The Gulf War:
Overreaction & Excessiveness
By Hassan A El-Najjar
Amazone Press, 2001
The Root of Subsequent US Invasion of the Middle East
America was dragged into conflict
with the Arab and Muslim worlds
TERROR AND ETHNIC CLEANSING
the 1991 Gulf War, Palestinians in Kuwait were reduced from a thriving
immigrant community of more than 400,000 to less than 30,000 in 1998.
Kuwaitis forced them out of the country using a systematic and violent
campaign of ethnic cleansing. The Palestinian official support for
Iraq during the crisis was used as an excuse for that campaign.
The Kuwaiti atrocities
started during the crisis in 1990 but intensified as soon as the war
ended in February 28, 1991. The terror campaign was shielded in the
West by a censored and euphoric media. While television networks were
extensive in their coverage of the war, they did very little to cover
the Kuwaiti campaign against Palestinians. A few number of newspapers
covered major events but they were not systematic. More important is
that this subject is still avoided not only by the media but also by
the coalition leaders. This chapter explores that dark stage of
inter-Arab relations. It starts with an introduction about how
Palestinians came to Kuwait to become the largest Palestinian
community outside Palestine and Jordan. This is followed by a
comprehensive documentation of the campaign that has been avoided so
far by the authors who wrote about the Gulf War. The chapter ends with
an analysis of the Kuwaiti official explanations of the atrocities.
Palestinians came to Kuwait early in the twentieth century. In
1932, the Mufti of Palestine, Haj Amin Al- Hussaini, toured Islamic
countries collecting donations for repairing Al-Aqsa Mosque of
Jerusalem. Muslims everywhere competed for participating in that
endeavor. Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber, ruler of Kuwait at that time, invited
the Mufti to come to Kuwait for that purpose. Following that visit,
the Shaikh requested him to send a number of Palestinian educators to
In response, the first Palestinians arrived in 1936, as explained in
However, the first major wave of
Palestinian immigrants came as a result of the 1948 war. The
establishment of Israel in that year changed the vast majority of the
Palestinian people into refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan,
Lebanon, and Syria. In order to remove them from the borders of
Israel, the United Nations (UN) planned for their emigration to other
parts of the Middle East. An ambitious educational program was adopted
to prepare them for integration in the economies of the area,
particularly those of the oil-rich Arab states. The UN educational
program was so successful that the Palestinian level of higher
education in the 1970s was among the highest in the world. The ratio
of Palestinian college students to the general Palestinian population
was 20/1000 in 1977. Among the refugee segment of the population, it
was even higher reaching about 47/1000 in 1986.
For other leading societies, the ratio was 30/1000 for the U.S.,
18/1000 for USSR, 9/1000 for France, 8/1000 for England, and 4/1000
for the Arab states as a whole.
Majority of the early Palestinians
who emigrated to Kuwait, in the 1950s, were men. While many of them
were young and unmarried, most of the married had left their families
in Palestine or other neighboring Arab states. They came to Kuwait to
make a living and to save up some money to send back home. They did
not think about settling there. Therefore, they led a restricted
social life that contributed little to their integration into the
Kuwaiti society. The Palestinian teachers in the Kuwaiti island of
Failaka represented this category of early immigrants. They lived
together in one home in order to save up some money to help their
families or their parents, back home. Once, they invited a British
social anthropologist, Peter Lienhardt, to their place of residence.
To his surprise, he discovered that they were not thinking about their
life in Kuwait. Rather, it was Palestine that was living in their
minds. It was very important for them to explain to him how the
problem of Palestine started. They told him that Britain was
responsible for the Palestinian problem. Through the 1917 Balfour
declaration, Britain adopted the Zionist project that aimed at the
establishment of Israel on the expense of the Palestinian people. They
also blamed the United States for supporting Israel.
The behavior of these Palestinians in Kuwait, in the 1950s, may be
considered representative of the behavior of Palestinians elsewhere
until the late 1960s. They could not believe the injustice committed
by Britain, the U.S., and Israel against them. Their country was taken
from them by force; then, they were evicted from their towns and
villages to live in refugee camps. Moreover, they were expected to
forget the whole problem and live quietly in their camps. However,
they have not accepted that unjust arrangement and decided to become
self-reliant. Education enabled them to achieve that goal through
getting jobs abroad. They were the pioneers who inspired younger
generations of Palestinians to pursue higher education as the
salvation from the humiliation and poverty in the refugee camps.
Throughout the 1950s, Palestinians
were treated very well by Kuwaitis to the extent that the first
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman, Ahmed Al-Shukairi,
expressed his gratitude for that treatment during his visit to Kuwait
in 1964. His host Shaikh Sabah Al-Salem, then Foreign Minister and
later the Emir, replied that Palestinians deserved to be well treated
because of their skills and hard work. "Look at them. Among them
is the best surgeon, the best doctor, and the best administrator.
Without these skills, they would not have been appointed to these
positions," he said.
In recognition for their sincere services, about two thousand of the
Palestinian pioneers were granted the Kuwaiti citizenship.
These pioneers in Kuwait and other
Gulf states played a major role in leading the Palestinian people in
the struggle for their rights in Palestine. They participated in the
establishment of various Palestinian political parties and
organizations. Actually, Yasser Arafat and several other Palestinian
leaders worked in Kuwait. Like other oil-rich Arab states, Kuwait was
also the destination of many Palestinians who were looking for
employment. Some of these reached Kuwait through very long and
dangerous underground roads since several Arab states restricted their
movement following the 1948 war. They ventured through the deserts of
Jordan, Syria, and Iraq in order to avoid border checkpoints. Many of
them died or were arrested then brought back to their camps, villages,
or towns. The stories of these men inspired the Palestinian writer,
Ghassan Kanafani, to write his novel, "Men under the Sun,"
in which he described these adventures.
Kanafani himself was an example of these pioneer leaders, as explained
in Appendix X.B.
By the end of the 1960s, Palestinians
graduating from colleges and universities constituted the major Arab
group of contenders for jobs in the economies of the oil-exporting
Arab states, including Kuwait. The 1967 war convinced Palestinians
that their stay in these states was becoming permanent. Their behavior
started to change from using practical tactics for temporary stay to
adopting strategies that aimed at permanent residence there. This
meant that after getting jobs, Palestinian employees would get married
or bring families, rent homes or apartments, and spend most of their
income wherever they lived. In spite of their attempt to be permanent
residents, Kuwait and the other Gulf states did not grant the vast
majority of immigrants, including Palestinians, a permanent-resident
status or citizenship. They had to live officially as temporary
residents no matter how long they stayed in the country, even if they
were born there.
of Palestinian Emigration
Palestinians experienced four main waves of emigration as a
result of the 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1982 wars. The first wave followed
the 1948 war, which was the culmination of developments that go back
to the beginning of the century. On November 2, 1917, Britain issued
the Balfour Declaration in which it promised to help create a Jewish
homeland in Palestine. This led to the Palestinian struggle in order
to gain independence from the British and to protect the unity of the
country. Neither of these goals was achieved. Instead, the 1948 war
resulted in the biggest Palestinian suffering. About one million
Palestinians became refugees. Their homes and possessions were either
destroyed or confiscated by the Israelis. After the war, they were
neither allowed to return to their towns and villages nor were they
compensated for the loss of their possessions, as called for by the UN
resolution 194. Thus, they have remained in refugee camps in the West
Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria ever since.
The second wave of Palestinian
emigration was in 1956 when Israel participated with Britain and
France in attacking Egypt. On their way to the Suez Canal, the
Israelis occupied the Gaza Strip. As a result, hundreds of
Palestinians were killed and thousands were injured. This led many
Palestinians to leave the Strip to Jordan and other countries,
including Kuwait. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had to go
through the same bitter experience for the third time, a decade later.
During the 1967 war, Israel occupied the Arab territories of the West
Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai, and the Syrian Heights. The Israeli
occupation split families and made their union impossible. People had
to choose between being under the Israeli occupation, thus staying
separated from other migrant members of their families, or leaving the
occupied territories to be united with other family members or
relatives abroad. A new wave of Palestinian emigration started first
to Jordan, then to other countries, particularly to the oil-exporting
Arab states. This was the time when the largest influx of Palestinians
to Kuwait happened. That wave of immigrants was different from the
previous ones in that it included more women and children.
