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
IRAQI CLAIMS OF KUWAIT
“Kuwait had been carved out of Iraq by the British
When Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2nd, 1990, the world was
shocked for seeing a relatively big country swallowing a smaller
brotherly neighbor. However, many Arabs were neither surprised nor
shocked due to their knowledge of the Iraqi claims of Kuwait. The
Kuwaiti argument concerning causes of the Gulf War was adopted and
publicized wholeheartedly by the United States and other coalition
countries. At the same time, the Iraqi claims of Kuwait were
ignored. This chapter attempts to bridge this gap by examining the
crisis from a broader historical perspective that accounts for the
Iraqi claims, as well. In particular, the relationship between
Iraq and Kuwait will be investigated in order to analyze how these
claims had contributed to the crisis.
Rule of Al Sabah in Kuwait
The present Al-Sabah
ruling family of Kuwait descends from the Utub tribe,
which belongs to a larger Nejdi
tribal organization known as Anaiza. Three lineages of the Utub
tribe: Al-Sabah, Al-Khalifah, and Al Jalahimah, left their
original territory in Al-Aflaj, southeastern Riyadh, now in Saudi
Arabia, around 1701.
At first, they went to Bahrain, then to Qatar but the Huwaila
tribe there forced them out of the small peninsula. The Utub tribe
then headed north to Basrah where they asked Ali Pasha, the
governor, to let them take refuge in his governorate (district).
He allowed them to stay particularly because they maintained trade
relations with the Basrah merchants. In 1716, they moved south to
the present-day Kuwait after Shaikh Sabah, the highest ranking
Utubi Shaikh (tribal chief), had asked the governor a permission
to let the tribe settle there.
When they arrived at Kuwait,
it was referred to as Qurain or Grane, a diminutive of horn, as it
resembled how the land around the Bay of Kuwait looked like.
However, the larger area that surrounded Qurain was known as El-Kadhema.
Both were controlled by Benu Khalid tribe for more than a century.
Therefore, the Utub tribe had to take another permission from the
Benu Khaled tribal chief, Shaikh Muhammed Bin Urai'ir,
to settle there. In 1755, he allowed them to stay in Kuwait. The
three lineages of the Utub tribe
that administration would be left for Al- Sabah, trade would be
conducted by Al-Khalifa, and fishing would be the profession of
Thus, Shaikh Sabah I became the shaikh of the whole Utub tribe in
Qurain, in 1756. By that time, the area began to be referred to as
Kuwait. It also began to acquire a strategic importance,
particularly following the Persian attacks on Basrah. These
attacks made Kuwait a safer trade center for Europeans.
During the 1770s, Al-Khalifah
left to the Bahrain islands after leasing them from Al-Matarish
tribe. In 1782/83, they were asked to leave after they had stopped
paying the rent. However, Al-Khalifah managed to resist the
pressure to evict them from the islands with military support from
Al-Sabah. In 1800, Bahrain was attacked by the Saudis and was
annexed to Nejd. Al-Khalifah moved temporarily to Zubara, in
Qatar, then they returned to Bahrain
with help from their cousins, Al-Sabah.
Thus, it is clear from the
beginning that Kuwait was part of the Basrah governorate and the
Utubi lineages including Al-Sabah were accepted as refugees in
that Iraqi territory. More historical evidence shows that Kuwait
was part of Basrah throughout the Ottoman rule of Iraq. In 1827,
Shaikh Jabir I (See Appendix I.A) put the Kuwaiti fleet at the
services of the Basrah governor. In 1836, he assisted the Ottoman
forces against the uprising in Zubair, which is located between
Kuwait and Basrah. In 1837, Kuwaiti forces participated with other
Ottoman forces in attacking Muhammara, an Arab shaikhdom
on the eastern coast of the Gulf. When Basrah was attacked in
1845, Kuwaitis joined other Ottoman forces to defend the city.
Meanwhile, Kuwaiti ships continued flying Ottoman flags. As a
reward for his loyalty, Shaikh Jaber I was given private deeds to
some date plantations in the Fao Peninsula, to the south of Basrah.
Moreover, when the governor of
Baghdad, Midhat Pasha, launched his military expedition in the
Gulf in 1871, Shaikh Abdullah II supported his military effort. As
a result, he was rewarded with the Ottoman title of qaim maqam (a
deputy of the governor). This meant that, officially, he would
report to the governor of Basrah as his superior. In 1875, a new
Ottoman administrative structure for southern Iraq was created
according to which Basrah became a larger administrative entity, a
vilayet. The new vilayet included Basrah itself, Kuwait, Amarah,
Qurna, and Nassiriya.
All of these, except Kuwait, are still Iraqi territories. However,
that administrative structure was not the only fact that provided
Iraq with one of the strongest bases for its claims of Kuwait.
Throughout the nineteenth century, the rulers of Kuwait used to
pay an annual tribute to the governor of Basrah in the form of 40
bags of rice and 400 Frasilah of dates. In return, they were
granted a dress of honor, each year.
the British: Mubarak Usurps Office
Shaikh Abdullah II ruled Kuwait as a qaim maqam, a deputy,
of the Basrah governor until his death in 1892. His brother and
successor, Shaikh Muhammed, also ruled Kuwait as a qaim maqam
until he was killed by his half-brother, Mubarak, in 1896.
Muhammed took Yusuf Bin (son of) Abdullah Al- Ibrahim, who was an
Iraqi from Shatt Al-Arab, as his close advisor. This angered his
half-brother, Mubarak, who felt abandoned. However, Muhammed was
supported whole-heartedly by his full-brother, Jarrah. In 1896,
Mubarak killed his two half-brothers, Muhammed and Jarrah, in
order to become the ruler of Kuwait. This usurpation of power was
and still not unusual among members of the ruling families of
Arabia. Actually, it is the only way for an ambitious individual
in these families to displace the other, who is occupying the top
position in the country. The probability for such usurpation of
power increases if the ambitious individual has less or no chances
In the case of Mubarak's ascent
to power, the British played a major role in preparing him to come
to power and in protecting him and his heirs, afterwards. This has
become an important feature of the British imperialist policy in
Arabia. Rulers had to be pro-British or their rivals will be
supported and encouraged to displace them.
Britain showed interest in
developing its relations with Kuwait from the outset of
establishing the rule of Al- Sabah family, in the 18th century.
Shaikh Abdullah I, who ruled between 1762 and 1812, allowed the
British to build a trade center and keep a group of Indian
soldiers as guards. However, his successor Shaikh Jaber I, who
ruled from 1812 to 1859, was not interested in maintaining trade
relations with Britain. Therefore, he rejected the British offers
of flying the British flag on Kuwaiti vessels and maintaining
presence in the trade center. Shaikh Sabah II, who ruled from 1859
to 1866, followed the same policy. Sabah's sons, Abdullah II
(1866-1892) and Muhammed I (1892-1896) were loyal enough to the
Ottoman government that they refused to develop unusual relations
with Britain. By that time the European capitalist competition
over the ailing Ottoman Empire became more severe. Britain was
growing more impatient concerning the pro-Ottoman policies of the
Kuwaiti Shaikhs. Therefore, the British found in Mubarak their
best opportunity to control Kuwait.
The confluence of interests
between Mubarak and the British led to the British support for
Mubarak's usurpation of power. He felt that he was left behind as
a half-brother of Muhammed and Jarrah. He complained that the
Secretary of the Treasury, Yusuf Al-Ibrahim, was the actual ruler
of Kuwait. Moreover, he believed that he was mistreated by his
half-brothers because of Yusuf's influence on them. As a result,
Mubarak spent most of his life outside Kuwait city, in the desert,
raiding and looting.
