Discussions of Elections in Qatar

Doha, c. November 2017

There has been much discussion on social media of certain objections to how Shura Council elections in Qatar are playing out this year, with some Qatari citizens excluded from participation on the basis of the 2005 Nationality Law. I will add more when I have time – for now, adding in & translating relevant threads as I see them and have time. Feel free to recommend more!

Various things worth looking at:

One description of the coup attempt, from a National Geographic story in 2003:

Eight months later Sheikh Khalifa [Emir Hamad bin Khalifa’s father, deposed a year earlier by Hamad], backed by many of his fellow monarchs in the Persian Gulf, attempted to regain his throne by launching a countercoup, an undertaking doomed from the start.

Six hundred Bedouin tribesmen, recruited by Khalifa loyalists, crossed into Qatar from Saudi Arabia, but once across the border many became lost. Meanwhile a band of French mercenaries, hired as a “seaborne invasion force,” left their five-star hotel in Doha and went to the beach, but they couldn’t find their boats. And there were stories like this, from a man who had been sitting in his garden when he heard a rumble “rather like a tank.” He tiptoed to the garden’s edge and looked out beyond the gate. To his astonishment he saw a Land Rover filled with half a dozen large Bedouin men, their red-andwhite-checkered kaffiyehs dancing in the wind. “They were arguing among themselves,” he told me, “and they were clearly lost. How is it possible to get lost in Doha?” he shook his head. “One of them was shouting `Where’s the palace?’ into his mobile phone.”

When the coup d’etat failed, Sheikh Hamad arrested more than a hundred conspirators and demanded that his father-who lives in the south of France when he’s not in London– return several billion dollars to the state. (He returned around a billion dollars in 1997.) As important, in a region where egos are elaborate and the rituals of power baroque, Sheikh Hamad began to reign in a manner that his fellow monarchs-whose average age was 68-considered heretical, by declaring a series of political and social reforms that in a few short years have transformed this tiny sheikhdom into a vastly different Qatar than the one his father had ruled.

Mary Anne Weavere, “Revolution from the Top Down,” Nat Geo, 3.2003

Media Coverage

The protests/discussions have been covered by Al-Jazeera (Arabic), but with a heavy focus on Emirati commentary and limited discussion of arrests:

An article in the Qatari Shura Council elections law, related to who has the right to run for office and participate in elections, has sparked an internal debate on social media, especially for those who do not meet the requirements.

This debate centered mainly on the stipulation that a candidate’s original nationality be Qatari.

For its part, the Ministry of Interior announced that the competent authorities in the ministry had referred 7 unnamed persons to the office of Public Prosecution after they social media to spread incorrect news and incite racial and tribal strife, according to a statement by the ministry.

“The Shura Council elections in Qatar… Back-and-forth between citizens while the UAE intervenes,” Al Jazeera, 10.8.2021

Nothing so far from AJ English, which has been covering Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit to Qatar.

The independent-of-any-government-or-movement-and-not-funded-by-Qatar Middle East Eye gave slightly more airing to grievances with the electoral law:

Hazza bin Ali, a lawyer and member of the Murrah tribe, said the claims and threats of violence and tribal tensions were false, and the tribe wanted dialogue with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

“They are trying to cause discord between us and the Emir saying we’ll pick up arms. This is not true,” Bin Ali said.

“We want to have a dialogue with the other party, which should be the Emir or someone that represents him.”

“Protests erupt in Qatar over new electoral law that ‘excludes’ local tribe,” MEE, 10.8.2021

The reconstituted Doha News offered coverage somewhere in the middle of these two accounts, not focusing on foreign commentary but mainly elevating voices calling for unity and loyalty. (Farah AlSharif, August 11)

Dr. Hussein Al-Sayyid
Professor of Constitutional Law
Qatar University


Guest on Qatari television show Hayatuna, August 10 2021. These types of shows are often a way to indirectly acknowledge grievances and address them in an equally indirect manner – I’ve only translated the Tweet summaries though the videos contain a bit more context. Summaries of this talk were carried in Arabic-language Qatari newspapers.

The permanent constitution of the State of Qatar affirms that a member of the Shura Council must meet the same conditions that must be met by the voter, and from this standpoint Law No. 6 of 2021 regarding the system for the election of the Shura Council was issued.

The State of Qatar passed through [the use of] various constitutional documents to reach the permanent constitution of the State of Qatar, and His Highness the Emir ensured at the time that all citizens were provided the opportunity to carry out a referendum on the constitution. This matter is different from the electoral system that is governed by the newly issued law.

A possibile constitutional amendment would be done through the elected Shura Council and then referred to His Highness the Emir for ratification.

Every law can be subject to amendment according to the requirements of successive generations and to keep pace with the development of society.

There is a beautiful phrase that His Highness the Emir used in the opening session of the previous Shura Council, which is that elections are not a means of measuring national identity, but rather that national identity takes form through the cohesion of society and its tolerant moral values.

We must emphasize that elections are a means to achieve an end in order to deliver individuals to the Shura Council who represent the people’s desire.



Dr. Nayif bin Nahar
Director of the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Humanities and Social Sciences
Qatar University


You can see Dr. Nayif speak at a Brookings Doha event on the importance of regional think tanks here.

It is unfortunate to see this present tension in Qatari society, comparing how the society was during the Gulf crisis (on the one hand) and how the present situation has descended into disagreement and conflict. The Shura Council law has created a fireball that may expand in a way that no one can control, and hopes are directed to His Highness the Emir that he intervene and end this situation and restore things to normal.

