The ’90 Occupation – Student, Female Volunteers: The Kuwaiti Spirit Of Yesteryear

Reprinted From The Correspondent (The American Business Council Magazine) Summer 2011

In the early morning of August 3rd, 1990, the day after Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, Kuwaitis from areas around Washington, DC converged in front of the White House to hold a demonstration asking President George Bush Senior for his help for their country. Most Kuwaitis, their friends and families who marched that day, held faces which revealed much; bloodshot eyes and blank, lifeless stares. Their world had just been changed overnight. Many people were crying softly. It was solemnly quiet and the air was full of grief. “Have you heard from….?” “How do I find out about…?” “I think my mother was going to travel…” “What do we do now?”

It was the beginning of a long desperate seven months of agony, rumors, and the unknown. No one knew how their families and friends were faring inside Kuwait; none knew their future. None of the students that day knew what would happen next. Phone lines to Kuwait were down. It was too soon to know what the legitimate government of Kuwait would do.

True to the nature of Kuwaitis who use humor at even the most difficult of moments (often to fight off discomfort); Jasim K marched along side of his friends asking if they thought they could get jobs in the 7-11. They didn’t know if they would receive salaries or how they would live.

Some of my friends, like former MP Basil Al-Rashed, blindly boarded planes went to join Kuwaiti forces in Saudi Arabia during the first few weeks following the invasion. I heard later that MP Al-Rashed served with the Kuwaitis on the Saudi border. I am incredibly proud of him (as are others) for taking the initiative to pioneer it alone during those early days of uncertainty.

These were not the days of the internet. E-mail didn’t become popular until after the war was long over. The phone lines to the Kuwaiti embassy in Washington DC were jammed and information was hard to come by. However, almost immediately offices were set up to form assistance teams. Information trickled out of Kuwait, sometimes from people escaping; sometimes from ham radio operators. Lists were compiled of people, their whereabouts and their circumstances (including, heartbreakingly, names of those who had been tortured or taken as hostages). Grass roots newspapers like, “Ku-waiting for News” (which was written and distributed by an American woman married to a Kuwaiti) provided information in English to friends/relatives of Kuwaitis in the States. These were the days of no e-mail; distribution was by fax or “snail mail” system. People made copies and copies of copies and the information proved invaluable to those, like me, who were waiting to hear what was happening.

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