Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
Position: Former Emir, Qatar, 1995-2013
Biography: On morning of 25 June 2013, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani officially announced his decision to step down as Emir of Qatar, handing over power to his son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. Rumours had circulated for several weeks that he was planning to make his 33-year-old son the new emir.
“I declare that I will hand over the reins of power to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani; and I am fully certain that he is up to the responsibility; deserving the confidence; capable of shouldering the responsibility and fulfilling the mission,” he said in a televised address.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani became emir after deposing his father, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad al-Thani, in a bloodless coup in June 1995.
Born in 1952, Sheikh Hamad was appointed Crown Prince and Defence Minister in 1977. In the early 1980s, he led the Supreme Planning Council, before becoming emir in 1995.
As part of his efforts to put Qatar on the world map, Sheikh Hamad established and funded Al-Jazeera, the first independent TV news channel in the region, has pushed the country’s involvement in international sporting competitions and placed the country at the centre of Middle East politics.
Qatar’s hosting of international events, including the GCC, Asian and World Youth Football championships and the Qatar Open tennis championship culminated in the tiny Gulf state being awarded the rights to host the 2022 Fifa football World Cup.
In his role as head of state, Sheikh Hamad led diplomatic efforts to meet world leaders and pushed Qatar’s relationship with the US, where he made a large donation for the relief of New Orleans following the 2005 Hurricane Katrina. In the Middle East, he backed proposals for the no-fly zone over Libya towards the end of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s reign, sending his airforce to help enforce the UN Security Council resolution, proposed deploying Arab troops to Syria and has maintained friendly relations with Israel.
Educated in Qatar, Sheikh Hamad attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England, graduating in 1971. While there, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Qatari armed forces and appointed Commander of the first Mobile Regiment (now named Hamad Mobile Regiment). After being promoted to Major General, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Qatari Armed Forces. During this period, he ran a programme to modernise Qatar’s military, increasing its manpower, creating new units, updating weaponry and improving training.