He traveled to
India and spent some time in Bombay. There, some British agents
gave him large amounts of money that allowed him to lose happily
in gambling. In order to get their loans paid back, the British
agents convinced Mubarak to end his brother's rule and become the
shaikh of Kuwait himself. They even prepared the armed campaign
that enabled him to achieve that goal.
On May 17, 1896, Mubarak left the desert heading towards
Kuwait city, accompanied by his sons Jaber and Salem together with
a group of loyal followers. When he was given a permission to
enter his brother's palace, he divided his followers into three
groups. He had to kill his brother, Shaikh Muhammed. His elder
son, Jaber, had to kill his uncle, Jarrah. His younger son, Salem,
and the others had to occupy the gate from inside to prevent
anybody from getting out and kill the guards if they try to
interfere. The operation was carried out as planned with the
exception of some difficulties caused by Jarrah's wife who tried
in vain to defend her husband. In the following day, Mubarak
addressed the people saying that it was God's will that his two
brothers died the night before. He declared himself the new shaikh
and people neither said nor did anything to challenge him.
Yusuf Al-Ibrahim and children of
the slain shaikhs managed to take refuge in Basrah where they
pleaded their case to the governor. They described Mubarak as a
tool in the hands of the British and asked the Ottoman authorities
to help Saud Bin Muhammed restore his usurped office as a qa'im
maqam of Kuwait. They were unsuccessful at the beginning because
the governor of Baghdad did not support them. He felt insulted, as
they did not plead their case to him instead of the governor of
Basrah who was inferior to him in rank. He even supported
Mubarak's argument that the killer was Yusuf Al-Ibrahim. This
resulted in giving Mubarak the title of qa'im maqam of Kuwait in
1897. Nevertheless, Mubarak was still feeling insecure because his
rivals were still alive in Basrah. Therefore, he asked the British
for protection twice in 1897 and 1898. The British were unwilling
at that stage to raise any Ottoman suspicions and they saw no
threats to their interests in the area at that time. Therefore,
they rejected his demands and advised him to stay under the
Ottoman sovereignty. However, when other European nations showed
interest in Kuwait, the British changed their position. In 1898,
Russia became seriously involved in a project of building a
railroad linking Tripoli (in Lebanon now) with Kuwait. At the same
time, Germany was as seriously seeking the Ottoman Sultan's
approval of the Berlin-Baghdad railroad for which Kuwait was the
southern terminal on the Gulf.
The British Political Resident in
the Arabian Gulf, M.J. Mead, was instructed by the Viceroy of
India, Lord Curzon, to sign a protection agreement with Shaikh
Mubarak, on January 23, 1899. According to the agreement, Britain
promised to protect Kuwait from outside attacks and recognized
Mubarak and his heirs as the legal rulers of Kuwait. Mubarak was
also given an annual salary of 15,000 rupees. In return, he agreed
not to deal with foreign nations without approval from Britain
(See Appendix 1.B). The protection agreement proved to be
invaluable to Mubarak and his heirs as the British came to their
rescue every time they were attacked afterwards.
Iraqi Attempts to Restore Kuwait
Yusuf Al-Ibrahim did not waste his time. He convinced Hamdi
Pasha, governor of Basrah, to head a large alliance to restore
Kuwait from Mubarak. The alliance included Shaikh Qasem Al-Thani
of Qatar, Shaikh Muhammed Al-Rashid of Hail, and a group of loyal
followers of the slain shaikhs. Mubarak sensed the danger and
started the war by a pre-emptive strike on the Rashidites at Sarif,
in 1901. He was defeated but Britain assured him of protection. In
response to Mubarak's attack on its allies, the Ottoman government
instructed the governor of Baghdad to restore Kuwait by force.
However, the Pasha of Baghdad did not support the idea of using
force. Instead, he went to Mubarak and offered him to become a
member of the Consultative Council in Istanbul or to live in any
Ottoman city of his choice with a salary. When Mubarak refused to
leave Kuwait, he convinced him to show loyalty by behaving as an
Ottoman qa'im maqam. Mubarak accepted and saved himself from an
imminent Ottoman attack. However, Mubarak demonstrated his
disloyalty when he refused to allow Ottoman troops to be stationed
in Kuwait, in the same year (1901). This gave the Ottoman
government in Iraq an excuse to start considering Kuwait as a
usurped territory and Mubarak as a rebellious shaikh. From that
time on several Iraqi attempts were made throughout the twentieth
century to restore Kuwait. The first attempt was in 1901, just
after Mubarak's refusal to accept Ottoman troops in Kuwait and two
years after signing the protection agreement with Britain. The
Basrah-based Ottoman troops supported by Shammar tribesmen,
followers of Muhammed Al-Rashid,
attempted to restore Kuwait. However, they withdrew without
fighting mainly because of the intervention of the British naval
forces and the return of Muhammed Al-Rashid to his own territory
after hearing news of rebellion there.
The second attempt to restore
Kuwait was in the following year, 1902. It was led by Yusuf Al-Ibrahim
and Hamud Bin Jarrah, Mubarak's nephew, supported by members of
the Sharaifat tribe. They sailed in two ships from Dourah on Shatt
Al-Arab and landed at Ras Al-Ajuzeh, to the east of Kuwait city.
There, the armed boats of the British ship, Lapwing, discovered
them and engaged with them in a bitter fighting. The battle
resulted in capturing the ships but Yusuf, Hamud, and some of
their followers made it back to Basrah using few boats. Thus, the
second Iraqi attempt to restore Kuwait also failed as a result of
the British support for Mubarak. Following the battle, the Ottoman
and the British governments agreed to maintain the status quo in
Kuwait, which relieved Mubarak from the outside threats.
In order to show its support for
Mubarak after these two attempts against him, Britain sent Lord
Curzon, Viceroy of India, to visit Kuwait in 1903. It also
appointed the first British political Agent to Kuwait, S. G. Knox,
in 1904. As a gesture of gratitude towards the British, Mubarak
agreed to lease them a plot of land about two miles to the west of
Kuwait, between Bandar Al-Shuwaikh and the city of Kuwait. In
return, Britain agreed to pay him an annual salary of 60,000
rupees, assured him its recognition that Kuwait and its
territories belonged to him and his heirs after him, and that it
would defend him in times of danger.
The Kuwaiti territory was drawn
as a circle with a 40-mile radius, with Kuwait city as its center,
Khur Al-Zubair as its northern border, and Al-Qurai'in as its
southern border. These borders were decided according to the 5th
article of the not ratified Anglo-Ottoman agreement of 1913. The
article states that the Kuwait territory includes the islands of
Warbah, Bubayan, Mescan, Failakah, Um Al-Maradem, Auha, Kubber,
Qaruwah, Al-Maqtah, and their adjacent islets. Thus, according to
the 1913 no ratified agreement, Bubayan was considered part of the
Kuwaiti territory. However, the island was still part of the Iraqi
territory until the beginning of World War I hostilities. On
November 3, 1914, the British government urged Shaikh Mubarak, in
a letter, to attack Um Qasr, Safwan, and Bubayan in order to
disturb the Ottoman military effort.
These incidents support the Iraqi claims of the Bubayan Island,
which surfaced again in the 1970s and the 1980s.