Additionally, more temporary immigrants became permanent. Successive
Israeli governments adopted a policy of uprooting Palestinians. People
were given travel permits for three-year periods. As a result, many of
them lost their residence status in the occupied territories when they
stayed abroad for more than three years.
The fourth Palestinian wave of
immigration resulted from the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s and the
Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Many Palestinians left Lebanon to
several countries all over the world but few of them went to Kuwait,
as Kuwaitis were determined not to receive them this time. By 1982,
the 4.4 million Palestinians were uncomfortably dispersed in the
Middle East and around the world. Various countries tried hard to keep
the status quo by restricting their movement. Kuwait, for example, had
299,710 Palestinians who constituted about 22 percent of the
population. This was the second largest Palestinian community outside
Palestine and Jordan. Lebanon had the largest community, which
numbered 358,207 constituting about 11 percent of the population
Kuwaitis started to fear that
Palestinians may exceed them in number. This would mean a serious
demographic challenge to the Kuwaiti population. Actually, by 1990,
Palestinians became very close to Kuwaitis in number. While Kuwaiti
citizens were about 564,262, Palestinians reached about 450,000 (Table
X.2; Table I.2). The Kuwaiti government could have solved the problem
of demographic imbalance by granting citizenship to qualified
immigrants. However, it decided not to do so. In addition, it took
several measures that aimed at decreasing the entry of Palestinians
into the country and making their stay there more difficult. Moreover,
Kuwaiti officials started planning to get rid of the Palestinians
altogether. The Palestinian official support for Iraq during the 1990
crisis gave them the excuse they were looking for to evict the entire
Palestinian community from the country.
Campaign of Ethnic Cleansing
The Kuwaiti government has succeeded in creating and
perpetuating an ethnic identity for its citizens that has
distinguished them from Arab immigrants. Hundreds of thousands of
these immigrants were subjected to a terror campaign after the 1991
war that led to forcing them out of the country. Thus, the term
"Ethnic Cleansing" is not an oversight or an exaggeration.
It refers to the eviction of Arab immigrants, mainly Palestinians,
from Kuwait following the Gulf War. Actually, the word
"cleansing" itself was used by the Emir (ruler) of Kuwait in
describing the eviction.
Several Kuwaiti officials were cited in the Western media using the
same word in their description of the eviction campaign.
Before the war
Before the 1990 crisis, some official sources estimated that
Palestinians in Kuwait were about 400,000,
others estimated them to be about 450,000.
Between the beginning of summer of 1990 and the start of the war on
January 17, 1991, many Palestinians were either on vacation outside
Kuwait or left the country because of the crisis. Majority of them
left to Jordan because they were Jordanian nationals. Following the
war, the remaining Palestinians were estimated at about 180,000.
However, most of them left during 1991, as a result of the campaign
that aimed at evicting them from the country. By April, they became
and by August, they were reduced to about 100,000.
Some Kuwaiti officials, like Said Abdul-Aziz Abu-Abbas of the Defense
Ministry, revealed from the beginning that only 30,000 would be
allowed to stay.
According to a Western diplomat, only about 15,000 to 20,000 essential
Palestinians would be allowed to stay in the country.
By 1995, there were only 26,000 Palestinians in Kuwait (Table
X.1), which confirmed the above-mentioned Kuwaiti plans of eviction.
Those who remained were mainly from
occupied Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza Strip) and Lebanon. They
stayed because they could not find any country that would accept them,
particularly the countries which host or control the main Palestinian
communities in the Middle East: namely Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon,
The Israeli policy focused on
dispersing Palestinians rather than allowing them to come back to the
West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Jordan allowed only Palestinians with Jordanian passports to stay. The
total number of Palestinians who came to Jordan was about 360,000.
While about 300,000 stayed in Jordan, about 4,000 went to Saudi
Arabia and other Gulf states. About 21,000 immigrated to Canada,
Australia, and other developed societies. The U.S. received 2,200 of
these, mainly because they had American-born family members, as
mentioned in Appendix X.C. The rest returned to the Palestinian
Egypt and Lebanon, which used to
issue travel documents to Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and Lebanon,
did not give them return visas. Thus, they could not enter these two
states. More important was the fact that these Palestinians did not
have any other home than Kuwait. For them, leaving would mean becoming
homeless and jobless. Many of them experienced that difficult
situation in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1982. They did not want to be
exposed to that humiliation again in 1991. This is why they stayed
when Kuwaitis were leaving. During the first hours of the Iraqi
invasion, the Kuwaiti government left to Saudi Arabia. This encouraged
Kuwaitis to leave the country, as well. They received financial aid
from their government (in-exile) and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
states. No government offered Palestinians any help; therefore, they
had no other alternative but to stay in Kuwait throughout the crisis,
the war, and the stage of persecution that followed.
A terror campaign against
Palestinians in Kuwait started during the Iraqi rule. They were the
target of several explosions that also killed Iraqis and workers from
other countries. In particular, the Kuwaiti resistance was responsible
for four major explosions and several small explosions before the war.
The explosions occurred in the predominantly-Palestinian neighborhoods
of Al-Adasani, Al-Hassawi, Khitan, and Amman Street. They resulted in
Killing 46 and injuring 99 people most of whom were Palestinians.
The first explosion was in October
1990 in Al-Hassawi neighborhood, which was inhabited by Palestinians
and workers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Sudan. The
explosion resulted in killing twenty-two and wounding thirty-five
people. There were five Palestinians and four Iraqis among the dead.
The rest were from different nationalities. The Second explosion was
also in October and occurred in Al-Adasani neighborhood, which was
inhabited mainly by Palestinians. It resulted in killing three and
wounding twenty-three Palestinians and one Indian. The third explosion
was in November 1990, in Al-Hassawi neighborhood, killing seven and
wounding thirty-seven people. While majority of the injured were
Palestinians, the dead were four Iraqis, two Palestinians, and one
Kuwaiti. The fourth explosion occurred in Khitan neighborhood, in
December 1990. It resulted in killing eleven and wounding eighteen
people. Among the dead were six Iraqis, three Palestinians, a Syrian,
and an Asian worker. The wounded were eight Palestinians, three
Bidoons (without citizenship), two Iraqis, and the rest were Asians.
Finally, in January 1991, several small explosions targeted
Palestinians in a commercial area known as Amman Street. Six people
were killed and twenty were injured the vast majority of whom were
After the war
The terror campaign against Palestinians intensified after the
war reaching a persecution stage. The Emir, the Crown Prince, and
other senior members of Al-Sabah family led the campaign from the
beginning. The Crown Prince reiterated his threats of vengeance
against Palestinians of Kuwait in an interview with Robert Fisk of the
London newspaper, The Independent, on February 21, 1991. He called for
"cleansing" Kuwait of "fifth columnists." On March
13, the Guardian cited government officials expressing the need to
"clean out" the Palestinian neighborhoods. On April 3, a
Kuwaiti army officer boasted to the American newspaper "USA
Today" that the country was being "cleansed" of
Palestinians. In his speech of April 8, 1991, the Emir also urged
Kuwaitis to continue the campaign of "cleansing" Kuwait of
the alleged "fifth columnists." On May 8, 1991, the
government newspaper, Sawt Al-Kuwait, claimed that Palestinians
committed a collective crime during the crisis when they engaged in a
"concerted attempt to cripple Kuwaiti civil disobedience against
the Iraqis." In the August 6, 1991 issue, the newspaper stated
that Kuwait could not be secure as long as the fifth columnists are
still inside the country.
Apparently, the "fifth columnists" is a reference to
Palestinians, Iraqis, Sudanese, Yemenis, and other Arabs whose
countries supported the Iraqi position.
The terror campaign after the war
started as early as the arrival of the Kuwaiti forces on February 26,
1991. Kuwaiti militants were quoted saying that they would shoot
suspected Palestinians when they found them in their apartments. Four
main militia groups and two state institutions participated in a
concerted effort to terrorize and persecute Palestinians in Kuwait.
Two of the militias were headed by the state security officers Adel
Al-Gallaf and Hussain Al-Dishti. The third was headed by Amin
Al-Hindi, a gangster who specialized in rape, torture, stealing, and
killing. The fourth was the group known as August 2nd,
which specialized in psychological warfare against Palestinians. The
army and the police forces represented the two state institutions that
were involved in this terror campaign.
Two Palestinians were shot dead near
a traffic circle, on February 27.
