About This Site
Kuwait Invasion: the evidence is a documentary website.The Introduction section contains a 22-page photo essay summarizing the impact on Kuwait of the Iraqi military invasion, occupation, and retreat during August 1990 through February 1991.In the form of nearly 1,200 photographs arranged by geographical region, the Gallery presents detailed evidence of the massive damage Kuwait sustained and offers a photo tribute to the lives claimed by the invasion.Click Overview for a brief narrative on the different types of damage sustained in each of Kuwait’s five regions (South, Coast, City, Suburbs, and North) and for a look at the names and faces of the many people from varied nations who perished due to the invasion during Kuwait’s seven-month ordeal.To find photos on specific subjects, such as firefighters, fishing boats, hotels, land pollution, oil pipelines, Seif Palace, schools, stadium, or weapons, type one or more words into the SEARCH GALLERY box.All photos in the Gallery regions are from March through November 1991, with a few whose numbers are marked with “A” linked to a comparison of the same scene in 2010 or 2011. (Visit Recovery to see all the before/after comparison photos in one section.) The photos in Human Cost are from 1990-1991 in London and 1991, 2010, and 2011 in Kuwait.To continue with the Introduction, please click on the forward arrow ( > ) at the top of this column.

Kuwait Towers

The three towers, on the capital city’s
waterfront, are the nation’s symbol.
They store water and house a large
rotating restaurant. Shells and bullets
heavily damaged the exteriors during the
occupation, but Iraq’s aim to raze Kuwait
 failed. Internal sabotage wrecked
the electricity, elevators, and restaurant.

Modern Kuwait
The State of Kuwait, a small Mid-Eastern desert nation, is a constitutional emirate with an elected Parliament. It is rich in oil reserves and enjoys the maritime benefits of a long coastline on the Arabian Gulf.Skyscrapers, huge shopping malls, and the availability of the latest consumer goods are a few of the symbols of modern life in Kuwait. The nation’s citizens are highly educated and many study abroad at the university level. They enjoy one of the world’s highest standard of living and work mainly at white-collar jobs in the public sector or in commerce.The Kuwaiti government has a long history in promoting economic growth by encouraging advances in science and technology, largely through KISR (Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research), KFAS (Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science), and the Scientific Club. The private sector also contributes to the modernization, most notably by founding GUST (Gulf University for Science and Technology) in 2002.Back in 1969, Kuwait completed the Umm Al-Aish earth station, establishing the Middle East’s first land to satellite communications. By 1990, there were four such stations. The Iraqi military completely destroyed all four stations and their satellite dishes, which disrupted telecommunications in Kuwait for several years. Today Kuwait has six satellite stations, but Umm Al-Aish never recovered.

The Avenues Mall

In the Shuwaikh suburb, The Avenues
is Kuwait’s largest center for shopping,
entertainment, and dining. It opened in
2007. The malls in existence when Iraq
invaded, such as Al-Muthanna and Al-
Wataniya, were looted and vandalized
during the occupation and withdrawal.

Traditional Kuwait
The old and new Kuwaits exist side by side. Linking them is the Islamic culture and its traditions.Mosques dot the landscape and the muezzins’ calls to prayer are heard five times a day. Religion imbues everyone’s life whether they are in modern or traditional garb, which in Kuwait is a matter of personal choice.Social activity revolves around family and friends, and is typified by communal dining and diwaniyas (weekly social gatherings for conversation and refreshment in special residential rooms).Other aspects of Kuwaiti life that form bridges to the past are the fishing industry, date farming, pearl diving, camel ranching, and the presence of Bedouin crafts, especially woven goods, in the cluster of small shops and stalls called old souks.Shoppers can participate in the age-old custom of negotiating the price of goods sold in the souks. It is expected and is part of the shopping experience.Kuwait’s famed gold souks, where gold bullion and jewelry were weighed and sold, were one of the first targets of Iraqi looters during the days after the invasion. Looting then spread to all types of old markets. What befell the Souk Al-Selah area, which specialized in light firearms, munitions, and hunting and camping gear,
was typical.

Souk Al-Mubarkiya

In Kuwait City, the Al-Mubarkiya souk, like
most of the traditional markets, sells food,
clothing, cosmetics, jewelry, electronics,
souvenirs, books, and home furnishings.