Mubarak participated in the
British military efforts against the Ottomans and their allies in
the area until his death, in 1915. He was succeeded by his eldest
son, Jaber, who died in 1917. Jaber was succeeded by his brother
Salem who ruled Kuwait until his death in 1921. Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber
succeeded Shaikh Salem and ruled Kuwait until 1950. The World War
I ended with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the division of
its territories among the victorious European powers. This ended
the hostilities between Iraq and Kuwait. However, tensions
continued on the form of border disputes. When Iraq itself fell
under the British occupation, Britain found it necessary to settle
border disputes between the territories under its control. The
British Political Resident in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf, Sir
Percy Cox, held a conference in Uqair, Saudi Arabia, in 1922, for
this purpose. He used the 1913 not ratified Anglo-Ottoman
Agreement in drawing the common borders of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia,
The Iraqi claims of Kuwait did
not stop after the Uqair Conference. The 1913 Anglo-Ottoman
agreement could not be abiding to Iraq because it was never
ratified. The Iraqi government launched a continuous media
campaign against Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber. King Faisal I, the first
King of Iraq
criticized the British occupation of the Arab states, including
Kuwait. When he died in 1933, he was succeeded by his twenty-one
years-old son, Ghazi. King Ghazi was even more outspoken for the
cause of Arab unity than his father. He was more direct in
criticizing the shaikh of Kuwait and his British protectors.
Britain protested that Iraqi policy but the King's media campaigns
against the shaikh of Kuwait did not stop. Tensions increased
between the king and the British occupation authorities so that
when King Ghazi was killed in a car accident on March 14, 1939,
the Iraqi people suspected that the British were responsible for
his death. Demonstrations against the British spread all over Iraq
and the British Consul in Musol was killed during one of them.
King Ghazi was succeeded by his son, Faisal II, who was only
four-years old. Therefore, the throne was placed under the
guardianship of Prince Abdul Ilah. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Noori
Al-Sa'id, was pro-British. Therefore, he was not interested in
continuing the media campaign against Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber.
However, the Court Minister, Rashid Ali Al-Kilani, was an Arab
nationalist who disagreed with Noori Al-Sa'id on his policy
towards the British. In February 1941, Al-Sa'id resigned to allow
his rival, Al-Kilani, to become a Prime Minister. The British
wanted the Iraqis to fight with them against Germany and Italy, in
World War II. Al Kilani rejected the British demands and led the
Iraqi military resistance to the second British occupation of
Iraq, in May 1941. During the fighting, Arab volunteers from
various Arab countries, including Kuwait, came to fight with the
Iraqi army against the British. Following Al-Kilani's defeat,
Noori Al-Sa'id became a Prime Minister again. This resulted in
that the Iraqi media campaigns and assistance to Kuwaiti
nationalists declined until the Iraqi military coup of 1958.
On June 19, 1961, Kuwait and Britain signed a friendship
agreement that replaced the protection agreement of 1899 thus
leading to the independence of Kuwait from Britain. On June 25,
1961, Iraq declared its intention to annex Kuwait claiming that it
was an Iraqi territory before the protection agreement.
The former Iraqi President, Abudl-Karim Qassem, moved his troops
to the borders in order to restore Kuwait following the British
withdrawal. To prevent that, Britain sent 5,000 troops to the
borders between Iraq and Kuwait. This British move stopped the
Iraqis until the Arab League sent 3,300 troops from Saudi Arabia,
the United Arab Republic (UAR), Sudan, Jordan, and Tunisia to
replace them. As the leader of Arab nationalists, Nasser found
himself in an awkward position. He sent the UAR troops to stand
against an attempt to unify two Arab states while he was an
outspoken advocate of Arab unification. Therefore, he had to
defend his position. He said that he was determined to end the
British presence in the Middle East. He argued that the Iraqi
attempt to invade Kuwait would give Britain an excuse to come back
to the region.
Thus, for the third time, Britain was there to protect
Kuwait from Iraq. This time, the British interests in Kuwait were
much more important than at the turn of the century. By late
1950s, the ruler, Shaikh Abdullah Al-Salim, had invested $90
million in the London stock market, becoming the market's largest
individual investor. Moreover, the British government owned
one-fourth of the Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), and Britain imported
about 40 percent of its oil needs from Kuwait.
The crisis ended by accepting Kuwait as a member of the Arab
League, on July 20, 1961, then as member of the United Nations
Organization on May 17, 1963.
In return for the Egyptian
position, the Kuwaiti government announced in the Parliament on
April, 9, 1963 that it would review its 1961 friendship agreement
The statement also referred to the Arab unity, the corner stone of
Nasser's inter-Arab policy, as "a historic eventuality."
On October 1963, the Iraqi Prime
Minister (then), Ahmed Hassan El-Bakr, recognized Kuwait's
independence and sovereignty, and approved its membership in the
Arab League and the United Nations.
However, the Iraqi Parliament never ratified El-Bakr's executive
decisions and the Iraqis continued their claims of Kuwait as an
Iraqi territory. On March 20, 1973, the Iraqi troops occupied the
Kuwaiti border police station, Al-Samitah. In return for
withdrawal, Iraq demanded to annex or lease the islands of Warba
and Bubayan in order to become a Gulf state. Eventually, the Iraqi
troops withdrew under pressures from the Soviet Union and the Arab
During the Iran-Iraq war of
1980-88, Kuwait supported Iraq financially and allowed Iraqi
forces to use its territories to launch attacks on the Iranians,
particularly on the Kharg Island. Kuwaitis also sold oil for Iraq.
However, Iraq accused Kuwait of unauthorized use of the Iraqi
Rumaila oil fields, which are located on the border between them.
Struggle for Democracy and Unification
Following the death of Shaikh Salem in 1921, members of Al-Sabah
family elected Ahmed Al-Jaber as the Shaikh of Kuwait. The
tradition necessitated that people would support whatever Al-Sabah
family decided. However, the Kuwaiti people chose to say something
different this time. They were fed up with fighting against Nejd,
which they attributed to the personal rule of shaikhs. Therefore,
they told Al-Sabah family that they would accept the new shaikh
only if he accepted to consult with a council of the people. They
put their ideas in a document that they called a
"charter." They demanded to have a say on who is going
to be elected by Al-Sabah family for the office of the shaikh.
They also demanded that the shaikh should be the head of the
proposed consultative council (Majlis Al-Shura). Moreover, they
demanded that the government should be run by people from Al-Sabah
family as well as from other families (See Appendix 1.C).
Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber was more
forthcoming than what people expected. He agreed to separate the
executive and the judiciary branches of the government from each
other. All criminal cases would be tried before Islamic law courts
and the Mufti's decision would be final in appealed cases. This
separation of government branches transformed Kuwait from a
shaikhdom to a state where written laws replaced traditions and
personal rulings of the tribal shaikh. Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber also
agreed to seek advice outside Al-Sabah family in all internal and
external affairs that concerned the country. Moreover, he agreed
that every Kuwaiti had the right to present a suggestion to the
A consultative council of
twenty-one members was elected with Hamad Abdullah Al-Saqr as its
chairman. The council rarely met before it was dissolved by the
Shaikh. However, this democratic precedence inspired Kuwaitis to
elect ten members to the municipal council in 1934. When the
Shaikh dissolved the newly formed educational council in 1936, its
members influenced the municipal council to resign.
Members of these three dissolved
councils started to organize the Kuwaiti opposition. They founded
a secret society, which became known as Al-Shabiba, the Youth.
