Mustafa al-Karim
مصطفى عبد الكريم
Mustafa al-Karim.jpg
al-Karim in 1971
Coat of arms of Qatif (1961-72; 78-95)
1st President of Qatif
In office
18th June 1972 – 17th August 1986
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Mohammed Rifi (acting)
Chairman of the Defence Committee
In office
12th December 1961 – 18th June 1972
Preceded by Position established (Al-Qa'im ibn al-Aziz ibn Mohammed al-Tahir as Sultan of Qatif)
Succeeded by Position abolished
Regional Secretary of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party – Qatif Region
In office
12th December 1961 – 17th August 1986
Preceded by Omar Zaki
Succeeded by Rahman Bin Omar
Personal details
Born 12th November 1912
Al-Tuwaiq, Qatif
Died 28th September 1986 (74)
Palace of Union, Qatif City, Qatif
Political party New nation coa Qatifi Ba'ath Party
Spouse(s) Fawzia al-Nayef
Children Abdulaziz
Profession Politician
Religion Isma'ili Shia Islam
Military service
Allegiance Sultanate flag Sultanate of Qatif
Flag of Qatif (1961-1972) Qatif
Service/branch Army Flag Qatif (1962 - 1991) Qatifi Army
Years of service 1933 - 1986
Rank General
Commands War flag of Qatif under al-Karim Qatifi Armed Forces
Battles/wars 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Tabawa Revolution (1961 Qatifi coup d'état), Six-Day War, Qatif-Trucial War, Yom-Kippur War

Mustafa al-Karim (12th November 1912 - 28th September 1986, aged 74) was a Qatifi strongman politician who served as the head of state of Qatif from 1961 to his death in 1986, being its first president. He is considered the founding father of the modern Qatifi state with his political theories being known as Qatifi Ba'athism.

Born in a family of merchants in 1912, al-Karim joined a military officers academy in 1933 where he graduated in 1936, and was promoted to Brigadier general in 1947 following the independence of Qatif from Britain. al-Karim coordinated Qatifi forces during the 1946 Arab-Israeli War, where the defeat of Arab forces greatly weakened the Sultan's government of Qatif. al-Karim was appointed as General of the Qatifi army in 1958.

In 1961 Sultan Al-Qa'im ibn al-Aziz ibn Mohammed al-Tahir and royalist supporters entered a political deadlock with prime minister Nasser bin Mutaib of the Qatifi Regional Branch of the Ba'ath Party, which had been elected a few months prior. The Ba'ath Party called for the removal of several Islamic Scholars (known as the Majlis) in the Qatifi government, an order steadfastly refused by the Sultan. This political indecision caused mass street protests that would become known as the Tabawa Revolution to take place across the country, some of which supported by the Ba'ath Party and the Communist Party of Qatif, others by the royal government. In December 1961 al-Karim and a cadre of military officers fearing Qatif was on the brink of revolution led a coup d'état against al-Tahir and liquidating the Ba'ath party before coopting many of its former members and policies incorporating them into a reformed Qatifi Ba'ath Party. A new government known as the Revolutionary Committee led by al-Karim and a cadre of military officers was set up that saw to the protests being successfully ended within a month with many of the sultans most ardent supporters being purged. Single-party rule was installed as the Ba'ath Party supported by the military became dominant. A de facto tetrarchy was formed which consisted of al-Karim (head of defence), Rifaat Abdul (head of the economy) Omar Zaki (chief of propaganda) and Othman al-Hussein (head of the secret police). Over time al-Karim out manoeuvred the other members of the tetrarchy until he became the paramount leader of Qatif, with Zaki being purged in 1967, Abdul 1971, and al-Hussein 1980.

Under al-Karim the government had started to implement socialist policies with land reform and industrialisation programs enacted that modernised Qatif. al-Karim, inspired by Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, embarked on the aggressive secularisation which was most successful in the urban, Shiite majority areas of Qatif, with Islamism replaced with Qatifi Ba'athism, a primarily nationalist, populist ideology that nonetheless used elements of Marxist-Leninism being formulated by Ba'athist and arch-leftist Omar Zaki who was later purged. al-Karim's rule was also largely authoritarian with political and religious dissent punished harshly with purges, death squads, extra judicial killings, torture, imprisonment and labour camps becoming the hall marks of the regime.

al-Karim dropped much of the Pan-Arabism policies of the Ba'ath Party, but did participate in the Six Days War as well as foster close relations with Syria, Egypt and Libya. Despite his socialist policies al-Karim at first largely avoided forging close alliances with the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc as well as the United States and its allies, although al-Karim's staunch opposition to Israel forced Qatif to receive financial aid from the USSR. Discontent with the al-Karim regime led to him to order an invasion of Bahrain on the advice of general Rifaat Abdul in a bid to stir up popular national support, igniting the Qatif-Trucial War. Qatif's invasion of Bahrain was repelled, although the subsequent invasion of Qatif by the Trucial States was eventually rebuffed by Qatifi forces with Soviet assistance forcing al-Karim to enter a permanent if tentative alliance with the USSR. Following the war al-Karim dissolved the Revolutionary Committee and formed the Arab Republic of Qatif where multi-party elections were held. However, these elections were heavily rigged in favour of the Ba'ath Party who had a monopoly on power.

In 1986 al-Karim died of a stroke, aged 74, with his death soon destabilising Qatif leading to a civil war that ended in 1991. His legacy remains controversial today both in Qatif and internationally. al-Karim's supporters often point towards his secularisation and modernisation policies as a success - women under al-Karim largely benefited with equal right to men, and in modern Qatif enjoy more rights then other Arab nations. Critics often highlight the brutality of al-Karim's regime as well as the economic stagnation seen towards the end of his rule. al-Karim's handling of the 1971 war with the Trucial States has also overshadowed his legacy with some claiming that al-Karim had been the driving force behind the invasion, whilst others point to his deputy Rifaat Abdul. al-Karim' cult of personality is still largely prevalent in Qatif to this day.

Early life

Coup d'état

Revolutionary Committee (1961-1972)

Arab Republic (1972-1986)

Final years and death



Historical analysis

Awards and decorations



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