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Al Saqr Family

AL SAQR FAMILY

Family prominent in the politics of Kuwait.

Members of the Al Saqr family were among the founders of Kuwait in the eighteenth century. They made their money in shipping and trade and were reputed to be among the toughest dealmakers in the country. They acquired the first stock ticker in Kuwait in the 1920s, and shortly afterward they cornered local coffee supplies after learning that a storm had destroyed much of the year's crop.

Like other prominent merchant families, the Al Saqr participated in the democratization movements that recurred throughout the twentieth century. In 1921 Hamid Al Saqr led an organization of notables who petitioned the ruling family for the right to advise on the succession to the amirship. After Ahmad al-Jabir became amir he refused to consult with the notables. Hamid Al Saqr became leader of the opposition and, upon his death in 1930, was succeeded by his son Abdullah Hamid.

The Al Saqr family founded the Ahliyya Library, where the opposition met to plan its strategy. Abdullah Hamid was a leader of the 1938 to 1939 majles movement. He was a member of both councils elected during this period and among those who refused to disband when the amir suspended the second council's activities. He was forced to flee the country when the movement failed. He died in India.

The merchants developed a close relationship with the amir's brother, Abdullah al-Salim, who had served as the president of the elected councils and attempted to mediate the many conflicts between the councils and the amir. After Abdullah al-Salim became amir in 1950, a group of five merchant families, including the Al Saqr, approached him about establishing a bank. He granted the National Bank of Kuwait a charter in 1952 and helped to capitalize the bank with a large interest-free deposit.

The Al Saqr family continued its political activities during the rule of Abdullah al-Salim. Abd alAziz, another of Hamid Al Saqr's sons, was a wealthy trader and shipyard owner. He was a member of the Constitutional Assembly that was convened in 1961 to prepare Kuwait's first constitution and was elected to the first National Assembly. He became its president and the minister of health in the first cabinet. Abd al-Aziz was one of the leaders of Kuwait's prodemocracy movement of 1989 to 1990 and, at the time, president of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry. With Ahmad alSaʿdun, the president of the 1985 National Assembly that had been suspended by the amir in 1986, Abd al-Aziz effected a reconciliation between the ruling family and the political opposition at an October 1990 meeting in Jidda, Saudi Arabia.

Another sibling, Jasim Hamid, served on the board of Kuwait University and was a private sector member of the board of the Kuwait National Petroleum Company before resigning, along with the other private members, in a 1960s dispute with the government representatives over selecting Hispanoil as a partner in an exploration concession. Jasim also served in the National Assembly and was its presiding officer when it was reorganized following the 1992 elections.

The Al Saqr family retains extensive business and financial interests in Kuwait and overseas and continues to be involved politically, both through its interests in the newspaper Al-Qabbas and in the person of Jasim's son Mohammad Jasim, who is the editor of Al-Qabbas and has been an elected member of the National Assembly since 1999.

see also banking; kuwait.

Bibliography

Crystal, Jill. Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Rush, Alan de Lacy, ed. Records of Kuwait, 18991961. Vol. 2: Internal Affairs, 19211950. Slough, U.K.: Archive Editions, 1989.

Tétreault, Mary Ann. The Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and the Economics of the New World Order. Westport, CT: Green-wood Press, 1995.

Tétreault, Mary Ann. Stories of Democracy: Politics and Society in Contemporary Kuwait. New York: Columbia Univeristy Press, 2000.

Mary Ann TÉtreault

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