On March 2, Kuwaiti tanks and soldiers rolled into Palestinian
communities, mainly Hawalli. House-to-house searches for weapons and
alleged collaborators resulted in the arrest of hundreds of
People were also arrested at checkpoints for no reason other than
being Palestinians. Typically, they were beaten instantly then taken
to police and detention centers where they were tortured for
Despite the military censorship,
newspapers began to report a dramatic rise in the number of injured
Palestinians in Mubarak Hospital.
Scores of people were treated from severe beating and torture. Six
Palestinians were brought to the Hospital shot dead in the head,
By the third week of March, hundreds of people were treated from
torture injuries and thousands stayed in detention centers for
Amnesty International reported that the torture of Palestinians was
continuing in Kuwait by the third week of April. A 24-year-old
Palestinian had been beaten for hours, had acid thrown over him, and
had been subjected to electric shock torture.
The terror campaign continued
throughout 1991 achieving its main objective: terrorizing Palestinians
enough so that they would leave the country. To expedite the process,
the government took several other measures to evict those who did not
leave. First, Palestinians working for the government were fired or
not rehired. Second, Palestinian children were kicked out of public
schools and subsidies for their education in private schools were
stopped. Third, new fees became required for health services. Fourth,
housing rents increased and people were asked by Kuwaiti landlords to
pay rent for the entire crisis-period.
More important were the feelings of
injustice and insecurity Palestinians began to experience as a result
of the terror campaign. It became unsafe to walk in streets or to stay
at home. Rape stories functioned as a decisive pushing factor for the
remaining Palestinian families. The "censored" Western media
rarely reported on this part of the campaign. The CNN TV network
covered one of these rape stories. Lubbadah
told the same story together with many others. The Middle East Watch
group also told several stories of rape.
On May 27, 1991, several members of a
Kuwaiti militia group entered the apartment of a newly married
Palestinian couple. They divided themselves into two groups. One group
took the twenty-six year old bride, Najah Yusuf As'ad, to one room
where they raped her one after the other then they shot her with nine
bullets in the head. The other group took the thirty-year old groom,
Muhammed Musa Mahmood Mustafa, to another room where they also raped
him one after the other then they shot him with four bullets in his
spine. When they finished committing their crimes, they sat in the
apartment, drank tea, then called the bride's family several times
telling them what happened to their daughter. Another story was about
A.M.M., an eighteen-year old Palestinian girl. She was kidnapped and
gang-raped for two days then was brought to Mubarak Hospital on May
25, 1991. Her family said that she was kidnapped in front of her house
by Kuwaiti young men. A third story was about S.M.A.D., a twelve-year
old Palestinian girl, who was also kidnapped in front of her house in
Al-Rumaithiyah, on June 6, 1991. She was also gang-raped for two days
by a group of Kuwaitis. A fourth story was about F.M.A.F, a
fifteen-years old Palestinian girl, who was kidnapped in front of her
house in Al-Farwaniyah, on June 4, 1991. She was raped for two days
then was brought to Al-Adan Hospital. Finally, a Palestinian woman in
her fifties was kidnapped and raped by a group of Kuwaiti men about
the same age. A Kuwaiti man approached her offering help. He gave her
an address where she can receive social assistance. When she went to
the address, she was kidnapped and raped for a week by several Kuwaiti
men who then left her in a deserted area.
The government also intensified its
efforts to evict the remaining Palestinians directly through
deportation. Between the middle of June and the first week of July
1991, about 10,000 Palestinians were deported to the Iraqi border.
On July 8, the Minister of Interior Affairs, Ahmed Hamoud Al-Jaber Al-Sabah,
announced that there were about 1,000 more Palestinians in detention
camps waiting for deportation.
Actually, these deportations forced tens of thousands of other
Palestinians to leave, mainly family members, because they could not
practically stay when the head of the household or the main bread
winner was deported.
The deportees were dumped at the
Iraqi border near Safwan. Gradually, it became known as the Safwan
Refugee Camp. Many of the deportees to this camp were tortured and
brutally beaten by Kuwaiti troops. In most cases people were simply
"dumped" there without any legal deportation procedures.
Typically, people were arrested at checkpoints, then beaten and
tortured to admit that they were collaborators. If they did not admit,
they would be deported to Safwan Camp.
One of the Camp deportees was Fayiz Nadir, a 23-year-old Palestinian.
He was burned 10 times with an iron on his arms, feet, and head.
Another one was Abdul Qadir, a 30-year-old Algerian. He was arrested
together with Fayiz Nadir for two weeks. He saw 109 men in the
detention center with their hands tied behind their backs, often
blindfolded. When the men were brought to the interrogation, they were
kicked and jabbed with gun butts. Electrical wires were put on their
fingers and temples. They were given water twice a day and food once
every four days.
A Sudanese truck driver, Mustafa Hamzah, was arrested and blindfolded
for two weeks in the Salmiya Girls' Secondary School. He named the
Kuwaiti 1st Lt. Abdul Latif Al-Anzi as the person who was in charge of
that detention center. A Palestinian deportee told the New York Human
Rights Group that he was tortured in that school. They burned him with
a cattle brand, beat him, then dumped him by a roadside.
Prince and the Goon Squad
The Crown Prince returned to Kuwait on March 4, 1991, ten days
before the Emir. As the terror campaign increased, he became wary of
the atrocities committed against innocent people. Therefore, he issued
instructions to Kuwaiti police officers not to mistreat Palestinians
on nationality basis only. Nevertheless, police centers became
headquarters for the oppression and persecution of Palestinians in the
country. On March 19, the government resigned under criticism of
Abdullah Al-Nibari, who was the
spokesman of the opposition group "the Democratic Forum,"
called for the formation of a national-unity government that would
include opposition leaders. Moreover, opposition groups called for the
removal of the three senior figures of Al-Sabah family who held the
portfolios of Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Interior ministries. These
were Sabah Al-Ahmed, Ali Al-Khalifa, and Nawaf Al-Ahmed, respectively.
The three shaikhs were unhappy when
they knew that they were not included in the new government that was
formed on April 1991. In particular, Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmed was the
most outraged. Therefore, he backed the defiance of the Younger Sabahs
for the Crown Prince. A new wave of terror started by the militias,
the army, and the police against innocent Palestinians in an attempt
to disturb the peace the Crown Prince was trying to restore. This
provoked the Crown Prince to acknowledge the abuses in a speech aired
on TV, on May 26, 1991.
He also vowed to prosecute anyone responsible even if he were his only
He added that residents of Kuwait were living in the "shadow of
terror, fear, and fright," and that certain elements were
detaining residents of Kuwait and handing them over to police stations
where they would be "tortured." He also urged the senior
officers of the Ministry of Interior Affairs to "remove
disillusioned and bad elements in the Ministry who do not want
security and stability as much as they want fulfill their
In defiance, a hysterical wave of
persecution against Palestinians spread in the streets, neighborhoods,
and homes, the following day. People were beaten, harassed, and taken
to police centers to be tortured without any reason other than being
Moreover, majority of senior police officers (about 80) presented
their resignations, in protest to the Crown Prince's speech. The New
reported that they were fired. However, the biggest defiance to the
Crown Prince's bid for peace and public order came from the Young
Sabahs, known as the "goon squad."
As early as March 5, 1991, Kuwaitis
became aware of the existence of a group composed of members of Al-Sabah
family whose aim was to punish and assassinate opponents, as Chairman
of the Gulf Bank of Kuwait Abdul Aziz Sultan told the ABC-TV's
According to a Western diplomat, six or seven of the younger members
of Al-Sabah family shortly after February 27 commandeered armored
personnel carriers and took over army checkpoints to "ferret out
and abuse Palestinians." They also formed goon squads to carry
out special attacks.
Although their names were not published in the American media, the
American Embassy in Kuwait gave the Crown Prince a list of them.
They were Jarrah, Du'aij Al-Salman, Nasser Al-Ahmed, Ahmed Fahd
Al-Ahmed, and Fahd Sa'ad Al-Abdullah, the Crown Prince's son. In
addition, Bassil Salem Sabah took over the Nugra Police Center in the
largest Palestinian neighborhood.
Their militias kidnapped, tortured, and killed Palestinians
indiscriminately, without trial or due process.
The Young Sabahs acted as vigilantes
despite warnings from the Crown Prince that they would be hanged
"from the lamp-posts" if they continued such acts. The
defiance attracted more of the attention of the Crown Prince, Shaikh
Sa'ad, to the violent activities of this group.
