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Arab Socialist Ba'ath Republic of Qatif
جمهورية البعث العربي الاشتراكي القطيف
Jumhūriyyat al-ʾQaṭīf al-Ba‘ath al-Ishtirākī al-ʿArabiyyah
Flag of Qatif
Coat of arms of Qatif
Flag Coat of arms
Map new nation
Location of Qatif (highlighted green)
Capital Qatif City
Largest city Dammam-Dhahran-Khobar metropolitan area
Official languages Arabic
Ethnic groups (2013) 92% Arab
5% Afro Asian
1.3% Persian
1.7% other
Demonym Qatifi
Government Unitary provisional military junta
• President(acting)
Khaled al-Zaidi (Ba'ath)
• Speaker of the National People's Council
Vacant
• Chief Justice
Kamal al-Atwen
Legislature Majlis (dissolved)
Establishment
• Sultanate of Qatif
1729
• Arab Republic
18th June 1962
Population
• 2014 estimate
8,618,767
GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate
• Total
$395.802 billion (33rd)
Gini (2014) 46.6
high
HDI (2014) 0.741
high
Currency Qatifi rial (QTR)
Time zone AST (UTC+3)
Drives on the right
Calling code +947
Internet TLD .qt, .كيو تي

Qatif (Arabic: القطيف; Al-Qaṭīf) officially referred to as the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Republic of Qatif (جمهورية البعث العربي الاشتراكي القطيف; Jumhūriyyat al-ʾQaṭīf al-Ba‘ath al-Ishtirākī al-ʿArabiyyah) is a country in the Middle East located on the eastern side of the Arabian peninsula boarding the Persian Gulf to the east, Kuwait to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south and west. It also shares maritime boarders with Iran. Qatif is a secular semi-presidential republic. The capital is Qatif City (Al-Qal'ah), located on the eastern coast, and is the home to some of the largest petroleum deposits in the world.

The first state of Qatif was established as the Shia ruled Sultanate of Qatif around the 1729 after gaining status as a protectorate under the Ottoman Empire, with its rulers being descendants of the Qarmatians. The early state of Qatif was almost constantly at war with Sunni Muslims within its boarders, becoming a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire. During World War One Qatif switched alliances becoming for a brief period a British protectorate. In 1913 a failed revolution saw Qatifi make tentative steps to modernise establishing a constitutional monarchy.

In 1961 Qatif's stagnant political atmosphere was plunged into chaos after the Ba'aath Party won the parliamentary that year, promoting protests to erupt around Qatif. This political deadlock led to a cadre of Pan-Arab socialist military officers to dispose the Sultan Al-Qa'im ibn al-Aziz ibn Mohammed al-Tahir, enabling the rise of Mustafa al-Karim who formed a new revolutionary government. al-Karim led a tetrarchy that oversaw the formation of a single party state under the Qatifi Ba'ath Party. Under the Qatifi Ba'athism ideology businesses were nationalised as well as social welfare projects expanded with a partial command economy implemented. The regime also oversaw the secularisation of Qatif, especially among the majority Shiite population in urban areas, with women's rights, the buildup of infrastructure and education becoming a government priority.

State oppression under al-Karim was also brutal with death squads and labour camps established to silence political dissent. In 1971 growing discontent led Qatif to invade Bahrain in a move to spur nationalist support. This resulted in the Qatif-Trucial War which ended in Qatif repelling a Trucial invasion whilst losing control of Bahrain, causing a status quo ante bellum. It also resulted the Qatif economy to be temporarily decimated as well as worsen relations with the United States and increase those with the USSR and other Arab republics. The aftermath of the war also saw nominal democratic reforms, although in practice the state remained a single party junta. However Qatif's rich oil deposits enabled it to become one of the wealthier nations in the Persian Gulf, although tensions between it and Saudi Arabia remained extremely high, with the Saudi government funding remaining Sunni insurgents in the south of Qatif. al-Karims death in 1986 prompted a wave of Wahhabi and Shia Islamic Fundamentalism to erupt in the country throwing it into civil war. The war officially ended in 1990 during which military chief Abdullah Rajab had taken power as president of Qatif, where he had led economic reforms which saw the dismantlement of the socialist economy. Rajab in order to pacify Islamist sentiments also introduced some mild Islamist policies into the legal system, although Shia Islam remained the state religion with Sunni Muslims- especially those who practiced Wahhabism - were still oppressed.

During the Arab Spring numerous pro-democracy protests where held in the capital of Qatif City, leading to what foreign commentators have referred to as the "Palm Revolution". This prompted President Rajab to enact martial law before announcing elections were to be held the next year with Rajab resigning as president. In 2011 the first genuine democratic elections where held in Qatif in which the Ba'ath Party won a majority of the vote without facing any major opposition. Since then Qatif has been confronted with continued Sunni insurgents in the southern regions which has so far been pacified as Qatif becomes more pluralistic. In 2016 a coup was undertaken which instituted a new military government.

Qatif has a population of 8,618,767 with 90% being made up of Arabs, and most of the population being concentrated on the eastern coast of the country. Qatif has emerged as one of the Middle East's most stable economies following economic reform in the 2000's, as well as having some of the best women's rights in the region. Despite this human right abuses and the rise of Islamic terrorist organisations has severely hampered development in Qatif. Qatif is a member of the United Nations, OPEC, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Council of Arab Economic Unity, Gulf Cooperation Council and the Non-Aligned Movement. Qatif's large, untapped oil deposits has made it increasingly prominent on a world stage, although not to the extent of its neighbour Saudi Arabia.

Etymology

Qatif was originally used to describe the city of the same name, which in itself can trace its name to the Hebrew word meaning "harvest". Qatif was for a long time used interchangeably with the name Al-Khatt, an alternative name for the city. In 1920 the Sultanate of Qatif officially named the city Qatif City and the land it ruled over Qatif. In Arabic Qatif is referred to as Al-Qaṭīf.

