x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A tribute to the statesman of Ras al Khaimah

The death of Sheikh Saqr marks not only the passing of a great leader but the end of an era.

Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Ras al Khaimah and a member of the UAE's Supreme Court of Rulers, was the longest surviving of the UAE's founding generation. His death marks not only the passing of a great leader but the end of an era.

From his birth in 1920, Sheikh Saqr lived through a period of development more dramatic than nearly any other in human history. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine all that has changed in Ras al Khamiah since Sheikh Saqr's youth, when the Gulf's pearling industry had collapsed and poverty plagued its people. Without Sheikh Saqr's leadership, resolve and foresight, it is difficult to imagine how Ras al Khaimah's rapid development would have been possible. Far more than a mere witness to history, Sheikh Saqr drove history, creating a more secure and prosperous future for his people, his emirate, and his nation.

Ras al Khaimah's challenges during Sheikh Saqr's youth seemed to have left an indelible mark, helping to forge his remarkable resilience and empathy. His concerns were his people's concerns, however humble their roots. Since he rose to power in 1948, his emphasis on education was a foundation of his leadership. "He believed that Bedouin, seamen, farmers, that everyone can have their future for education," remembered his son, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi, who now succeeds him. As Graeme Wilson wrote in Saqr: Fifty Years and More, "Ras al Khaimah is widely credited as having the most educated national population in the lower Gulf, and this is directly as a result of Sheikh Saqr's policies as far back as the 1950s". These efforts began with classes in a collection of tents outside of Sheikh Saqr's fort, which he himself would help to supervise, underscoring his personal commitment to education.

Sheikh Saqr's incredible resolve is now part of the UAE's national character. At the formation of the federation, he insisted that the UAE not relinquish its claims to the islands of Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb after they were invaded by Iran. It was Sheikh Saqr's police that led the resistance to the occupying force. Of course, that effort endures in the UAE's diplomatic efforts to end the Iranian occupation.

And for all that Sheikh Saqr accomplished for his people through the force of his own will, he had the wisdom to understand that Ras al Khaimah would be stronger in standing alongside its brother emirates. They, in turn, are stronger for their partnership with Ras al Khaimah and on account of its late leader's life and work.