During the last week of March, the Crown Prince met with 11
Palestinians for 45 minutes. He gave them assurances that anyone who
would break the law would be punished.
He also reiterated that if the Young Sabahs continued in their attacks
on innocent people, he would "hang them from the
The "goon squad" was suspected of the assassination attempt
on the life of the opposition leader, Hamad Al-Jaw'an.
He was shot in the chest during the first week after the war. Before
shooting him, the gunman wanted to make himself known to the victim by
asking him repeatedly: "Do you know me?" The story was very
much similar to the assassination story of the Palestinian dentist,
Salim Mukhtar. His assassin also repeatedly asked him: "Do you
recognize me?" before shooting him twice in the back of the head,
once in the neck, and once in the chest. Salim Mukhtar was a
56-year-old dentist, a writer, and a widely respected figure among
Palestinians in Kuwait. He was pulled over by a white Mercedes with
blinking (police) blue lights before he was assassinated.
Mukhtar was known as the dentist of several members of Al-Sabah family
and his assassin knew him very well.
the Terror Campaign
The terror campaign resulted in killing and torturing of
thousands of people the vast majority of whom were Palestinians. This
is very well documented in hundreds of articles published during 1991
in several newspapers, such as (in an alphabetical order) the Atlanta
Journal and Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Christian
Science Monitor, Detroit News, Guardian, Los Angeles Times, New York
Times, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, and the Washington Post.
However, a major criticism that can be raised against the media
coverage is that it was censored by the coalition military command.
The Boston Globe published an Editor's note about the military
censorship. It stated that "press restrictions imposed by the
U.S.-led military command in Saudi Arabia require journalists with US
troops to work under military escort and to submit their reports to
Appendix X.D explains how that military censorship worked.
As a result, these articles did not
give a systematic coverage that would enable researchers to count
casualties and injuries. Moreover, they did not publish names of
Kuwaitis, including those members of Al-Sabah family, who were
commandeering the campaign. However, the Kuwaiti atrocities were
documented in several reports published by international
organizations. The first was a report written by Aziz Abu-Hamad,
Andrew Whitely, Kenneth Roth, and Ann Lesch for the "Middle East
Watch," as a result of visiting Kuwait on March and June of 1991.
The second was from the testimonies of Kenenth Roth the deputy
director of the "Human Rights Watch," John G. Healey the
executive director of "Amnesty International U.S.A.," and
Michael Posner the executive director of the "Lawyers’
Committee for Human Rights."
Muhammed Khairi Lubbadah was a
Palestinian medical doctor who worked in Mubarak Hospital in Kuwait
City for sixteen years. Like thousands of the remaining Palestinians
in the country, he was fired from his work in July 1991. His book
is a documentation of the atrocities that were committed during the
first five months following the return of the Kuwaiti rulers, after
the war. The book is based on his work in the Hospital's emergency
room. In addition, he benefited from his Palestinian social network,
which enabled him to know more information about Palestinian victims
than did journalists and human rights groups.
Dr. Lubbadah estimated that about
4,000 people were killed and 16,000 were tortured in the Kuwaiti
detention and interrogation centers. Although most of these were
Palestinians, they also included Iraqis, Yemenis, Sudanese, and other
Arab immigrants. His evidence was based on his observations as well as
the discovery of the mass graves in several cemeteries. In Mushrif and
Bayan cemeteries, three mass graves were discovered containing 40, 67,
and 110 corpses respectively. In Al-Riqqa cemetery, 20 mass graves
were discovered with 110-220 corpses found in each.
One support for Lubbadah's figures was a list of about 2,000
Palestinians, which was given to Kuwaiti officials by Palestinian
leaders. They were missing since February 26, 1991 and their families
believed that they were abducted by Kuwaiti police, soldiers, or
Since they could not be located in detention centers, then they might
have been dead.
The Western media reported a much
smaller number of victims than Lubbadah did. This may be attributed to
the military censorship, which made reporting sporadic and less
comprehensive than Lubbadah’s account. Jack Kelley reported that 120
Palestinians were killed, 500 missing, 1,500 jailed, and 6,000
detained from February 26 to the first week of May.
About 3,500 of these were arrested at checkpoints, until March 13.
The Middle East Watch report mentioned that the total number of
corpses found in Al-Riqqa cemetery was 240.
The Boston Globe
reported that Al-Riqqa mass graves were holding 6-10 each, but these
figures represented what was discovered until March 27. The New York
reported that 20 mass graves were discovered in Al-Riqqa cemetery.
Apparently, there was an agreement between Lubbadah’s account and
these figures on the number of mass graves, but they were different in
the number of corpses in each grave. The truth may never be known
unless a Palestinian-led investigation is allowed by the Kuwaiti
government. Until this happens, the blood and pains of these victims
will continue calling for justice.
Victims of the Kuwaiti terror campaign, dead or survivors
alike, were brutally tortured. An Amnesty International team testified
that starting from February 26, 1991, non-Kuwaitis were brutally
tortured by Kuwaiti armed forces and members of resistance groups.
People were either gunned down in public or taken away, tortured, and
killed in secret. Victims were plucked from their homes, taken from
streets or arrested at checkpoints, and tortured in police stations,
schools, and other makeshift detention centers. The main methods of
torture were beating, electric shocks, prolonged deprivation of food
and water. Beatings with sticks, hose pipes, and rifle-butts, and
whippings with electric cables appeared to be the norm. Other methods
of torture included burning with cigarettes, candles, and acid,
cutting with knives, biting, and threats of execution or sexual
Torture also included pushing bottles up rectums and dropping hot wax
on sensitive parts of the body.
Dr. Lubbadah mentioned a story about
a corpse of a Palestinian young man who was brought to Mubarak
Hospital by some militia members. For several days and nights, the
young man was tied to the wall naked. Prostitutes were used to arouse
him sexually, and then he would be hit with an electric stick on his
penis until it bleeds. His shoulder was partially dismembered with ax
hits, his left eye was taken out, and his body was covered with
A Palestinian medical student,
Muhammed Al-Aloul who worked in Mubarak Hospital, said that he treated
a Palestinian young man's face with 55 stitches. The patient was
accompanied by a Kuwaiti soldier. He also treated a 16-year-old
Palestinian with a fractured arm and a cut on his head.
A Palestinian young man, called Azmi,
was taken from his house for no wrongdoing. They took him because they
could not find his neighbor. They punctured his lung, hit him with
ropes, feet, and sticks. His kidneys failed and his back was a morass
of black melts and burns caused by cigarettes and lighters. There were
also several cuts and a larger wound covered by a surgical dressing.
He had injuries to the head and other parts of his body. Another
39-year-old Palestinian, called Shaker Ali, was also never charged,
never glimpsed a courtroom or a magistrate. He was found in the street
with bruises all over his body and small internal wounds on the jaw
and around the eyes. The big toe nail of his left foot was removed. On
his back, there were signs of cigarette burns. His left leg was
amputated below the knee because of infection resulting from his
injuries, which went untreated for a week. He suffered a kidneys
failure due to the beating, which will put him on dialysis for the
rest of his life.
The USA Today reporter, Jack Kelly,
visited Ward 18 of the Farwaniya Hospital, which housed the beaten and
tortured Palestinians and Iraqis. He found a 60-year-old Iraqi whose
skin was darkened with welts and bruises. When he asked the reporter
for help, a soldier told him to shut up and escorted the reporter out
at gunpoint. He found three Iraqis, two Palestinians, and one Egyptian
there. All were badly beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti soldiers. After
treating them, they took them back where they were more beaten and
tortured. The beatings did not stop at the hospital, doctors said.
Soldiers frequently slapped patients on their faces and hit them with
During the crisis and after the war, the Kuwaiti government
worked hard to win the public opinion inside the coalition countries.
This provided Kuwaitis with sympathy before the war and a cover-up
after. In the United States, the Kuwaiti embassy employed three
American public-relations firms, dozens of image-makers, a team of
lawyers, and a squad of Washington lobbyists. After the war, the
Rendon Group for public relations was contracted to improve the image
of Kuwaitis that was damaged as a result of the horrors of the terror
In order to get more sympathy,
several exaggerated stories were told about suffering in Kuwait. While
in exile, the Kuwaiti government maintained that 25,000 citizens were
killed or missing. After the war, it became clear that the number of
Kuwaitis who were both killed and missing during the Iraqi rule was
about two thousands.
