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Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani

Weeks before Britain votes on whether to remain in the European Union (EU), Qatar’s former prime minister has said he is against the idea of a “Brexit.”

The billionaire businessman Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, who was also Qatar’s foreign minister, told Reuters this week that leaving the union could cause Britain economic trouble.

He said that if the vote passed, there could be an exodus of multinational companies to mainland Europe to access the single market.

The UK will hold its referendum on whether to withdraw from the EU on June 23.

‘Strong Europe’

Sheikh Hamad, who is known colloquially by his initials HBJ, also formerly managed Qatar’s powerful sovereign wealth fund.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) controls more than $100 billion in assets in the UK, and owns major London landmarks including Harrods department store and The Shard tower.

Keen to keep Europe’s economy stable, HBJ pointed out that the UK would need to undertake “endless trade negotiations” with its former partners to get back the privileges it currently has.

“In the Middle East we all want to see a strong Europe, and believe that economic integration is key to making it stronger. In fact, we believe the UK should not only be part of the EU but should lead it,” he said in a statement to Reuters.

He added:

“In the UK, the best predictions of important events always come from the high street bookmakers, who always seem to get it right. Somehow, the odds seem to be comfortably against Brexit. We sincerely hope they get it right this time again.”

Polls’ results

The debate around the referendum has become heated in the UK, particularly in recent weeks as the day of the vote looms.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Vaughan Leiberum/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The results of two Guardian/ICM polls published this week shows 52 percent of the British public are in favor of leaving the EU, while 48 percent of those surveyed are against it.

Sheikh Hamad is the latest in a line of world leaders and influential figures to publicly voice their opinions on the issue.

He joins US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who have both previously appealed to the UK to remain in the EU.

Thoughts?

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As Qatar’s new Emir delivers his first address to the nation in his new role, reports of changes to Cabinet postings have been emerging throughout the day.

Here’s the latest:

UPDATE | Thursday, June 27, 6:01 am

Here’s the full text of his speech in English.

UPDATE | 6:22pm

Emir Tamim’s first address to the public essentially sought to reassure the international community and his constituency that a changing of the guard may mean new faces, but not necessarily a change in course for the country.

He said he intends to cut the fat in government in Qatar, reducing redundancies, ensuring only qualified people serve in posts and not squandering money.

He also made it clear that he fully respects and supports his father, the former Emir, who appears to be shifting a new role as close advisor to Sheikh Tamim.

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UPDATE | 6:16pm

Emir Tamim: “We are Arabs and Muslims; we respect all religions and beliefs. We do not support segregation.”

He closes by thanking the public.

UPDATE | 6:15pm

Emir Tamim: “We’re not a political party.”

UPDATE | 6:12pm

Emir Tamim on international relations: “We do not live on the sidelines of life and we do not go adrift without destination…We are people with visions.”

UPDATE | 6:08pm

Sheikh Tamim mentions Qatar National Vision 2030 – which he said is aimed at transforming Qatar into a sustainable country that guarantees a high quality of life for its citizens.

“We are part of the Arab world and the Islamic world…We’re also part of humanity and the international community…”

“The realities on the ground have not changed… The challenge to diversify the source of income, to benefit the future generations, is still there.”

UPDATE | 6:05pm

Sheikh Tamim: “We must avoid arrogance. Vanity leads to mistakes.”

“…I hope to be worthy of this trust and continue the path laid out by this man, who is actually the builder of the modern state of Qatar and the pioneer of its awakening.”

UPDATE | 6:03pm

Emir Tamim: “The father his Highness has laid out a project for reform and development that included his vision as a leader and his boundless confidence in the people of the country.”

It was a calculated risk and it paid off, he added.

UPDATE | 6:02pm

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In a confident voice, making eye contact with the camera, Qatar’s new Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani begins his address by thanking his father.

UPDATE | 5:12pm

According to “Al Jazeera sources,” Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah is expected to replace Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani as Foreign Minister.

Al Attiyah is Qatar’s current Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and before that, served as Qatar’s Minister of State for International Cooperation from 2008 to 2011. According to Silatech, of which he is a board member, he has two bachelor’s degrees, in Air Science and in law from Beirut Arab University in 1993. 

