Kuwait: Class of 1990
Class of 1990

Fahad: ‘No money can fix it’

Fahad is a Kuwaiti who left the country just hours before the invasion.


On August 2, 1990, the Iraqi army invaded the small emirate of Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s president, had declared his 19th province.

The Gulf war lasted a little over six months yet the memory of the conflict remains strong, not least in the minds of the children of that war.

At the end of the school year of 1990, students at an international school in Kuwait said their final farewells as they headed off for the summer holidays.

Twenty years on, Al Jazeera follows a group of classmates who were separated during the war as they organise a reunion and try to find out what happened to their classmates and their school during and after the war.

Fahad, a Kuwaiti national, left Kuwait for a summer school in Austria just hours before the Iraqis invaded. Some of his family members were still in the country and had to escape through Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, before catching a flight to England.

He was reunited with his parents in the UK where they lived for three years before returning to Kuwait.

After completing his university education in the US, he returned to Kuwait where he works at the National Bank.

Al Jazeera’s Nashwa Nasreldin was one of the students. She spoke to her former classmate Fahad about his feelings about the war.

Al Jazeera: What was your family was doing during the invasion?

Fahad: On August 1, 1990, at about 10 o’clock at night, I was at the airport with my family; I was on my way to Austria for summer school. I got to Austria, and there was a group of Kuwaiti students with me. I remember a lot of Kuwaiti students were crying and they were upset, on the payphones a lot and I had no idea what was going on.

My parents were in London. They made it out in a car. They drove through Saudi Arabia, across to Bahrain and flew to London from there. It was my mum, my dad, two nannies and my younger brother. They had to get out because apparently the Iraqi army was looking for my dad at the time.

My parents did not know what to do, how to get out and what was going on, and so my father got a call, and a group of people were planning a caravan to drive through the Saudi border, or the desert across the Saudi border, so they got their things and they did that.

And then they went to London and from London they had a family friend, an English gentleman, fly over to Austria, pick me up and take me back to London. That was two, maybe three weeks after the invasion started and we were there in London for a good three years.

Do you remember what the atmosphere was like following the news from London?

There were just little shots of memories, some of my grandmother crying. Everyone glued to the TV, a lot of footage, of a lot of meetings going on, a lot of speeches by George Bush, I remember that. I remember him actually extending the deadline and thinking, come on, let’s go, let’s do something.

I remember them saying, this was actually when Kuwait was liberated, they got in and they got an idea of the damage. I remember hearing that they expected that it would take years to put out the oil fires and undo the damage that had been done.

I think that is when I realised the extent of what had happened. But they got people from all over the world and they were, they put together some great technological ideas and they put the fires away in under a year.

How did the war impact Kuwait?

I think it has definitely left an impact. Lots has changed and lots has not changed. I know after Kuwait was liberated the government wanted to encourage population growth so to encourage Kuwaitis to have big families and for the population to grow, I think the government was offering 50 KD a month to for every child you had, for up to six kids. But I do not think they took into account an infrastructure that can capacitate the population.

The population was growing, but the city was not. The streets were the same, the roads were the same. More people, more cars, and the result of that was the issues we have today. We have too many cars in this country. No parking wherever you go, it is a hassle to go and do anything. Not just in terms of traffic but people you know.

I think now they have begun to open up offices everywhere so they are in different areas and they can control the traffic. So that was one impact – the population just booming and the city not growing with it.

Did you know any Iraqis?

Before the invasion not that I know of although I am sure my parents did. But not me. I did know one during the invasion. When I was in London. I do not remember his name, but he would always avoid me in school. He did not want to talk to me and I think I am very curious by nature so I would chase him around to find out why he would not want to talk.

I remember saying, I was at the top of the stairs and he was down and he was running away and I was shouting, why are you running away? And he was like ‘because I am Iraqi and you are Kuwaiti and we can not talk’. And I think that was the last exchange of words we had. But yeah that was the only Iraqi person I knew of the whole time.

What happened to the Palestinians after the war?

I heard apparently Palestine and Sudan; I believe were for the invasion of Kuwait. They were in support of Saddam Hussein and what he was doing.

I heard that once Kuwait was liberated they were all kicked out. They were deported I think, or allowed to go back on their own time.

What do you think about the issue about the debt that Iraq owes Kuwait, compensation for the invasion, you know there has been an ongoing discussion about it?

As a businessman, I can see that from a business perspective. But the compensation for life, just the damage they have done, to the people and the lives, there is no monetary figure you can attach to that.

I know it was a very sad time but there is nothing that can fix that. What are we going to do with this money, are they going to give it to the victims, do the victims need the money? Is money going to comfort them?

Do you think it is fair to ask a country that is no longer under the same government to pay compensation for the invasion 20 years later?

No I do not think it is fair to demand compensation from the Iraqi people for what one person decided.

I do not remember what his [Saddam] issue with Kuwait was, aside from, you know it is right there, it is a rich little country, it has no defence.

Saddam’s army was the third largest in the world I believe – three million soldiers. Kuwait’s population was not even a million at the time. So I do not feel it is fair that, I would rather see them put that money over there and see them grow as a country.