Bagdad, oktober 1988. De Palestijnse leider Yasser Arafat (R.) kon het goed stellen met het Iraakse dictatoriale regime. Zijn samenwerking met Irak zal enkele jaren later aan de basis liggen van de verdrijving van de Palestijnen uit Koeweit tijdens en na de Eerste Golfoorlog. [beeldbron: Al Jazeera]
25 jaar geleden in 1991 verdreef Koeweit tussen 350.000 en 370.000 Palestijnen uit het land. En niemand die hier naar verwijst. Vele van deze Palestijnen waren in de jaren 1950 naar Koeweit uitgeweken en leidden er een relatief goed leven. Gehele families groeiden hier op tot… ze werden uitgezet en gedeporteerd.
Echter nadat de Palestijnse Bevrijdingsorganisatie (PLO) de invasie in Koeweit door Saddam Hoessein omarmde werden de Palestijnse inwoners aangeschoten wild. Eind jaren 1990 vonden er reeds vier dodelijke bomaanslagen plaats in Palestijnse wijken die een eerste uittocht op gang bracht. Na het einde van de Iraakse bezetting begon de Koeweitse vervolging van de Palestijnen. Martelingen, moorden, verkrachtingen en de geplande etnische zuivering van honderdduizenden Palestijnen. Ongeveer 4.000 Palestijnen werden vermoord en 16.000 anderen gemarteld in de Koeweitse gevangenissen en ondervragingscentra. Honderdduizenden werd verdreven waarvan vele duizenden werden opgesloten aan de grens met Irak in het zogeheten Safwan Refugee Camp.
Waarom herdenken Palestijnsen deze 25ste verjaardag van de Nakba in Koeweit niet? Ze herdenken toch jaarlijks op 15 mei de ‘nakba’ van 1948? Waarom praat geen enkele pro-Palestijnse groep of ngo over deze ‘nakba’? De reden is vrij simpel. Die hele ‘pro-Palestijnse’ sien is niks meer dan een pose, een voorwendsel, en heeft helemaal niets te maken met hun liefde voor de Palestijnen maar alles met hun haat jegens die andere groep: de Joden. En vermits Israël hier op geen enkele wijze in betrokken was, haalde dit ‘schokkend nieuws’ geen krantenkoppen (hooguit wat rimpels op het wateroppervlak) en produceerde ook geen V.N.- resoluties.
Aan de vooravond van de Eerste Golfoorlog leefden er afhankelijk van de bronnen ca. 400.000 à 450.000 Palestijnen in Koeweit. Een erg hoog aantal vermits op dat ogenblik de inheemse bevolking 564.262 bewoners telde. Toen Saddam Hoessein ’s leger op 2 augustus 1990 de Golfstaat binnenviel en bezette vluchtten ca. 200.000 Palestijnen het land uit, voornamelijk uit angst en vervolging.
Nadat Irak later door de Amerikaanse bondgenoten van Koeweit tijdens Operation Desert Storm uit de oliestaat werden verdreven en op 28 februari 1991 de oorlog voorbij leek, kregen de Palestijnen de rekening gepresenteerd. De Palestijnen werden door het teruggekeerde Koeweitse regime beschuldigd van massieve collaboratie met Irak. Koeweit begon een terreurcampagne tegen de Palestijnen. Vervolging, verkrachtingen, martelingen, executies en uiteindelijk deportaties waren hun lot.
Tegen 1998 bleven er van die Palestijnse gemeenschap van 400.000 nog maar een 30.000 Palestijnen meer over. PLO-voorzitter Mahmoud Abbas zal zich daar vele jaren later voor excuseren en zei in december 2004 het volgende omtrent de gebeurtenissen en de verdrijving van de Palestijnen uit Koeweit: “We apologise to Kuwait and the Kuwaiti people for what we did,” maar het mocht niet baten en bleven de relaties tussen ‘Palestina’ en Koeweit nog steeds kritisch.
In 2012 was het aantal Palestijnen in Koeweit opnieuw opgelopen tot ca. 80.000. Op 29 november 2012 erkende de Verenigde Naties ‘Palestina’ als een waarnemende niet lidstaat. Datzelfde jaar werden de betrekkingen tussen Palestina en Koeweit genormaliseerd en werd de officiële Palestijnse ambassade in Koeweit heropend.
Hieronder een schokkend relaas van de gebeurtenissen (in het Engels) in 1991:
Koeweit 1991. Palestijnse vrouwen en kinderen aan de grens van Koeweit met Irak, wachtend op hun deportatie na het einde van de Golfoorlog in 1991 [beeldbron: © Isabel Ellsen, Corbis]
The terror campaign after the war started as early as the arrival of the Kuwaiti forces on February 26, 1991. Kuwaiti militants were quoted saying that they would shoot suspected Palestinians when they found them in their apartments. Four main militia groups and two state institutions participated in a concerted effort to terrorize and persecute Palestinians in Kuwait. Two of the militias were headed by the state security officers Adel Al-Gallaf and Hussain Al-Dishti. The third was headed by Amin Al-Hindi, a gangster who specialized in rape, torture, stealing, and killing. The fourth was the group known as August 2nd, which specialized in psychological warfare against Palestinians. The army and the police forces represented the two state institutions that were involved in this terror campaign.