They called for unity with Iraq, which attracted support from the
Iraqi government. King Ghazi of Iraq inherited from his father
King Faisal I the leadership of the Arab nationalist movement. He
condemned the European imperialist powers, which were occupying
Arab countries contrary to their promises of giving Arabs their
independence after World War I. Then he challenged Britain by his
claims of Kuwait as an Iraqi territory. Through his radio
broadcasts, he accused Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber as an
"out-of-date feudal lord.@
In June 1938, a delegation from
the Kuwaiti Arab nationalist movement met with Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber
and gave him a memorandum reminding him of his earlier agreement
of sharing power with the people. This led to holding elections
for the second council, which was called the Legislative Council,
in the same year, 1938. The fourteen-member council was dissolved
soon and a third council was elected in December of 1938. The new
council was composed of twenty members, including seven
nationalists who argued for the unification with Iraq.
The Arab nationalists challenged
Shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber seriously in 1938/39 when they wrote a draft
of a new constitution. In the opening statement, they stated that
Kuwait would enjoy a complete sovereignty and independence as a
part of the great Arab nation. The Shaikh wanted the clause to
state that Kuwait was independent under the British protection.
The council rejected the changes suggested by the Shaikh and
demanded unification with Iraq. The Shaikh declared a state of
emergency, crushing the nationalist movement by killing many of
its members and jailing the others. He issued a new constitution
that confirmed the British-Kuwaiti relations. He also appointed a
twenty-member legislative council whose decisions became laws only
after approval by the Shaikh. Nevertheless, the appointed fourth
council was dissolved in 1939. Then the Shaikh appointed the fifth
council, which was composed of only eight members whose advice was
not binding to him.
Kuwaiti Arab nationalists
continued their demands for unification with Iraq. Some prominent
members of the movement, like Abdullah Al-Saqr, even participated
in resisting the British second occupation of Iraq, which was led
by Rashid Ali Al-Kilani, in 1941.
The Iraqi policy of unification with Kuwait intensified after the
military coup of July 14, 1958. This policy set the stage for the
third Iraqi attempt to restore Kuwait in 1961.
During the rule of Shaikh
Abdullah Al-Salem (1950-1965) and his brother, Shaikh Sabah
Al-Salem (1965-1977), the national democratic movement was not
confrontational with the Shaikh. On January 20, 1962, a
twenty-member elected constituent assembly drew up the present
Constitution. On November 11, 1962, Shaikh Abdullah Al-Salem
ratified the Constitution, which required a National Assembly to
be directly elected by native-born adult males.
The elections were held and the first National Assembly was
elected on January 23, 1963. It was composed of 50 members who
were elected to 4-year terms.
The nationalists no longer
demanded unification with Iraq but the democratic experience
continued until 1976. The National Assembly was dissolved from
1976 to 1981. More specifically, the peaceful coexistence between
the national democratic movement and the Shaikh came to an end
after the present ruler, Jaber Al-Ahmed, had taken office, on
December 31, 1977. A month later, on January 31, 1978, Shaikh
Sa'ad Al-Abdullah became the Crown Prince and the Prime Minister,
and Shaikh Sabah Al-Ahmed became Deputy Prime Minister and the
Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The three men have been ruling Kuwait absolutely, most of the
time. They demonstrated no interest in keeping the democratic
tradition when they faced their first national crisis. As soon as
the 6th National Assembly was elected in 1985, the opposition in
the Assembly and the press started criticizing members of Al-Sabah
family for their responsibility regarding the collapse of Al-Manakh
financial market and its consequences.
On July 3, 1986, in response to these attacks from the opposition,
the rulers of Kuwait dissolved the short-lived National Assembly,
suspended certain articles of the constitution, and subjected the
press to censorship.
The government cited the Iran-Iraq war as its excuse to put
democracy on hold. However, when the war was over in 1988, the
Parliament was not restored. This led to public demands for the
recall of the National Assembly. When the government ignored these
demands, the opposition protested in the streets in 1989 and 1990.
The government responded by cracking down on the opposition. The
cycle of protests and government retaliation continued until May
15, 1990, just few weeks before the invasion.
These protests may have contributed to the fourth Iraqi attempt to
restore Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Also, the Kuwaiti government
might have found in tensions with Iraq a way out of its internal
problems with the opposition. This may explain its hard-line
position before and during the Jeddah talks. The Iraqi leadership
might have been deluded to believe that the Kuwaiti people may
support the invasion as it would get rid them of Al-Sabah family.
Wealth: Population Growth and Welfare
Oil revenues passed through three stages of change. The
first stage was between 1934, when Kuwait produced oil for the
first time, and 1973. In this stage, oil revenues were very small
due to the cheap oil prices and the ownership of the oil industry
by British and American oil companies. The average price of oil in
1973 was $1.63 per barrel and the total oil exports amounted to
$1.7 billion for that year. By October 1, 1973, the prices of oil
reached $2.90 per barrel.
The second stage was marked by a
Sudden and huge increase in oil prices. On October 16, 1973, as a
result of the Arab oil embargo, the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries (OPEC) raised the prices of crude oil by about
70%. Prices kept increasing rapidly so that by January 1, 1974,
the increase amounted to $11.50 per barrel, reaching about 300
percent increase. In 1975 the total Kuwaiti oil exports amounted
to about $8.64 billion.
In 1977, the Kuwaiti government became the sole owner of the oil
industry in the country. Oil revenues increased to $8.9 billion
that year. However, revenues almost doubled in 1979 reaching about
$16.8 billion. In 1980, revenues increased slightly reaching about
$17.9 billion as a result of an increase in prices of oil that
reached $29.8 per barrel by May 1,
and even $35 per barrel for a short time after that. Starting from
1981, oil revenues started to decrease reaching $13.8 billion in
1981, $7.5 billion in 1982, $8.7 billion in 1983 (Table 1.1),
$9.89 billion in 1984/85 and about $9.52 billion in 1985/86.
The third stage of change in oil
revenues started in 1986/87 and continued until the Iraqi invasion
in 1990. During that stage, there was a remarkable decline in oil
revenues due to the decrease of oil production and the decline of
oil prices. Oil revenues reached $5.61 billion in 1986/87, $5.85
billion in 1987/88, $6.05 billion in 1988/89, and $6.60 billion in
The sharp increase in oil
revenues, from $1.8 billion in 1973 to $8.6 billion in 1975 to
$17.9 billion in 1980, resulted from the increase in oil prices
that followed the 1973 October War and the Arab oil embargo that
accompanied it. While oil revenues quadrupled in the coffers of
oil-exporting Arab states, sharing oil wealth with the other Arab
states stayed humble. Although the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic
Development was established on December 31, 1961, the less
fortunate Arab states received only about KD302 million,
from January 1, 1962 to June 30, 1977.
Throughout the 1980s, surplus wealth increased in the
oil-exporting Arab states. However, most of it was invested in the
West. As a result, the gap between rich and poor Arab states
increased, as discussed in Chapter IV.
The above-mentioned three stages
of change in oil revenues were reflected in the demographic
changes in Kuwait, particularly the rapid population growth in the
last three decades of the 20th century. During the 19th
century, inhabitants of Kuwait ranged between 4,000, in 1821, to
about 20,000, in 1865. In 1900, there were about 15,000 people in
Kuwait city and about 20,000 in other parts of Kuwait.
The population increased to about 35,000 in 1910, 75,000 in 1935,
and 100,000 in the early 1950s.