The Oil Economy
The discovery of the Burgan oil field in 1938 changed life in Kuwait forever. Within 20 years, Kuwait’s economy transitioned from a poor one dependent on the dwindling demand for natural pearls to a major exporter of oil. In time, Kuwaiti fields were found to contain 5-10% of the world’s proved oil reserves.Using income from crude oil sales, the government laid the foundation for a new society by modernizing roads and ports and by building desalination plants, oil tankers, oil refineries, petrochemical plants, power plants, banks, hospitals, schools, mosques, parks, and an airline.The oil wealth was shared with the general population, which gave rise to new housing, new businesses, new forms of recreation, resorts and hotels, and a passion for shopping, foreign travel, and higher education.More than 95% of the national economy is based on the sale of crude oil and petroleum products.KOC (Kuwait Oil Company) is in charge of oil and gas exploration, drilling, and production from Kuwait’s 773 oil wells. KNPC (Kuwait National Petroleum Company) oversees the refineries: Mina Al-Ahmadi, Mina Abdullah, and Al-Shuaiba. KOTC (Kuwait Oil Tanker Company) has a fleet of 25 crude, product, and LPG tankers with two under construction and more planned. All these companies are wholly government owned.Not only a crime against the environment and health, the oil fires and sabotage to oil pipelines, storage tanks, and refineries were intended to obliterate Kuwait’s economy.

Mina Abdullah Refinery

On the coast south of Kuwait City, Mina
Abdullah in 1990 was one of Kuwait’s
three refineries. During its retreat, the Iraqi
army used explosives to sabotage each
refinery. Mina Abdullah’s control room
suffered the most damage. It took two
years before full operation was restored.

The Invasion
In a sneak attack, President Saddam Hussein of Iraq ordered an army of more than 100,000 soldiers and 700 tanks to cross the Iraqi border into Kuwait at 1 a.m. on August 2, 1990. As this force descended on Kuwait City from two directions, the city was bombed from the air and attacked from the sea by commandos delivered ashore from boats and helicopters.
Receiving advance intelligence of the Iraqi intention to execute the royal family, the Emir and his household left Dasman Palace in Kuwait City at 3 a.m. and escaped to Saudi Arabia. One of the Emir’s younger brothers did not leave and he was killed on the first day.
The main battles were fought in the air over Kuwait City and on land at Dasman Palace and Al-Jahra (the Battle of the Bridges). After two days of fighting, Kuwait was overrun and the occupation began.
International condemnation of the invasion was swift. Saddam responded by warning to turn Kuwait into a “graveyard” if other nations intervened.
In the months preceding the invasion, Iraqi delegations had visited Kuwait’s industrial centers and airport ostensibly on a mission to study modernization.
Iraq’s attack on Kuwait was not a contest among equals. Kuwait has 17,818 sq km (6,880 sq mi) compared with Iraq’s 434,072 sq km (167,600 sq mi). At the time of the invasion, Kuwait’s population was 2 million. About 25% were citizens; the rest were foreign workers. By contrast, Iraq’s population numbered nearly 19 million with a total military force about 34 times larger than Kuwait’s.

Iraqi Troops Crossing the Border

During the dead of night, the world’s fourth largest military force rolled across Kuwait’s northern border. Kuwait’s armed forces, tiny in comparison, could resist only briefly and withdraw to Saudi Arabia. Iraqi tanks, trucks, and helicopters were at the edge of Kuwait City an hour later.

The Occupation 1
On August 8, 1990, Saddam announced his intention to abolish the border with Kuwait, incorporate part of Kuwait into the Basra province, and annex most of Kuwait as Iraq’s 19th province. He dissolved the Emiri government and appointed his cousin Ali Hassan Al-Majid, also known and feared as “Chemical Ali,” to be Military Governor of the Province of Kuwait.A campaign was already underway to erase Kuwait’s national identity by destroying its landmarks – Kuwait Towers, Seif Palace (the seat of the Emiri government), Parliament, and Dasman Palace (the royal residence) – and by changing the name of Kuwait City to Al-Kadhima.Iraqi troops were permitted and encouraged to loot and vandalize all public and private property and to maltreat, even kill, anyone suspected of remaining loyal to Kuwaiti sovereignty and opposing the annexation.Meanwhile, Iraq gained control of Kuwait’s oil production and canceled its US$14 billion debt to Kuwaiti banks.As torrid, humid August is a most inhospitable time to be in Kuwait, huge numbers of Kuwaiti citizens and non-citizens were abroad when the invasion occurred. About half those caught inside the country managed to flee (perhaps 300,000). Many who chose to stay or could not leave came to be terrorized as Iraqi troops looted homes and businesses and arrested relatives and friends.During the first phase of the occupation, Iraq assumed the new order was here to stay. This period was short, perhaps lasting only a few weeks.

