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2016 Qatifi coup d'état
Qatifi coup
Military tank in Dammam
Date 25th August 2016
Location Flag of Qatif Qatif
Result Ba'athist military takeover
  • Government dissolved
  • National People's Council dissolved
  • Constitution repealed
  • Military junta established
War Flag of Qatif Qatifi Armed Forces
220px-Flag of the Ba'ath Party.svg Ba'ath Party
Flag of Qatif Government of Qatif
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Qatif Khaled al-Zaidi
220px-Flag of the Ba'ath Party.svg Zayd Hossaini
Flag of Qatif Abdulaziz Al-Qazwini
Flag of Qatif Mu'izz al-Jundi
Casualties and losses
20 killed 8 killed
103 civilians killed

The 2016 Qatifi coup d'état was a coup d'état in the Islamic Republic of Qatif that deposed of the Islamist government of Abdulaziz Al-Qazwini replacing it with the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Authority (ASBA) under the Minister of the Interior Khaled al-Zaidi.

The coup d'état was facilitated after the government of President Abdulaziz Al-Qazwini was subject to an economic and political crisis as the government attempted to pursue radical Islamist reforms. After failing to put through a new penal code that would enshrine Sharia law into the Qatifi legal system, Al-Qazwini's government faced political crisis. After facing a no confidence vote Joseph refused to step down from office, enabling the military led by Al-Zadi and supported by the Ba'athist government of Prime Minister Zayd Hossaini in August to remove Al-Qazwini from power creating the ASBA in its place.

Background and causes

Qatifi Ba'athism


Mustafa al-Karim lead Qatif between 1961-86

In 1961 the royalist government of Qatif was overthrown by a coalition of military officials and Ba'athists in response to a period of mass social unrest known as the Tabawa Revolution. The new government, a military junta known as the Revolutionary Committee of Qatif, was dominated under Mustafa al-Karim who sympathised with radical neo-Ba'athism, neo-Marxism. The single-party regime built by the Revolutionary Committee laïcité policies that aimed to secularise Qatifi society, banning the Hijab, restricting religious practice, banning Islamic groups and closing the border with Saudi Arabia, effectively rendering the Hajj impossible. In order not to alienate the socially conservative rural population al-Karim implemented social welfare policies and populist land redistribution that ensured political stability. The regime's stability seriously weakened following the Qatif-Trucial War and the Qatifi Civil War, which saw Abdullah Rajab take power. Whilst Rajab implemented neoliberal economic reforms and toned down some of the most draconian secular policy, nevertheless power within Qatif was concentrated in the hands of a small elite connected to the Ba'ath party, with the main centre of government being the Ministry of the Interior. In 2011, the Arab Spring resulted in the Rajab to step down and the regime to move towards democratisation.

Election of Abdulaziz Al-Qazwini

Abdulaziz Al-Qazwini

President Al-Qazwini during the Qatifi presidential election, 2015

In 2015 Abdulaziz Al-Qazwini, leader of Union of Islamic Revolutionary Mujahideen, was elected to the position of President of Qatif beating the then-incumbent Mohammed Mujawar of the Qatifi Ba'ath Party by a wide margin in the presidential runoff election, getting 2,489,988 votes (53%) to Mujawar's 2,114,140 votes (45%). Mujawar's government had become increasingly unpopular, being seen as authoritarian and anachronistic, as the Ba'athist Party had ruled the country as a dictatorship for much of Qatifi history since 1961.

Al-Qazwini, a prominent Shia Islamist intellectual, in contrast represented those in Qatif who were more close to Islamist policies compared to the Ba'athist elite, and was seen to have a popular touch. Al-Qazwini started office in a scenario cohabitation with the Cabinet and the National People's Council being still in the hands of the Ba'ath Party.


The al-Qazwini government in early 2016 entered a political stalemate as the Ba'athist government opposed much of al-Qazwini's policies, refusing to approve of the 2016 budget and blocking much of his social legalisation, designed to place Islam more into the public sphere of Qatifi life. In terms of foreign policy, a hardening of Qatif's position in the Syrian Civil War which supported the Syrian government led to the United States to impose economic sanctions on Qatif. In January following the execution of Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr Qatif temporarily froze relations with Saudi Arabia, which damaged the Qatifi economy leading to inflation to skyrocket, unemployment to rise and economic growth to stagnate, which was worsened by the co-current reduction in world oil prices. Although al-Qazwini has proposed a rise in social welfare spending in his election campaign, the Ba'athist dominated legislature responded to the economic crisis by enacting a series of austerity policies that dramatically cut spending.

Zayd Hossaini

Prime Minister Zayd Hossaini opposed much of al-Qazwini's policies.

On the 18th July 2016 the Al-Qazwini government attempted to pass legalisation that would replace the 1973 Penal Code with one that enshrined Sharia law. Initially the government of Hossaini rejected the proposal outright, but on the 26th May agreed to hold a debate on the bill which was quickly dismissed out of the legislature. With parliamentary elections scheduled for late August, al-Qazwini and the UIRM party pressured the National People's Council to undergo a re-reading of the bill. In response to this, on the 22nd July the Ba'ath Party led a vote of no confidence against al-Qazwini with the intention of removing the president from power. The vote took place on the 17th August with the Ba'ath and Communist parties voting against the government, all put assuring the vote would pass. The vote passed with 157 votes for, 54 against and 27 abstentions.

al-Qazwini however refused to resign, stating that the text of the constitution only mandated that those who were accountable to parliament were required to resign and that the president was not required to resign as his position was accountable to the people, not parliament. The Ba'athist government disputed this, refusing to approve the dissolution of the legislature reasoning that they would not engage in constitutional duties if the president refused to do so.

With the government in chaos a series of mass protests between the 18-24th with pro al-Qazwini protesters demanding the Ba'athist government dissolve parliament and pro-Ba'athists demanding al-Qazwini resign. The protests devolved into violence between pro al-Qazwini and anti al-Qazwini protesters as riots broke out across major population centres. By the evening of the 25th Qatif was engulfed by protests, violence and political chaos.


Prior to the walkout of government by the Ba'athists the Ministry of the Interior had sent a secret report to al-Qazwini urging him to step down "for the stability of the government", although the report had been prevented from reaching al-Qazwini's office by a civil servant. By the 23rd military generals and Interior Ministry officials had begun to outline and discuss the overthrow of the civilian government on the grounds of its failure to provide political and economic stability.

In the early hours of the mourning of the 25th August tanks were deployed o the streets of Al-Qal'ah, Dammam, Dhahran, Khobar, Khafji and Al Hofuf where they started to fire upon protesters. The military stormed and took over the offices of the state news corporation, Qatifi Broadcasting Group (QBG) whilst beginning shelling the presidential palace and the parliament. At 6:45AM al-Qazwini was led to his presidential car by military police ostensibly to be taken to safety - however, he was then arrested and sent to a holding cell in Khobar to await trial.

Khaled al-Zaidi martial law

Khaled al-Zaidi declares martial law

At seven o'clock in the mourning the Minister of the Interior and head of the secret police, the Mukhabarat, Khaled al-Zaidi, said over a radio address that the country had entered a state of chaos and political paralysis, and that a "civic-military government" had stepped in to provide order. Promising that free and fair elections would be held in "under a hundred days" al-Zaidi stated that a transitional military government known as the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Authority had taken power and that the unconstitutional rule of al-Qazwini was over. The National People's Council was immediately dissolved as was the supreme court on the grounds that members had been appointed by al-Qazwini and thus were not impartial constitutional arbiters. The military also passed a directive that banned the Union of Islamic Revolutionary Mujahideen on the grounds that it was a terrorist group.