Photographic evidence of the Iraqi regime's destruction in Kuwait from August 1990 through February 1991
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Interview 1

Why were you and so many Kuwaitis in London on August 2, 1990?
Kuwaitis travel abroad in summer when it’s hot, humid, and sometimes dusty. Temperatures can soar to 50ºC (125ºF). Most Kuwaitis go to Egypt, Lebanon, or London, but some go to continental Europe, Turkey, or the Far East. In 1990 some Kuwaitis were in London on vacation, but also many arrived during the occupation. My mother, my family, and I had been in the US in July. On our way back to Kuwait, we stopped in London for few days as two of my sisters and their families were there. Then the invasion occurred so we all had to stay on in London. There, the Free Kuwait Campaign was organized and I became their volunteer photographer.

How did you feel when you heard Iraq had invaded Kuwait?
It was a shock for everyone, but, for people outside Kuwait – and I was one of them – it was like being caught in an unbelievable bad dream. We had not heard all the talk and threats that Saddam had made, though sometimes we heard rumors or a bit of American news. I would then call home to talk to one of my two brothers and tell him what is on the news. His always answered not to worry, that it was not serious. Well, it was serious, and it took me around 10 days to realize the invasion was not a dream.

Did you expect the invasion to last only a few days or weeks?
Yes. Many people did. First we thought Saddam wanted to show his power to give him the upper hand in negotiations. Then we thought he wanted money and, as soon as our government gave him some, he would leave. But the more time passed, the more we felt disappointment and dread. When the coalition nations started sending troops, we knew the time had come though not exactly how soon it would be.

Were close relatives in Kuwait during the occupation?
Most of our relatives were in Kuwait on August 2. About half of them left Kuwait during the first weeks and some got out after a month or so. They left first through Iran, then to the UAE. Some stayed in the UAE and others joined us in London. They left with forged IDs that gave them other nationalities to make it easier to flee. The forgeries were “official,” that is, they were obtained from the police or army and stamped by government ministers. Both of my brothers and one of my sisters remained in Kuwait.

When Saddam formally annexed Kuwait, did you fear it was permanent?
At no time did I think it was permanent. The only question was how long the occupation would last.

 

After liberation, when did you return to Kuwait?
My family and I left London around March 11 and went to Dubai, where I rented an apartment and stayed for few days with my wife and children. After I made sure they had all they needed, I prepared for the 1,150 km drive to Kuwait. I heard from friends that only people with goods to deliver were allowed into Kuwait. So, I bought a small truck and filled it with food, bottled water, and five portable generators as I had heard Kuwait had no electricity. I drove to Saudi Arabia and got permission in Damam to cross into Kuwait. I arrived on the morning of March 24. (See 0387-0391.)

What conditions did you find in the country?
At first, other than that Kuwait looked like an empty city with a dark sky in daytime, things looked a lot better than I expected. But after I spent few days entering houses and public buildings, seeing the tremendous destruction inside, and hearing stories from many friends and relatives, I saw the real picture. Kuwait had been raped – marred on the outside but, even more so, shattered on the inside. Food and drink were plentiful, but there were mounds of garbage everywhere and no electricity. When I arrived, I went first to my house and, after resting, around 3 pm I went to check on my in-laws. Just as I said “Salaam alaikum” (“peace be with you”) to my in-laws, the lights came on.

My in-laws had two houses, one which they had lived in for the last 40 years and another they had just finished building but not yet moved into. The old house was fine because they had lived in it during the invasion. The new one was a wreck. The Iraqis had moved into it and turned it into a fortification. Then a few days before liberation, they moved out and ignited the ammunition they had stowed in the basement. My in-laws never lived in that house. They restored it, but my father-in-law died before they could move in.

Was your home spared from looting and vandalism?
At the beginning, my home like many homes was looted. All my cameras and electrical goods were stolen. Then my brother, who was my next door neighbor, allowed some people to live in my house. Many Kuwaitis whose home had no basement moved into a home with a basement due to fear of Saddam using chemical bombs. These people – I do not blame them – damaged my home by nailing wooden planks to all the doors and dripping candle wax on all the floors and rugs, some of which never came off. Candles were needed because there was no electricity. My home was also used to shelter a boy sought by the Iraqis. Because several boys had seen what they were not supposed to, they were shot. One survived and escaped. His family pretended he had died of his wound and arranged a fake mourning. The Iraqis never found him. He is considered to be a living martyr. (See 3285-3288.)