Kuwait: Al Qurain Martyrs Museum-A reminder of Iraqi invasion
By John V Tauro, Kuwait
Bellevision Media Network
Kuwait, 02 May 2012: If one wants to see the consequence of Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Al Qurain Museum is the place.
This small museum is a memorial to a group of young Kuwaiti patriots who tried to resist arrest on February 24, 1991.
On the 2nd of August 1990, when Saddam’s army invaded Kuwait, destroying the land and torturing the people, young men rushed to form groups as part of what is known as popular resistance. One of such group was Al Messilah Group (Kuwait Force).It consisted of 31 young men. Their main aim was to resist the invading force by all means. They collected weapons from many sources. After gathering a vast amount of weapons, the leader of the group decided, after consulting his group that some of the supply should be used for operations and the surplus should be buried so as to be used when needed.
The group operations concentrated on snipping Iraqi soldiers and planting bombs on Iraqi ammunition trucks. At the beginning, the group members did not face any difficulty in accomplishing their tasks. This was due to the carelessness of the invaders during deployment since they started to become stricter in their control. The Al Messilah group decided to move to Al Qurain district as it was a new area unknown to the Iraqi intelligence, thus providing a suitable and secure base. On 17 January 1991, when the air attack was announced, they shifted to a house in another area of the same district since the owner was not in Kuwait at that time.
On 24 February 1991, at 8 o’clock in the morning of the same day, the leader asked his group members to wear the uniform he had designed, being a white shirt inscribed with the name and the motto of the group. While preparing their weapons, an Iraqi intelligence car stopped in front of the group headquarters. It was patrolling the area looking for young Kuwaiti men and was followed by a mini-bus transporting a number of armed Iraqis.
An Iraqi soldier stepped out of the car and walked towards the house. He knocked on the door but nobody answered. Meanwhile, inside the house, the group leader and one of the members standing by his side were watching the developing situation through a window facing the street. The leader then realized he was in a crucial situation and a decision had to be taken. It was either surrendering to the Iraqi forces meaning certain execution or defending oneself and homeland.
The Iraqis bombarded the house for hours with machine guns, bombs and eventually with tanks. The battles continued until 6 o’clock in the evening. The Iraqi soldiers used tanks (two of which are displayed in front of the Villa) and machine guns and over powered the Kuwaiti group. Three members of the group were martyred immediately and 9 were captured including the leader of the group. Their tortured bodies were later found in another place. Luckily seven members survived the battle. The name of the leader of the group was Sayyed Hady Sayyed Mohammed Alawy .The rest of the group (11 members) could not participate either because some of them were held prisoners or because they couldn’t get to the headquarters before time.
While visiting the memorial, you can see the destructive remains of the battle. Entire walls missing, floors completely gone and metal twisted in ways you wouldn’t think possible. Gaping holes in the walls, staircases destroyed, windows exploded, and structures torn from their foundation. Seeing the actual battleground and being able to walk through the house were these men were fighting for their lives and their country nearly puts you at a loss for words.
There are plaques located around the house that show where the men lost their lives or were captured. When you visit this site and walk around what remains of the home, you can only imagine what these men must have gone through. The museum part of the house is on the ground floor and displays various relics from the battle. There is a reconstructed scaled model of the area so that you can see it from a bird’s eye view.
There are pictures of the martyred men and the families they left behind along with some information written about them such as where they actually work, how many children they had, photos of the children, what they were wearing at the time etc. Shell casings, machine guns, and various documents are on display as well.
The documents on display include memos given to the Iraqi troops during the occupation, with orders to "burn and destroy all the homes on which there are slogans hostile to our leadership, the pictures of the defunct Al-Sabah dynasty, or the Kuwaiti flags", "Burn and destroy every district in which any military, security, or Popular Army individual is martyred", "Arrest any person who owns, or keeps at his home a weapon" and "Annihilate any hostile demonstration." One damaged Chevrolet belonging to the owner of the Villa, another that belonged to the leader of the group, another used by the Iraqi intelligence, the white colour mini bus used to carry soldiers and two tanks used by Iraqi soldiers to attack are kept.
General Schwarzkopf, who visited the house on 14 April 1994, commented that ’when I am in this house it makes me wish that we had come four days earlier then perhaps this tragedy would not have happened’. The Iraqi occupation lasted for seven long months, during which time many similar raids on the homes of Kuwait families were made: or, as the editor of a local publication put it, the Iraqi army ’was like a locust that ate both the green and the dry’. His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, visited the villa and ordered that it becomes a national monument. Today it stands as a pride and a reminder of a path to be followed by young Kuwaiti generations. It also stands as a testimony of Iraqi invasion.
People who have lived through the Iraqi invasion will understand and recall the time spent in Kuwait during that time and how difficult it was to get back to homeland. I remember mine.