Scott and Omar Chatriwala. Top photo by Omar Chatriwala.
Editor’s Note: Photo posted at 5:02pm of Sheikh Hamad using his iphone to “collect memories” has been removed, as it was taken during a 2012 visit to India.