The former Qatari Prime Minister is widely considered to have been the father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s right hand and remains a vocal commentator on regional and international affairs.
Kuwaiti media application, Al Qabas, became one of the most downloaded mobile apps in Qatar on Saturday, following the debut of its exclusive series with former Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani—commonly known as “HBJ”.
Titled “The Black Box”, the series comprises of over 50 episodes that provide an in-depth look into Qatar’s domestic and foreign affairs by placing HBJ on the hot seat in a lengthy interview.
According to Al Qabas, this is the longest ever media discussion conducted with HBJ, who also offers a peek into his early life before he became involved in politics.
Upon the release of the first episode on 15 January, views surpassed 250,000 as the series had already garnered regional excitement, particularly in Qatar, since a teaser was posted two months earlier. The public’s eagerness to understand the country’s politics appears to be almost palpable as views continue to escalate.
What to expect:
Released in November last year, the promo hinted that HBJ was to discuss “bloody coups” in the Gulf region, as well as the bloodless coup attempt that took place in Qatar during the 90s.
In the first episode, Al-Thani touched on tribalism in Doha and the Al-Marri family history, which was at the centre of local debates during the country’s first ever Shura Council elections, late last year.
The discussions were heavily focused on the exclusion of a demographic within Qatari society, as the current electoral law stipulates that those who have been nationalised are only eligible if their paternal grandfather was born in Qatar by a specific date.
However, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said in October last year that he had instructed the Council of Ministers to work on preparing legal amendments to promote equal Qatari citizenship.
HBJ will be discussing the emergence of the Middle East’s most influential broadcaster, Al Jazeera, and accusations of bias.
Allegations over the Qatar-based broadcaster’s editorial stance and accusations that it has given favourable coverage to Muslim Brotherhood have been echoed by some for years, particularly after the 2011 Arab Spring when it provided live and in-depth reporting on the ground from anti-government protests.
HBJ witnessed the channel’s establishment by father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani during his time as the leader of Qatar in 1996. The former Qatari prime minister was seen by many as Sheikh Hamad’s right hand during his time in power and the country’s most prominent diplomat.
The show’s promo includes segments of the former Qatari foreign minister speaking of his meeting with former Israeli prime minister, Shimon Peres, in New York in the 1990’s, but there was no additional indications in the promo regarding further meetings in the early 2000’s.
The meeting came while Qatar and Israel held discussions following the 1993 peace initiative and the establishment of the Israeli trade mission in Doha. However, the Gulf state was quick to officially shut down the office in 2000 during the Second Intifada.
Such meetings between Qatari and Israeli officials stopped taking place over the past decade as the former staunchly refused to normalise with the latter in light of continuous wars being waged on Gaza and Israel’s unrelentless pursuit of Apartheid policies. Doha has also cited its commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative for suspending such negotiations.
The initiative was passed in 2002 by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to refrain from normalising with Israel until it fully withdraws from Palestine.
In the series, HBJ will also discuss the death of former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, which occurred in 2004. Whilst Arafat’s medical records stated that he had died as a result of a stroke, many insisted that he was in fact assassinated.
The former Qatari official echoed the same belief in the teaser, saying that Arafat was killed by those who were “the closest to him”, albeit without mentioning any names.
On the Iraq War
HBJ is going to delve into the US invasion of Iraq from 2003 – 2011, which Washington at the time justified by alleging that then leader Saddam Hussein was in possession of “weapons of mass destruction”.
While there were no such weapons found in the country, Iraqi civilians still paid the exorbitant cost of what many legal experts described as the George Bush administration’s illegal war.
Commenting on the war, the Qatari politician said that the invasion was done based on an “Israeli decision and US interest” to decrease Saddam’s influence in the region.
To date, the exact number of civilian casualties in Iraq remains disputed, with the country’s health ministry saying at least 151,000 were killed between 2003 and 2006. UNICEF stated that 4-5 million children were made orphans since the US invasion.
Two episodes from the series have been released and can be viewed through the Al Qabas mobile application and website.