As oil wealth increased, the
population also increased, particularly because of immigration.
However, due to the government policy of denying immigrants the
right to citizenship (Chapter III), the percentage of Kuwaiti
citizens kept declining, making them a minority in their own
country. According to the first 1957 census, the total population
was about 206,473. Kuwaitis (citizens and Bidoons) were 113,622
constituting about 55 percent of the population. In 1961, the
population increased to 321,621 people. Kuwaitis also increased to
161,909 but they constituted about 50.3 percent due to the rapid
increase of immigrants in the country. In 1965, the population
grew to about 467,339. However, Kuwaitis kept decreasing in
percentage. They were 220,059 representing about 47.1 percent of
the population. In 1970, the total population increased to
738,662. Kuwaitis were 347,396 representing about 47.0 percent. In
1975, the population reached 994,837. Kuwaitis were 472,088
constituting about 47.5 percent. In 1980, the population became
1,357,952. Although Kuwaitis increased to 565,613, they declined
in percentage representing 41.7 percent of the total population.
In 1985, the population increased to 1,695,128 and Kuwaitis also
increased to 679,601 representing about 40.1 percent. In 1990, the
population of Kuwait increased to about 2,142,600 people. However,
the Government dropped the Bidoons from the Kuwaiti population.
Thus, Kuwaitis decreased to 564,262 representing only about 26.3
These demographic changes were
reflected in changes in the labor force. The total labor force in
Kuwait was 688,446, in 1988. Workers from India and Pakistan
constituted about 52 percent. Arab workers, including Kuwaitis,
constituted about 47 percent. The rest were Europeans and
Americans. Kuwaitis constituted only about 18.9 percent of the
total labor force in 1985. Most Kuwaitis worked for the
government, particularly in services, clerical jobs, and technical
In absence of true democracy,
loyalty of citizens to Al-Sabah ruling family was bought by the
benefits provided by the welfare state.
Oil revenues have funded a generous social welfare and employment
system for Kuwaiti citizens. In 1976, the government passed the
Social Security Law, which limited public assistance to Kuwaiti
citizens. In the same year, the Future Generations Reserves Law
was also issued allocating 10 percent per annum of the state
revenues for the future generations of citizens. While the two
laws ignored the contributions of non-Kuwaitis, they focused on
showing citizens that the government cared for them. Moreover, the
government subsidizes foodstuffs to citizens through direct
distributions to ration-card holders and through Kuwaiti
cooperative societies. Several forms of housing subsidies are also
available for citizens, such as ready-built housing, monthly
housing allowances, construction loans, and a KD 2,000 for newly
The totality of these
governmental policies resulted in creating an attitude of
dependency among Kuwaiti citizens.
The ruling family also co-opted dissent through ministerial
positions, such as in the case of Jassim al-Khurafi in the 1980s,
through financially and socially rewarding top positions in Kuwait
and overseas, or through marriage relations.
The state oil revenues were also
used to maintain the patriarchal relationship between Al-Sabah
ruling family and Kuwaiti merchants. An example was bailing out
big dealers of Al-Manakh stock market, in 1982. However, this
policy backfired this time. The crisis of Al-Manakh was mainly
caused by irrational and wild speculations, which led to the use
of forward contracts and post-dated checks to pay for them, during
the period extending from 1976 to 1982. Under such contracts, two
dealers would strike a forward deal at an agreed upon price, this
premium increased by 20-30 percent per annum but reached 200-500
percent by the end of 1981 and the beginning of 1982.
The Kuwaiti law did not recognize post-dated checks, thus a
holder of such a check could not deposit it in his/her account or
request cashing it. In the latter case, banks would hold the
post-dated check until its proper date, before using it in an
official transaction. During this period of waiting for the due
time, post-dated checks were used by banks as a basis for granting
credit, particularly if this was reinforced by the
creditworthiness of issuers. However, banks were driven to the
market as followers not leaders. Because the Kuwaiti law
regulating forward trading was not properly enforced by the
government, dealers could sell their shares and buy them several
times thus making huge profits on only a forward contract, on
companies that have never existed. By May/June 1982, about KD5
billion worth of shares were being traded in the market, and many
of them were issued by offshore-registered Gulf companies. The
daily volume of transactions reached KD14 million a day, with
prices often doubling or tripling in a matter of weeks. The
government did not interfere because it considered the whole
market of Al-Manakh illegal; therefore, it was not concerned with
regulating any trade conducted there. The crash was inevitable as
many post-dated checks were due by spring 1982. A major dealer
presented his checks before the five-day holiday following the
month of Ramadhan, which precipitated the collapse of the market.
When the government finally interfered, it was criticized in the
National Assembly for letting matters get out of hand and for
favoring large investors in compensation. But one of the largest
eight dealers was a member of the Parliament, which impeded
resolution of the main issues.
The collapse of Al-Manakh stock market and the way the government conducted itself during the chaotic period that followed contributed to the 1986 parliamentarian crisis. People became angry when they saw the government taking care of big dealers, particularly members of the ruling family, while neglecting the majority of small-stock holders. The government was criticized in the National Assembly as well as in the media. When criticism increased against members of the ruling family, in 1986, the Emir of Kuwait dissolved the National assembly and imposed censorship on the media. In spite of that, the ruling family tried to convince Kuwaitis that they were taken care of through the generous social welfare programs, cooptation of dissent, and assistance to Al-Manakh merchants. Actually, these privileges succeeded in convincing Kuwaitis to be loyal to Al-Sabah family. Therefore, when Iraq tried to restore Kuwait for the fourth time in 1990, Kuwaitis did neither support the Iraqi invasion nor the Iraqi annexation of Kuwait. They knew that their privileges would not be maintained if they shared their oil wealth with the other seventeen million Iraqis.
and Human Rights
Although Kuwait has a Constitution, it does not give
citizens the right to change the head of state or the head of
government. The Emir even suspended the Constitution and ruled by
decree. Moreover, systematic human rights violations are built in
the system of government through a body of discriminatory policies
that have targeted the weaker groups in society.
The 1962 Constitution grants the
Emir the right to suspend the National Assembly. But it obliges
him to hold elections for a new Assembly within two months of the
dissolution; otherwise, the old Assembly regains its authority
until the new one is elected. However, the Emir suspended
constitutional provisions by decree and ruled
extra-constitutionally twice, from 1976 to 1981 and from 1986 to
1992. Thus, he was in violation of the Constitution in both cases.
When these violations occurred, citizens could not do anything to
address them legally or practically. Political parties are banned
in an attempt to keep citizens fragmented, which makes it easier
for the ruling family to rule.
As a way out, Kuwaitis resort to informal groupings, known as
diwaniyat. These are mainly based on family, tribal, or business
ties. The ruling family does not mind the existence of such
informal and small groupings because the result is a fragmented
and weak population. Only political parties allow people to be
strong enough to stand for their rights.
The Press Law restricts the press
from publishing materials that contain direct criticisms of the
Emir, particularly that involve treaties and agreements with other
countries. The Government owns and controls the Kuwait radio and
television, which allows it to enforce its Press Law. Violators in
the written media are punished by suspension, fines, and even
The ruling family has maintained
its absolute rule by further division of the population into rival
segments. Citizens are reminded with their privileges if compared
with the impoverished and exploited immigrants and Bidoons. Men
have enjoyed the discrimination against women and continued to
resist any changes in the status quo. In 1999, the all-male
National Assembly defeated two attempts to give women the right to
The law limits suffrage to adult
males, who resided in Kuwait before 1920 and maintained a
residence there until 1959 and to their adult male descendants.
