Kuwaitis recount terror of Iraqi occupation


KUWAIT CITY -- Abdulaziz al-Faroud answered his front door Jan. 21 with trepidation. It was after 5 p.m., past the curfew hour in Iraqi- occupied Kuwait, and a knock at the door that late could only mean bad news.

The soldier on his front step beckoned al-Farhoud into the street, where Iraqi troops had assembled about 25 Kuwaitis. The group listened in shocked silence for a moment as a soldier read an execution order for a neighbor's 15-year-old son.


'The women screamed, 'No, no. He didn't do anything,'' al-Farhoud said. 'But it was like you were talking to someone who was asleep or wouldn't listen to you. And they shot him. They shot him just in front of us without care. It was like they were shooting cats or something. And they left his body.'

Every Kuwaiti has a story to tell about the horror endured under Iraqi occupation. Iraqi soldiers terrorized the civilian population morning, noon and night, but most of all they loved the night, as if the darkness would somehow hide what they had done.


'The nighttime was fully theirs,' said one Kuwaiti, who asked to be identified only as Ismael. 'When the night came, every prson was afraid. You watched them from the window as they stole your car and could do nothing about it.'

While Iraqi military officials and intelligence officers used the night to detain, beat and kill, lowly soldiers used the cover of darkness to vandalize, loot and steal. Nighttime, it seams, hid them not only from Kuwaitis but from the eyes of their officers.

Abdullah al Salim is the Beverly Hills of Kuwait City. The neighborhood earned its nickname becaus of skyrocketing land values and comfortable multi-storied homes. Goverment ministers, ambassadors and businessmen lived there.

Abdullah al Salim was a dream for Iraqi looters. They systematically identified the homes left vacant by Kuwaitis who fled the country, then began to pillage, loot and steal from the empty homes. On one block, 11 houses were ransacked.

One of the houses hit by looters was said by neighbors to be the Austrian ambassador's home. Square photographs of the family were strewn about several rooms, drawers were opened and their contents dumped on the floor, books were torn from shelves and scattered on the floor.


The refrigerator was in the living room, as if some soldier made an effort to haul it away but found it too cumbersome to manage.

By night, some Iraqi troops stole seven heavy metal strongboxes from the homes around Abdullah al Salim. They carted them off to a lawyers' society building where they had established a command post. There in the privacy of the society's walls, they forcibly broke them open and stole their contents.

Resistance members said the looting became so bad that taxi drivers would drive down from Basra to collect a share of the spoils. That prompted Kuwaiti resistance members to begin bombing the vehicles with Molotov cocktails, a move that put an end to civilian participation in the looting.

The soldiers stole clothes, cars and appliances. Video recorders were popular, as were televisions.

They also vandalized. In one house, looters scrawled a curse against the homeowner on an interior doorway with gold spray paint. Then on a window visible from the street, they wrote a slogan designed to bring the wrath of Iraqi troops on the neighborhood: 'Long live Jaber.'

Jaber al-Sabah is the emir of Kuwait.

A section of the highway Iraqis renamed Saddam Hussein Road is a testiment to the scale of the looting. There, just north of Kuwait City, allied warplanes cut off fleeing Iraqi toops and turned the stretch of freeway into a killing field.


Hundreds upon hundreds of tanks, armored personnel carriers, military trucks, tankers, buses and cars tried to make it back up to the highway to Iraq, only to be bombed, crushed and burned.

When the roadway became blocked with flaming wreckage, the Iraqis behind tried to drive around, only to become bogged down in sand and hit by the rain of bombs and gunfire from above. Cars rammed each other, truck ran over cars and tanks crushed trucks.

What remains resembles a vast auto junkyard built astride an interstate highway. And what is striking is the load of booty: video recorders, television sets, vacuum cleaners, a set of gold teaspoons lying on the ground in a puddle of grease and the gears of a clock crushed on the roadway.

It is the plundering of Kuwait that is most visible now, but residents say material things can be replaced. But what was done to individuals, the torture and murder, cannot be undone.

Hussein abu Taleb was walking to a store to find food for his family on the Friday before the war ended when he was picked up by Iraqi soldiers. He was dragged into a car, brutally beaten and taken to prison.


While jailed he saw guards burn prisoners with cigarettes and stage fake executions. The Iraqi soldiers refused to let their Kuwaiti captives sleep and denied them food.

'These Iraqi people, they ate in front of me. When they finished eating, they gave the scraps to the cats and let the cats eat. And then the cats finished, they told us to clean up the mess,' abu Taleb said.

He acknowledged that he was lucky to escape with his life, but still he wonders why he was targeted by the Iraqis.

'Still, now, I want to know why they did this to me without any justification,' he said. 'They just told me, 'Shut up and get in.''

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