Iraqi Troops Occupy Kuwait

After quickly overrunning the entire country, Iraqi military and police created a tight grip on every aspect of Kuwaiti society in every city, town, and industrial facility. (As the author was outside Kuwait during the occupation, he photographed dioramas at the Kuwait National Memorial Museum for Intro pages 5-6 and 8-9.)

The Occupation 2
International refusal to recognize the dissolution of the State of Kuwait was instantaneous and near unanimous. Governments worldwide called on Iraq to leave Kuwait. When Iraq did not, US President George Bush issued an ultimatum on August 28: withdraw within 48 hours or face war. (Even before this, the Pentagon asked US oil firms to start stockpiling fuel for certain military action.)Saddam rejected the US ultimatum and also the UN’s 14 demands for withdrawal. By then, a naval blockade of Iraq and an influx of US and European troops into the Gulf area were already underway.From Saudi Arabia, the Kuwaiti Emir and his ministers set up a government in exile. They communicated with their countrymen inside Kuwait, directed resistance to the Iraqi regime, and provided thousands of Kuwaitis in need with an allowance – those both outside and inside the country. The Emir also traveled the globe to enlist support for restoring his legitimate government to Kuwait.The occupation’s second phase involved defensive military measures (building at least 240,000 fortifications) and preparation of a scorched earth strategy in case of retreat. Trenches were dug along the coast and Saudi border, miles of barbed wire strung, and 5 million land mines planted. Homes and other buildings were fortified with sandbags and bricks and turned into machine gun nests. To threaten massive sabotage and environmental havoc not only oil wells, but also factories, hotels, and public buildings, were wired with incendiary bombs. Plans were also made to kidnap thousands of Kuwaitis and hold them hostage
in Iraq.

Iraqi Mine Fields and Oil Fires

In 1991 Kuwait was blanketed by vast oil lakes, black smoke plumes, and anti-tank and anti-personnel land mines. By 2002, deminers had cleared 1,646,962 mines plus unexploded ordinance (UXO); mines had injured 1,026 and killed 85; UXO had injured 175 and killed 119. UXO is also called explosive remnants of war (ERW).

Desert Shield & Desert Storm
Operation Desert Shield was initially created by the US five days after the invasion of Kuwait to protect Saudi Arabia from Iraqi aggression. It officially commenced on August 7 when President Bush sent air and ground units to Saudi Arabia, and it ended on January 16, 1991, with the start of Operation Desert Storm.During the five months of Desert Shield, the US was the prime mover in organizing a military coalition of nations prepared to use force if necessary to oust Iraq from Kuwait. The coalition consisted of troops from 34 nations and was sanctioned by the UN. Germany and Japan did not send troops, but contributed military supplies and significant funding.On January 12, 1991, the US Congress authorized President Bush to conduct war against Iraq. On January 15, the UN deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal passed. The next day, Operation Desert Storm began with the aerial bombardment of targets in Iraq and Kuwait. It lasted for six weeks. Its purpose was to sap Iraqi military strength and thereby minimize coalition casualties on the ground.On January 22, to show the threat of environmental war was not a bluff, Iraq responded by blowing up the first oil wells and pumping oil into Gulf waters.From January 29-31, a ground battle was fought in Saudi Arabia after Iraqi troops unsuccessfully invaded the town of Khafji.By February 19, hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells were ablaze and 1.5 millions barrels per day of oil were pouring into the Gulf.

US Air Force Fighter Jets

During the air war phase of the Gulf War, 88,500 tons of bombs were dropped by more than 100,000 sorties. The purpose was to sap Iraqi military strength and so minimize coalition ground casualties. Out of 1,800 combat planes plus many supply planes, 75 aircraft were lost. US General Charles Horner was coalition commander.