Two Palestinians were shot dead near a traffic circle, on February 27. On March 2, Kuwaiti tanks and soldiers rolled into Palestinian communities, mainly Hawalli. House-to-house searches for weapons and alleged collaborators resulted in the arrest of hundreds of Palestinians. People were also arrested at checkpoints for no reason other than being Palestinians. Typically, they were beaten instantly then taken to police and detention centers where they were tortured for confessions.
Despite the military censorship, newspapers began to report a dramatic rise in the number of injured Palestinians in Mubarak Hospital. Scores of people were treated from severe beating and torture. Six Palestinians were brought to the Hospital shot dead in the head, execution style. By the third week of March, hundreds of people were treated from torture injuries and thousands stayed in detention centers for interrogation. Amnesty International reported that the torture of Palestinians was continuing in Kuwait by the third week of April. A 24-year-old Palestinian had been beaten for hours, had acid thrown over him, and had been subjected to electric shock torture.
The terror campaign continued throughout 1991 achieving its main objective: terrorizing Palestinians enough so that they would leave the country. To expedite the process, the government took several other measures to evict those who did not leave. First, Palestinians working for the government were fired or not rehired. Second, Palestinian children were kicked out of public schools and subsidies for their education in private schools were stopped. Third, new fees became required for health services. Fourth, housing rents increased and people were asked by Kuwaiti landlords to pay rent for the entire crisis-period.
More important were the feelings of injustice and insecurity Palestinians began to experience as a result of the terror campaign. It became unsafe to walk in streets or to stay at home. Rape stories functioned as a decisive pushing factor for the remaining Palestinian families. The “censored” Western media rarely reported on this part of the campaign. The CNN TV network covered one of these rape stories. Lubbadah told the same story together with many others. The Middle East Watch group also told several stories of rape.
On May 27, 1991, several members of a Kuwaiti militia group entered the apartment of a newly married Palestinian couple. They divided themselves into two groups. One group took the twenty-six year old bride, Najah Yusuf As’ad, to one room where they raped her one after the other then they shot her with nine bullets in the head. The other group took the thirty-year old groom, Muhammed Musa Mahmood Mustafa, to another room where they also raped him one after the other then they shot him with four bullets in his spine. When they finished committing their crimes, they sat in the apartment, drank tea, then called the bride’s family several times telling them what happened to their daughter. Another story was about A.M.M., an eighteen-year old Palestinian girl. She was kidnapped and gang-raped for two days then was brought to Mubarak Hospital on May 25, 1991. Her family said that she was kidnapped in front of her house by Kuwaiti young men. A third story was about S.M.A.D., a twelve-year old Palestinian girl, who was also kidnapped in front of her house in Al-Rumaithiyah, on June 6, 1991. She was also gang-raped for two days by a group of Kuwaitis. A fourth story was about F.M.A.F, a fifteen-years old Palestinian girl, who was kidnapped in front of her house in Al-Farwaniyah, on June 4, 1991. She was raped for two days then was brought to Al-Adan Hospital. Finally, a Palestinian woman in her fifties was kidnapped and raped by a group of Kuwaiti men about the same age. A Kuwaiti man approached her offering help. He gave her an address where she can receive social assistance. When she went to the address, she was kidnapped and raped for a week by several Kuwaiti men who then left her in a deserted area.
The government also intensified its efforts to evict the remaining Palestinians directly through deportation. Between the middle of June and the first week of July 1991, about 10,000 Palestinians were deported to the Iraqi border. On July 8, the Minister of Interior Affairs, Ahmed Hamoud Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, announced that there were about 1,000 more Palestinians in detention camps waiting for deportation. Actually, these deportations forced tens of thousands of other Palestinians to leave, mainly family members, because they could not practically stay when the head of the household or the main bread winner was deported.
The deportees were dumped at the Iraqi border near Safwan. Gradually, it became known as the Safwan Refugee Camp. Many of the deportees to this camp were tortured and brutally beaten by Kuwaiti troops. In most cases people were simply “dumped” there without any legal deportation procedures. Typically, people were arrested at checkpoints, then beaten and tortured to admit that they were collaborators. If they did not admit, they would be deported to Safwan Camp. One of the Camp deportees was Fayiz Nadir, a 23-year-old Palestinian. He was burned 10 times with an iron on his arms, feet, and head. Another one was Abdul Qadir, a 30-year-old Algerian. He was arrested together with Fayiz Nadir for two weeks. He saw 109 men in the detention center with their hands tied behind their backs, often blindfolded. When the men were brought to the interrogation, they were kicked and jabbed with gun butts. Electrical wires were put on their fingers and temples. They were given water twice a day and food once every four days. A Sudanese truck driver, Mustafa Hamzah, was arrested and blindfolded for two weeks in the Salmiya Girls’ Secondary School. He named the Kuwaiti 1st Lt. Abdul Latif Al-Anzi as the person who was in charge of that detention center. A Palestinian deportee told the New York Human Rights Group that he was tortured in that school. They burned him with a cattle brand, beat him, then dumped him by a roadside.