Qatar’s human history can be traced back to the 5th millennium BC, during which its inhabitants traded regularly with the civilizations along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in modern day Iraq. The majority of historical peoples living in Qatar tended to be nomadic tribes, owing to the harsh and arid nature of the climate in the region. In the 1500s, Qatar was ruled by Portugal, and then by the Ottoman Turks. The area was also under the authority of the Al-Khalifa Royal Family, in modern day Bahrain, who were later expelled by a joint British-Qatari diplomatic mission in 1978.
Qatar is a curious Middle Eastern country in that only 20% of the 848,000 population are citizens, the majority of its residents being foreign migrant workers. Arabic is the official language, although English is widely spoken due to the large number of foreigners in the country. The majority of these migrants are male; this means that Qatar has the world’s most skewed gender ratio of 1.88 males for every female.
Qatar has been ruled by a monarchy since the 19th century, despite only declaring independence in 1913 from Britain. The country continues to be ruled by Emirs, with the right to rule being passed down the Al-Thani family. A referendum in 2003 instituted a new constitution in which women were granted equal legal rights to men, as well as the formation of a new council which could propose laws and amendments to existing laws. Previously, all laws were designed to protect absolute monarchy and hereditary rule. The current Emir is Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
The judicial system is based on Sharia law.
Qatar’s government is famous for its role as mediator in Middle Eastern disputes. Unaligned with any global powers, it is regarded as the Switzerland of the Middle East for its neutrality concerning international disputes. Qatar has been involved in negotiations in Darfur and Lebanon, as well as between the warring Palestinian government factions of Fatah and Hamas.
Due to the tight restrictions on its economy, Qatar has managed to ride out the global economic crisis of recent years. The country obtains almost 75% of its export income from its natural oil and gas reserves, although it is working hard to increase foreign investment in sectors outside fossil fuels.
Qatar currently has the world’s highest income per-capita, ahead even of countries in Europe such as Liechtenstein.
Qatar is one of the most liberal of the Gulf States towards women, legally permitting them to drive as well as vote. Male and female adult literacy rates are almost equal at 89.5% and 88%, respectively.
The country, however, has a poor record of respecting labour rights, and has often been accused of luring workers from South-East Asia and India with promises of higher wages, then underpaying them and subjecting them to unfair labour contracts. Like many Gulf States, Qatar manages its immigrant workers with a Sponsorship Programme, in which employees are put under the custody of a Sponsor, who then essentially has the right to manipulate entry and departure dates to and from the country, as well as job possibilities, dates of pay and work requirements.
Qatar also struggles with human trafficking, both for sexual and labour purposes, due to the regular influx of immigrants.
Qatar is ranked 150th in the world press in terms of freedom of speech and expression. There is much self-censorship regarding anything to do with the Royal Family, government policies and relations with neighbour states.
Freedom of religion was granted in a new constitution in 2005, although the rites of certain religions are banned, such as cremation in Hinduism, because they are not permitted by Islam.
The first Church building officially sanctioned by the government was built in Doha in March 2008, and a second one was opened in June 2009. There are, however, no crucifixes or paintings on the outside walls, as it is forbidden to display non-Muslim symbols. There is also no formal, established Church in Qatar. Proselytism and conversion are forbidden, and results in deportation for foreigners.
There are an estimated 11,900 Christians in Qatar, which accounts for roughly 8.5% of the population. The majority of the population is Sunni Muslim.
- Praise God for the agreement of the Qatari government to the construction of places of worship for Christians.
- Pray that the freedom of religion granted in the constitution of 2005 will be adhered to and respected by all.
- Pray for the health and well-being of the migrant workers in Qatar who currently face great challenges and hardships in their labour.
 Middle East Concern
 Middle East Concern
 CIA World Factbook
 Amnesty International
 Freedom House Global Freedom of the Press Report 2010
 CIA World Factbook