Desert Sabre
On February 22, President Bush gave Iraq 24 hours to avoid a ground attack by withdrawing from Kuwait.
When Iraq showed no sign of complying, the ground offensive began on February 23 while the air force continued to pound Iraqi targets. The ground war was known as Operation Desert Sabre.From many directions in Saudi Arabia, coalition forces entered Kuwait directly in the south and thrust into Iraq first and from there into central and northern Kuwait.During the short span of the ground action, Iraqi troops blew up the structures that had been pre-wired with explosives, lit up the remaining oil wells, and searched for people to take as hostages. Food, water, and other necessities were in short supply. Civilians venturing outside risked being seized for transport to Iraq.On February 24, a Kuwaiti resistance group known as Al- Messilah barricaded themselves in a house in the city’s Al-Qurain district and battled Iraqis equipped with tanks. After 10 hours, the uprising was squashed.On February 26, Saddam ordered his troops to withdraw and they immediately evacuated Kuwait City. This date was declared Liberation Day.On February 28, coalition forces, led by Kuwaiti soldiers, entered the ruins of Kuwait City.On March 15, Emir Jaber Al-Ahmad Jaber Al-Sabah returned from exile. Legitimate government was restored and the task of repairing the massive damage began.

Coalition Ground Forces

For the ground war phase of the Gulf War, the coalition had amassed an army of 959,600. Iraq had 545,000 men under arms of which 20% were deployed in Kuwait. Iraqi casualties and deaths were about 20-30 times higher than those of the coalition force. US General Norman Schwarzkopf was coalition commander.

The Retreat: Oil Fires
Saddam seems to have thought that threatening to burn Kuwaiti oil wells would immunize Iraq from attack. If so, this proved to be a miscalculation.In the event of an Iraqi retreat, Saddam intended for all wells to be ignited. Iraqi demolition experts had begun wiring all 1,294 active wells in mid-August 1990, then had to rush in February 1991 to rewire 788 after Kuwaiti oil workers disabled the initial wiring. Of these, 613 burst into flame and 157 exploded without fire. Huge oil losses and pollution resulted from 114 of these explosions, which created gushers.In addition to the setting of oil fires, 10 oil storage centers were completely destroyed, oil pipelines were blown up, and oil stored in terminals at the ports was poured into the Gulf. The main purpose of directing oil into coastal waters was to prevent an amphibious landing by coalition troops, but it was also done to wreck marine habitats.The sabotage included ignition of a few natural gas wells and destruction of gas transport, storage, and processing facilities.For health reasons, US Army Intelligence warned American troops in January 1991 to stay more than 200 meters away from oil fires. The main concern was the hazard of hydrogen sulfide gas in the smoke.Most of the sabotage to the wells and other oil facilities, as well as the sinking of five anchored oil tankers, occurred during February 16-22, 1991.Southeastern Kuwait, where the Burgan complex of oil fields lie, suffered the most oil damage.

Oil Wells Were Prepared for Sabotage

Saddam sent special teams of engineers to Kuwait to rig its oil wells with incendiary devices and later to detonate them. Land mines were planted around each well to hamper efforts to extinguish the fires.

The Retreat: Oil Lakes
Not all the oil gushing from blazing wells burned and not all the exploded wells caught fire.Oil from unignited wells formed enormous viscous black lakes ranging from a few centimeters to 2 meters deep and up to a mile long. There were more than 300 giant wet oil lakes plus a few thousand small ones covering a combined 49 sq km (12,108 acres) and oozing across roads and streets, but mainly pooling in the desert and contaminating around 40 million tons of soil and sand.Over time, thousands of dry oil lakes formed on 5% of Kuwait’s desert area. They were made up of tarcrete layers – solid mixtures of oil, soot, sand, and pebbles – the result of oil lake seepage, oil mist fallout, and the seawater spray used to quench many of the fires.Remediation of most tarcrete areas remains to be done at a projected cost of more than US$3 billion. Below the tarcrete, the presence of mines and UXO complicates cleanup efforts.After liberation, Kuwait’s parent oil company (KOC) succeeded in draining more than 130 of the wet lakes. This was part of a larger recovery project designed by KOC employees who were outside of Kuwait during the occupation. Called the Al-Awda Project (The Return), it was set up to develop plans for overcoming such potential disasters as massive oil fires and crippled oil production. Thanks to Al-Awda, the Kuwaiti oil industry’s recovery was relatively quick given the overwhelming magnitude of the damage.

Oil Lake

Oil lakes wrecked a large part of the fragile Kuwaiti desert ecosystem. Camels, lizards, chickens, and other birds starved, drowned, or were poisoned. Insects, plants, and underground fresh water were also adversely affected. From half to two- thirds of the oil released became lakes.

