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
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 www.evidence.org.kw that I launched on February 26,
2011, the 20th anniversary of liberation.