Qatif was deemed to be an Arab Republic following the signing of the modern constitution of Qatif. Under Mustafa al-Karim Qatif did play a pivotal role in the Pan Arab movement, although this largely dissipated after the Yom Kippur War. Following Islamisation efforts under Abdullah Rajab Qatif was proclaimed to an Islamic Arab Republic. Qatif however has never been considered to be an Islamic republic in the same manner of Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan or Afghanistan, with the government having secularist policies in place. In Arabic its official name is Jumhūriyyat al-ʾQaṭīf al-ʿArabiyyah al-ʾIslāmiyyah.

History

Main article: History of Qatif

Ancient History

H
Qatifi arifact

Stone figures found in Qatif, possibly dating back to the Dilmun people

uman life in the region that comprises of modern day Qatif can be traced back to 18,000BC, and is usually referred to as Eastern Arabia. Prominent pre-Islamic civilisations within the region include the Dilmun and the Gerrha. The Eastern Coast became a vibrant trading hub from Arabia to India and China, with the cities of Qatif and Al-Tuwaiq becoming especially prosperous.

Eastern Arabia soon housed various peoples of different religions, ethnicities, and cultures including Persian Zoroastrians, Arab Christians and Jews. The people of Eastern Arabia were based around maritime trade with common goods including spices, cloths, slaves and weapons. Most people lived within city states along the coast, whilst those further inland lived nomadic lifestyles.

In 250AD the Iranian Parthian Empire successfully conquered much of the Eastern coastline of the Arabian peninsula, including the territory of modern day Qatif. The Parthian Empires successor, the Sasanian Empire. The Persians controlled the region until the rise of Islam in the 7th century, although in practice the city states of Eastern Arabia functioned in much of the same manner prior to the Persian conquest.

The spread of Islam following Muhammad's acquisitions of Medina and Mecca reached Eastern Arabia around 629AD after Muhammad's advisor Al-Ala'a Al-Hadrami travelled there with the intent of preaching the word of Allah to Eastern Arabians. Eastern Arabians were quick to embrace Islam, although this did not stop the vibrant trade relations between Eastern Arabians and the rest of the world. Eastern Arabia became especially prosperous when Baghdad was established as the seat of caliph in 750AD, which also saw the city states of Eastern Arabia become some of the centre points for Islamic scholarship.

Qarmatians

Eastern Arabia had always been a haven for Shiites from within the Muslim world, with some forming secret resistance groups to the dominant Sunnis. Around 750AD the Shia sect of Islam named Isma‘ilism had become dominant in Bahrin and Eastern Arabia. It was here that the dissident group named the Qarmatians gained power. In 899AD the Qarmatians led by Abu Said al-Jannabi founded a utopian state in Eastern Arabia and Bahrin. This event, known as the Qarmatian revolution, shocked the central Islamic leadership Baghdad who were unable to halt the Qarmatians as they had become preoccupied in stopping the fragmentation of the caliphate in North Africa.

Mecca

The Qarmatians became infamous for their attack of the city of Mecca

The territory controlled by the Qarmatians was among the wealthiest in the Middle East thanks to the lucrative slave trade in the region, with slaves from Ethiopia cultivating the sparse but prosperous farmland in their territories. The Qarmatians impressive military might also allowed them to have neighbouring vassal city states pay tithes to them. With the exception of the practice of slavery the Qarmatian society was largely egalitarian with a ruling council sharing power as "first among equals". The Qarmatians economic prosperity enabled them not to tax their citizens, whom they shared wealth out to in what was deemed in fair wages and those in debt could take out loans which had no interest. Some modern historians often state that the Qarmatians established possibly the longest surviving proto-communist state.

Despite these achievements the Qarmatians soon became infamous from within the Muslim world, declaring the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) to be a superstition. In 930AD Qarmatian leader Abu Taher Sulayman ordered an attack on Mecca, where pilgrims and Meccans alike were killed by the Qarmatian advance. The Qarmatians then took the Kaaba and moved it from its scared place in Mecca to the Qarmatian capital in Hassa, angering the Muslim world. Despite this other Muslims were afraid to attack the Qarmatians who by that point had established themselves as being the most powerful force in the Arabian peninsula. The Qarmatian zeal within their own territories strengthened after the prophesied divine intervention failed to materialise.

In 976AD the Qarmatians encountered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the Abbasid Caliphate in which they began to lose their vassal states that paid tribute to them. Qarmatian influence began to become more and more localised as the state was gradually cut off leaving them economically weak. In 1058AD Bahrin became free from Qarmatian control, as did much of the territory comprising of modern day Qatif shortly afterwards. In 1067AD the last major Qarmatian stronghold in Hoffuf was taken over by the forces of Abdullah bin Ali Al-Uyuni, effectively ending the Qarmatian movement.

Middle Ages

After the collapse of the Qarmatians the Uyunid dynasty took over Eastern Arabia including the island of Bahrain and the city of Qatif. Historians debate on whether the Uyunids were Shiites or Sunnis - if they were the former it is likely they introduced Twelver Shia
Muslim traders

During the Middle Ages Eastern Arabia mostly served as a trading post

Islam to the region. In 1253 the Usfurids - a dynasty that originated from the Banu Uqayl tribe of the Banu 'Amir confederation overthrew the Uyunids, having previously being an ally to both the Qarmatians and the Uyunids. The Usfurids had an unstable relationship with another regional power, that being the Persian prince in control of the Kingdom of Ormus. In 1320 Ormus took Qatif and Bahrain, but failed to permanently occupy them causing the Ormus and the Usfurids to periodically fight over control of the territory. Often in these conflicts the Ormus did not rule the territory directly instead giving control to the vassal Jarwanid dynasty which ruled from Qatif. The Jarwanids were largely considered to be made up of the remnants of the Qarmatians, being largely ruled by Isma'ilis. Despite this unlike the Qarmatians the Jarwanids reinstated worship in mosques as well as advocate Twelver Shia Islam alongside Isma'ilism.
Al-Tahir mosque

The al-Q'aiam Mosque built under the Jarwanifds completed in 1492

In the 15th century the Jabrid dynasty, another branch of the Banu 'Amir confederation, took over Eastern Arabia from the Usfurids, Ormus and Jarwanids. The Jabrids took over the entire coastline of the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf, as well as launch attacks on Central Arabia and Oman. The greatest expansion of the Jabrid dynasty was under Sultan Ajwad ibn Zamil, whose death in 1507 saw the kingdom divided between his sons with Muqrin ibn Zamil taking over Qatif, al-Hasa and Bahrain. Soon Bahrain was taken under the control of the Portuguese in 1521, with the Jabrid dynasty falling to the Al-Muntafiq and later the Ottoman Turks.