The Retreat: Smoke
The oil fires spewed black smoke plumes into the air and soot traveled across national boundaries, even as far as Japan and Hawaii.On the worse days, the smoke absorbed 80% of the sunlight and turned day into night.At the Burgan oil field, the smoke plume was 50 km long.Kuwaitis found their white clothing turned to gray, and their hair, eyes, nostrils, and lungs filled with soot. Those exposed to smoke from the fires, according to a study by Harvard’s School of Public Health, were at a risk roughly equal to smoking 20 packs of cigarettes, which, by 2005, would roughly cause 100 premature deaths.At the time of the invasion, Kuwait was producing about 2 million barrels of crude oil daily. The crude came from 944 active oil wells wholly owned by Kuwait and about another 350 small wells in the extreme south jointly owned with Saudi Arabia.A total of about 11 million barrels of oil was spilled into the Gulf, which made it the worst oil spill ever. The raging oil fires consumed daily 5-6 million barrels of oil and 70-100 million cubic meters of natural gas. By the time the last fire was extinguished, a total of nearly 2 billion barrels of oil had been lost.More than nine months passed from the time the first fire was set till the last fire was extinguished. For Kuwaiti oil production to reach pre-war levels, it took two years and an expenditure of more than US$5 billion.

The Oil Fires Burn Out of Control

The sight, smell, roar, and heat of the ubiquitous oil fires created a vision of hell in Kuwait for months, while the smoke cast a depressing pall over the landscape. But, paradoxically, the vision could also be one of strange beauty.

The Retreat: Property Damage
The looting and vandalism began on August 2 and lasted till the last day of the retreat and surrender nearly seven months later.No place was spared, whether in the city or in a village, as homes, hospitals, schools, mosques, tiny shops, large corporations, amusement parks, public buildings, hotels, and resorts were plundered, smeared with Iraqi graffiti, and smashed or sprayed with bullets inside and outside. Computers, appliances, toys, street lamps, boats, motor vehicles, and even airplanes were taken. What was unwanted or untransportable was broken
or ignited.Kuwait University (KU) had typical looting, being stripped bare of everything from blackboards to desks to paper clips to bookshelves to screws in the walls. At the sports stadiums, the seats were removed. At vandalized KISR, the staff found its files a year later hidden in a ditch behind the institute.Thousands of archeological treasures from the National Museum were loaded into army trucks and spirited off to Baghdad. The museum’s wooden Great Dhow, too big to transport, was left behind, but, days before retreating, the soldiers returned. In a particular act of malice, they poured gasoline on the old ship and set it blazing.In addition, the windows in the many fortified buildings were shattered and replaced with mortar and bricks.In 2005, the UN ordered Iraq to pay US$52.5 billion to its neighbors for the invasion damages, with the bulk of compensation for Kuwait. This is a small fraction of the losses claimed by the government and its citizens.

Commercial Building After Arson

This building housed offices for many of the foreign airlines operating in Kuwait. The damage shown fits the pattern of Iraqi vandalism in Kuwait – to detonate and burn parts of large buildings and thereby destabilize them.

The Retreat: Highway of Death
Iraqi troops fled Kuwait City on February 25-26 on the Jahra Road, the most direct land route north to Iraq. They headed in the reverse direction they had taken on August 2, 1990.They drove tanks, munitions trucks, buses, ambulances, and civilian trucks and cars stolen from Kuwait. Most vehicles were crammed with plunder.Coalition air strikes bombed both ends of the road to stall the convoy and then destroyed the vehicles trapped in the traffic jam. The result was a 60-mile road littered with about 2,000 wrecked or abandoned vehicles, a million items of loot, and an indeterminate number of soldiers’ bodies. The bulk of the wreckage was concentrated in a 1 km stretch of this road next to Mutla Ridge, the highest elevation in Kuwait. Mutla Ridge is north of Jahra city and 8 km south of the Iraqi border.Estimates range from a few hundred to a few thousand Iraqi soldiers killed. Most of the soldiers traveling on the road survived – by abandoning their vehicles and their heavier loot and making it across the border on foot.On Highway 8, a less-direct coastal route from Kuwait City to Iraq, 400-700 vehicles were annihilated.On roads all over Kuwait, ruins of individual vehicles of all types dotted the landscape.Despite the bombing, the lion’s share of the Iraqi army, from 70,000 to 80,000 men, crossed into Iraq along with more than 6,000 Kuwaiti hostages.

