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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Kuwait marks anniversary of Iraq invasion – but row breaks out over what to call it

Several members of parliament insisted that the attack 27 years ago be referred to as the “Iraqi” invasion and not “Saddam’s” invasion.

Hazem Jaber, a Kuwaiti who fought the Iraqi troops during the invasion of his country, is seen at the Al Qurain Martyr's Museum on August 2, 2017, on the 27th anniversary of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. AFP PHOTO / Yasser Al-Zayyat
Hazem Jaber, a Kuwaiti who fought the Iraqi troops during the invasion of his country, is seen at the Al Qurain Martyr's Museum on August 2, 2017, on the 27th anniversary of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. AFP PHOTO / Yasser Al-Zayyat

The Arabian Gulf remembered the invasion of Kuwait on Wednesday as a row erupted in Kuwait City over how to refer to the conflict.

Several members of parliament insisted that the attack 27 years ago be referred to as the “Iraqi” invasion and not “Saddam’s” invasion.

The argument erupted despite a popular Kuwaiti national policy of differentiating between the Iraqi people and the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

Other senior figures urged unity in the emirate over the harrowing episode that led to seven months of occupation and sparked the First Gulf War.

The assistant undersecretary in the oil ministry Sheikh Talal Al Sabah, said future generations should draw from the “painful history of our country.”

The oil ministry had the monumental task of extinguishing the fires left behind as Saddam’s forces set alight oil fields in their retreat.

Other in the region used the anniversary to promote national and regional unity amid an unprecedented diplomatic crisis among GCC countries over the boycotting of Qatar.

On August 2, “the Arabian Gulf’s security and stability was tested and stood united against a huge crisis, we King Fahad and his brothers … we know in united action is our survival and prosperity,” Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Twitter.

Dr Gargash said the UAE’s role in security and stability is the “backbone of our policy”.

While most Kuwaitis use the anniversary as a call for unity and togetherness from the suffering endured from the war, a battle of rhetoric has broken out among some politicians over the language used around the invasion.

Safa Al Hashem, a populist MP, lashed out at Iraq over the invasion and referred to the Kuwaiti prisoners of war taken during the conflict.

“Aug 1990…today marks a sad memory for a very vicious act done by “so called neighbour!” she said on Twitter. Adding that the invasion was brutal and lacking of neighbourly respect.

Other figures in Kuwait made only references to “the occupation,” deliberately taking care to differentiate between Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator who led the war, and the Iraqi people, with whom Kuwait had amicable relations leading up 1990.

Dr Jumaan Al Harbash, another MP said: “The citizens along with the opposition backed the royal family,”

Former members of the parliament said those trying to change the wording of the event are ignoring facts and trying to revise history.

Dr Hamad Al Matar, a former MP, said that there is no difference in the way of naming of the invasion, as “both are an attempt to escape the reality of the Iraqi invasion and to those who call to forget, he lives in the past. And forgetting bloodshed on this soil of a nation would be betrayal and shame.”

Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed famously said in 1998 that “we distinguish between the Iraqi regime and the Iraqi people, and we are outraged that the people of our neighbouring country must endure poverty and starvation,” referring to the UN-lead sanctions on Iraq that crippled the economy.

On August 2, 1990, Saddam sent the fourth-largest military force at the time across the border in a vicious two-pronged attack that saw Kuwait’s forces caught off-guard. The Iraqi forces at the time were believed to be close to a million, a swell in ranks resulting from a brutal grind in the 8-year Iran-Iraq War.

Within two days, most of the Kuwait’s military were over run or fled along with the royal family to Saudi Arabia –throwing the country into what would become a 6-month long occupation of Kuwait by Saddam’s forces.

Kuwait was occupied by Iraqi forces for seven months before a coalition of military personnel originating for 34 countries conducted operation Desert Storm and liberated Kuwait from the Iraqi forces.

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