Ottoman rule

Ottoman qatif

The Ottomans in Qatif, who brought their own cultural influences.

In 1566 Eastern Arabia came under the control of the Ottoman Empire when it was ruled by Sultan Murad III, becoming the Lahsa Eyalet of the Ottomans adopting much of their laws and customs. Although Eastern Arabia was officially a Eyalet paying large tithes to the Ottomans and adopting some of the Ottoman laws it functioned more as an independent state that was presided over by a governor from Anatolia.

Ottoman culture was enforced in the region, but much of the population remained Shiite with their being active resistance to the Ottomans. In 1670 the Bani Khalid overthrew the Ottomans in the region establishing an emirate. In 1729 however the Twelver Shiite al-Tahir dynasty supported by the Ottomans overthrew the Emirate, creating the Sultanate of Qatif, a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire.

Sultanate

Main article - Sultanate of Qatif
Sultanate flag
Watif 1566

Qatif (red) in 1801 next to the Ottoman Empire (green) and the Emirate of Diriyah (dark green) in the Arabian peninsula

The expansion of the Emirate of Diriyah saw the Sultanate embark on the fast modernisation of its military forces, as a precaution to defend itself from Wahhabi forces. In 1786 Qatif with the support of the Ottomans was able to resist the majority of attacks made by the Saudis, with the Saudis unable to take any territory on the Eastern Coast north of Qatar. After the Ottoman–Wahhabi War Wahhabist influence in Qatif was purged as Twelver Shia Islam was promoted instead. The emergence of the Emirate of Nejd saw Qatif fight off Saudi forces from occupying Eastern Arabia, with the Sultanate retaining control partly due to Qatifs superior weapons and training to the Saudis. The Saudis abandoned their plans for conquest around 1931 due to continued military failure, as Qatif started to embark on ambitious modernisation projects in line with the Tanzimat policy of the Ottomans, soon becoming an extremely wealthy trading post.

The modernisation efforts undertaken by the Tahir dynasty saw the building of roadways, shipyards and greater infrastructure in the main cities of Al-Qal'ah and Al-Hasa. There was also the establishment of an official governing body known as the Majlis, a group of Twelver scholars who advised the Emir on governmental matters - previously the Sultan had officially ruled alone. In 1889 plans for a rail road to run from Damascus to Al-Qal'ah were formulated, with construction beginning that year. In 1913 forces from the House of Saud tried to capture Al-Hasa and Al-Qal'ah, but were pushed by Qatifi forces.

Adnan al-Din Khawaja

Adnan al-Din Khawaja, leader of the Constitutionalist and Nationalist Congress

During the early 1900's Qatifi scholars began to oppose the Sultan's absolute rule being primarily made up of western educated liberals, anti-imperialists and socialists, all of whom called for democracy and reform to be implemented in Qatif, leading to the formation of the Constitutionalist and Nationalist Congress, which soon became a prominent opposition movement in the country. The Constitutionalist Congress was led by Adnan al-Din Khawaja, a landowning scholar who was inspired somewhat by the French Revolution.

In 1913 a shortage of grain sparked bread riots, that were also fuelled by years of kleptocracy and religious repression. The Constitutionalist Congress led a march through the capital, demanding the Sultan abdicate and democratic reforms to be implemented, including allowing freedom of religion and a national elected legislature. Some members of the protest tried to storm the royal palace before being gunned down by palace guns. Strikes and civil unrest continued throughout the country as parts of the military mutinied against the Sultanate. As Qatif was on the brink of revolution the Sultan Al-Aziz ibn Mohammed al-Tahir agreed to an audience with Khawaja.

al-Aziz promised to create a democratic government, ordering by royal decree for a constitution to be written. Khawaji helped to write the constitution which created a national elected bicameral legislature known as the Parliament of Qatif. The upper house consisted of several unelected Islamic scholars known as the Majlis, whereas the lower house was elected ostensibly by the citizens of Qatif, although in reality only landowning literate men were afforded voting rights. The protests continued, causing the Sultan and Khawaja to send out the military to crush the protesters.

The Constitutionalist Congress was reformed as a political party and formed the first national government of Qatif with Khawaja as the prime minister. The new government started to modernise the country allowing for greater cultural freedoms especially in the coastal cities. However society remained primarily intact with religious figures and local tribal chiefs still dominating people's lives, which were still focused on agriculture. New industrialisation measures were largely limited to the urban coastal cities with wealth and land rights being concentrated into the elite classes.

During World War One the Qatifi Sultanate refused to take sides despite the Ottoman Empire urging it to join Central Powers. However Qatifi forces had become embroiled in a conflict with the Emirate of Nejd which was led by Emir Ibn Saud since 1911, and were unable to commit troops. Two events shaped the Qatifi outcome for the war - the Arab Revolt in 1916 and the fall of Baghdad. In response the Al-Aziz ibn Mohammed al-Tahir ended the centuries old pact with the Ottoman Empire and instead pledged allegiance to Britain, launching attacks on the Ottoman Empire. The end of the war saw Qatif established as a Britannian protectorate after the Al-Hasa treaty was signed in the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire despite strong calls from Ibn Saud to annexe Qatif into Saudi Arabia. In 1920 Qatif's status as a protectorate ended after the signing of the Al-Ahsa Proclamation.

