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Sheikh Saqr and the assassination of Sheikh Khalid

In 1965, two years after I left Sharjah, Sheikh Saqr was deposed. It has been suggested it was with British connivance.

The British were probably even then seeking an exit strategy from the gulf and were trying to encourage a federation of the Sheikhdoms which could survive after they had gone. The man most likely to take the lead in this was Sheikh Raschid of Dubai. But the problem was that Sharjah and Dubai had been at loggerheads for centuries, and Sheikh Saqr and his followers were unlikely to accept the hegemony of the ruler of Dubai. It seems likely that this was what led up to the decision that Sheikh Saqr had to go.

A new ruler of Sharjah was quickly appointed. Sheikh Khalid ibn Muhammed al-Qassimi [KHALID III], the young modernist I knew from earlier days, and a staunch friend of Sheikh Raschid of Dubai, who one could say was his mentor.

Sheikh Saqr was banished into exile. For some years he languished in Cairo, but he was not finished. In 1972 he made an unexpected comeback. No one knew he had returned to area, and it took the British completely by surprise when one night a group of armed men led by Sheikh Saqr fought their way into Sharjah Palace and assassinated Khalid.

But Sheikh Saqr's new rule did not last long. The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Raschid, together with British troops from nearby Oman, once more forced Sheikh Saqr into exile. Yet another new ruler of Sharjah was proclaimed: Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, brother of the assassinated Sheikh Khalid.

One can only speculate what happened behind the scenes when Sheikh Saqr was originally deposed in 1965. But probably of more significance is what it means for the future. In that region people have long memories. Not everyone is enamoured of the tourist trap that the current leadership is creating at the expense of the traditional Arabic way of life.

For more about Sheik Saqr see:

Ray, oilman
Sheik Saqr