Abandoned Vehicles and Loot

Jahra Road (Highway 80) is a 6-lane road connecting Kuwait City to Iraq. The drive north from the city to the border takes 1-2 hours. Since the carnage that occurred on February 26-27, when coalition planes bombed retreating Iraqi troops, the road segment near Mutla Ridge became known as the Highway of Death.

The Aftermath: Fighting the Fires
Oil fires are easy to set, but extremely hard to put out.The first predictions were that five years were needed to quench all Kuwait’s oil fires. The government found this unacceptable and was prepared to spare no expense or effort to end the travesty within a year.A workforce of more than 10,000 men from 10 countries were mobilized to fight the fires. The first arrivals landed on March 11 on the first air flight permitting civilians. On March 15, the first equipment was airlifted into Kuwait, and on March 16 the task began at the wells that had been cleared of land mines, UXO, and barbed wire.The biggest wells gushed oil up into the air at more than 800 mph (1,290 kmh), and heat from the desert climate and oil fires turned the landscape into an inferno.Different teams used different techniques to extinguish the fires and cap the wells, including blasting seawater from 1 million gallon lagoons with twin engine MIG jets and producing shockwaves with TNT.The Wild Well Killers, Kuwait’s oil well firefighting team, was formed in September. They extinguished their first well fire in 12 minutes to set a world record. The team had 31 members and achieved 41 fire extinctions.In a ceremony on November 6 at the Burgan oil field, the Emir quenched the last oil fire. Kuwait’s sunlight had returned and the nine-month-long horror was over.The firefighting had cost Kuwait US$1.5 billion. Without it, the oil fires had been estimated to last 100 years.

Firefighter in Kuwait

The scale of the oil fires presented an unprecedented challenge to firefighters. The fires emitted toxic gases, oil mist and black rain, and temperatures as high as 950°F (510°C).Many firefighters suffered thermal burns from the heat. At least one, from China’s team, is known to have been killed.

The Aftermath: Pollution
The occupation of Kuwait left a legacy of environmental damage to every resource in Kuwait – its people, wildlife, livestock, industry, agriculture, and fragile desert vegetation.The oil fires created tremendous air, water, and land pollution. Many experienced respiratory problems during the oil fires. More than a decade later, health studies documented a rise in pulmonary ailments and cancer attributable to the fires.Oil from the deliberate spill into the Gulf soaked more than 400 miles (640 km) of shoreline, also affecting Saudi Arabia. The oil sickened and killed seabirds, whales, dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles, and sea snakes. Greatly harming the fishing industry, fish and shellfish harvests shrunk due to oil slicks in the Gulf and smoke plumes above the Gulf that changed water temperature by blocking the sun for months. This change disrupted life cycles under the sea and deterred egg hatching.About 40,000 birds, many of them migrating cormorants and flamingoes, died. At major expense, more than a thousand birds were able to be treated and saved.Land pollution still remains both from the hard layer of tarcrete, also called tar mat or tarmat, that covers so much of the desert and from the miles of fortifications dug in the desert. These include trenches, ditches, pits, bunkers, berms, and land mine placement – all leading to erosion and shifting sands that distort the landscape and thereby harm wildlife and vegetation.Aside from the pollution, from 1990-1991 nearly all Kuwait’s date palm trees were destroyed as part of a calculated campaign of arborcide.

Poisoning Land and Groundwater

The oil lakes and falling oil mist and rain led to vast areas of soil contamination. Dug fortifications led to erosion, unstable sand, more sand and dust storms, and more dune formation. Oil seepage into aquifers hit hard a desert nation where fresh water for drinking and farming is a rarity. All these problems still exist.

The Martyrs
During and after the occupation, the Iraqi regime abused and killed Kuwaiti citizens and non-citizen residents.From August 1990 to February 1991, the Iraqis arrested about 22,000 Kuwaitis of 15 different nationalities, more than 4% of the 250,000 citizens and 240,000 non-citizen residents who had stayed in the country.Thousands in custody were tortured or made to watch the torture of others. Many survivors still suffer from panic attacks and depression. The younger victims often exhibit anti-social behavior, including alcoholism and addiction to illegal drugs.Of the more than 6,000 hostages and POWs taken to Iraq, 5,772 were repatriated in March 1991 after the ceasefire. For more than a decade, 605 victims were missing until mass graves were discovered in Iraq. Still missing are 368 people whose graves in Iraq remain to be found or whose bodies remain to be identified through DNA analysis.Land mine and UXO fatalities persist. A new victim was claimed in December 2009 when a teenager picnicking with friends encountered a UXO in the desert sand.To Kuwait, anyone, regardless of nationality, who was killed deliberately or accidentally due to the Iraqi invasion is a martyr. Unlike the property damage, the human cost was irreparable.The day of the invasion, August 2, is now observed as Martyrs Day.