Qatif was one of the least developed nations on the planet at this time, with much of the population being illiterate and without basic healthcare needs, with many still living in tribes. Several tribal revolts occurred in the 1920's, all of which were suppressed by the Sultan, whose conservative government refused to seriously modernise the country. In 1934 Britannia undertook an expedition into Qatif with the intention of finding oil - previously Qatif had based its economy on limited livestock and agricultural exports. The Eastern most regions of Qatif saw the discovery of large amounts of oil reserves, resulting in the creation of the Anglo-Qatifi Oil Corporation (AQOC). During the Second World War, the Sultans government allied with Britain, enabling them to have access to vital ports and oil reserves. Following the end of the war Qatif quickly allied itself to Western countries in the opening days of the Cold War.

503882846

Al-Qa'im ibn al-Aziz ibn Mohammed al-Tahir

In 1961 a coalition of Arab nationalism and socialist parties led by the Qatifi branch of the Ba'ath Party came into power, with Ba'athist leader Nasser bin Mutaib being inaugurated as the prime minister of Qatif. bin Mutaib tried to implement reforms that would include the dissolution of the Majlis and the nationalisation of several companies such as the AQOC. This encountered serious resistance from the Sultan Al-Qa'im ibn al-Aziz ibn Mohammed al-Tahir, who was supported by the Majlis and the British. This political stagnation alongside ongoing corruption, nepotism, cronyism and kleptocracism saw radical Ba'athists and members of the banned communist party stage riots and protests across the country, setting off the Tabawa Revolution. The protests were ended a month after they started following a military coup by military officers Mustafa al-Karim, Rifaat Abdul, Omar Zaki and Othman al-Hussein which disposed of the Sultan and liquidated the legislature, instituting the Revolutionary Committee of Qatif, a tetrarchy led by those four men.

Revolutionary Committee

Flag of Qatif (1961-1972)
Mustafa al-Karim

Mustafa al-Karim in 1971.

Following the creation of the Revolutionary Committee al-Karim merged several nationalist and socialist parties into a reformed Qatifi Ba'ath Party, which was placed under the idealogical wing of leftist Zaki who propagated what became known as Qatifi Ba'athism, a far left variant of Ba'athism. The new government was heavily modelled on the single-party states found in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, and pushed forward socialist policies. Ambitious infrastructure, healthcare and education reforms were made that saw greater urbanisation and industrialisation policies undertaken as well as the implementation as universal healthcare and free education. Literacy rates and life expectancy rapidly increased as a result. al-Karim also implemented policies that aimed to secularise Qatifi society, with land reform undermining the influence of feudal leaders and Islamic priests who had formed the previous elite class. Religious law was abolished as was Islamic clothing, although many important Ba'athist offices were held by Ismaili Shia's. Geopolitically, al-Karim had Qatif join the Non-aligned movement and claimed Qatif had an independent foreign policy. However strong alliances to Egypt and other Arab republics saw Qatif shift its allegiance to the Soviet Union and other countries in the Eastern Bloc. Qatif participated in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War which was a miltray disater, and saw the purging of Zaki who had advocated for Qatif to join the war. In 1970 in accordance to a five year plan the government nationalised the AQOC, causing Britain and several western countries placing sanctions on Qatif which crippled the Qatifi economy.

Growing unrest and enforced austerity by the government resulted in the Qatifi government to invade Bahrain in an attempt to muster popular national support, starting the Qatif-Trucial War. Many Qatifi nationalists saw the Shia majority Bahrain as Qatifi territory, and that is incorporation into the Trucial States had been an illegal move. The initial invasion led by Rifaat Abdul was hugely successful with Bahrain being taken in less then a day. The invasion was condemned by the international community who ordered Qatifi forces to leave Bahrain. When Qatif refused the Trucial States supported by Britain, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the USA mobilised a force that retook Bahrain and subsequently invaded Qatif. The regime changed the rhetoric of its campaign from one of restoring past might to that of resisting imperialism as it received aid from Arab nationalist states and the Eastern Bloc. After several more failed invasion of Bahrain and the eventual ousting of Trucial forces in Qatif the Baghdad Agreement was signed that saw the majority of hostilities between Qatif and the Trucial States terminated. The end of the war saw support for the regime increase slightly as Qatifi military figures were blamed for the war's failure, most notably Abdul with al-Karim being seen as the man who saved Qatif from being invaded by the Trucial States. The aftermath of the war also saw the dissolution of the Revolutionary Committee, with democratic multi-party elections being announced for the next year. On the 18th June 1972 the Revolutionary Committee was dissolved with the Arab Republic of Qatif forming in its place.

Arab Republic

The 1972 elections - widely seen as rigged - saw al-Karim elected as president and the Ba'ath Party take a majority in the legislature. The unpopular austerity measures were scaled back, although economic growth was still slow. Nevertheless many more Qatifi citizens were lifted out of poverty during the 1970's and 1980's, as government programs invested in greater education and healthcare facilities. State repression increased as press freedom and protest were far more limited. In 1972 Qatif alongside Egypt, Libya and Syria held a referendum that saw it join the Federation of Arab Republics, although there were substantial disagreements amongst the member states on what form of government the federation should use. In 1973 Qatif sent troops to aid Egypt and Syria in the October War against Israel. Qatif remained heavily aligned to the USSR and increasingly Syria, severing ties with Egypt following the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty. Following the Iranian Revolution Qatif was alarmed by the rhetoric of Ruhollah Khomeini, and engaged in persecution against Islamists. Nevertheless following the start of the Iran-Iaq War Qatif gave substantial logistical aid and arms to Iran against Iraq.

Islamic Liberation Army

The Islamic Liberation Army was an anti-Shia Salafist group that fought government forces in the Qatifi Civil War

In 1986 al-Karim died of a stroke designating his successor as Othman al-Hussein. al-Hussein decreased the amount of Sunni participation in the government as well as support hardline Ba'athist views placing him at odds with more moderate members of the regime. al-Hussein also continued to give aid to Iran in the Iran-Iraq War, as well as persecute Sunni's and political dissidents. al-Hussein did end the Ismaili's monopoly on government power, granting them many offices of high power. This led to a steady rise in Sunni terrorism in the western regions of Qatif, with Wahabist and Salafist anti-government groups being formed and being armed by states such as Saudi Arabia. In late 1986 a coalition of Sunni terrorist groups known as the Islamic Liberation Army declared a holy jihad against the Qatifi government starting the Qatifi Civil War.

