Photographic evidence of the Iraqi regime's destruction in Kuwait from August 1990 through February 1991
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Overview: The Human Cost

Kuwaitis who stayed in their country for the occupation's duration led a fearful and dangerous life.

Possessing the Kuwaiti flag or a picture of the Emir or Crown Prince was punishable by torture or death, as was not complying with the rules and regulations set down by the Iraqis to govern Kuwait as Iraq's illegally annexed 19th province. Of the 22,000 Kuwaitis detained during the occupation, most escaped execution but not physical abuse and emotional scars.

Harvard's School of Public Health studied the invasion's impact and stated in 2005 that mortality rates for civilians in Kuwait during the occupation were higher than rates among Kuwaitis who were outside the country.

Martyrs include those killed by design, by accident, and by neglect – by execution, by stray gunfire, and by lack of medical equipment and supplies due to the looting of hospitals. Victims include the families who mourn the death of loved ones and bemoan the fate of those still missing after two decades. As terrible as the property damage was, the human cost was even higher.


The Resistance

Despite extreme peril, many Kuwaitis began secretly organizing opposition within days of the Iraqi takeover. Their acts of defiance included defacing street signs, writing anti-Iraqi graffiti on walls, printing and distributing anti-Iraqi leaflets, work boycotts, and public demonstrations. The resistance was also active in gathering intelligence, boosting morale among the populace, ensuring food supplies were sufficient, and ransoming Kuwaitis in custody through bribery. More extreme actions involved sniper attacks and ambushes that killed hundreds of Iraqi soldiers and use of Molotov cocktails to blow up military vehicles. These deadly activities had to be curtailed due to reprisals. Public demonstrations also were not worth the risk after participants were killed. Leaflet printing ceased in mid-September, when it became a capital offense.

The resistance operated in independent groups without a central command. Communicating with their government abroad was via mobile phone as Iraq had cut off all international calls to and from Kuwait. Women had a big part in the resistance. They smuggled weapons and participated in all the anti-occupation activities. Asrar Al-Qabandi committed daring feats, including hiding or sneaking out of Kuwait the remaining members of the royal family, till her capture and barbaric death in January 1991. A school has been named after her.

About 110 deaths are attributed to acts of resistance or reprisal: 62 executions, 13 deaths from torture, 13 during armed battle, and 22 while engaged in civil disobedience. (Given the population's small size, this number would have in 1990 proportionally equaled about 55,000 American deaths.)

Though technically not resistance members, other citizens played major roles in stemming Iraqi vandalism. Chief among them are the oil industry workers who sabotaged the sabotage of the oil wells, thereby limiting the fires and spillages to 80% rather than 100% of the wells.

Al-Qurain House, Symbol of the Resistance (5009)

As retreat became imminent, Iraqi troops scoured the land for a last chance to steal property and to take men, women, and children hostage. They snatched people off the street and also broke into suburban homes for booty and prisoners.

In Al-Qurain suburb, after the ground war had just begun, the Al- Messilah band of resistance fighters decided to join the battle for liberation by attacking Iraqi forces. As 19 of their 31 members made their plans on February 24, 1991, an Iraqi patrol knocked on their door. When they refused to open the door, an assault began on the barricaded house. The patrol and reinforcements with artillery and tanks pounded the house for 10 hours. With machine guns, Al-Messilah fighters held out till their ammunition was nearly spent. Their leader, Saed Hadi Alawi, then climbed onto the roof, raised the Kuwaiti flag, and threw grenades at the hundreds of soldiers firing at the house. He was blasted away by tank fire. Another two members of the group were killed in the battle. Nine were captured and executed. The rest survived by hiding in the house or escaping to a neighbor's home before the house was surrounded. Al-Qurain House, now a museum, has been left in a state of ruin as a testament to the battle.

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