Kuwait on my mind!

Twenty years ago this year I had the most amazing adventure in Kuwait.  I was invited to go on the FREEDOM FLIGHT (sponsored by the Kuwaiti government).  There were others invited, too, of course.  There were political folks, and journalists, etc.  The Freedom Flight arrived in Kuwait City with the Ambassador intending for his guests to remain for three day.  But the Ambassador decided that the country had not yet arrived at a safe enough place for all their guests.  There were reports of stranded Iraqi soldiers making unexpected appearances in the city.  Therefore, the trip was cut short to one day only.  I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving so soon, so I had my 10 BAGS (yes, 10!) pulled from the plane.  After the Ambassador and his guests toured the burning oil fields and various ruins in the city, I did return with the group to the airport.  But, I knew I was not getting on that plane!  Instead, I had stood with my bags on the tarmac.  I stood watching as the ambassador and most of his guests reboarded.  I couldn’t hide my smile when I saw the Kuwaiti Ambassador glance out the window to wave goodbye to the people outside.  His face flashed with surprise when he spotted me!  But it was too late, the plane was leaving and I was in Kuwait to stay for a while.  I managed to find a ride into the city and the adventure began!

Meeting with Kuwaiti Crown Prince for the second time.  1992

In Kuwait City on FREEDOM FLIGHT, meeting with Crown Prince of Kuwait.

For three weeks I experienced one adventure after another!  One day soon I’ll write about all that as well as the amazing Kuwaitis  and other nationaltieis who had remained in the country during the Iraqi occupation.  I met some of the bravest people I’ve ever known.  People who had suffered tremendous loss, yet they were still concerned about the ordinary Iraqi, for Iraqis suddenly had their own problems dealing with war and violence. 

I always meant to write about that unique adventure but somehow other stories took precedent to my own.  My volunteer driver was a young man named Soud A. Al-Mutawa.  He was a banker, but so many young professionals in Kuwait were volunteering to help writers/journalists find their way around in the war ravaged country.  I think I hit the jackpot with Soud.  He was so good-natured and one of the bravest people I’ve ever known.  I’ve always been daring, and Soud matched me every time.  He was younger than me in years, but very mature in his outlook.  I was lucky too to meet his lovely family.  Soud drove me anywhere I asked to go, even to Southern Iraq, which was quite dangerous.  The US military kept catching us and ordering us to leave, but finally after the 3rd time we were “caught” we were taken to the commander of the area.  We thought for sure they would hold us for a while, but the commander was surprisingly good natured, even having his photo taken with us, telling us that we had his permission to stay in the Southern Iraq for a few hours, but to be aware it was a very dangerous area, and very unsettled.  In fact, every Iraqi we met was incredibly friendly, hoping against hope to be released from Saddam’s grip, just as the Kuwaiti’s had been.   Soud and I visited the desert camps where Iraqis and some Kuwaitis were stranded.  We visited Marine camps, meeting solderis who were hyped up at the victory.  Soud was the best!  The only time I saw him uneasy was when I found an abandoned puppy at the refugee camp and insisted upon taking it with us.  Soud asked me, “Where are you taking this puppy?” I think he was worried that I thought he would be taking care of the puppy.  I named the pup KUWAIT and before the day was over, Kuwait was in good hands.  We visited a Marine camp that was leaving for Germany the following day and they wanted KUWAIT as their mascot.  Before we left the camp, KUWAIT was fed, watered, and being dressed in Marine gear!  Soud and I saw it all. 

Here is where I’m going with this story.  Over the years I remained so busy with writing about women’s stories, and taking care for my elderly parents, that I lost touch with many of the Kuwaitis I met.  I always MEANT to go back to Kuwait, to follow-up, but I didn’t.  Shame on me!  Last year I was contacted by a very special young Kuwait woman (Lujean Al-Mulla) who was excited about the 20 year celebration coming up for Kuwait’s freedom from the Iraqi occupation.  20 years!  I really could not believe how rapidly time has passed.  Lujean and I attempted to get media interest in the USA, but failed.  The world had moved on from Kuwait.  The reason?  After the war, Kuwaiti’s gathered themselves up, dusted off, and began working to put their shattered country back together.  Those Kuwaitis were a raging success.  Sadly, such a success story doesn’t garner much interest in the world news.  In my opinion, the Kuwaitis deserve a lot of praise.  Not only did they make Kuwait better, most held no grudge against the Iraqis.  They knew that Saddam and his gang were the culprit, not the ordinary Iraqi.  Few people know about the generous nature of the Kuwaitis when it comes to their Iraqi neighbors.  More Kuwaiti’s help out Iraqi’s than any nationality.  Add to that, the Al-Sabah family in Kuwait is moving the country in a great direction.  Women are being educated in huge numbers while other important issues are being tackled.  Hurray for Kuwait and Kuwaitis!  I’m a big fan…

While working with Lujean, I began to think about all the very special people I met while in Kuwait after the war.  Soud came to mind many times.  What had happened to that courageous young man?  What had happened to his family?  What had happened to Muna, my female interpreter who sometimes traveled with Soud and me.  I tried all the contact numbers he had given me, but time had brought change.  Finally I asked Lujean for the favor of contacting Soud and giving him my contact information.  Lujean succeeded in only a few hours!