The Qatifi Civil War saw neighbouring regimes such as Saudi Arabia, the Trucial States, Iraq, Egypt and Pakistan alongside the US, Britain and Israel help arm the rebels whilst Iran, Syria, and Libya aided the government. Majeed armed Shiite militia groups (the most prominent being the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen al-Qatif and the Iranian backed Union of Islamic Revolutionaries) and the Communist Party of Qatif to help combat the rebels. The ILA managed to take large tacts of western territory in Qatif early into the war, imposing Sharia law and executing dissidents. Shia and socialist militia forces played an important role in leading resistance forces in ILA held territory, although they also participated in a large share of human right abuses.

The war saw tens of thousands of civilians displaced and many killed. In 1989 al-Hussein was ousted in a coup within the Ba'ath Party by Twelver military officer Abdullah Rajab. Rajab was able to gain support from Egypt and started to cut off rebel forces on the boarder, thus denying them direct access to Saudi aid, as well as employ scorched earth strategy on remaining rebel positions. Rajab is thought to have ordered the Khabrit Prison massacre which saw the Ba'athist forces murder almost the entire prison population of the Al Khabrit prison, whilst in the siege of the city of Khafji the ILA was known to have executed large droves of civilians. The 1990 Ammam Accords saw the ILA disband with Rajab promising greater Sunni participation in politics. Rajab also changed the constitution, declaring Qatif to be an Islamic Arab Republic.

Islamic Arab Republic

Flag of Qatif
Rajab speech

Abdullah Rajab ruled Qatif through an authoritarian oligarchy.

Rajab's government ushered in some reforms in Qatif. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and collapse of many socialist regimes Rajab switched from a state run command economy to a market one, implementing many neoliberal reforms especially in the banking sector. Public services were privatised and social safety nets were cut. Liberal artistic expression was permitted as the state ideology of Qatifi Ba'athism was dismantled. However, in order to appease the increasingly powerful Islamist movement Rajab incorporated Sharia law into the judicial system, whilst exploiting sectarian tensions in Qatif courting the majority Twelver Shia's as well as the minority Christians and Ismaili sect against the Sunni's. Rajab's regime purged many of the ideologues associated with al-Karim, with many of his associates being military and political careerists alongside technocrats. Qatif effectively became a military dictatorship with the Ministry of the Interior widely being regarded as a state within a state.

Rajab also changed the foreign policy of Qatif, drifting away from Russia and establishing strong trade links with the United States and the European Union. Qatif acted as a intermediary between the west and countries such as Syria and Iran who Qatif remained key allies too. Despite this tensions between Qatif's traditional enemies such as Saudi Arabia and Britannia remained high. Qatif participated in the coalition that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, Qatif's neighbour, in the Gulf War. During the war the Qatifi city of Khafji was occupied by Iraqi forces, although they were quickly driven out by coalition forces.

Following the September 11 attacks new anti-terrorism and radicalisation laws were introduced in Qatif, which gave sweeping powers to the Ministry of the Interior and further restricted personal and political freedoms. The anti-terrorism laws were accompanied by a new wave of deregulation and privatisation with infrastructure projects intended to repair the remaining damage of the civil war halted, mostly in the Sunni-dominated Western Governorate. Economic growth however increased as Qatif started to build up a robust service sector. The 2003 invasion of Iraq and the insurgency that followed saw Qatif give covert aid to several Shiite militia's such as the Mahdi Army. Nevertheless relations with the USA remained strong, due to agreements relating to the sale of Qatifi oil. Nevertheless the late 2000's became increasingly associated with police crackdowns, corruption, sectarianism, and rising poverty. The 2008 financial crisis saw the Qatifi government enforce austerity measures in Qatif whilst further restricting the rights of protest and to unionise.

Yemeni Protests 4-Apr-2011 P01

Protests in the Palm Revolution.

Continued austerity, police crackdowns, rampant sectarianism and rising unemployment led to massive amounts of civil unrest in the late 2000's. Following the overthrow of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali's government in Tunisia and subsequent wave of protests across the Arab World massive demonstrations were held in major Qatifi cities, with many demanding political change and the resignation of president Rajab. Rajab responded by mobilising the police forces to crush the protests whilst declaring a state of martial law. However in March Rajab lost the support of officials in the government, most notably the Minister of the Interior Zayd Hossaini. Rajab subsequently resigned with Hossaini taking over as the interim president. Mujawar ordered a crackdown of the most violent protests whilst lifting a few political and press freedoms. In April Hossaini announced elections would take place in July, and ordered for martial law to be lifted.

In the elections former Minister of Defence Mohammed Mujawar swept to victory, with almost no credible opposition. He passed through a series of reforms that saw the implementation of a proportional representative voting system for the parliamentary elections later that year, which were won by the Ba'ath party under Zayd Hossaini, although opposition parties gained 124 seats with the Union of Islamic Revolutionary Mujahideen having 72 of that number. More power was amassed around the president as reliance on the security services lessened by the regime.

Sectarianism was increasingly deployed to gain support for the regime. Despite being president Mujawar was soon subordinated to Hossaini whose control of the security forces meant power shifted from the president to the prime minister. Islamist opposition to the government increased especially in the Western Governorate as little was done to tackle the problems of unemployment, authoritarianism, and austerity. In 2013 protests in the capital were crushed by security forces as the government started to align itself internationally more with Iran and Syria, worsening the diplomatic relations that had been cultivated with the west.

