The most evocative house in Kuwait City must surely be the Kuwait Gulf War memorial – or Kuwait House of National Memorial Museum, as it’s officially called – Bait Al Watani in Arabic. Outside the house is an Iraqi tank. The taxi driver, Assis, ensures I see it.
The 1 KD entrance fee gets me a personal guide. Sakina begins by reeling off names of former sheikhs; the earliest ones have plaques, the later ones paintings. Then follows a section devoted to the discovery of oil and the early days of Kuwait’s prosperity.
While I wait for Sakina to get the new, modern, bi-lingual audio-system ready, I stroll through to the front yard; drawn by a model of a house being torpedoed. The name Saddam is painted on the weapon. Flags surround the monument; flags of the nations that helped Kuwait in its hour of need.
The rest of the museum is about the Gulf War and its consequences, as told through Kuwaiti eyes. Which is what I came here to see.
It’s been nearly 20 years, so a quick recap might be in order: On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, claiming it as part of the old Ottoman province of Basra and thus Iraqi property. The Iraqi army came at night with thousands of soldiers and tanks. Kuwait city was air-bombed. Looting and bank robbery immediately began. Oil wells were set on fire, a total of 732 wells. “They terrorised the Kuwaiti people”, Sakina says. “People who had been living so safely”.
Walking through a dark corridor, I hear the horrors of war. Models of houses, people, war planes, tanks – all illuminated and timed with smoke and sound effects. Planes whiz by, bombs are dropped, houses set on fire, machine guns rattle, people shout. It feels very realistic.
Kuwaitis fled to neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Some were lost in the desert and never heard from again.
Women who were killed:
The invaders changed the names of Kuwait’s cities:
Barrels of oil were dumped in the gulf and Kuwaitis were taken as prisoners of war:
I ask Sakina what she remembers. “Not much”, she says. “I was only a year old”. Her father was taken prisoner and sent to Iraq. “But now I have my father”, she adds happily. He was returned after a year.
Five days after the invasion, US troops were sent to Saudi Arabia, originally to protect Saudi oil fields. An international coalition to oppose Saddam Hussein was forged, comprising 34 countries. However, this was a highly controversial decision in some coalition countries; many felt the USA already had too much influence in the region.
The US Congress authorized using military force in January 1991, based on not entirely truthful information. Satellite photos showing an agglomeration of Iraqi battalions were shown to be false. Some examples of human rights abuses turned out to be fabricated by PR firm Hill & Knowlton, the most famous being the testimony of the false Nurse Nayira
Despite internal opposition in many countries, the USA was soon joined by the coalition partners. The Gulf War was on.
A section of the museum is devoted to showing gratitude to the coalition forces.
Many contributing countries have their own section.
Focus is then shifted towards Saddam Hussein’s atrocities. Very disturbing photos show torture centres at Iraqi police stations.
Other horrifying images show children killed by poisoned gas.
As a finale, the museum exhibits photos of Saddam Hussein’s capture and incarceration. In one, the bloodied corpses of Saddam’s two dead sons lie on tables partially covered in blue sheets.
Accused of kidnapping, torture, rape and murder, Udai and Qusay Hussein were probably bad news. Still, this photo bothers me as much as the others. The brothers were killed during a raid on their house. So was Qusay’s 14-year-old son Mustapha.
Thanks for this post very informative! Great photos as well and great to her that she was on of the lucky ones to actually get her father back.
Wow. Great photos and a memorable tour !
wow — very moving stuff. Thanks for sharing.
It’s amazing how different people from different cultures arrange and display their memories in museums.
Those images and paintings are so powerful yet disturbing to some degree. Thanks for sharing such a unique museum experience.
The Gulf War was the first war I have memories of. I still remember where I was when the bombing began. Thank you for the poignant reminder.
Wow! Thanks so much for sharing this. I was in grade school when the 1st Gulf War happened and I remember writing to soldiers with my class. Very powerful images that show a tale of yet another sad time in history, where too many people lost their lives. It is important to remember though.
Very graphic museum – must be kind of difficult to visit. Thanks for sharing.
Sends chills down the spine…what a fascinating perspective on the Gulf War.
Wow…a few disturbing photos there…but I suppose it is one way to make sure people remember these things.
So interesting to know what the perspective of the Kuwaiti people is. What an interesting place.
You are right that this post is not for the faint of heart, but we need to remember, both the atrocities suffered by the Kuwaitis at the hands of Saddam Hussein, and the lies told by our own government.
I remember where I was when the USA tv showed the American armed forces entered the war. You have shown a side to this war I’ve never seen, and I would guess that most haven’t, or have at least forgotten. Thank you for sharing this.
What a powerful museum and so interesting to learn more about it from the Kuwait perspective.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and comment, everyone. Much appreciated.
[…] I’m just going to say it, this is a freaky weird sight, and war propaganda from ANY side gives me the willies. Sophie visited Kuwait City’s National Memorial Museum. […]
I’ve never heard of this place, learning lots of stuff here. This looks like a scary place, kind of like visiting a concentration camp. Powerful pictures here, thanks for sharing.
What a fascinating museum!
the images convey a feeling of the pain. interesting to see it from the kuwaiti side, a perspective not too often seen.
In my travels, I have seen multiple war memorials. It’s always a different experience though when you see one for a war that happened during your lifetime.
This is a very interesting museum. Thanks for telling us about it and sharing the photos. I didn’t know it existed. There’s a lot to take in.
Hey Anne-Sophie, this museum sure gives a different view on the Gulf War in Kuwait. I’d love to go to this museum.