Q&A: The Iraq-Kuwait war and the next generation

As Kuwait marks 25 years since the Iraqi invasion, Al Jazeera asked two young people what they learned about the war.

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    The Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait began on August 2, 1990, and continued until February 26, 1991 [Megan O'Toole/Al Jazeera]
    The Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait began on August 2, 1990, and continued until February 26, 1991 [Megan O'Toole/Al Jazeera]

    Erbil, Iraq and Kuwait City - On the 25th anniversary of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Al Jazeera spoke separately with a young Iraqi and a young Kuwaiti, each born within months of the 1990 invasion.

    Sofana al-Shawaf, a radio presenter from Kuwait, and Mohammed al-Hitti, a government worker who has been living in Erbil since fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized his hometown of Ramadi, each answered eight questions about the 1990-1991 Gulf War based on what they learned growing up.

    As neither was old enough to remember anything first-hand about the war, their knowledge comes from history books, stories passed down, and the lessons they learned in school.

    While their views on certain points differed, both cited the devastating effects of the war.

    TIMELINE: Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, 25 years on

    Al Jazeera: Why did Iraq invade and subsequently occupy Kuwait?

    Shawaf (Kuwaiti): Oil was the main target for the Iraqi invasion. The oil and the natural gas. And they thought that Kuwait was part of their country. It was all about oil.

    Hitti (Iraqi): It was all an American plan. The Americans do what they want. It was the work of America and Iran. The Iraqi government thought they could do anything, take Kuwait quickly and attach it to Iraq. But their efforts failed.

    Al Jazeera: How prepared was Kuwait for this invasion, and how would you describe its response?

    Kuwait: Class of 1990

    Shawaf (Kuwaiti): The government of Kuwait wasn't ready for the war. Kuwaiti people united and helped each other, and they were also helped by other countries, such as the US, Egypt, and Sweden. We learned the value of strong relations between the Kuwaiti people and the brotherhood between them.

    Hitti (Iraqi): During the Iraqi attack on Kuwait, the Iraqi army occupied Kuwait, but I don't know why they pulled out. I don't know what happened.

    Al Jazeera: What was life like in Kuwait during the Iraqi occupation?

    Shawaf (Kuwaiti): It was terrible. It was a very difficult era during the invasion and the war. There was no food, no water, no electricity, no communications; fathers and mothers didn't know what would happen to their children when they left their homes. Also, many buildings were damaged. The hardest thing was when fathers and mothers saw their children killed in front of their eyes.

    Hitti (Iraqi): Iraq attacked Kuwait and looted their homes and wealth.

    Al Jazeera: Why did the international community intervene militarily in this conflict?

    Shawaf (Kuwaiti): We weren't prepared for the situation. It was too hard by ourselves to do it. We couldn't do it alone, without international help. Kuwait was attacked by Iraq, not Iraq attacked by Kuwait. They came into our country, into our place, and attacked us.

    The international forces wanted to resolve the situation. What had happened was not pretty. The country was looted.

    Mohammed al-Hitti, Iraqi resident

    Hitti (Iraqi): The international forces wanted to resolve the situation. What had happened was not pretty. The country was looted.

    Al Jazeera: What led to the end of this conflict in 1991?

    Shawaf (Kuwaiti): The Iraqi army left. Most of the countries were with us, so it was hard for them to stay in Kuwait when so many countries were against them. Just six or seven countries were on Iraq's side, but all other countries were with us, so it was hard for them to continue.

    Hitti (Iraqi): The war ended after the international forces intervened. Kuwait is a small country and the country does not have an impact on anyone. It did not have any impact on Iraq.

    Al Jazeera: How did the Gulf war impact Iraq and Iraqi citizens?

    Shawaf (Kuwaiti): The Iraqi citizens were oppressed by their regime. Their government made the war and they paid the price. Many people hate Iraqis because of the war, but they are not responsible for the war.

    Hitti (Iraqi): After 1990 everything changed. Before 1990, Iraq was a paradise, despite the war in the 1980s [with Iran]. But after 1990, everything changed - even people changed. Life became more difficult and there were sanctions.

    Al Jazeera: How did the war impact Kuwait and Kuwaiti citizens?

    Shawaf (Kuwaiti): We became more together; we became strong. We know that in difficult situations we can depend on each other, and this is still true today.

    Hitti (Iraqi): Life was good for Kuwaitis even after the war. They had a secure and luxurious life. They also suffered, but not as much as Iraqis suffered from problems such as sectarianism. Kuwait stayed as one country.

    Al Jazeera: Are there any lessons to be learned from this conflict?

    Shawaf (Kuwaiti): As I said, Kuwaitis are together and strong in the toughest situations - not just in war, but in everything. After the Imam Sadiq mosque bombing, we saw that people came together. People went to donate blood. That is the lesson. We learned from the difficulties and we are together, and we are strong.

    Hitti (Iraqi): Life is there to learn from. As a result of the Kuwait war, Iraq itself was destabilised for years, and later instability spread to Syria as well. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was a mistake.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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