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Shattered idyll – Invasion memories haunt survivors of 1990 invasion
August 2, 2013, 11:37 am

Even after 23 years, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait is still alive in the memory of those who lived through this terrible experience. Many Kuwaitis and even expats were killed during the invasion and others were imprisoned, tortured or disappeared. The new generation born after the invasion, or who were too young, don’t know what happened and need to get the story from relatives, witnesses, media or even museums.

Salah Al-Hatem, a 30-year-old Kuwaiti, was a seven-year-old boy when Iraqi soldiers invaded Kuwait on Aug 2, 1990. “As kids we used to watch cartoons at 7:00 am every Thursday and we used to wake up early. On that day we switched on the TV and there was no signal, so we played videogames instead. Then we heard the sound of helicopters outside and went out and saw a khaki and beige helicopter with the Iraqi flag on the bottom. I didn’t know which country’s flag it was then,” he told Kuwait Times.

“On the first day of the invasion my uncle came to our house in his undergarments, and we realized he had just arrived back from the Dasman battle, where the Kuwaiti army gave the enemy the illusion that the Amir and other members of the royal family were in Dasman to give them a chance to leave the country,” he added. Hatem remembers more things. “We used to see soldiers who looked miserable, and they wore creased beige military uniforms and slippers and carried guns. My uncle was a popular TV presenter so he couldn’t leave his house. Most men in the family changed their IDs – as they were in the army – to professions such as teacher or secretary,” recalled Hatem.

It was a hard period for everybody in the country. “There was little food during the invasion and it was depleting fast. The last three months there was almost no food and we only ate oregano and oil for breakfast and dinner. My cousins used to move the garbage to the desert and burn it there. At that time South Surra was open desert, so the smell reached us in Rawda. Now when I smell burning garbage in the chalet areas, it immediately reminds me of the invasion,” he explained.

Salah remembers that Kazma Sports Club was a torture center. “There were interrogation rooms in the halls. I saw dead bodies including the body of female martyr Asrar Al-Qabandi that was thrown on the street in Adaliya. I also remember the when Iraqi soldiers killed two sons in front of their parents. I was just a child then but it is seared in my memory as if it was yesterday,” he recounted.

He explained that they used to feed the soldiers who would in turn tell them when an inspection group was coming to the house. “When the Iraqis burned the oil wells, it was dark as night the whole time. Morning and evening were the same. The houses, cars and outfits were black. The soot was hard to remove it as it was chemicals. It was scary and lasted for about six months,” he added.

Anybody who has lived in Kuwait through the invasion was given KD 500. “After the liberation, and as a kind of reward for us because we remained in the country, the government punched our old ID cards and gave us KD 500. So my whole family travelled to Egypt to escape the depression caused by the invasion,” concluded Hatem.

The Kuwait House of National Works that was open in 1998 holds activities annually on August 2 to remind people and teach those who didn’t witness the invasion about the events that took place. This year, the museum’s annual festival includes a play narrating the story of the two martyrs Asrar Al-Qabandi and Salem Al-Kandari. “The guests of the museum also have the chance to watch a short 11-minute-long documentary about the rulers of Kuwait since the first Amir until the present Amir HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah,” said Khalaf Al-Enezi, the museum’s PR manager.

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