Geography

Governorates

Qatif is divided into 7 governorates, each of which has its own local government and capital. The governorates are further divided into counties, which are then divided into settlements. The governonates were created in 1961 to reflect the population at the time. As such now there are some governorates (such as the Dammam-Khobar-Dhahran and Al-Hasa governorates) that far outstrip in the others in terms of population. Since then there have been calls to change the governorate boarder to reflect the current population.

No. Province Capital Population
Qatif map numbered

Governates of Qatif

1 Western Governorate Sihmah 293,361
2 Khafji Khafji 65,000
3 As Saffaniyah Al-Tuwaiq 509,634
4 Ras Al Khair Al Jubail 378,949
5 Dammam-Khobar-Dhahran Dammam 5,065,007
6 Capital Governorate Qatif City 524,182
7 Al Hasa Al Hofuf 1,782,634

Government and politics

Sharjah b1

The Parliament of Qatif, the official meeting place of the National People's Council and the Cabinet.

The 1972 Constitution of Qatif, which has amended many times, serves as the supreme law of Qatif, with its most modern incarnation defining the nation as an "unitary, fully sovereign, socialist republic committed to the Ba'athist revolution". In practice Qatif functions as a presidential republic with secularist traditions. The President functions as the head of state and head of government, leading the Majlis-al-Umma (National Assembly) which forms the legislature as well as the Cabinet, the official executive branch of government. Despite democratic elections having been held from 2012 Freedom House has called the Qatifi government "Partly Free". Qatif was formally described as a hybrid regime were there are frequent elections, but with little opposition to the ruling party. However the 2015 presidential elections was deemed to be fair and free by international observers, and Qatifi citizens do enjoy more personal and even political freedoms then neighbouring Arab states.

From 1961 to 2015 Qatifi politics were dominated by the Qatifi Ba'ath Party which until 1972 had been the only legal political party in the country. Under Mustafa al-Karim the government was highly centralised with most of the decision making being conducted via Qatifi Ba'ath Party's regional committee which was headed by the regional secretary of the party who also served as president. After al-Karim's death the government retained this structure, although then president Rajab delegated more power to his subordinates unlike al-Karim whose rule was largely personalised. The Majlis-al-Umma is where the majority of the laws are drafted, amended and approved, although it is widely regarded as being a rubber stamp legislature.

Khaled al-Zaidi

Current head of state Khaled al-Zaidi

The president also approves of all laws passed through the National People's Congress, and has the ability to dissolve the National People's Council. The president also serves as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and sets the majority of foreign policy. The speaker of the Majlis can take up the role of presidency in the event of the presidents death or removal from office. The President also heads the Cabinet of Qatif which replaced the central committee as the de facto executive, and is elected by the majority party from within the Majlis-al-Umma. 80 of the 238 Councillors are elected using a First-past-the-post voting system.

The law of Qatif is based upon Ottoman-esque civil law and Sharia Law which was introduced in 1986 as part of president Rajab's Islaminisation of the government. Sharia law is only used for property and family law such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, the handling of Waqfs, and child custody. Sharia law is administrated through Sharia courts which are divided into Sunni and Shiite courts. Non-Muslim residents are not subject to Sharia law. The Qatifi interpretation of Sharia Law is handled by the Ministry of Justice. In Sharia courts a womens testimony is counted as half that of a man's.

Qatifi political participation has dramatically increased since the Arab Spring with many small parities emerging. Prior to 1972 the Ba'ath Party remained the only legal party, although some (such as the Communist Party) were tolerated by the regime, whilst others (such as the Muslim Brotherhood) were prominent underground opposition movements. 1972 saw a nominal return to multi-party politics - however in reality all power was centralised in the hands of the Ba'ath Party until 2011. The Muslim Brotherhood remains the only party in Qatif that is banned, although the Sunni Justice and Faith Party has strong links to it. In 2014 Qatif was named as a hybrid regime by the Democracy Index with a score of 5.10. Senior opposition figures have stated their belief that the Qatifi security forces acts as state within a state, and that similar to Turkey's alleged deep state they advocate for nationalist, statist and secular policies.

In 2016 a military coup was undertaken by the Ministry of the Interior against the Islamist government on the basis that the government had entered a state of political deadlock. The new government has so far suspended the constitution, but has also promised to hold elections in "under a hundred days". The current acting head of state is Khaled al-Zaidi. A constitutional referendum was passed in October 2016 which abolished the post of prime minister, gave more power to the president who is now elected by the Majlis and renamed Qatif from the "Islamic Arab Republic" to the "Arab Socialist Ba'ath Republic". The Ba'ath party was also elevated to a "privileged role as the vanguard of the revolution", with now a third of seats in the Majlis reserved for the Ba'ath party, with the president appointing another a third of councillors and the president required to be a member of the Ba'ath party. This has led to many calling Qatif a "de facto one-party state".

Elections

Human Rights

Main article - Human Rights of Qatif

Qatif has been criticised for excessive human rights violations over its existence. Qatif's constitution states that people have freedom of religion, the press, political participation, speech and protest, although in practice these rights are not consistently respected.

The Sultanate of Qatif was governed according to Islamic law, with human rights denied to most of the population. Dissent against the Sultan was punished through the judicial system. In 1951 following the creation of the Parliament of Qatif the General Intelligence Directorate was formed, which served as the secret police of the Sultanate. The press was heavily censored, labour unions and numerous political organisations were banned and freedom of speech was not respected. Protests were dealt with police and military force, with the GID torturing political dissidents and denying the right to a free trial. Women had very little rights, as did Sunni Muslims and people's of other faiths. LGBT+ persons similarly had no rights, and ethnic minorities faced persecution. Slavery was also common.

Qatif prison cmaps

Prison camps in Qatif that are believed to house political prisoners.