Naturalized citizens have to wait 30 years before they could be
allowed to vote. In this way, suffrage is really limited to
approximately 30 percent of citizens. In 1992, only about 82,000
eligible Kuwaitis registered to vote. These were almost the entire
enfranchised male population. Immigrants do not exercise any
political rights whatsoever, despite the fact that they constitute
about 76 percent of the population (Table 2). This is the basic
discrimination that has led to the basic division of the Kuwaiti
society into citizens and immigrants, which will be discussed in
details in Chapter III.
In 1986, the Government
restricted the right of Kuwaiti males to marry foreigners,
decreeing that advance approval would be required. Kuwaiti women
were publicly advised against marrying foreign nationals.
Although it appears that the marriage restrictions apply to men
and women alike, women are targeted for discrimination in both law
and practice. First, they are denied the right to vote, which
deprives them of the opportunity to address discrimination against
them. Second, only men are able to confer citizenship to their
wives and children, which means that children born to Kuwaiti
mothers and stateless fathers (Bidoons) are themselves stateless.
Third, Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti husbands receive no
government housing assistance. Fourth, they must pay residence
fees for their husbands and residence is not guaranteed for their
husbands by marriage only. They have to get residence through
their employers. In contrast, Kuwaiti men married to non-Kuwaiti
women do not have to pay any fees for their wives, whose right to
residence is automatic. Fifth, Kuwaiti women do not receive social
security benefits. Finally, the Government has discontinued family
entitlements to divorced women, since 1994, but continues to make
such payments to divorced men.
There are no local human rights
organizations legally functioning in Kuwait. In August 1993, the
Council of Ministers passed a decree stating that all unregistered
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) must cease operations. The
objective was eliminating some organizations that have been
engaged in human rights work. Any new NGO must obtain an official
permit. However, the Government has granted no such permits for
NGOs, since 1985. The exception was a permit issued in 1991 for
the Women’s Volunteer Association, because it was headed by the
wife of the Crown Prince.
The absence of human rights
groups has allowed the Government to hide its human rights
violations as well as its discriminatory policies against
immigrants, Bidoons, and women. This absence served the Government
well after the 1991 Gulf War, when Kuwait’s security forces
committed terrible atrocities against Bidoons and immigrants,
particularly Palestinians, Jordanians, Iraqis, Yemenis, and
Sudanese (Chapter X). Reports from a small number of journalists
and human rights groups continued, in 1992 and 1993, about
arbitrary arrests at checkpoints and homes. As a tactic of
harassment, many immigrants would be taken from their homes, held
and interrogated for few hours, then released. The objective was
terrorizing them so that they would leave the country voluntarily.
There were also credible reports of torture and abuse in Kuwaiti
detention facilities throughout the 1990s. This included physical
abuse, particularly beating, burning with cigarettes, slapping,
kicking, shoving against walls, and using electric shocks.
According to the Government, the
number of people who were held in detention pending deportation
was 650 in 1993, 400 in 1994, 500 in 1995, 1000 in 1996, 600 in
1997, 110 in 1998, and 120 in 1999. About 10 percent of these
persons had been in detention for more than 1 year, some of them
for up to 5 years.
The abuse and torture usually precede detention and deportation.
But it would not be detected because there were no trials or
investigations from human rights groups. More important is that
these small Government’s figures about detention and deportation
should not obscure the massive terror campaign that followed the
1991 Gulf War. Thousands of people were killed, tortured, and
raped before they were detained and deported. That campaign
resulted in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Arab
immigrants, particularly Palestinians (Chapter X).
In addition to the terror
campaign against Arab immigrants and the discrimination against
Kuwaiti women, foreign workers have been subjected to systematic
discrimination that has made them the most exploited in the
country. Foreign workers constitute the vast majority of the
workforce in Kuwait, reaching about 1,271,000, in 1998. However,
they are severely exploited and discriminated against. The
International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Committee of Experts
reiterated in 1993 its longstanding criticisms of a number of
discrepancies between the Kuwaiti Labor Code and ILO Conventions
1, 30, and 87. The areas criticized by the ILO included the
prohibition on establishing more than one trade union for a given
field, the requirement that a new union must have at least 100
workers, the requirement that foreign workers must reside in
Kuwait for 5 years before joining a trade union, the denial to
foreign trade unionists the right to vote and to be elected, the
prohibition against trade unions engaging in any political or
religious activity, and the revision of trade union assets to the
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor in the event of dissolution.
A striking area of discrimination
against foreign workers is minimum wage in the public sector,
administratively set by the Government. In 1995, it was
approximately $774 a month (226 dinars) for citizens and
approximately $315 a month (90 dinars) for non-citizens. Thus, the
minimum wage for non-citizens is only about 40 percent that of
citizens. This formal discrimination from the Government has been
a model to follow by employers in the private sector (More details
about discrimination against foreign workers are documented and
discussed in Chapter III).
More exploitation of foreign
workers has targeted the most impoverished and the most vulnerable
among them, the indentured workers. In 1999, there was a
widespread visa trading. This is a system by which sponsors agree
to extend their sponsorship to workers outside of the country in
exchange for a fee of $1,500 to $1,800. Middlemen use the promise
of Kuwaiti sponsors to attract workers from poor countries, taking
commission and remitting the rest to the nominal Kuwaiti sponsor.
Once in Kuwait, such workers are left on their own to find jobs in
the informal sector. Sooner or later, these workers discover that
they face possible prosecution for being engaged in illegal
employment, as they work for an employer other than their sponsor.
In addition, they are extremely vulnerable to extortion by
employers, sponsors, and middlemen.
The historical evidence demonstrates that Kuwait was an
Iraqi territory until World War I. That is why successive Iraqi
governments never fully recognized the independence of Kuwait.
However, Kuwait has developed as an independent entity under
British protection. The oil wealth has enabled Kuwait to develop
irreversibly into an independent state with formal ties with its
neighbors, including Iraq. Thus, the conflict between the
historical rights of Iraq in Kuwait and the realities of the
Kuwaiti state contributed to the continuing crisis between the two
Arab states throughout the century.
The political system is tailored
to protect the privileges of the ruling family and members of the
wealthy merchant class in the country. The ruling family has
depended on the support of male citizens in denying the vast
majority of people their basic human rights. Kuwaiti women are
discriminated against in politics, marriage, and state benefits.
The Bidoons and immigrants are denied permanent residence and
citizenship in an attempt to deny them any political participation
and access to benefits enjoyed by citizens.
Following the War, human rights
abuses escalated to the level of a terror campaign against
non-citizens. The Government was shielded from criticism by the
lack of local human rights groups and restrictions on the
activities of international groups. In addition, the Government
took advantage of the sympathy of the coalition countries, which
did nothing to stop the major 1991 terror campaign and the other
abuses throughout the 1990s.
