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(PD) Image:
National Flag of Qatar

Qatar (pronounced in English as "ka-tar") is a small oil-rich country, occupying the Qatar peninsula on the north-eastern coast of the Arabian peninsula. It has the smallest indigenous population among the six Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries—at an estimated 220,000 in 2010—and the second smallest landmass (after the nearby island of Bahrain) at 11,437 km². It is one of the world's richest countries per capita, by virtue of its large oil and gas reserves.


(PD) Image: CIA World Factbook
Location of Qatar

has been ruled by the al-Thani tribe since 1868, when the British recognised Qatar as distinct from Bahrain; it achieved independence from British colonial rule in April 1970. The current emir is Hamad ibn Khalifah ibn Hamnad al-Thani, who ousted his father in a non-violent coup on June 27, 1995. In recent years, Qatar has distinguished itself with the state-financed Al-Jazeera TV network—broadcasting in Arabic since 1996 and in English since 2006—and its selection in 2010 as host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.


Population and society

Qatar has a total population of 1.67 million, as recorded by the 2010 Census, of which an estimated 87% are foreign nationals and only 220,000 are Qataris. Thus, Qatar has the distinction of having the world's highest proportion of immigrants out of total population: it is no surprise that official statistics suppress data distinguishing between resident migrants and citizens. Foreigners, as of 2008, made up 94% of the labour force—again, the highest in the world. According to 2005 ILO data, 46% of the immigrant workforce are from Asian countries and 40% from Arab countries; Qatar appears to have the lowest proportion of women in its immigrant labour force in the GCC, recorded as 8% in 2008.

The native population is relatively more homogeneous than other GCC states, with conservative Sunni Islam predominating and little in the way of ethnic divisions. Historically, there have been few signs of discontent with the absolute monarchy in Qatar: this does not appear to have changed since the Middle East uprisings in early 2011. Christian churches have been allowed since 2005. Since 2005, labour unions have been permitted for workplaces employing at least 100 Qataris, but the law excludes non-citizens and prohibits activities relating to religion and politics.

The role of women in Qatar has changed markedly in the last decade. Since 1999, women have been allowed to stand and vote in elections—despite past opposition from a powerful religious lobby. Women have been permitted to practise law (since 2000) and to join the police (since 2003); however, these represent exceptions to a general rule. Reforms in this area have mostly been the initiative of the Amir, who has (unusually) not followed the conservative principles of mainstream Qatari society.