Kuwait journey.We were treated like royalty Adv. 1. like royalty - in a royal manner; "they were royally treated"
like kings, royally . Seated in the sleek and gilded gild 1
tr.v. gild·ed or gilt , gild·ing, gilds
1. To cover with or as if with a thin layer of gold.
2. To give an often deceptively attractive or improved appearance to.
3. Kuwaiti parliament house recently, four other human-rights activists and I sipped mint tea from golden cups and awaited Ahmad Baqr, a prominent member of Kuwait's newly elected National Assembly.
We had come to Kuwait to plead for the lives of sixteen men - ten Palestinians and six Iraqis - unjustly condemned to death for "collaborating" with Iraq during the Persian Gulf war Persian Gulf War
or Gulf War
(1990–91) International conflict triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Though justified by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on grounds that Kuwait was historically part of Iraq, the invasion was presumed to be . We hoped that Baqr, who is known in Kuwait as a humanitarian, could intervene in their behalf.
He emerged from behind a wooden parapet carved in a geometric Arabic motif. All in white except for a few tufts of gray in his thick, snowy beard, he joined us where we sat on silken silk·en
1. Made of silk.
2. Resembling silk in texture or appearance; smooth and lustrous. See Synonyms at sleek.
3. Delicately pleasing or caressing in effect: a silken voice. couches beneath a wall covered with the portraits of Kuwaiti princes.
After brief introductions, Baqr told us of his warm feelings for the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. and thanked us as Americans for coming to his country's aid three years ago during the Persian Gulf war. Without America's leading role in the liberation of Kuwait, he said, Saddam Hussein's army would still have his tiny country in a stranglehold stran·gle·hold
1. Sports An illegal wrestling hold used to choke an opponent.
2. A force, influence, or action that restricts or suppresses freedom or progress. Also called throttlehold. .
Because none of us supported the U.S. role in the war we could not take credit for our country's military success. We smiled politely, however, and tried to steer the conversation in another direction. We had not come to Kuwait to talk about the politics of the Gulf war. Rather, we had come to prevent it from claiming more casualties. The sixteen prisoners we were there to discuss had been arrested and tried in the chaos surrounding the war. Their charges were based on confessions elicited by the most brutal forms of torture. We wanted to express our concern for their lives to Baqr.
But Baqr preferred to linger on the U.S./Kuwait friendship and compared the two countries. "We consider ourselves as part of the free world, along with the people and the countries who helped us, who felt our crisis and our problems," he told us. "They honestly came, not for oil or for money; they came because of what we were suffering .... During the occupation, no one expressed what Kuwaitis were suffering like Bush," Baqr said, his eyes now filling with tears. "I could feel the humanity in George Bush's speeches."
Trying to conceal a look of disbelief, I slid back on my silk-covered seat and thought about that day, January 16, 1991, when the United States began its barbaric bombing raid on Iraq. In Chicago thousands of citizens, including me, took to the streets in protest.
I pictured Bush, whose crooked smile always seemed to me to be an outer reflection of the inner man. In gearing up to storm the desert, Bush spoke about preserving human rights, democracy, and freedom in Kuwait.
But our delegation learned that three years after the war, Kuwaiti democracy remains a democracy for the few. Almost half the population is denied all citizenship rights. The large corps of "guest workers" from other Arab states, Sri Lanka Sri Lanka (srē läng`kə) [Sinhalese,=resplendent land], formerly Ceylon, ancient Taprobane, officially Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, island republic (2005 est. pop. , India, and the Philippines, comprise an exploited servant class.
This caste-like social structure has secured all of the power and wealth in the hands of the "first-class" Kuwaitis. Iraq's invasion threatened their privilege and their lifestyle. Immediately after the invasion, anyone remotely sympathetic to Iraq was branded an enemy of the state - a "bad Arab." Palestinians were run out of Kuwait with a vengeance. The official Kuwaiti explanation our group heard so often was that the Palestinians "ran away." In fact, the Palestinians had been running Kuwait. Recruited for their high level of education and skills, they came from the Gaza Strip Gaza Strip (gäz`ə), (2003 est. pop. 1,330,000) rectangular coastal area, c.140 sq mi (370 sq km), SW Asia, on the Mediterranean Sea adjoining Egypt and Israel, in what was formerly SW Palestine. in the 1950s to be teachers, engineers, doctors, and lawyers in Kuwait. But the Palestinian community had grown uncomfortably large.
The war brought just the right excuse to get rid of them. Yasser Arafat's approval of Saddam Hussein Saddam Hussein
(born April 28, 1937, Tikrit, Iraq—died Dec. 30, 2006, Baghdad) President of Iraq (1979–2003). He joined the Ba'th Party in 1957. Following participation in a failed attempt to assassinate Iraqi Pres. was enough for the Emir of Kuwait to cancel all Palestinian job contracts with Kuwaiti employers. Without work, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to leave the country.
"We were threatened by the Palestinians," a Kuwaiti official told us frankly. "Now they are gone, and we're glad they're gone." Dr. Rasha Al-Sabah, the under secretary of education and a member of the royal family, added: "The Palestinians stabbed us in the back. We had the right to kick them out." She could have added "and the right to kill them." The sixteen Iraqi and Palestinian men languishing lan·guish
intr.v. lan·guished, lan·guish·ing, lan·guish·es
1. To be or become weak or feeble; lose strength or vigor.
2. in the "high security" section of the Kuwait Central Prison could be hanged because of their national origin and their political beliefs. Many of them are members of the Arab Liberation Front Arab Liberation Front (Arabic: جبهة التحرير العربية, jabha at-tahrir al-arabiya or the Ba'ath Party Ba'ath party (bä`äth), Arab political party, in Syria and in Iraq. Its main ideological objectives are secularism, socialism, and pan-Arab unionism. , affiliations which became illegal only after Saddam's invasion.
I asked Baqr why he thought the United States acted so quickly to end the Iraqi occupation when it had ignored other occupations in the Middle East condemned by the United Nations, such as Isreal's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Southern Lebanon
Was I meant to infer that the Palestinians, the Lebanese, and the Syrians somehow deserved to be occupied, but Kuwait did not? Did Kuwait, like Israel, see itself as a nation of "God's chosen people," who were confirmed in their special identity by U.S. support?
Unable to accept the simplicity of Baqr's "some Arabs had it coming" rationale, I asked him if he really believed that the United States had defended his country without any other motive. "You know, for your natural resources - for oil maybe?"
"I can't exclude the human reason," he answered, now losing patience. With that, he glanced hurriedly at his watch and said he had another appointment.
Baqr understands that today's world order calls for unity with the West. So, even though he was a bit perturbed per·turb
tr.v. per·turbed, per·turb·ing, per·turbs
1. To disturb greatly; make uneasy or anxious.
2. To throw into great confusion.
3. by our suggestion that human rights, democracy, and freedom should be granted to all people living in Kuwait, he let us have our say. After all, we were comrades from the "free world."