The most important finding of this chapter is that the 1990
Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was an attempt to restore an Iraqi
territory. Seeing the invasion from this perspective was missing
from the public discourse in the U.S., between August 2, 1990 and
January 17, 1991. Also missing from the public discussions was the
relationship between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which led the Saudis
to take the Kuwaiti side instead of being neutral. The
Kuwaiti-Saudi relations will be the subject of the following
Rulers of Kuwait*
Sabah I (Sabah Al-Jaber, 1752-1764)
Abdullah I (Abdullah Al-Sabah, 1764-1815)**
Jaber I (1815-1859)
Sabah II (1859-1866)
Abdullah II (Abdullah Al-Sabah, 1866-1892)
Muhammed I (Muhammed Al-Sabah, 1892-1896)
Mubarak I (Mubarak Al-Sabah, 1896-1915)
Jaber II (Jaber Al-Mubarak, 1915-1917)
Salem I (Salem Al-Mubarak, 1917-1921)
Ahmed I (Ahmed Al-Jaber, 1921-1950)
Abdullah III (Abdullah Al-Salem, 1950-1965)
Sabah III (Sabah Al-Salem, 1965-1977)
Jaber III (Jaber Al-Ahmed, 1977-Present)
Sources: Shamimyeh (1989); Rush (1987); Kuwait
Ministry of Information (1986:
53); Abu-Hakima (1982);
Joudah (1964). Starting from the
fourth ruler, Sabah II,
there is an agreement on the
above dates. For the first
three rulers, there is a slight
disagreement of about 2-4
The "Al-" here means "son of." Thus, the first
Limited Agreement Between the Shaikh of Kuwait and Britain*
In the name of the Almighty God
The purpose of writing this
honorable agreement is to finalize the obligation and agreement
between Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm John Mead, Her Majesty's
Political Resident, on behalf of the British Government as a first
party and Shaikh Mubarak Bin** Sabah, Shaikh of Kuwait, as a
Shaikh Mubarak, with his free
will, pledges to obligate himself and his heirs in office not to
receive any agent or representative of any authority or government
in Kuwait or in any other place within the boundaries of his
territory without the previous consent of the British government.
In addition, he obligates himself, his heirs, and his successors
in office not to cede, sell, lease, mortgage, or give for any
purpose any part of his territory to any government or subjects of
any authority without the previous consent of Her Majesty's
government on these issues.
This agreement extends to any
part of the territory that belongs to the above-mentioned Shaikh
Mubarak Bin Shaikh Sabah, which may be possessed by subjects of
any other government. As a symbol of friendship upon concluding
this legal and honorable agreement between Lieutenant Colonel
Malcolm John Mead, the Political Resident of Her Majesty's
government in the Persian Gulf, and Shaikh Mubarak Bin Shaikh
Sabah, the first party on behalf of the British government and the
second party on behalf of his heirs and his successors sign this
agreement in the presence of witnesses on the tenth day of
Ramadhan of the year 1316*** which corresponds with the
twenty-third day of January, 1899.
Al Sabah M.J.
The Political Resident in the
Muhammed Rahim Bin Abdul Nabi
E. Wickham Hore
This is a translation of the Arabic original copy of
the agreement, which is published
in Al-Shamlan (1959:
322), and Al-Farhan (1960: 124).
"Bin" means "son of."
This is according to the Islamic (Hijra) calendar,
Charter of 1921*
the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Gracious
We, the undersigned of this paper, have agreed and united
under God to carry out the following clauses:
reforming Al-Sabah family so that they may not disagree on
appointing a ruler.
the candidates for the ruler's office are shaikh Ahmed Al-Jaber,
Shaikh Hamad Al-Mubarak, and Shaikh Abdullah Al-Salem.
if anyone of the three candidates, is agreed upon, the choice
should be ratified by the government.
the chosen shaikh becomes the chairman of the consultative
REVENUES IN MAJOR OIL-EXPORTING
* OPEC Annual Statistical Bulletins, cited in
Farid and Sirriyeh (1986: 120,
Years 1963-1983 (except 1975,
** Al-Jassem (1981:32-36): Years
*** EIU (www.envista.com:80/ebook/tables/T51.html)
# The total represents years 1974-1996.
It does not include 1963, 1970,
POPULATION OF KUWAIT
Ministry of Planning, Kuwaiti Central Statistical
Office, Annual Statistical
Tables 11 and 12 (Cited in
Crystal, 1992: 50).
E Estimated mid-year population.
KMI (1986: 29).
Industrial Bank of Kuwait, Labor
of Kuwait, August 16,1976 (cited
in Alessa, 1981:
* (B): refers to the Bedoons,
citizenship, who started to
from citizens in official
1989. Human Rights Watch (1995:
** By 1995, the number of the
Bedoons was estimated
to be between 135,000 (the
official figure) and
180,000 (a more accurate figure).
The decrease is
due to the eviction of or denying
many Bedoons to
return to Kuwait after the war
*** U.S. Bureau of the Census,
International Data Base.
. (1995: 332)
The Arabic word "Al" and its other variant
"El" have two major usages. It is used with common
names in general as a definite article.
When it is used before the last name of a person, it may
mean "the lineage of'," or "the house of."
Thus, Al-Sabah means the Sabah , the lineage of Sabah, or
the house of Sabah. However, while the Arabic definite article
is always written as Al or El, the letter "l" is not
always pronounced. The word that means "the sun," is
written as "Al-shams," but prouounced as "Ash
shams. The word that means "the moon," is written as
"Al-qamar," and also pronounced as "Al qamar."
The dash (-) is used to link the definite article to the word
that it defines.
. The Utub tribe may also be called Benu (or Beni) Utba. The "tribe" is the socio-political system of organization in the Arab pastoralist society. It is composed of several lineages, each of which is composed of several households. A household contains a man, his wife and children, that is his nuclear family, and all his married sons and their nuclear families. When a father dies, the eldest brother becomes the head of the household.
spite of the fact that this is the exact pronunciation of the
word, many authors write it as Najd. Throughout the book, I
write Arabic words as pronounced by Arabs. Thus, my usage of
Arabic words may be slightly different from the transliteration
used by some non-Arabic speaking writers or Arab writers who
(Al-Rashid, 1960: 31)
The word "Kuwait" is the diminutive of the Arabic word
"Al Koot." The word is used in southern Iraq and
eastern Arabia to refer to a small fort built adjacent to water.
The approximate date of the establishment of Kuwait town was in
1672, when Sahikh Barrak was the Amir of Beni Khaled tribe.
Thus, when the Utubi lineages arrived at Kuwait in 1755, it was
already an established and thriving town called Qurain or Grain
(Kuwait Ministry of Information, 1986: 12, 19-20)
The earliest Arabic reference to "El-Kadhema" was in
623 A.D. when it became the site of the famous battle known as
"That As Salassel." The battle took place between Arab
Muslims, who were led by Khaled Bin Al-Walid, and the Persian
Sasanite army (Al-Farhan, 1960: 80; Kuwait Ministry of
Information, 1986: 12). Following the 1990 invasion and
annexation of Kuwait, the Iraqi government started referring to
Kuwait as El-Kadhema. The objective was to remind the world of
the name of Kuwait before Al-Sabah were allowed to take refuge
in it. More important, it was a reference to the relationship
between El-Basrah and El-Kadhema. While some authors write the
old name of Kuwait as El-Kazima, others write it as El-Kathema.
None of them represents the correct pronunciation of the word in
Arabic as pronounced by Iraqis and Kuwaitis.
The Arabic sound that has caused this inaccuracy of
transliteration has no equivalence in English. It is somewhere
between "the" and "dh." Consequently, both
of Kadhema and Kathema are closer to the Arabic pronunciation
than Kazima, which is used by those speakers of Arabic who find
it difficult to pronounce the sound "the," such as
Egyptians, Sudanese, and urban Lebanese, Palestinians, and
The apostrophe is used in Arabic names throughout the book to
substitute for an Arabic sound that does not exist in English.
