On August 2nd 1990, I was in Boston, MA, with Sheikh Ali Al Abdullah al Ahmed, my classmate and bestfriend, visiting his cousin Sheikh Bader al Mohamed Al Sabah, who was in hospital.
When we entered the hospital room, Sheikh Bader sked Sheikh Ali in Arabic, "have they entered?" Sheikh Ali responded that they had indeed entered.
Only later in that day did I understand this to mean that he was inquiring as to whether the Iraqi Army had invaded Kuwait.
It took myself and my friends a while to settle into the shock that they were now stateless.
Fortunately for Kuwait, there were 3 things that helped them survive this time.
First, their leadership, encompassing the Amir Sheikh Jaber, Crown Prince Sheikh Saad, and very capable Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah, were safely away from Iraqi forces.
Secondly, their Ambassador to the USA, Sheikh Saud Nasser Al Sabah, with the assistance of diplomats such as Sheikh Ali Abdullah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, Khalid Al Duwaisan, and Talal Al Razuki and many others, worked tirelessly to galvanize the American Congress and people against the atrocity.
Thirdly, the president at the time, George H.W. Bush, had been recently elected, and luckily for the Kuwaitis, was not in a position to let up on the American image of world policeman that was established by his predecessor, Ronald Reagan.
The occupation lasted only 7 months, but in that short time, the Kuwaitis understood who was on the fence, and who was truly an ally.
I, unfortunately, knew many Arab students in my school that had previously been supported in various ways by Sheikh Ali and the Kuwaiti Embassy, who showed their true nature at the time of the occupation.
Our friends Adnan and Alaa, Iraqi international students, who shared time and joy with us prior to the occupation, were quick to turn their cloaks when they saw the Kuwaitis down on their luck. It was apparent at that time that their friendship wasn't true. Adnan even boasted of his support of Saddam Hussein by brandishing his watch given to him by the Iraqi President.
I myself empathized with the plight of my friends. At the time, my country was experiencing a 17 year long occupation, unfortunately from internal forces, that didnt allow me to have the comfort of returning home. I understood that oppression, whether it lasted 7 months or 17 years, had the same bitter taste. And so, alongside other classmates, I endevoured to never let my Kuwaiti friends feel like they were alone in fighting the oppression of the occupying Iraqi forces.
We demonstrated and protested outside of the Iraqi Embassy periodically. We even came to blows with members of the Iraqi Embassy security. If the Iraqi's didn't know before, they knew after that we all stood in solidarity against them and in support of our Kuwaiti brothers and sisters.
Soon, it wasn't just our little protests outside the embassy, but the entire world at the UN General Assembly coming together to condemn the atrocity.
The movement for the liberation of Kuwait was my first experience witnessing women at the forefront of social change. The movement was really primarily led by brave and educated women who led the charge from their universities and institutions to free their country. Most prominent of them was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to The US who could be seen regularly advocating for action to free her nation.
Let it not be said that the Kuwaitis found comfort in their opulent wealth and left the business of their liberation to others. Sheikh Ali Al Salem Al Sabah, a prominent Kuwaiti and good friend of mine, went back into Kuwait as a mass exodus was occurring from Kuwait. It was through him that the world was able to understand the happenings on the ground in Kuwait. Armed with his trusty satellite phone, Sheikh Ali Al Salem risked his life to communicate with the major news outlets of the world to raise awareness and unite the world towards the cause of their freedom.
This February marks the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait. It was not an easily won liberation. It was not one without difficulty and defeat. But it was a liberation nonetheless. A liberation that the people of Kuwait earned, at home and abroad. The people of Kuwait have earned the right to their sovereignty and I pray that under the leadership of their new Amir, it is never jeopardized again.
I wish my Kuwaiti family and friends a happy 30th anniversary of liberation. May God keep the nation and people of Kuwait.