The problem is clear. The Nationality Law of 2005 is unparalleled in the world. The “naturalized” in the countries of the world all had one nationality and then replaced it with another nationality. As for his son who was born after that, he is not “naturalized.” He did not hold a different nationality that he gave up. But Qatari law makes a person naturalized along with his children, and his children’s children, until the Day of Resurrection.

The previous Qatari Nationality Law used to give the naturalized person his political rights after ten years of naturalization; in Kuwait, for example, the naturalized citizen takes his rights after twenty years. Qatar can do that, or even make it thirty or even sixty years, but in the end there must be a time limit after which a [naturalized] citizen becomes a full citizen.

The political and social effects of this law cannot be overestimated. The most dangerous effect of this law is that it will open the door for neighboring countries to employ this file for political purposes, and therefore the issue is not just a Shura Council matter. It has gone beyond that to a larger issue, which is the unity and stability of the state, and this issue is a thousand times more important than Shura Council.

The logical solution currently is to postpone the Council [elections] for the next year until more just and equitable legislation is prepared that preserves the higher interests and unity of society. Undoubtedly, the issuance of laws made the Vision’s sensitive effects clearer. There is no shame in delaying, as this is the first experience in Qatar’s history and the possibility of an error in estimations is clear.

Hamad bin Jassim
Former Foreign Minister & Prime Minister of Qatar

Closer to the official line – emphasizing unity & cohesion above all.


Whatever position is taken by a citizen or resident, there is a duty to the nation and to its ruler, and it is not permissible for any being to [simply] confer these positions on his [the citizen/resident’s] country or its emir. For a long time, whoever did not take such positions was reproached, and no patriot would repeat them because, as you mentioned, there is a duty under any circumstance and at any time and place.

These stances, and aside from that demands and grievances, have a path and have a method that we are accustomed to in the Qatari family, and we should not depart from these customs under any circumstance. The Qatari family resolves its affairs under the banner of the nation and under the banner of the ruler, especially since there is a grievance committee ordered by the Emir.

We are going through an experiment that I do not want to call democracy, but rather it is “popular participation,.” And in every new experiment some gaps or loopholes occur, but this is how things are done.


Mohammad al-Lakhan al-Marri
Lecturer in International Affairs
Qatar University

Mohammed talking about the “art of debate” here on Al-Jazeera.

Now those who come out and talk about what happened focus on the duties of the citizen and on the ways in which camels are imported and the “proper” means of expressing objections. Ok, there is no problem.. We understand your annoyance, but it is a circumvention of the basic discussion – we cannot move from the discussion from citizenship, electoral rights, and the electoral system to focusing on “how things are done” and the proper means of objecting!

Circumstances permitted that the Al Murrah were best able to mobilize in a short time, in addition to their large number, and also their sense of accumulated injustice. But they were not the only ones who are subjected to injustice by this electoral system. Many of the people of Qatar feel that the law has oppressed them and sympathize with the current move of the Al-Murrah tribe.

Discussing the best method and how to object is premature, and any attempt to shift the public debate to focus on method rather than the unfair electoral system is a miserable and shameful attempt. For years the state prevents people from gathering and engaging in public discussion, but suddenly there is a “Qatari family” and there is a certain method of objection!!

Our poet Muhammad Al-Attiyah wins the award for the first tweeter to attribute our internal problems to external crises. In Qatar, we must have the courage to bear the responsibility and consequences of our internal policies. It is reasonable for all the people who object now to become a side of a triangle and a conspiracy being hatched against Qatar!! Brother, respect our minds.

[Al-Attiyah: [Edy] Cohen’s tweet seems to have been the signal to start disturbing the internal situation of Qatar in the midst of the elections and exploiting the openings that have been waiting since the blockade. They are apparently being activated through a specific coordination in a triangle whose third and latent side is permeating Qatari society and the other two sides derive their strength and logistical coordination from Cohen!?]

Abdullah al-Athbah
Former News Columnist & GM of Qatar Press Center

Al-Athbah is a longstanding newspaper editor – of Al-‘Arab – and now heads up a nominally private press club. Athbah is often seen as quite close to centers of power in Qatar.

Every citizen has the right to address His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, the Emir of the country, to express his opinion on a law and criticize any article he considers in need of reform. This is guaranteed by the constitution, whether the Nationality Law issued in 2005 or the elected Shura Council law. [Also] we do not allow anyone to insult the Emir, from any person from any family or tribe.

When the blockading countries used the tribe, we all replied that our tribe is Qatar and Qatar will remain the homeland for every citizen. Defending it is a duty according to the constitution that we voted on. It is not for us to bestow favor on our country, but we were and will continue to protect our homeland and our Emir, with whom we exchange love for love, as he addresses his people on the basis of love and concern for their future.

The constitution regulates the relationship between the state and the citizen through rights and duties, and defending our country will remain a matter innate to before it is a constitutional duty.

We did not feel fear for ourselves or for the livelihood of our children, as the government immediately moved to secure us during the siege, and we knew who was lying in wait outside our country and every family or tribe in it.

We must maintain civilized discussion without encroaching on anyone, starting from the Emir himself to the youngest Qatari child, and the law will prosecute anyone who insults or threatens, whether with weapons or with calls to expel those who criticize the Nationality Law or the Shura Law from his country.

A citizen does not need to summon up history to prove his citizenship or loyalty. His Highness Sheikh #Tamim bin Hamad Emir of Qatar loves every citizen and resident on his land, and we exchange that love with him. And the supporters and opponents of the law of citizenship and the Shura will retain their loyalty to him [Tamim], and our tribe will remain Qatar, we will redeem it with our lives today and tomorrow, despite those lying in wait and the inciters of strife.

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