Also during the Iraqi rule of Kuwait, Amnesty International reported
that a large number of Kuwaiti babies died after Iraqi troops had
removed them from their incubators at the hospital. A huge Kuwaiti
public relations campaign capitalized on that story to the extent that
most newspapers, magazines, and TV stations reported it. The climax
was presenting the story to the Congress in a public hearing. After
the war, Amnesty International apologized for its report because
"it found no reliable evidence to support that story."
The Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, Saud Nasser Al-Sabah was
a major player in that public relations effort. On July 3, USA Today
quoted him denying the terror campaign in Kuwait. He said: "I'm
yet to be confronted with any case that was committed by a Kuwaiti
citizen against any others in Kuwait. I have no evidence whatsoever;
nobody has ever confronted me with this. These are speculations and
What helped Kuwaitis most in their
cover-up campaign was the position of the coalition leaders who
brought them back to Kuwait. These leaders did not tell Kuwaitis to
stop their atrocities against Palestinians in the country. Chairman of
the Middle East Watch, Gary Sick, announced that he sent a letter to
the Secretary of Defense, Richard (Dick) Cheney about the Kuwaiti
abuses. In the letter, he complained that the U.S. troops watched the
abuses and did not interfere to stop them. He also mentioned the
report of the British journalist, Robert Fisk of the Independent,
about that. Fisk reported that three Kuwaiti soldiers were beating up
a Palestinian boy on a bicycle, on March 4. Fisk and another reporter
physically restrained the soldiers but the American Special Forces
troops accompanying the Kuwaitis did nothing to help.
Officially, the American position was
represented by the situation that faced the 29-year-old 1st Lt.
Charles Hoskinson, a U.S. Army officer, of Fairfax, Virginia. He was
approached by a Palestinian woman asking him about her disappeared
son. He did nothing except referring her to Kuwaitis. He was caught
between Palestinian requests for aid and the American official policy
of letting Kuwaitis take over their own affairs.
Lt. Col. Ron Smith was one of the 40-member 352nd Civil Affairs
Command. His job as an advisor to the Ministry of Interior gave
another example of the American position. He and his assistant,
Sergeant John Amico, and their Kuwaiti translator Fayiz spent their
days bouncing from police stations to detention centers and hospitals.
Their job was nothing more than asking questions about what was going
on. When the Palestinian dentist Salim Mukhtar was killed, Smith went
to Mubarak Hospital to verify the incident. He sighed saying:
"All I can do is ask the question and hope that it has an
However, several American officials
disapproved publicly of the Kuwaiti abuses. The U.S. Ambassador Edward
Ghnem acknowledged the Kuwaiti abuses. He said that there were
"elements out there taking actions on their own ... launching
attacks on Palestinians and others."
Ambassador Gnehm also told reporters that he had "furnished the
(Kuwaiti) Government with the names of places and people. The
Government has never denied that these things are going on."
When three months passed and the campaign did not stop, Ambassador
Gnehm criticized the Kuwaiti human rights abuses openly on June 6,
1991, during a speech in the Kuwaiti Chamber of Commerce.
California Representative Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), Chairman
of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Relations,
protested the abuses in a letter to the Kuwaiti ambassador. He told
him: "Our troops did not fight and die to achieve this end."
In spite of the concern expressed by
ambassador Ghnem and some members of Congress, senior members of the
Bush administration did not share with them their concern for human
rights. During a June 12 Hearing, Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.)
commented to Secretary of State James Baker that: "Down in
Kuwait, the torture and rape ... continues under the Emir."
Secretary Baker responded by emphasizing that the war was fought only
to combat Iraq, not to establish respect for human rights in Kuwait.
This position was also expressed by President Bush. In an interview
published in The Orange County Register, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the
U.S. Saud Al-Sabah told Jonathan Broder that President Bush had told
him during a visit to the White House, "We didn't fight this war
for democracy or those trials. Don't be intimidated by what's going
Even in their accounts or published
books about the Gulf war, the political and military leaders of the
coalition did not mention anything about these Kuwaiti atrocities. In
his book that he authored with Scowcroft
and before that in an interview with the Public TV station, PBS, in
January 1996, President Bush never mentioned the issue. Secretary of
State, James Baker, followed the same strategy of President Bush.
Throughout his book,
he never mentioned a word about the Kuwaiti terror campaign against
Palestinians. General Colin Powell's book
was also void of any accounts or remarks about the topic. The Saudi
commander of the Arab coalition forces, General Khaled Bin Sultan,
also never mentioned the issue in his book.
The American commander of the coalition, General Norman Schwarzkopf,
wrote few lines about retaliation against Iraqis but failed to mention
Palestinians. He said that Colonel Jesse Johnson was the chief of
Central Command's special forces. His "advisors had been attached
to the Arab units throughout the campaign and would accompany them
into the (Kuwait) City. One of their responsibilities was to remind
our allies, the Kuwaitis in particular, not to retaliate against Iraqi
prisoners ... We didn't want any war crimes on our hands."
Kuwaitis tried to justify their atrocities against Palestinians
in Kuwait as a punishment for their position during the crisis. The
Palestinian official support for Iraq in the Arab League and for the
"Linkage" argument was used as a pretext for the campaign.
Palestinians were also accused of collaboration with the Iraqi
authorities in Kuwait.
Support for Iraq in the Arab League
The Arab League Summit Conference of August 9-10, 1990, split
the Arab states into two camps: one supporting Kuwait and the other
supporting Iraq. The Gulf states, Egypt, and Syria were determined
that the conference approve the dispatch of Arab troops to the Gulf to
resist the Iraqi invasion. In addition, they endorsed King Fahd=s
invitation to Western forces to come to Saudi Arabia. Iraq and its
supporters were equally determined to prevent the passage of any such
resolution. At the end, 12 Arab League members voted for the
resolution. These were Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, and the United
Arab Emirates. Three members --
Iraq, Libya, and the Palestine Liberation Organization -- voted
against. Algeria, Jordan, and Yemen abstained; Sudan and Mauritania
expressed reservations, and Tunisia was absent from the meeting.
Thus, because of the official Palestinian position in the meeting,
Palestinians in Kuwait were classified as enemies. Threats of
punishing them started to be heard by Kuwaiti officials in exile.
Support for the Iraqi
The Palestinian support for the Iraqi "linkage"
argument was also criticized by Kuwaitis. During the first week of
August, 1990, the Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister (then) Nizar Hamdoon
communicated a proposal to the U.S. government through the former CIA
chief Richard Helms. The proposal was presented to Brent Scowcroft and
National Security Council officials by August 11. Iraq proposed
withdrawal from Kuwait in exchange for access to the Gulf through the
islands of Warbah and Bubayan in addition to negotiations on oil
prices. However, the proposal was rejected.
On the following day, August 12, the
Iraqi president announced another proposal that became known as the
"linkage argument." Iraq offered withdrawal from Kuwait in
return for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories.
The United States rejected the initiative instantly and President Bush
insisted on the Iraqi unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait. Arabs in
general and Palestinians in particular saw in the Iraqi initiative a
golden opportunity for the West to pressure Israelis to end their
occupation of the Arab territories. Therefore, the Palestinian
leadership supported the Iraqi argument, which meant also supporting
the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. The Kuwaitis became bitter about the
Palestinian position although the whole issue was nothing more than a
media exchange. As a result, Kuwaiti threats to punish Palestinians in
Kuwait increased. The French and the Soviets tried in vain to convince
President Bush just to give a promise to address the Israeli
occupation after the crisis in return for an Iraqi withdrawal. He
rejected all these initiatives because he concluded that the war was a
better choice for the United States.
Palestinians could not afford staying
neutral concerning the "linkage" argument. For the first
time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, an Arab leader was
capable of uncovering the Western double-standard position towards the
conflict. For twenty-three years, the West never tried to enforce the
UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which called for the Israeli withdrawal
from the Arab territories that Israel occupied in 1967. For forty-two
years, the West also never tried to enforce the 1948 UN Resolution
194, which called for the compensation and repatriation of Palestinian
refugees. However, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the West became so
outraged that, in a few months, it assembled a huge international
coalition that ended the Iraqi invasion by force.
The "Linkage" argument was
so strong that the Arab members of the coalition started to pressure
Washington to do something concerning the Arab occupied territories.