Following the 1961 coup the NSD was dissolved and replaced with the Qatifi Intelligence Directorate (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-Qatif, or IMQ). The IMQ were granted wide ranging powers that enabled them to bypass judicial functions and arrest those without charge. Freedom of the press was denied with the state controlling all forms of media, and labour unions were absorbed into the ruling bureaucracy being controlled through the Qatifi Ba'ath Party with collective barging rights ignored. Almost all political organisations were subservient to the Qatifi Ba'ath Party with any real dissent being clamped down upon. Torture and executions were sanctioned by the state with prison camps made specifically to house political prisoners being set up. The new government however did give women legal equal rights to men as did people of other faiths and ethnic backgrounds, although Jews faced intense persecution. Homosexuality was legalised although homosexuals still faced legal problems. Sunni's were also more accepted into public life with legal discrimination being ended. Slavery was criminalised in the 1962 Penal Code, with slavery being clamped down upon by the authorities. Following the Qatif-Trucial War Sunni's faced substantial discrimination. Political rights were further repressed as was freedom of speech and the press. Torture and executions increased mainly between late 1971 to 1973 during the so-called purge, which was both concentrated within the Qatifi Ba'ath Party's ranks and the population as a whole. The death of al-Karim saw the Sunni's being further repressed.

The Qatifi Civil War saw massive human right abuses from both sides - Sunni militia's carried out a genocide Shia's and Christians who refused to convert, alongside other persons especially women did not abide by Sharia law as well as participate in uncoordinated killings against government forces and associated paramilitaries. Shia Mujahideen forces meanwhile were implicated in the ethnic cleansing of Sunni Muslims whilst government forces were proven to have used chemical weapons against rebel militias in the closing months of the war. Torture during the war was common as was the use of child soldiers and sexual abuse including rape. Human trafficking was also reported to have been carried out especially by militia forces.

Following the end of the civil war human rights in Qatif were much better - however international organisations such as Amnesty International still lamented Qatif on human rights violations. Press freedom and the right for political protest were still suppressed as were labour union rights and freedom of expression. Women also saw some their rights taken away from them as Sharia law was introduced into the legal system. There were still reports of torture and summary executions of political prisoners.

During the early months of the Palm Revolution the government used excessive force on the protesters, arresting many of their leaders and imposing martial law. According to Amnesty International between the start of the protests in January to July the prison population in the Al Kabrit prison complex, the largest political prison in Qatif, increased dramatically. Following the announcement of the 2011 presidential elections martial law was lifted. The 2012 parliamentary elections saw many press and political freedoms granted, with protests being controlled. Some of the political prisons were closed with a large amount of political prisoners being freed.

In the latest report on Qatif by Human Right's Watch indicated that Qatif had fared much better in press and political freedoms in 2014. Labour unions have also been able to gain more autonomy with collective bargaining being more accepted, although many are still heavily linked with the Ba'ath Party. However, concerns were still raised over extrajudicial prison sentencing and institutionalised torture as well as the deteriorating rights of LGBT+ persons.

Foreign Relations

Main article - Foreign relations of Qatif

Since the creation of the Islamic Arab Republic Qatif has endeavoured to pursue a balanced, neutral foreign policy as well as be an active player in the Arab world. Qatif is a member of large international organisations such as the United Nations, non-aligned movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund. Regionally Qatif is a member of the Arab League, Council of Arab Economic Unity, and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Qatif's large deposits of petroleum have enabled it to become an influential member of OPEC.

Under the Sultanate Qatif had a general pro-Western foreign policy having especially close relations with Britain. Following the 1961 coup Qatif began to forge close to other Arab states that formed part of the revolutionary Arab nationalist movement , with its best relations being between Egypt, Kuwait, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Syria. Qatif has also established good relations with China and Pakistan and has since the 1990's been a large supplier of oil to some EU members.

Qatifi foreign embassies

Location of diplomatic missions of Qatif:

  Qatif
  Embassy

During the Cold War Qatif aimed to remain neutral, but its socialist economy and antagonising of Israel led the United States to sever relations with Qatif. Qatif long claimed sovereignty over Bahrain, a constituent state in the Trucial States and in 1971 it mounted an attack on the island in an attempt to annexe it into Qatif. This prompted the Trucial States to retake Bahrain and attack Qatif itself setting off the Qatif-Trucial War which saw Western aligned states such as the USA, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Iran under Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi support the Trucial States. The attack failed partly due to Soviet support to the al-Karim government, causing Qatif to become one of the most pro-Soviet countries in the Middle East under al-Karim. al-Karim's successor President Rajab reopened relations with America in 1990 and began to distance Qatif from Russia. However, relations with the Trucial States never improved and too this day remain extremely poor.

Qatif has opposed the existence of the State of Israel since the latters creation, participating in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. Qatif has continued to refuse to recognise Israel and has reportedly armed Shia militias in Palestine such as Hezbollah. The Qatifi Civil War saw Iran give substantial military and economic aid to the Qatifi government whilst Saudi Arabia and the Trucial States gave similar support to Sunni insurgents. Since the war the Qatifi government has firm allies with Iran along with Syria, with some analysts remarking that Qatif is the Iran's closest and most loyal ally. Both Saudi Arabia and the Trucial States remain on poor terms with Qatif.

Recently in the Yemeni Civil War, Qatif along with Iran and Eritrea is alleged to have funded the Houthi rebels who control the Yemnei government headed by the Revolutionary Committee. Qatif has provided military assistance against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant since the 2014 military intervention, being affiliated with the Syrian government. Qatif has also supported the regime of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War, labelling the Free Syrian Army and its associates alongside the al-Nusra Front as terrorists. Qatif previously opposed the Taliban regime, as well as being part of the coalition in the Gulf War that drove out Saddam Hussein's Iraq from Kuwait. In the early stages of the Iraq-Iran War the Qatifi government under al-Karim gave logistical and financial aid to the Iranian regime.

Qatif has recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara which has placed it at odds with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and more importantly Qatif's usual ally Algeria. Previously however Qatif saw Mauritania as the ruling government - however following Mauritania's removal of its claim to the region Qatif instead declared its recognition of the Moroccan claims over the territory.

Economy

Qatif has a mixed economy with the government exerting varying degrees of control over certain industries. The petroleum sector for example is centrally planned and completely under state control through the Qatifi Oil Corporation, whilst the banking sector has in comparison been deregulated. The national currency of Qatif is the Qatifi Rial which is regulated at the Qatifi Central Bank.

