Photos of the activities of the Free Kuwait Campaign in London, UK, August 1990 through March 1991
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Hideaways & Hostages

To view former hideaways participating in FKC activities, click here.

Iraq’s sneak attack during the night of August 2 surprised not only Kuwaitis, but also thousands of foreigners in Kuwait. The largest group was British, followed by Bulgarians, French, Italians, Japanese, Germans, and Americans. The invasion also trapped citizens of most other European nations, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, many for nearly 4 months.

During the first days after the invasion, some foreigners fled across the border into Saudi Arabia. Helped by Kuwaiti resistance members, a handful managed to escape later. After Iraqi troops killed a British citizen on route to Saudi Arabia on August 11, the British government urged its citizens to hide rather than flee. On August 15, the Iraqi regime issued a list of nationals to be rounded up for human shields – British, French, Japanese, Germans, and Americans. Other nationals could move about, but not leave.

During the ensuing months, partly due to visits to Baghdad by official and unofficial sources, about 2,600 foreigners were allowed to leave. Governments that had not committed to join the coalition forces had an easier time in rescuing their citizens. These various stages of release did not include about 1,500 adult British, Japanese, and American males who, as late as December, were still in hiding or who were being held in strategic locations in Kuwait and Iraq as human shield hostages.


Many of those in hiding in Kuwait were sheltered in safe houses set up by ex-pat organizers or in the homes of Muslims of various nationalities. The ex-pat underground network and the Kuwaitis ensured a flow of food and information to the hideaways and were also able to smuggle out messages. The level of hardship varied with location, but one constant was the chill of hearing unfamiliar footsteps or an unexpected knock on the door. Some hideaways were captured due to complacency or betrayal. Some died in captivity.

On December 6, after Iraq proclaimed all remaining foreign hostages would be released, the hideaways emerged and were able within a week to fly home via Baghdad. In Britain, many hideaways, hostages, and their families participated in FKC events as individuals or as part of their newly organized group Hostages of the Middle East (HOME). Their appearances on talk shows and at press conferences and their interviews by the news media helped rally British public support behind the use of military force to liberate Kuwait. They and their friends also became members of the FKC’s Friends of Kuwait. On January 13, they joined the large FKC march in London and carried signs that read “I Am Alive Thanks to Kuwaitis.”

Books published about their experiences include John Levins’ Days of Fear, Tim Lewis’ Human Shield: British Hostages in the Gulf and the Work of the Gulf Support Group, and volume 1 of Paul Kennedy’s ebook trilogy The Lid Is Lifted.

(Text adapted mainly from reminiscences of John Lewinton.)

On December 16, 1990, just days after being allowed to leave Kuwait, attorney Kevin Burke addressed a large assembly organized by the Kuwaiti People’s Committee. He reported on the suffering of the Kuwaiti people and the conduct of the Iraqi occupiers, but emphasized it was only a matter of time before Kuwait would be free again.

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