Several Arab diplomats visited Washington directly after the war
lobbying for that purpose. However, the Bush administration was afraid
that any pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Arab territories
"could provoke the wrath of the sizable pro-Israeli lobby in
Thus, instead of exerting pressure on Israel to comply with the United
Nations resolutions and withdraw from the occupied territories, all
what the Bush administration did was asking Israel to attend the 1991
Madrid Peace conference. The conference and the 1993
Israeli-Palestinian agreements related to it resulted in a very slow
process of negotiations that led to an Israeli withdrawal from only 3
percent of the West Bank, by the end of 1997. Even with the end of the
interim period on May 4, 1999, Israel did not withdraw from the
occupied Palestinian territories as was agreed upon. The Clinton
administration did not pressure Israel to observe its agreements.
Moreover, the U.S. Presidential Envoy, Dennis Ross, who is responsible
for the Arab-Israeli file in the successive American administrations
since Reagan, was always exercising pressure on the Palestinian side
to accept whatever the Israelis offered. He ultimately succeeded in
convincing the Palestinians to postpone the declaration of their
independence, when it was due on September 13, 2000.
With regard to the Israeli withdrawal
from South Lebanon on May 2000, it was not really a matter of an
Israeli willingness to observe the UN Security Council Resolution 425.
Rather, it was a result of the increasing losses inflicted on the
Israelis by the Lebanese resistance. Another example of the double
standard in conducting the American foreign policy in the Middle East
was pressuring Syria, throughout the 1990s, to accept the Israeli
offers of withdrawal from the Golan Heights, instead of pressuring
Israel to withdraw unconditionally.
Thus, successive U.S. administrations
did not really exercise pressures on Israel to observe the
international law and withdraw from the occupied territories.
Actually, the Israelis were more pressured to attend the peace
conference, in 1991, by regional factors than by external pressures
from the Bush administration. They discovered that they were not as
"invincible" as they wanted to believe. The Iraqi missiles
that were launched against Israel were not provided with biological,
chemical, or nuclear heads. However, these missiles convinced them
that peace would be a better guarantee than limited air-defense
systems. They also concluded that peace would provide more security
than their continuous occupation of the Arab territories. Their denial
of the Palestinian national rights led to the Intifadha (Uprising),
which was going on without signs of weakening.
Rejecting the "linkage"
argument has demonstrated the Western double-standard behavior in
international relations. Western countries would rather go to war than
pressure Israel to observe the UN resolutions. Even when the Israeli
Netanyaho government stopped the peace process for about three years,
between 1996 and 1999, it was not exposed to any Western pressures
whatsoever to continue the process. Even the Wye River agreement it
signed with the Palestinian Authority was not observed. However, in
spite of the poor results of the Madrid Peace Conference, it was an
effect of the "Linkage" argument that was adamantly denied
by the West before the war but it could not be ignored after that.
Collaboration with the Iraqi
Palestinians who remained in Kuwait were accused of
collaboration with the Iraqi authorities during the crisis. The main
bases for the accusation were reporting to work, attending schools,
and replacing Kuwaiti car plates with Iraqi ones. Kuwaitis perceived
these acts as recognition of the Iraqi rule.
About one-third of Palestinians in
Kuwait held travel documents issued by Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. The
rest of them held Jordanian passports.
These or their parents became Jordanians in 1951 as a result of
unifying the Palestinian West Bank with the East Bank of Jordan. A
small number of Jordanians (about 5 percent) in Kuwait were not of
This may be attributed to the fact that East Bank Jordanians had less
economic pressure to emigrate than their West Bank refugee fellows.
The way Kuwaitis defined
collaboration represented a continuation of their unjust and
discriminatory attitude towards immigrants. They accused teachers and
students of being collaborators for attending schools, plumbers and
electricians for repairing buildings used by Iraqis, journalists for
writing in Al-Nida newspaper, drivers for replacing Kuwaiti license
plates with Iraqi ones, and a young man who was seen wearing a Saddam
Hussain T-shirt. Actually, rulers of Kuwait were just looking for an
excuse to intensify persecution of Palestinians in an attempt to evict
them from the country.
The Kuwaiti government in-exile never extended benefits or
assistance to Palestinians who remained in the country during the
crisis as it did to Kuwaiti citizens. At the time of the invasion, on
August 2, 1990, about one-third of Kuwaiti citizens were vacationing
abroad. The remaining, 380,000, were reduced to about 120,000 by
December of that year.
When the Iraqi authorities threatened
to fire teachers if they did not report to their schools, the Kuwaiti
government never instructed them to abstain. This would have required
the Kuwaiti government to send them money to survive, which actually
never happened. Only employees of electricity, health, and oil
services, a majority of whom were also Palestinians, were instructed
by the Kuwaiti government to report to their work. This demonstrated
that the government thought of education as less important than other
services. Thus, the remaining Palestinians could neither leave the
country, since they were not accepted anywhere else, nor were they
expected to work. How were they expected to live then? It was an
inconsistent policy that contributed to killing many innocent
Palestinian students and teachers, such as those of Tulaitila High
The Iraqi authorities ordered people
to report to their jobs by September 1st or they would be
fired, legal procedures would be taken against them, and they would
lose both their pensions and work rights.
Furthermore, the Iraqi authorities called families of students and
required them to send their children to school otherwise heads of
households would be sentenced for six months in prison. On January 15,
1991, some female students from Tulaitila High School were instructed
to participate in a march supporting Iraq. A day after the march was
aired on the Iraqi TV, several female students were killed and many
were injured by the Kuwaiti resistance. After the war, the female
principal of the school, Hamdeh Yunis, was imprisoned and teachers and
students of the school were pursued for retribution. About 120
students were arrested on June 4, 1991 and forced to sign deportation
papers with their families within three weeks. One of them also
reported that she was raped by soldiers. Palestinian teachers as a
whole were fired, their residence visas were canceled, and pensions
were not given to many of them.
Students were also punished collectively when the Minister of
Education announced that they would not be permitted to attend Kuwaiti
public schools anymore.
Moreover, the government withdrew the 50 percent of the subsidies it
used to pay to private Palestinian-run schools. Thus, the unemployed
Palestinian parents were left with no other option than to leave the
The Kuwaiti government overlooked the
fact that Palestinians value education to the extent that teaching
continued even during the Intifadha (the Palestinian Uprising of
1987-1993). When schools were closed by Israelis, teachers still
managed to teach somewhere else, in a home or a mosque. Furthermore,
only 12 out of several hundred schools were opened in Kuwait, which
means that only a small number of Palestinian teachers and students
actually went to school.
Initially, the government announced
its intention to bring about 600 people to trial. These included 265
Iraqis, 120 Palestinians, and the rest were immigrants from other Arab
states. They were accused of robbery, murder, rape, kidnapping, arson,
assault, and forgery. None of these accusations could be described as
direct acts of collaboration.
From May 20 through July of 1991,
about 200 alleged collaborators were tried in Kuwait. Among these were
a plumber and an electrician. These two were tried because they
repaired a toilet cistern in the pro-Iraqi Al-Nida newspaper. As a
result of their "collaboration," they faced the death
penalty on charges relating to "external state security."
Several Palestinian defendants said that the Kuwaiti police had beaten
and tortured them in order to force them into making false
confessions. One of them was Muhammed Ali Shafi who said that he was
beaten and tortured with electric shocks to make the confessions the
police wanted of him.
Another group of 22 defendants were
tried as collaborators with the Iraqi authorities for writing in Al-Nida
newspaper. They pleaded not guilty and said that they were coerced by
investigators. The trial lasted ten hours of testimony and summation.
The prosecution relied on information provided by an unidentified
"secret source," who never appeared in court.
The use of this vague hearsay evidence, the lack of appeal, or access
to attorneys made the trials lacking any international standards of
Palestinians were also accused of
collaboration if they replaced the Kuwaiti license plates with Iraqi
ones during the crisis. Directly after the war, many people were
persecuted just for that. A Sudanese was dragged by militia members
because his car had an Iraqi license plate.
A 23-year old Palestinian, Samir Muhammed Radwan, was held to the wall
with a rifle pointed to his chest because he did not have the proper
The Iraqi authorities ordered
everybody to get new license plates or risk punishment.
