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

For a UBK meeting with its depositors and for liberation celebrations hosted by both banks, click here.

   

For Kuwaitis abroad, the stunning news of the Iraqi invasion produced a profound psychological shock. The Iraqi regime issued falsehoods to the international news media by claiming Kuwaitis invited the invaders in order to overthrow their Al-Sabah rulers. On August 8, Saddam announced Iraq’s intention to annex Kuwait permanently as Iraq’s 19th province. Each passing day brought new reports of Iraqi brutality and looting. Fears mounted for the safety of family and friends inside Kuwait.

Added to the concern for loved ones and the anxiety over their new status as a people without a country was the everyday concern of subsistence. Some wealthy Kuwaitis had substantial investments outside their country, but most did not have the resources to cover a long unplanned absence from Kuwait. Gone were their homes, businesses, and, in many cases, bank accounts. Overnight their Kuwaiti dinars had become worthless. Iraqi dinars had replaced their currency.

The Kuwaiti government and banks took immediate steps to ease this plight. While the invasion was in progress, both were already transferring funds out of Kuwait and both had for years invested funds abroad. To those families requiring financial aid, the Kuwaiti government wired into their bank accounts a monthly stipend to cover housing expenses. Those without bank accounts could pick up a check at an office set up by the Kuwaiti government.

The National Bank of Kuwait set up temporary headquarters in London and offered a daily sum of £500 to its depositors during the first weeks after the invasion. This payout was again offered several times during the occupation. The London-based United Bank of Kuwait had enough liquidity to sustain losing about a third of its deposits within weeks after the invasion due to customer withdrawals.

Because many Kuwaiti families and Kuwaiti students still remained in financial need, several FKC committees met their needs by assisting families in obtaining funds from Kuwaiti sources and in some cases directly distributing funds, by establishing a free medical clinic and recreational activities for children and adults, by publishing a guide to free British social services, and even by distributing newspapers for free. No fee was required to attend or participate in FKC events, whether it was a panel discussion, lecture, performance, or ceremony.

In addition to organizational sources of aid, many Kuwaiti individuals helped families in need. Standing out among them were contributions from Abdulhameed Al-Sane and Sheikha Dr. Suad Al-Sabah. The latter also assumed the entire cost of several FKC activities.

 
During and After
During and After
These 2 foreign exchange bureau listings, shown during the occupation (on left) and soon after, revealed the magnitude of the economic debacle caused by the invasion. After August 2, 1990, value of the Kuwaiti dinar, previously worth about £2 (US$3.50), sunk to zero. Both establishments were on Edgware Road in London. (The zero sale values for Gulf nation currencies in the photo on left were not due to the invasion. Many bureaux did not offer this service since residents of these nations brought money to the UK for conversion into pounds, but hardly ever converted pounds into their local currencies.)

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