Energy

Qatifi oil feilds

Qatifi and Saudi oil fields

Qatif has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, with oil extraction managed through the state owned Qatifi Oil Corporation. Qatif has been labelled an energy superpower due to their vast amounts of oil, with petroleum making up 41% of Qatif's total nominal GDP value.

However unlike their neighbour Saudi Arabia political instability, outdated technology and economic mismanagement has resulted in much of this oil to be untapped, with extraction being slow. Although recent findings indicate that Qatif has more oil then Saudi Arabia, it has been unable to dominate the global oil market in the way Saudi Arabia is able do through controlling prices because of its slow extraction methods.

Sine 2011 Qatif has aimed to launch a nuclear energy program, hoping to create its first three nuclear power stations by 2020. Qatif hopes to import uranium from Russia and Kazakhstan, and build nuclear enrichment facilities with the help of Russia. Qatif has stated that such a nuclear program would be for energy purposes only.

Tourism

Qatif's political and economic stability following the Qatifi Civil War has enabled the Qatifi tourism industry to boom. The majority of tourists are from Central Asia, Iran, South Asia and Eastern Europe. Many go to Qatif to visit the al-Q'aiam Mosque or the historic city of Alhasa. Recent unrest and negative press attention has led to a decline in tourism, although the government has made moves to revitalise the market by investing in the reconstruction of various historic sites.

Demographics

As of 2014 Qatif has an estimated population of 8,618,767 people. The majority of people in Qatif are Arab with there being significant Afro Asian and Persian minorities. Most people follow Shia Islam with the second biggest religion being Sunni Islam. Most of the population live in the urbanised areas near the coast, with those further inland often either being members of nomadic tribes or live in small rural villages. 41% of the population are under the age of 25, with only 23% over the age of 65. Qatif's total fertility rate has increased in recent years, rising from 2.25 to 3.14 between 2011 to 2014, with the figure expected to rise to 4.5 by 2018. The government have attempted to halt this rise by advocating for more contraception. The government has also expressed interest in legalising abortion to help battle growing fertility and possible over populating Qatif, as well as the possibility of enacting an one child policy similar to China.

Ethnic groups

Of that 8,618,767 people around 92% of them are estimated to be Arabs, with 81% of that number native Qatifi. The largest ethnic minority in Qatif are Afro Asians who consist of 5% of the population. The second largest minority is Persians who constitute 1.3% of the total population. Other ethnic minorities in Qatif include South Asians (mostly from Pakistan), Turks, Nepalese, Europeans and Jews.

Religion

Qatif is officially a secular country with freedom of religion although the constitution recognises Shia Islam as the traditional religion of the country. The majority of the population (97%) are Muslim with 84% being Shiites and 13% being Sunnis. 1.4% of the population are Christian with the remaining 1.6% being made up of Hindus, Zoroastrians, the irreligious and Jews. Official government policy is that each religion must keep out of the affairs of the other, although in practice discrimination towards especially Jews is widespread.

Qatifi women

Most women in Qatif wear the hijab along with more modern clothing.

Qatif is the only country in the world where the majority of the population follow the Twelver branch of Shia Islam with the majority professing allegiance to the Usuli sect. Around 72.4% of the population follow the Twelver sect while 11.6% follow Ismaili sect. Sunni Muslims in Qatif mainly follow Wahhabism, possibly stemming from their close proximity with Saudi Arabia. Religious tensions between the two sects are quite high, with the Shiites mainly concentrated in the affluent, urban and developed areas of Qatif and the Sunni's in poorer rural communities. There is also tension between the Twelvers and the Ismaili's who still wield a disproportionate amount of power.

Secularisation among Muslim communities have provoked extremely mixed reactions. Initially measures were extremely harsh with the hijab banned completely and for religion to be praticed only in private. In 1966 these measures were somewhat relaxed although the niqāb and the burqa remain illegal, with the wearing of the chador being restricted in government and education. During the civil war territory held by the Islamic Liberation Front saw strict Sharia law implemented although much of this was repelled following the retaking of the territory by government forces. Following the civil war mild Islamist policies in the 1990's prompted some support in the application of Sharia Law in the legal system, and the lifting of the ban that prohibited the wearing of the hijab in government. However, the governments continued with an overall commitment towards secularism that has led Qatifi culture to be largely tolerant of other religions in more developed areas, although there are still minor tensions. The prevalence of the hijab in Qatif is similar to that of Egypt and Turkey with most women in Qatif wearing the hijab, although recent studies show that this is out of choice, not obligation to family members.

Language

Arabic is the only official language of Qatif with over 95% of the populace speaking it as their first language. The Gulf Arabic dialect is primarily spoken in Qatifi communities, and Qatifi Sign language (which is part of the Arab sign-language family) is used for the deaf. Prior to education reform in 1998, the learning of other languages outside of Arabic was not encouraged. However since then English has been taught to all Qatifi children, and many others have now learnt the language to increase the ease of trade in Qatif.

The Iranian minority in Qatif mainly speak Persian, whilst the Turkish, Pakistani and Nepalese communities speak Turkish, Urdu and Nepali respectively. Qatifi custom expects immigrants to learn basic Arabic alongside their own language. Whilst not officially banned Hebrew and Yiddish texts are extremely hard to publish in Qatif, and many Hebrew/Yiddish speakers are discriminated against.

Culture

Qatifi culture has been primarily influenced by a mix of Arab Culture and Twelver Shia Islam along with elements from Persian, Ottoman and British culture. Qatif has always prided itself for its role in the Arab world as well as its Shia traditions and history. Some commentators have noted partly due to this mix along with the secularisation efforts made by the government that Qatif is more open then its much more conservative neighbours Saudi Arabia and the Trucial States. Whilst compared to Western culture Qatif is socially conservative it is less so then other Arab countries, with an emphasis on family, education, religion, respect and law.

See also

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