Majority of Kuwaitis who stayed in the country did not work. They hid
their cars in their villa-garages. Thus, the Iraqis could not require
them to change their license plates. However, most Palestinians who
could not leave Kuwait and did not receive any assistance from the
Kuwaiti government had to work. They could not use their cars to go to
work without replacing license plates. Moreover, most of them lived in
apartment buildings, not in villas. Therefore, they did not have
private garages to hide their cars, like the Kuwaitis. Thus, they were
punished twice, once for work and another for replacing the car
used their cars to provide many Kuwaitis with the supplies that they
needed but were unable to get. Moreover, the Kuwaiti government
requested that those working in health, oil, electricity, and water
services should continue in doing their jobs. They had to replace car
plates in order to go to work. After the war, Palestinians who worked
in these services were not rehired. They were not paid back by the
government while their Kuwaiti counterparts were given seven months of
back-pay, whether or not they worked.
Nothing, however, was more
illustrative of the baseless and false allegations of collaboration
than the trial of a young man for wearing a Saddam Hussain T-shirt.
Adnan Abboud Hussain Ali was sentenced 15 years in prison because some
Kuwaitis saw him wearing that T-shirt in 1990. On May 24, 1991, the
head of the martial-law court, Muhammed Jassem Bin-Naji, explained the
sentence. He accused the defendant of "deliberately agitating
propaganda at war-time, which led to weakening of steadfastness in the
nation, by boasting publicly, in wearing a 'dress' carrying a picture
of the Iraqi President, during the period of the Iraqi invasion of the
Charges of collaboration did not hold
because there was no Palestinian military involvement as the
accusation was intended to imply. Yet, it was ironical for Kuwaitis to
expect allegiance and loyalty from non-citizens who were discriminated
against for decades.
The Kuwaiti terror campaign that led to the expulsion of
Palestinians from Kuwait was a dark page in the history of inter-Arab
relations. Palestinians were used as a scapegoat to divert the
attention of Kuwaitis from the senior members of the Kuwaiti
government who share responsibility for the 1990 crisis. The terror
campaign also demonstrated that Kuwaitis were not the victims the
Western media portrayed throughout the crisis.
Although Kuwaitis attempted to
explain the atrocities as a reaction to the Palestinian support for
Iraq, that was just an excuse to expel Palestinians from the country.
The Kuwaiti government had decided and started the implementation of a
policy to get rid of them a long time before the 1990 crisis. In
particular, the policy aimed at discriminating against immigrants,
including Palestinians, so they may not stay in the country
What has happened to Palestinians in
Kuwait is a documentation of the unresolved inter-Arab conflict that
has resulted from the imbalance created by the oil wealth. As an
oil-exporting state with surplus capital, Kuwait needs immigrants to
work in its developmental projects. However, the royal family,
supported by the minority of citizens in the country, denied
immigrants any rights for permanent residence or citizenship. As a
result, immigrants have been discriminated against, which has created
a material and psychological separation between the two population
groups (Chapter III).
When Palestinians began to grow in
number reaching a level almost equal to that of the Kuwaitis, the
government started thinking about getting rid of them. The chance came
after the Gulf War, as the government accused them of collaboration
with the Iraqi authorities. In particular, the official Palestinian
position was cited as an evidence that Palestinians were not loyal to
Kuwait. In spite of these allegations and accusations, the real reason
is still the unwillingness of the Kuwaiti government to absorb
immigrants and make citizens out of them. Until this happens, Kuwaitis
will continue to be suspicious towards immigrants who continue to be
mistreated and discriminated against in the country (Chapter III).
It is really unfair that about half a million Palestinians be
punished for the official Palestinian position towards Iraq. Their
contributions to the country for more than half a century have been
forgotten. A decade after the war, the Kuwaiti government still has
not shown any signs of remorse about the innocent people who were
killed or tortured during the terror campaign of 1991. The
perpetrators have not been tried for their crimes and the plight of
the Palestinians of Kuwait has been ignored as if nothing happened to
First Palestinians in Kuwait
In 1936, a four-member Palestinian educational mission arrived
at Kuwait. Because they were all males, the Kuwaiti Council of
Education asked the senior team member, Ahmed Shahabuddin, for two
female teachers to start the first modern girls' school in the
country. The two sisters Wasifah and Rifqah Udeh joined the
educational mission in 1936 for that purpose. Muhammed Nejm, who was a
teacher from the Palestinian village of Isdud, joined the team in
1938. He is remembered for the production of the first stage-play in
Kuwait. In 1942, he returned to Palestine to teach in Yaffa schools.
The Palestinian teachers made a very positive impression on Kuwaitis.
Their hard work and honesty contributed to helping other Palestinians
to come to Kuwait following the 1948 war. In particular, the president
of the Kuwaiti Council of Education, Shaikh Abdullah Al-jaber, and
other Council members such as Nisf Al-Nisf were active in hiring
Palestinian teachers. Nejm, like many Palestinians from Yaffa, arrived
to Egypt by boat in April 1948. The Egyptian government placed them in
the Qantara concentration camp. He managed to send a letter to Abdul-Aziz
Hussain, director of the Kuwaiti House in Cairo, who helped him out of
the camp and sent him to Kuwait. The letter was carried by Khairuddin
Abuljubain, another teacher from Yaffa who escaped from the camp
earlier. Once in Kuwait, he sent visas to several Palestinian teachers
to join him there, including Abuljubain who later became the first
representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in
Kuwait (Ghabra, 1987: 34-37, 54, 58).
Ghassan Kanafani was born in Akka (Acre), Palestine, in 1936.
He lived in Yaffa until 1948 when his family left to Lebanon then to
Syria. He was an art teacher in the UN schools for Palestinian
refugees in Syria. When he arrived at Kuwait in 1956, he continued
teaching and started writing for newspapers. In 1960, he left to
Beirut to work in the Arabic weekly, Al-Hurriya (Freedom). Starting
from 1963, he worked in the daily, Al-Anwar, and the weekly, Al-Hawadith
(Kanafani, 1981). Kanafani lived and worked for the transition from
the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM) to the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). When the PFLP split in 1969, Al-Hurriya
became the magazine of the new Democratic Front (DFLP). Then, Kanafani
established Al-Hadaf (The Goal) to be the magazine of the PFLP. He
stayed as its editor-in-chief until his assassination by the Israelis
in July 1972 (Ahmed Dahboor in Al-Hayat Al-Jadeedah, July 16, 1997).
Although Ghassan Kanafani wrote many
novels, plays, short stories, critiques, and studies, his novel,
"Men Under the Sun," which was published in 1963, was among
his greatest works. Some literary critics such as Al-Yusuf attributed
that to the great symbolic images that the characters represented. The
novel portrayed the Palestinian struggle for survival in an impossible
situation, in absence of a Palestinian leadership at the time, and
under the corrupt and ignorant Arab leaders (Al-Yusuf, 1985). However,
the greatness of the novel is in its thorough description of the
Palestinian journey from refugee camps to Kuwait. It is a
documentation of the Palestinian emigration to the Gulf. It also
represents the Palestinian struggle for survival amidst Arab regimes
whose major concern has been controlling their borders tightly in an
attempt to restrict the movement of Arabs in their own homeland.
Taking Refuge in America
About 2,200 Palestinians were
brought to the U.S. from Kuwait, before the war, on the "Freedom
Flights." They were allowed to come to America because a member
of the family was an American, typically a child who was born in the
U.S. About 100 families of them settled in Los Angeles and about 60
families settled in Raleigh, NC, simply because the planes stopped
there. They had no other places to go to. When they arrived, they
received a hero's welcome, with bands at airports, cheering crowds,
and reservations at five-star hotels. After the war, Kuwait refused to
grant them return visas and the U.S. government asked them to pay for
the flight and the hotel expenses. They could not get suitable jobs
because their visas would expire by December 31, 1991. President Bush
ended the problem by giving them a four-year reprieve during which
they could apply for permanent-residence status in the U.S. through
employment, joining relatives, and political asylum (The Los Angeles
Times, November 14 & 16, 1991).
The Censored Media
A case study of the media coverage of the Gulf war showed that
the government and the media operated a disciplinary system, which
sought to maximize the effects of power upon the American public
opinion. The military controlled what may be reported through allowing
certain reporters from certain news organizations to accompany them to
see certain places. If reporters presented the story in a
"displeasing" way, they would be excluded from the future
pools. During briefing, military commanders would allow only
"good" reporters to ask questions. If a bad question was
asked, the reporter was made fun of in front of the whole world, which
was watching the briefings on TV screens. When journalists tried to
find a story on their own, they were detained for hours or days. All
of this led to "a self-censorship of the media. The military's
operating rules, points of view, and standards were internalized by
the reporters lest they risk isolating themselves from the 'story.'