Monument to the Martyrs

Each of Kuwait’s six governorates has a monument carved with names of martyrs from that area. Other types of memorials are parks, schools, water fountains, a high-rise building, and a street named for the martyrs. Al-Qurain House is now a museum dedicated to the 12 martyrs of Al-Qurain.

The Recovery: Building Exteriors

In 1991

Of the approximate quarter of a million dwellings in Kuwait during the occupation, the majority was looted and vandalized. Iraqis moved into the homes belonging to the Kuwaitis abroad, then looted and vandalized them before retreating. From outside, however, the full extent of the damage to homes and other buildings was not visible.

The Same Residence in 2010 

Except for one special home that has been left ravaged and been turned into a museum (Al-Qurain), no physical traces of residential damage remain. All houses have since been redecorated, refurnished, and repaired or completely rebuilt. The emotional scars from a violated home and personal possessions stolen and defaced are immeasurable. Ripping up a family’s photo albums, torching their books, and smashing their music collection do not benefit the perpetrators and are therefore acts of pure malice.

The Recovery: Building Interiors

In 1991

Nothing in Kuwait was sacred as even mosques were looted, burned, and otherwise vandalized by the Iraqi invaders. The Bnaider Mosque, shown here, did not escape this fate.

The Same Mosque’s Interior in 2010

The Bnaider in southern Kuwait, the Jeleeb Al-Shyuokh in the suburbs, the Abdali in the north, and all other damaged mosques have been restored and are once again in daily use and filled with worshippers.

The Recovery: Land Reclamation

In 1991

During the occupation, a few thousand kilometers of trenches were dug along the Gulf coast and Saudi border. Before the retreat, oil was poured into many of the trenches and set on fire.

The Same Beach in 2010

Many trenches have been filled in with the sand from their embankments, but the soil contamination remains below those trenches that were doused with oil. The land disturbance from the digging, which loosened sand and soil, has also led to erosion and higher-than-normal levels of airborne sand on windy days.

The Recovery: The Palace

In 1991

Seif Palace is the government office of the Prime Minister and Vice Emir and a symbol of Kuwait sovereignty. It was one of the first structures ransacked after the invasion. Seif Palace, including its famed watchtower, was sprayed with gunfire. Some rooms were also subject to arson.

Seif Palace in 2011

The Palace has been completely restored to the same appearance as that of pre-invasion Kuwait. It was built in 1906-1907 and extended in size during later years. The Palace has been completely restored to the same appearance as that of pre-invasion Kuwait. It was built in 1906-1907 and extended in size during later years.

It is human to resist recalling painful memories, but without recollection we risk becoming complacent and preventing dire events from being repeated. Without recollection, we display ingratitude by turning our backs on the people who made sacrifices for the rest of us.About a third of Kuwait’s population was born after the occupation and, to many youths, the events of 1990- 1991 are ancient history. They live in a fast-paced, gadget-filled universe that leaves little time for reflection on the past and on the intangible.In the areas most visible to most people – the cities and towns – the new Kuwait shows few signs of the invasion even though the scale of the property destruction was the most immense per capita in modern history.The largely unseen evidence lingers in the desert and in the hearts of those who suffered physical or mental injuries, lost loved ones, or beheld incomprehensible brutality and acts of hatred from their neighbors north of the border.It is fitting to see the many monuments and memorials for the people who can never be thanked enough – the heroes and heroines of the Resistance, the soldiers who fought against impossible odds, and all the other martyrs. It is reassuring to see our nation engaging in month-long festivities and events in celebration of the 20th anniversary of our joyous Liberation Day.Whether uplifting, bittersweet, or painful, we welcome all our thoughts of remembrance.

The New Kuwait

Kuwait City’s skyline today does not resemble that of 1990. Scores of high-rise commercial and residential buildings have redefined the city’s look and feel. Now under construction is Kuwait’s ambitious project, the 412-meter (1,352 ft) sculpted Al-Hamra Tower. It will be one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers.