Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, has officially announced that he is stepping down as ruler and handing power to his son.
The announcement was made in a formal address on television Tuesday, as the leader of Qatar for the past 18 years passed the nation’s leadership to his 33 year-old-son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani.
The handover is being seen the dawn of a new generation for the Middle Eastern country. For Emir Sheik Hamad, the next several days will be significant in setting the tone and expectations for the coming decades of his rein.
Though no formal explanation has been given for Sheikh Hamad’s decision to step down, sources at Sky News say rumors of declining health over the last several months may have been behind the abdication.
Qatar is an absolute monarchy that has been controlled by the al Thani family for over 80 years. Any form of democratic government or political party is strictly banned.
Until 1995, the small Middle Eastern nation jutting into the Persian Gulf was relatively insignificant. That year, however, drills began to tap what was found to be the world’s third largest natural gas reserve.
Since then the nation has accumulated incredible wealth, growing from an $8 billion economy to the present day Qatar economy of $174 billion.
The nation’s influence has grown considerably and has become an important player in regional and even global politics.
During the civil war in Libya, Qatar was one of the first nations to offer military aid to rebels. They have similarly followed suit in the current on-going Syrian conflict, supporting anti-government forces.
Qatar has also played host to a new embassy which opened last week in Doha. The new office belongs to Afghanistan Taliban, where controversial negotiations with the US are expected to take place.
Though Qatar’s new emir, Sheikh Tamim, is thought to be close to and of a similar mind as his father, the coming days will show the world what we can expect from this new generation of Qatar leadership.
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