The State of Qatar’s ruling Amir has taken the unusual step to appointing one of his half-brothers, HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, to the position of “Deputy Amir”. Such office is normally held in trust by the heir apparent, who is not automatically the eldest son of the Amir but is usually appointed amongst the Amir’s sons.
His Highness Amir Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani became Ruler on 25 June 2013 after the abdication of his father, Amir Hamad bin Khalifa. Amir Tamim has two wives, and thus far three eligible but infant male heirs, Sheikh Hamad (b. 2008) and Sheikh Jassim (b. 2012) through his first wife and second cousin Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Hamad bin Suhaim Al Thani. The other son is Sheikh Abdullah (b. 2012) from Her Highness Sheikha Anoud bint Mana Al Hajri, his second wife.
Unlike European monarchies the Gulf states tend to appoint heir apparents (crown princes) on the basis of merit rather than automatically leaving the position to the eldest son of the ruling Amir. So the first two sons of the current “Amir Father” were excluded from succession in favour of the offspring of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser bin Abdullah Al Missned; of whom the eldest HH Prince Jassim bin Hamad renounced his hereditary rights in 2003, paving the way for his brother Tamim bin Hamad to be appointed Crown Prince and Deputy Amir. It should be expected that upon reaching their majority, the Amir shall appoint one of his sons as “Crown Prince of the State of Qatar”.
The current move to appoint Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Khalifa as Deputy Amir might be rationalised as an attempt to share political power with a co-lateral branch of Al Thani, but moreover to provide the country with a clear second in command. After all, the Amir Father, Hamad bin Khalifa who ruled from 1995 to 2013 is deemed to have withdrawn mostly from politics although his influence as adviser to the new Amir is unknown. The unofficial “Amir Grandfather”, Amir Khalifa bin Hamad bin Abdullah who ruled from 1972 to 1995 until his deposition in a bloodless coup d’état by the incumbent Amir Father Hamad bin Khalifa is reported to live back in Qatar since 2004 yet he is kept out of public life. Hence Qatar is the only emirate with three amirs, and now a Deputy Amir.
The Deputy Amir Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (b. 1988) is the second son of the Amir Father’s third wife and fourth cousin, Her Highness Sheikha Noura bin Khalid Al Thani. He holds a Bachelor of Sciences from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service (Doha campus). He has served as Chief of Amiri Diwan (The Amir’s Court) with the rank of Minister. Moreover President of Al-Rayyan Sports Club, and holds several business directorships. Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad is married since 22 March 2012 to HE Sheikha Maha bint Mohammed Al Attiyah. His function as Chief of Amiri Diwan shall be taken over by HE Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, hitherto Director of the Amir’s Office.
In addition Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad will hold the rather powerful position of Vice-President of Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) which manages an estimated $170 billion of assets. The appointment took place on 11 November 2014 after the publication of the Amiri decree thereto on QNA news agency.