Kuwait recently celebrated its 56th National Day and 26th Liberation Day anniversaries, which are the two most cherished occasions to the heart of every Kuwaiti. The Iraqi army had occupied its neighbor Kuwait and declared it part of Iraqi soil. However, thanks to the wisdom of its Amir, Kuwait managed to defeat the occupation forces with the help of an international alliance formed through UN resolutions. Kuwaitis have been celebrating the national day for the past 56 years commemorating what their ancestors had done to help Kuwait move from a prosperous present into a brighter future.
The Independence Day
Kuwait Independence was declared on June 19, 1961 during the reign of Shiekh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah who had come to power on February 25, 1950. Thus, it was agreed to merge both occasions and celebrate Kuwait Independence on that date.
The British protectorate agreement
When Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah came to power in Kuwait on May 17,1896, a new phase in the history of Kuwait began. This phase was characterized by international interest in its territory, the inauguration of railway projects, such as Berlin-Baghdad railway, and coal stations. From the beginning, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah realized the threat approaching from the Ottoman Empire, the greatest Islamic government at that time, so he took a decisive step to protect his country from direct or indirect Ottoman intervention. In February 1897, he asked to meet Colonel Meade, the British Political Resident in the Arabian Gulf to ask for British protection to prevent the dominance by the Ottoman Empire over his country. A meeting was made on September 2, 1897 between Kuwait Ruler, sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah and the assistant British Political Resident, Jackson during which sheikh Mubarak did not hesitate to ask for British protection explaining that the Ottoman Empire wishes to devour Kuwait though no agreements had been made with it. He added that in order to prevent the Ottoman empire control over Kuwait, he wished to get British Protectorate.
However, in 1898 many elements incited Britain to reconsider its policy towards Kuwait. Such as the Ottoman military activities near Basra, and the Russian and German plans that were threatening British interests in the region of the Arabian Gulf in addition to plans to extend a railway from the Mediterranean to Kuwait on the Arabian Gulf via Tripoli in addition to Berlin Railway Line to Baghdad, for which Germany wanted to get a few miles of the Kazema Bay.
Thus, on the basis of a decision from Lord Curzon, the British viceroy in India, British Political Resident Mead concluded a protectorate agreement with the ruler of Kuwait, Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah on January 23, 1899, by powers of which Britain became responsible for protecting Kuwait’s foreign affairs without interfering in its domestic affairs and, thus, Britain was willing to use force to face any Ottoman or other intervention in Kuwait.
Declaring the Independence
Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah realized that the protectorate agreement was no longer appropriate after the changes that had taken place in the conditions of Kuwait. At that time, Kuwait was heading for independence and had already taken large strides on its way. The Kuwaiti people no longer accepted the restrictions imposed by the protectorate agreement, though they realized very well that this protectorate had many advantages in this period. Yet, circumstances had changed, which necessitated cancellation of the agreement. Thus, the ruler of Kuwait, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, expressed his desire to replace the old agreement with a new friendship agreement that went along with the development and changes that had taken place.
Reaction of the British government
The British government accepted the Kuwaiti demand. Diplomatic notes were exchanged between Sir William Luce, the British Political Resident in the Arabian Gulf at that time, and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, the ruler of Kuwait, on June 19, 1961. According to this agreement the following terms were carried out:
– The agreement of January 23, 1899 was terminated as being inconsistent with the independence and sovereignty of Kuwait.
– Relations between the two countries should continue to be governed by a spirit of close friendship.
– And thus, Kuwait Independence was declared on June 19, 1961.
Occupation, resistance and liberation
The aggressor Iraqi troops marched into Kuwait on August 2nd, 1990 and occupied it for seven months during which they were severely resisted and rejected by Kuwaitis who fought with all possible military and civilian means. Military resistance teams were formed and managed to deal heavy losses to the Iraqi occupying troops. In addition, civilian resistance in the form of abstaining from work in various ministries and government establishments, student not going to schools and university. The Kuwaiti people also refused changing their vehicles’ license plate numbers or IDs with Iraqi ones.
Kuwaitis resistance and cooperation
Many Kuwaiti families have suffered the cruelty of the occupants and their barbarianism. Many citizens were tortured. Others were killed and some were held captive by the invaders, which made Kuwaiti families more united following the footsteps of their ancestors. They took part in distributing food, clothes and money to the needy.
Liberation and regaining sovereignty
All GCC states, Arab countries and international friendly countries supported Kuwait against the occupation and condemned it. The international community urged Iraqi troops to withdraw but the regime did not respond. Therefore, the Security Council decided using force against the Iraqi regime and on January 17, 1991, the liberation war started and Kuwait was liberated on February 26, 1991.
The adversity of the Iraqi invasion highlighted how far the Kuwaiti people were united, solid, and resistant to the occupation, in addition to their support to their legal government and leadership. Kuwait sovereignty, independence and the safety of its land were never compromised. Such solidarity was admired by the whole world though the Kuwaiti people had been taken by surprise and found itself facing a mighty well-armed army.
Iraqi invasion on the Kuwait land in 1990 is unforgotten memory and a very difficult test to the will of Kuwaiti people in their strength and steadiness. That date witnessed a bright birth of people who stunned the world by their strength, determination and courage in defending their country and dignity. They were taken by surprise when they found themselves before an army replete with the latest machines of death and destruction. The confrontation of the Kuwaiti people against Saddam invasion formed a unique phase in the course of this homeland and its people struggle, nevertheless, the history tells us that this event was nothing but one of the several bright pages of this people, which is full of wonderful examples that reveal the depth of values in the minds and thinking of the Kuwaiti citizen. The building of the 3 gates by Kuwaiti people is an evidence of their readiness to defend the integrity and unity of their homeland in every phase of history.
Seeking to maintain the great value of martyrdom, recognizing the work of heroic martyrs and culminate the wonderful heroic epic of this people. His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Late Amir, issued Amiri decree number 38 of the year 1991 in June 19, 1991 to establish The Martyrs’ Bureau.
His companion His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of Kuwait, has completed this patronage and sought to achieve the lofty goals crystallized in honoring martyrs, as well as their heroism and sacrifice in defending their homeland and its dignity, in addition to the patronage of His Highness to their families in all aspects of life, affirming his appreciation and the Kuwaiti Society of martyrdom value. The distinguished patronage was not restricted to the Kuwaiti martyrs’ families, it included all those who sacrificed their lives and shed blood for the sake of the country’s independence. The bureau took care of families from approximately 15 different nationalities in our beloved Kuwait.
By Abdullah Bowair