This led to maximal exercise of power over the citizenry because the
behavior of the reporters was controlled without censorship and their
stories contained the message the officials wanted conveyed" (Marullo,
DISTRIBUTION OF THE PALESTINIAN POPULATION
Gaza Strip 278,520 345,600 390,300 451,000 476,300
644,200 1,148,334 1,189,600
of Gulf ------ 15,000
Brand (1988: 9).
PALESTINIANS IN KUWAIT
Ministry of Planning, Board of Census, Population
Census 1957; and Annual Statistical
1975 (cited in Alessa, 1981: 34).
Al-Iktissad Al-Arabi, No. 71, June-July 1982, P. 15.
* In 1990, Palestinians in Kuwait were estimated at
about 400,000 representing about 18.7
percent of the
total population (Al-Yahya, 1993:
114). However, the
number was estimated about at 450,000
officials cited by
journalists after the war (The
New York Times, March 14, 1991; USA
Today, April 3,
** United Nations
Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Al-Hayat newspaper (Arabic), July 1,
article titled, "Al-Intishar Al-Filistini."
article and the statistics were cited in an
article by Ahmed Sidqi Al-Dajani in
“Mustaqbal Filistiniyi Al-Kharij Fi
Oslo 2-4." Al-Khalij newspaper
(Arabic) in October
During a June 11, 1991 Congressional hearing, the Chairman of the
Committee on Foreign Relations in the U.S. House of Representatives,
Lee Hamilton, used the word "atrocities" to describe the
Kuwaiti terror campaign (Congress, 1991: 87)
Al-Shahi, 1993: 10-113.
El-Najjar, 1993; El-Najjar, 1988.
Among these were members of the first educational mission, early
administrators such as Khaled Al-Hassan who became a PLO leader,
Tal'at Al-Ghussain who became an ambassador to the United States,
and General Wajih Al-Madani, who became the first commander-in-chief
of the PLO Army between 1965 and 1969. Among the pioneering women,
who played important roles in the education of Kuwaiti women, were
Muyasser Shahin, Fayzeh Kanafani, and Ulfa Qutaini.
. Ghabra, 1987: 43, 47-50, 66-70
. El-Najjar, 1993.
. El-Najjar, 1988.
. MEW, 1991: 1, 4-5.
. The Guardian, March 13, 1991; USA Today, April 3, 1991.
. Alessa, 1993: 114.
. The New York Times, March 14, 1991; USA Today, April 3, 1991.
. The Chicago Tribune, March 4, 1991.
. USA Today, April 3, 1991.
. The Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 1991.
. The New York Times, March 14, 1991.
. The Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 1991.
Van Hear, 1995.
Lubbadah, 1991: 62-63, 84-99.
MEW, 1991: 1, 4-5.
Lubbadah, 1991: 113-116.
The Boston Globe, March 1, 1991.
Chaicago Tribune, March 4, 1991; The New York Times, March 4, 1991.
The Boston Globe, March 5, 1991.
The New York Times, March 6, 1991.
Los Angeles Times, March 22, 1991.
The Guardian, April 20, 1991.
The New York Times, June 9, 1991.
Lubbadah, 1991: 160-168.
MEW, 1991: 21-22.
Lubbadah, 1991: 160-168.
USA Today, July 9, 1991.
The New York Times, July 8, 1991.
Los Angeles Times, March 14, 1991.
The Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1991.
The New York Times, March 15, 1991.
The Guardian, March 16, 1991; The Washington Post, March 17, 1991.
San Fransisco Chronicle, March 20, 1991.
In 1997, Abdullah Al-Nibari was the target of an assassination
attempt. However, the court found that the agressors
were not members of Al-Sabah family.
The New York Times, June 11, 1991.
Lubbadah, 1991: 113-116.
Healey, 1991: 47; Roth, 1991: 11.
Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1991.
The New York Times, June 9, 1991.
The Boston Globe, March 5, 1991.
Los Angeles Times, March 29, 1991; The New York Times, April 3,
USA Today, May 7, 1991.
El-Azzuni (1992: 51) mentioned three of them. These were
Nasser Al-Ahmed, Bassil Salem, and
Ahmed Fahd Al-Ahmed.
Lubbadah, 1991: 113-116.
Los Angeles Times, March 22, 1991; The Guardian, March 22,
and March 26, 1991.
USA Today, April 3, 1991.
The New York Times, April 3, 1991.
In 1985, Al-Jaw'an led a questioning in the National Assembly of the
Minister of Justice, Shaikh Du'aij Al-Salman, regarding financial
improprieties. This led to the resignation of the Shaikh (Roth,
1991: 32-33). The incident was related to the collapse of the Manakh
financial market and how the government compensated the victims.
Thus, the assassination attempt on his life was perceived as a
retaliation to his daring attempt to seriously investigate the
Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1991.
. Lubbadah, 1991.
The following is a list of the concerned issues of these newspapers
Journal and Constitution: March 4,
Globe: March 1, 5, 9, 18, 20, 28,
Tribune: March 4, 14, 16,
Science Monitor: March 4, 26, April 3, 17,
August 2, September 6, 17,
News: March 1, 10,
March 6, 13, 15, 16, 22, 26, 31, April 2, 9, 19,
20, June 30, July 5,
Angeles Times: March 1, 8, 14, 22, 28, 29, April 4, 9,
19, 28, 29, May 26, June 3,
November 4, 16,
York Times: March 4, 6, 10, 11, 14, 15, 31, April 3, 10,
May 6, June 9, 11, July 8, October
Francisco Chronicle: March 20,
Today: March 7, April 3, 5, May 7, 30, June 17, July 3, Washington
Post: March 9, 17, 19.
The Boston Globe, March 5, 1991.
The U.S. House of Representatives, June 1991.
Lubbadah, 1991: 53.
USA Today, July 9, 1991.
USA Today May 7, 1991.
The Los Angeles Times, March 14, 1991.
The Boston Globe, March 28, 1991.
The New York Times, June 11, 1991.
Healey, 1991: 43-46.
The Guardian, March 22, 1991.
Lubbadah, 1991: 57.
The New York Times, March 6, 1991.
The Guardian, March 22 and March 31, 119; The Christian
Science Monitor, March 26, 1991.
USA Today, May 30, 1991.
The Washington Post, March 17, 1991.
San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 1991.
The Guardian, April 19, 1991.
USA Today, July 3, 1991.
The Boston Globe, March 9, 1991.
USA Today, April 3, 1991.
The Guardian, April 9, 1991.
The Boston Globe, March 18, 1991.
The New York Times, April 3, 1991.
MEW, 1991: 55, 57.
The Los Angeles Times, March 14, 1991.
MEW, 1991: 55, 57.
Bush and Scowcroft, 1998.
Bin Sultan, 1995.
Schwarzkopf, cited in Bin Sultan, 1995: 183-84.
The Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1991.
The Guardian, October, 27, 1991.
Bin Sultan, 1995: 268, 312, 316, 339.
The Christian Science Monitor, April 3, 1991.
Peres, 1993: 56-57.
Ghabra, 1991: 6.
Brand, 1988: 115; Russell, 1989.
Ghabra, 1991: 10.
Lubbadah, 1991; USA Today, June 17, 1991.
Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1991.
The Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 1991.
Ghabra, 1991: 13.
The Boston Globe, March 18, 1991; The Los Angeles Times,
April 29, 1991.
Healey, 1991: 104.
The Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1991.
Roth, 1991: 23-24.
Ten of these were released in April 1997 as a gesture of
improvement in the relations
between Kuwait and Jordan.
The Boston Globe, March 1, 1991.
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, March 4, 1991.
Ghabra, 1991: 11.
Roth, 1991: 98.
The Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 1991.
. The court evaluated the act of wearing the T-shirt as follows: "Undoubtedly this act of cooperation (collaboration) gives rise to the feeling of terror among citizens and weakens their steadfastness and capabilities to resist, and at the same time strengthens the resolve of the enemy and strengthens its resistance ... (It represented to the Kuwaitis) the harshest degrees of punishment and the worst levels of humility" (Roth, 1991: 21-22; The Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1991).
Table of Contents, Gulf War: Overreaction & Excessiveness, By Hassan A El-Najjar