Photos of the activities of the Free Kuwait Campaign in London, UK, August 1990 through March 1991
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Interview 4

Foreigners were going to die liberating Kuwait. Do you think enough Kuwaitis joined the military to share the danger? Did you try to join?
From the first week, many Kuwaiti men, including my brother-in-law and I, went to the Embassy to sign up for the military. It was our duty to do so in a national emergency. Like all able men, we had received standard military training. At the Embassy, we encountered confusion. Our government had vanished. The crisis was bigger than what Kuwaitis could handle on their own. We tried to sign up several times, but nothing happened. The FKC started a Sports Committee to help young men get in shape for battle. Later we heard the coalition forces didn’t want to fight beside non-professional soldiers. Kuwaiti men desiring to do more went to help the coalition forces as civil engineers and interpreters, while Kuwaiti women joined the Red Crescent Society as nursing aides.

How did you feel on February 26 when you heard Kuwait had been liberated?
I can’t explain it. An overwhelming mixed feeling – euphoria and dread. I held my breath for a long time as I waited to know who had lived or died. Were my friends dead? I braced myself for bad news. Then we learned the death toll was relatively low for such a large-scale military operation. I exhaled and felt my life returning. Next I started reliving all the emotions of the months in London. One day your money is worth £2 to the dinar, the next day it is zero. One day you are a citizen of Kuwait, the next day your country has disappeared.

After liberation, when did you leave London?
My family and I left London around March 11 for Dubai. From there I went alone to Saudi Arabia. it was still hard for civilians to enter Kuwait, so I bought a small truck and filled it with food and electric generators. This allowed me to cross the Saudi border into Kuwait on March 24. At last my exile was over.

What conditions did you expect to find when you returned home?
From the start we knew businesses were being looted. I didn’t hear about theft or damage to my home or the homes of friends and relatives till I returned. I wasn’t worried about my home. Both my brothers were in Kuwait to look after it. My concern was, if my home was being looted, that my brothers might act without thinking and get hurt doing something heroic.

Did you discover anything new when doing research on the website?
Yes. I found people had engaged in more activities and work than I was aware of. But mainly it was about rediscovering old friends and reawakening long- forgotten memories. I now speak to and see people with whom I have not been in touch for 20 years. I learned more of their individual contribution to the FKC and of what they recall about their colleagues. Since those days in London, I see how far they have journeyed in life and I have found them residing across most continents - North America, Europe, Africa, and southern Asia.


Do you plan to expand the website?
Yes. My camera and I couldn’t be everywhere at once. Efforts of many Kuwaitis and their supporters have not yet been recorded for posterity. I am inviting people who have photos, memorabilia, documents, and videos of interest to please contact me for possible inclusion in the site. I also hope to hear from people who recognize the FKC participants whom we have not yet identified. After 20 years have passed, recalling everyone’s name was not possible.

Was the FKC acknowledged during the celebration of the 20th anniversary of liberation ?
In a small way, yes. An exhibition about the FKC was on display for 4 days from February 16-19, 2011, at The Avenues, Kuwait’s largest shopping mall. Also for the occasion, Dr. Othman Al-Khadher published a book, Heroic Acts, about the history of the FKC. I see this as the start of increased recognition.

What led you to photography?
When studying at a South Carolina university in the 1970s, I took an course in photography. The professor said I had talent and urged me to major in it. But my father wouldn’t allow it. He expected me to join the family business. He was also being practical. In Kuwait, then and now, photography is not a career. You can’t earn enough for it to be a fulltime job; it’s expensive even as a hobby. Artistically your imagination is limited – no modeling or nude photography, and most of the landscape is an uninspiring dull flat desert. Contemporary art was not accepted in the 1970s and people’s tastes were very old-fashioned.

After college in the US and my stint in the Kuwait army, I spent the next decade concentrating on my business career. But I loved photography and never let it go. I became a critic for friends. On many days, I left the office to seek places to photograph. During this time in the 1980s, I built a small studio and lab at home to experiment with lighting. My work was mainly in black and white. But what I perceived as a lack of technical skill haunted me. I had not taken advanced courses. I felt my understanding of lighting was weak and this held me back.

The invasion changed all that. During mid-1990 to early 1991 when stranded in London, I began taking photos daily for the FKC. This forced me to acquire better lenses and to carry at least one camera at all times (which I still do). It took a month or two for my eye to improve, and then I noticed that my shots were better. Once back in Kuwait, I made it my mission to record the damage. I took photos daily for 8 months; the result was a collection of nearly 15,000 negatives and slides. After this, I took photography seriously. My photos from March-November 1991 document the damage in Kuwait and form the basis of my book The Evidence, several art gallery exhibitions on “The Evidence of Malice,” and the website that I launched on February 26, 2011, the 20th anniversary of liberation.