The intention is causing a stop in order to allow for the
pronunciation of the following letter as if it is the first in a
new word. Thus, the "i" that follows the apostrophe in
"Urai'ir" is pronounced as
the "i" in the word Ain.@
. (Joudah, 1964: 9-18)
. (Slot, 1991: 69-72, 103-109)
. This may explain the Bahraini support for Kuwait as a paying back of an ancient debt to Al-Sabah.
. (Shamiyeh, 1989: 44-45; Joudah, 1964: 19)
. A "shaikhdom" is a term that describes a political entity that is somewhere between a tribe and a city-state. It may represent an alliance of tribes headed by the shaikh of the strongest tribe. Other Arab Gulf shaikhdoms were Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Al-Shariqa, and Um Al qiwin. The latter seven shaikhdoms became united in one state known as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in 1971.
. (Finnie, 1992: 5-6)
. (Finni, 1992: 5-7)
. (Asiri, 1990: 3)
. The most common Arab tradition in choosing a new shaikh is by accepting the eldest son of the deceased shaikh. However, this tradition triggered a high rate of assassinations. Ambitious members of the ruling families who do not descend directly from the ruler would be excluded. Therefore, the only way for them to become rulers has been by assassinating the ruler or his expected heirs. A way out of this problem of violent succession was leaving the election of the new ruler till after the death of the ruler. This led to the election of other ambitious members of royal families than the eldest son of the deceased ruler.
In the case of Al-Sabah of
Kuwait, the only assassination as a way to take power was when
Mubarak killed his two brothers in 1896. Other than that,
succession was never a serious problem. When Shaikh Sabah II
died in 1866, his son Abdullah II became the Shaikh. However,
when he died in 1892, his brother Muhammed became the Shaikh
instead of his son. After Mubarak's death in 1915, his eldest
son, Jaber, became the Shaikh. This was followed by his brother,
Salem, in 1917. Salem was followed by his nephew, Ahmed Al-Jaber
in 1921 who was followed by his cousin, Abdullah Al-Salem in
1950. Abdullah was succeeded by his brother, Sabah Al-Salem in
1965 who was followed by his cousin, Jaber Al-Ahmed, the present
ruler, in 1977 (See Appendix A).
(Dickson, 1956: 136-40; Al-Rashid 1960: 121-27; Joudah 1964: 52-61)
Al-Rashid family was the traditional rival of Al- Saud. When the
Rashid-led forces attacked Mubarak's Kuwait, the Sabahi-Saudi
alliance became stronger. Later on, when Abdul Aziz Al-Saud
defeated Al-Rashid and established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,
he chose one of his wives from his previous rival Shammar tribe
as a gesture of reconciliation. Prince Abdullah, the present
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is the son of that Abdul Aziz's
Shammar wife, Fahda Bint Assi Shuraim.
. (Al-Rashid 1960: 126-27; Dickson, 1956: 136-41; Joudah 1964:
61-67; Shamiyeh, 1989: 117-118)
. (Dickson, 1956: 139-141)
. (Al-Farhan, 1960: 134; Al-Shamlan, 1959: 327-32)
. Faisal Bin Husain became the King of Syria following World War I, as a reward for him and his family for their role in supporting the British military efforts against the Ottoman government during the war. However, following to his defeat in fighting the French occupying army, he was thrown out of the throne. In 1920, Iraq was placed under the British mandate. The British called Faisal to compete for the throne of Iraq against three other candidates in a popular referendum (plebiscite). The Iraqi government, which was headed by Abdul Rahman Al-Kilani, declared him King of Iraq on August 23, 1921, after he had won about 96 percent of votes. Thus, Iraq became a democratic and constitutional monarchy. Faisal was already very popular as the leader of Arab nationalists who led the struggle against the Turks in Arabia and the French in Syria. In 1922, Britain recognized Iraq as an independent state with special relations between the two counries. In 1930, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Noori Al-Sa'id, signed a new agreement with Britain that allowed the country to become a member of the League of Nations. In return, the British were given the right to stay in two military bases in Iraq for 25 years (Al-Mardini, 1980: 127-130).
. (Al-Mardini, 1980: 127-138)
. (Asiri, 1990: 7)
. (Assiri, 1990: 20-26)
. (KMI, 1986: 14)
. (Asiri, 1990: 24)
. (Bin Sultan, 1995: 154)
. (Asiri, 1990: 54-55)
. Al-Shamlan, 1959: 197-200; Joudah, 1964: 165-169; KMI, 1986: 56)
. (Al-Shamlan, 1959: 203-204; Joudah, 1964: 169-170)
. (Al-Farhan, 1960: 95-96; Joudah, 1964: 171-172; KMI, 1986: 56)
. (Al-Farhan, 1960: 95-96; Joudah, 1964: 172-175)
. (Lubbadah, 1991: 126)
In 1999, the all-male Kuwaiti Parliament rejected the Emir=s
decree to give women the right to vote. Thus, they continue
without political rights like the Bedoons and immigrants in the
. (MKI, 1986: 14, 48; Shamiyeh, 1989: 260)
. (Asiri, 1990: 143)
The opposition leader, Hamad Al-Jaw=an, led a questioning in the
National Assembly of the Minister of Justice, Shaikh Sulaiman Du=aij
Al-Sabah. The Minister was accused of favoring big shareholders
when the government started to compensate people for their
losses resulting from the collapse of Al-Manakh financial
market. The questioning eventually led to the
resignation of Shaikh Sulaiman (Roth, 1991: 29, 32-33).
. (Al-Yahya, 1993: 21-38; Shamiyeh, 1989: 398)
. (Roth, 1991: 29; The Economist, 1990: 21-22)
. (Al-Yahya, 1993: 7-8; El-Mallakh, 1981: 15)
. (El-Mallakh, 1993: 15-19)
. (The Economist, 1990: 13)
. (The Economist, 1990: 13)
. The Kuwaiti Dinar was worth of $3.397 in 1985.
. (El-Mallakh, 1981: 182; KMI, 1986: 14)
. (Joudah, 1964: 26-30, 68)
. (KMI, 1986: 27)
The sharp decrease in the number and percentage of Kuwaitis is
attributed to the change in government statistics which used to
include the Bedoons as Kuwaitis before 1989 (See Table 2).
. (The Economist, 1990: 18-19)
. (The Economist, 1990: 23-24)
. (KMI, 1986: 15, 86)
. (Al-Yahya, 1993: 8)
. (The Economist, 1990: 35
. (Al-Yahya, 1993: 21-22)
. (Al-Yahya, 1993: 24-38)
In May 1997, a group of 75 citizens established a political
grouping, the National Democratic Association (NDA). The
Government denied them permission to hold an open meeting in a
public place. So, they had to meet in a private office (U.S.
Department of State Annual Human Rights Reports, 1997).
 U.S. Department of State Annual Human Rights Reports, 1993.
 U.S. Department of State Annual Human Rights Reports, 1993.
 U.S. Department of State Annual Human Rights Reports, 1993, 1994,
 U.S. Department of State Annual Human Rights Reports, 1993.
 U.S. Department of State Annual Human Rights Reports, 1993- 1999.
 U.S. Department of State Annual Human Rights Reports, 1993.
 U.S. Department of State Annual Human Rights Reports, 1999.
Table of Contents, Gulf War: Overreaction & Excessiveness, By Hassan A El-Najjar