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Qatar History - Ottoman Qatar

Down to the time of the Great War, the Porte claimed control of Arabia in its entirety as rightfully part of the Ottoman Empire in virtue of the Sultan's authority as caliph. In actual fact, most of the peninsula was under a number of independent native rulers, only some of whom acknowledged Ottoman influence, and that to a limited degree, while others over time fell under British protection.

The Bani Khalid, which established their hold over Eastern Arabia extended their power in the area from Qatar to Kuwait in the first half of the 18th century. Zubara which already emerged as one of the important sea ports in the Gulf in view of the increased exportation of pearls to the different parts of the world, became the headquarters of the Bani Khalid administration in Qatar and the principal transit port for their Eastern and the Central Arabian territories. The importations made from Surat of India to the port of Zubara were Surat blue and other piece goods, cambay, chauders, shawls, bamboo, coffee, sugar, pepper, spices, iron, tin, oil, ghee, rice, etc. Part of these importations was retained at Zubara for the consumption there and its immediate vicinities and the remainder were conveyed by means of Camels to Dariyah in Nejd and to Al-Hasa including the other districts under the jurisdiction of Bani Khalid.

In the 1760s, the Al Khalifa and the Al Jalahima sections of the Bani Utub tribe migrated from Kuwait to Qatar's northwest coast and founded Az Zubarah. Because the Bani Utub had important trading connections with Kuwait and were close to the rich oyster banks, Az Zubarah became a thriving center of trade and pearling, despite hostilities between the Al Khalifa and the Al Jalahima.

In response to attacks on Az Zubarah by an Omani shaykh who ruled Bahrain from Bushehr in Iran, the Bani Utub of Kuwait and Qatar, as well as some local Qatari tribes, captured Bahrain in 1783. The Al Khalifa claimed sovereignty over Bahrain and ruled it for several years from Az Zubarah. This angered the Al Jalahima, who felt they were deprived of their share of the spoils, and so they moved a few kilometers up the Qatari coast to establish Al Khuwayr, which they used as a staging point for maritime raids against the shipping of the Al Khalifa and the Iranians.

Most of the Al Khalifa migrated to the more desirable location of Bahrain and established a shaykhdom that endures to this day. That they left only a token presence in Az Zubarah meant initially that the Al Jalahima branch of the Bani Utub could achieve ascendancy in Qatar, with their leader, Rahman ibn Jabir Al Jalahima, earning a reputation as one of the most feared raiders on the surrounding waters. It also meant that with the economic decline of Az Zubarah (because the Al Khalifa shifted their trade connections to Bahrain), the peninsula would once more become a relative backwater. With no dominant local ruler, insecurity and rivalry characterized tribal relations. Settled tribes built walled towns, towers, and small forts to keep raiding beduin at bay.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, continuing bloody conflict involved not only the Al Khalifa, the Al Jalahima, and the Iranians but also the Omanis under Sayyid Said ibn Sultan Al Said, the nascent Wahhabis of Arabia, and the Ottomans. The period also saw the rise of British power in the Persian Gulf as a result of their growing interests in India. Britain's desire for secure passage for East India Company ships led it to impose its own order in the gulf. The General Treaty of Peace of 1820 between the East India Company and the shaykhs of the coastal area--which became known as the Trucial Coast because of the series of treaties between the shaykhs and the British-- was a way of ensuring safe passage. The agreement acknowledged British authority in the gulf and sought to end piracy and the kidnapping of slaves. Bahrain also became a party to the treaty, and it was assumed by the British and the Bahrainis that Qatar, as a dependency, was also a party to it. But when, as punishment for piracy, an East India Company vessel bombarded Doha in 1821, destroying the town and forcing hundreds to flee, the residents had no idea why they were being attacked.

The Al Thani were originally beduin from Najd, but after settling in Qatar, they engaged in fishing, pearling, date palm cultivation, and trade. In 1847, the Al-Thani Family moved from Fuwairat to Doha, under the leadership of Mohammed Bin Thani. He was born in Fuwairat and upon the death of his father Thani Ibn Mohammed; he became the leader of his tribe at Fuwairat. Eventually, Mohammed Bin Thani extended his influence throughout Qatar and strengthened his position externally too by making alliance with Faisal Bin Turki, the Amir of the second Saudi state, who himself paid a visit to Qatar in early 1851. By the early 1860s Shaikh Mohammed Bin Thani, emerged as the most important figure not only in Qatar but also in the whole Arabian Peninsula. The situation remained unsettled in 1867, when a large Bahraini force sacked and looted Doha and Al Wakrah. This attack, and the Qatari counterattack, prompted the British political agent, Colonel Lewis Pelly, to impose a settlement in 1868. On 12 September 1868, Shaikh Mohammed Bin Thani signed a Treaty with Colonel Lewis Pelly, British Resident in the Gulf, which recognized the independence of Qatar. Pelly's mission to Bahrain and Qatar and the peace treaty that resulted were milestones in Qatar's history because they recognized the distinctness of Qatar from Bahrain and explicitly acknowledged the position of Muhammad ibn Thani ibn Muhammad, an important representative of the peninsula's tribes.

With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into eastern Arabia in 1871, Qatar became vulnerable to occupation, and Shaikh Mohammed Bin Thani made a request to the Ottomans at Al-Hasa for protection against any external attack. Muhammad ibn Thani opposed Ottoman designs on Qatar, but his son, Qasim ibn Muhammad Al Thani, accepted Ottoman sovereignty in 1872. and in the following year Ottoman occupation of Doha had been completed. In the year 1876, Mohammed Bin Thani handed over the administrative responsibility to his son Shaikh Jassim Bin Mohammed Bin Thani [who was born around 1825] due to old age. Mohammed Bin Thani died in 1878.

Although Qasim ibn Muhammad privately complained of the Ottoman presence, he hoped that with Ottoman support he could dominate those shaykhs in other towns who opposed him and rebuff Bahrain's claims on Az Zubarah. Shaikh Jassim Bin Mohammed Bin Thani took the full responsibility of Qatar and he was given the Ottoman title of Qaim-Maqam (Deputy Governor) of Qatar in 1876. The question of Az Zubarah became moot in 1878, however, when Qasim ibn Muhammad destroyed the town as punishment for the piracy of the Naim, a tribe that resided in the north of Qatar but was loyal to the shaykh of Bahrain.

Ottoman attempts to increase their power in Qatar included appointing Ottoman official including administrators at Zubara, Doha, Wakrah and Khor al-Odaid and by establishing a Custom House at Doha and strengthening their garrison at Doha. Qasim ibn Muhammad's ambivalent relations with the Ottomans deteriorated to the point that in 1893 they sent a military force to Doha to arrest him, ostensibly over his refusal to permit an Ottoman customhouse in Doha. Fighting broke out in March 1893 at Wajbah, 15 Kilometers west of Doha, and Qasim ibn Muhammad's supporters drove out the Ottoman force.

This Ottoman defeat was a landmark in the modern history of Qatar because of the courage with which Shaikh Jassim and his people faced up the Ottomans. This defeat, and Qasim ibn Muhammad's embrace after the turn of the century of the resurgent Wahhabis under Abd al Aziz ibn Saud, marked the de facto end of Ottoman rule in Qatar. In July 1913, Shaikh Jassim died. The Shaikh is regarded as the founder of Modern Qatar.

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Page last modified: 05-01-2013 19:26:45 ZULU