He also founded a private legal practice in 1995 called Khalid bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah Firm for Legal Consultations and Services. Silatech added:

With a distinguished background and career in law, H.E. Al-Attiyah furthered his education by earning a Master’s degree in Public Law in 1999 and a Doctorate in Law in 2006 from Cairo University.

The news comes shortly before Emir Tamim’s speech is expected to broadcast to the nation around 6pm.

(h/t @snareqatar)


After a whirlwind day that included ascending to power and accepting well-wishers at the Diwan, the new Emir of Qatar is expected to deliver his first address to the public tonight at 6pm, QNA reports.

Speculation has been rife over what changes 33-year-old Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will make to the Cabinet, with Al Jazeera Arabic reporting this morning that Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani has been named Qatar’s new Prime Minister.

Sheikh Abdullah has served as Qatar’s Minister of State for Interior Affairs since 2005, according to MOI’s website, is a distant relative of the emir, studied in the UK and has served in various positions in national security forces.

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He will replace Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, who serves as the combined Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and is widely credited for Qatar’s rapid gains in international diplomacy in recent years. It remains unclear who will take up the foreign affairs portfolio, although expectations are that Sheikh Tamim will bring a number of younger faces into government.

Meanwhile, as congratulations for Sheikh Tamim pour in from foreign dignitaries, Qataris and expats alike, the Advisory (Shura) Council readies itself for another term starting July 1, following an extension granted by the former Emir during his last night in power.

That extension means long-awaited legislative elections (which are some four decades in the making) have been postponed again, despite a promise from Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in 2011 that they would be held in the second half of 2013.

Maverick ruler

Still, it is not that decree, but 61-year-old Sheikh Hamad’s final decision – to peacefully abdicate to his young son after 18 years in power – that many here at home and abroad will remember as part of his legacy as a maverick leader.

But analysts have been quick to point out that the surprise move, which apparently had been in the planning stages for years, according to Sheikh Hamad’s brother, is unlikely to be emulated by other GCC countries. Outside of Qatar, Gulf monarchs tend to follow a tradition of staying in office until they either die or are forced from power.

In a Gulf News op-ed titled, “Qatar will not be the same after Hamad,” Emirati political science professor Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla said it was unlikely the former emir would become a trendsetter in the region by abdicating.

The professor continues:

“Qatar is not going to be the same Qatar after the sudden departure of such a towering figure as Shaikh Hamad. Qatar did not have enough of him…”

“Qatar will be an inward-looking Qatar for a while and the younger emir will have to focus on the domestic agenda. This may be how Shaikh Hamad wanted it to be for the betterment of all.”

In his final address as Emir to the public yesterday, Sheikh Hamad did indeed speak of advancing the quality of life for all: 

“As I am confidant that you are fully aware of your loyalty and of your Arab and Muslim identity; I urge you to preserve our civilized traditional and cultural values, originating from our religion, Arab identity and above all our humanity; as we believe that the Arab World is one human body; one coherent structure; it prospers if all its parts are prosperous.”

Sheikh Tamim will continue to receive those pledging allegiance to him at the Emiri Diwan from 8am to 11:30am this morning. His 6pm speech is expected to be televised live on Qatar TV, Al Rayyan TV and Al Jazeera.

Here is Al Jazeera English’s report about Sheikh Hamad handing “the reins of power” to Sheikh Tamim:

Thoughts?

Credit: Top photo by Ben Philip; second photo courtesy of Interpol

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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. 

We’ll be running a live blog throughout the day as news related to the succession develops. Keep us in the loop with your experiences via Twitter, Facebook or email.

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.

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Meanwhile, Souq Faleh was draped with Qatari flags.

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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):

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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

In Sheikh Hamad’s speech, he alluded that the reason behind his abdication involved giving the new generation a chance to lead. But analysts say the motivation could be more complicated.
In an interview with Doha News, Dr. Christopher Davidson, author of After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies, said:
“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.”
He added that Sheikh Hamad’s abdication could have a resounding effect on the region, as Sheikh Tamim becomes the youngest ruler in the Gulf with an age gap of some three decades: 
“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

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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:

 


UPDATE: 8:37am

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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:

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. 

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(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

The Emir has begun his speech, which can be viewed in Arabic on Qatar TV and Al Rayyan TV and on Al Jazeera English.

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.

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:

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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.

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.