The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait highlighted the importance of volunteering, which was not very popular in the Kuwaiti community before 1990.
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This was discussed in a panel the Kuwait Social Association held titled ‘Volunteering during the Invasion’ on Monday at its premises in Adailiya.
Yousef Mustafa, Assistant Undersecretary for Media Services and New Media at the Ministry of Information, spoke about his experience as a reporter during the Iraqi invasion.
“The three most significant dates during the invasion were – August 2, 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait; January 17, 1991, the beginning of air operations against Iraq; and February 26, 1991, the liberation day,” he noted.
Mustafa has terrifying memories of that time. “I remember the Iraqi air raid on Dasman Palace, which led to the martyrdom of Sheikh Fahd Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. I also witnessed vehicles driving on the wrong side on main roads and highways, which was very dangerous. I later went to Saudi Arabia to announce the news from a secret radio station,” he said.
The disaster of the invasion showed Kuwaitis were united. “Our people were united during the invasion and they were volunteering in all fields. Many Kuwaitis wanted to join us at the secret station, but they couldn’t as it was forbidden to enter this area – it was only for some journalists. Many Kuwaiti women were sending messages to international radio stations such as the BBC and Monte Carlo. Also, tens of volunteering centers in Saudi Arabia and other GCC counties allowed volunteers to register with them, and thousands of Kuwaiti did so,” Mustafa explained.
Documentation is important.
“We have a serious problem of not documenting all events. We who lived through the invasion are now telling the stories that we witnessed during that period, but I wonder what will happen after we pass away. We should concentrate on documenting all information that we have from that sad period of our history. NGOs, public bodies and even individuals have the responsibility for this documentation,” concluded Mustafa.
Shock and disbelief
Aziza Al-Bassam, member of the Kuwait Social Association and a pioneer in volunteering, narrated her experience during the invasion. “I was shocked when I heard the news on the radio on August 2, 1990 and couldn’t believe it. I went to work at Dasma library, and on the way I saw Iraqi soldiers in the streets and I realized it was true. We lived through horrible experiences, but we were like one family helping each other in buying food, sharing water and so on,” she said.
She helped at the elderly house and orphanage. “These institutions were badly affected by the invasion, as many employees left, especially the expats who didn’t want to die here. So we tried to take care of the people there, and I along with the neighbors assigned the children to different families to share in taking care of them as well as the elderly people,” noted Bassam.
More attendees of the panel discussion who witnessed the invasion spoke about their experiences. One former Kuwaiti soldier said he survived after an Iraqi soldier let him go along with his colleagues, which shows that many Iraqi soldiers were against the invasion and were forced to participate to avoid being sentenced to death.
By Nawara Fattahova
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