Official country name: State of Qatar
Area: 4,416 sq miles (11,437 sq km)
Population: 907,000 (2007 est.); Qatar-born Arabs are the minority, with just a quarter of the country’s population qualifying as citizens
Median age: 32
Ethnic Groups: Arab 40%, Indian or Pakistani 36%, Iranian 10%, other 14%
GDP and GDP per capita: $53 billion and $62,000 (2006 estimates)
Government and Politics:
Qatar is an emirate—that is, a authoritarian monarchy headed since 1995 by Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. He appoints his council of ministers. Qatar has a 35-seat Advisory Council that acts as a legislature. Its members are appointed by the emir. The only elections in the country are held for the 29-member Central Municipal Council, which plays only an advisory role and only with regard to municipal services. Political parties and groups are banned.
Islam is the official religion. Among the minority citizen population, Sunni Muslims account for 90% and Shiite Muslims for 10% of the minority citizen population. Overall, Muslims make up 78% of Qatar’s population. Christians include 80,000 Roman Catholics, 10,000 Anglicans, 3,000 Copts
, and Protestants. There are also Hindu, Buddhist, and Bahai communities. Qatar is more tolerant of non-Islamic religions than other Arab states, with non-Muslims serving in government and allowance made for non-Islamic places of worship.
Oil accounts for 62% of total government revenue, with oil reserves projected to last 40 years at a production rate of 1 million barrels per day. Qatar's per capita income of $62,000 is the fifth-highest in the world. Qatar’s natural-gas reserves are the third-largest in the world, yielding huge production facilities and exports. The country has invested in heavy industry and petrochemicals. There is no individual income tax but corporations pay up to 12%, with economic zones eliminating corporate taxes for 20 years. Overall the country’s economy has been growing by close to 10% a year since 2003, a stunning rate.
Qatar’s military is 12,000-man strong. It has 30 tanks, an air force of some 12 combat aircraft, seven combat vessels and 13 patrol crafts. It depends largely on the United States for its defense. The Middle East headquarters of the United States military’s Central Command
, which assumes military oversight of 23 Middle Eastern countries, is in Doha, Qatar’s capital. Qatar is part of a $20 billion U.S. arms-sale package
unveiled in 2007 for five Arab countries in the region.
Human Rights, Civil Rights and Media:
Qatar’s human rights record is poor. It includes corporal punishments and arbitrary and prolonged detentions in overcrowded and harsh facilities, severe restrictions on civil liberties, the press, and foreign travel. Foreign laborers are subject to arbitrary deportation. Human trafficking is a problem. Discrimination against women limits their participation in society. Worker rights are severely restricted, especially for foreign laborers and domestic servants, who make up a majority of the laboring population. Ironically, Qatar is home to Al Jazeera
, the breakthrough Arab satellite television news network.
Archeological digs date a human presence in Qatar as far back as 4,000 B.C. It was a trading center during Islam’s Abbasid empire in the 8th century. European colonialists of the 18th and 19th century were turned off by its rugged terrain and climate, leaving it prey to dominance by Bahrain’s Khalifa family until 1872, when Qatar became part of the Ottoman empire. Britain assumed control of the peninsula in 1916. Oil first sprang from a Qatari oil field in 1949. Qatar gained its independence in 1971, soon becoming one of the world’s richest states.
The business of Qatar is business—mostly the oil business. The country projects an economic posture so self-assured that in 2006 it offered grants of $60 million
to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in new Orleans. Qatar is Competing with Dubai and Abu Dhabi
to become the Persian Gulf’s most attractive investment and tourism hub. But it’s far from a free country. Its political reforms are languishing, and it’s an intensely unequal society.