When my telephone rang early this morning I grabbed it, feeling strongly that I would find Soud on the line.  My feelings were right.  How happy I was to hear from my friend from those long ago days.  Strong friendships are forged when two people share as many tense moments as I did with Soud. 

Now I’m looking forward to a visit from Soud and his wife, and hopefully other family members.  Ideally, I’ll soon make a return visit to Kuwait to revisit so many amazing people I met during my visit.

I have a book to finish, but as soon as I write those final words, I have renewed determination to finally tackle the story I’ve been meaning to write for years.  The story will NOT be about me, as I really could not imagine writing an entire book about myself, instead will be about all the unique people I have met over my years of living in, and visiting, the Middle East.  From Saudi Arabia to Lebanon to Kuwait to Iraq… I have met extraordinary people in all those lands.   I am excited at the idea of revisiting those times, and I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with me. 

Below you will see a few photos.  Photo #1 is Soud (on the right) at a party celebrating wonderful freedom from occupation!  I was taking the photos and joyfully watching the marvelous excitement expressed by those young men — although they had dreamed of freedom, they couldn’t believe that it had finally come.  (One of the men is holding my book, THE RAPE OF KUWAIT, the only book written about what happened to individual victims on the first day of the Iraqi occupation.)  Photo #2 I took in Southern Iraq — Soud is looking over the pitiful food supplies, worrying that the Iraqis will not have enough food to feed their families.  Photo #3:  Muna (middle) my sweet female interpreter often went with Soud and me to visit various Kuwaitis who had suffered loss during the war.  We are in my room in the hotel in Kuwait City.  When I arrived in the city, I was told I would have to sleep on the sidewalk, that there was not one single room available in the city.  I managed to talk the hotel manager into letting me stay in the hotel owner’s suite, the nicest “room” in the entire hotel.  When folks dropped by, they were startled that I had the best accomodations in the hotel.  I’ll tell you about the amusing situation that got me the suite when I write the story…  

In Kuwait, Spring of 1992

About jeansasson

I'm a woman with a keen interest in a wide range of topics including women's issues; animal rights issues; humanitarian issues and political movements, such as the events currently sweeping the Middle East. I am an avid reader and collector of books, mainly about travelers of the 18th and 19th centuries. I have enormous curiosity about other people and relish hearing about lives and opinions of people from all over the world. I’m the author of the PRINCESS series, GROWING UP BIN LADEN, MAYADA DAUGHTER OF IRAQ, FOR THE LOVE OF A SON, and more. Over the past two years the princess and I have met and worked together to bring out a 4th and a 5th book in the PRINCESS SERIES. The 4th is titled: PRINCESS, MORE TEARS TO CRY while the 5th, which was recently released, is titled: PRINCESS, SECRETS TO SHARE. I am currently working on my 14th book. Details to be released soon. You can visit my website (http://www.jeansasson.com/) or check out my books on Amazon for more info.
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12 Responses to Kuwait on my mind!

  1. Roshni says:

    What a fascinating story and journey! I can’t wait for the Kuwait book! I must say however; though I know you don’t want to do it, a book about you is precisely what is in order; there are so many stories untold, the story behind all of the women who’s stories you tell are those stories that brought you to them! About your passion, the drive to keep going, where it all began! Never say never, but definitely add it on to the ‘to do list!

  2. jeansasson says:

    Gosh, Roshni, you are kind to say so, but if I told the behind scenes of the stories I have written, plus the few I did not (a Bahraini princess and the a Pakistani woman who was brutally raped) the tale would easily become a big fat triology! (smile) At the moment I plan on concentrating on specific unique people and exciting stories during my 12 years in Saudi Arabia, my adventures during the Civil War in Lebanon, my journey to war-ravaged Kuwait, and finally, my most incredible journey to Iraq during the summer of 1998. Of course, one really never knows exactly where a book is going until one gets into the writing. All plans generally alter during the actual writing process as some stories work and others fall flat — what seems exciting when talking about it, sometimes does not really work on the written page — the eye vs the ear we might say. At any rate, for the first time in years I’m excited and absolutely going to complete this project within the next year or so… Onward!
    Thanks, so much! Jean

  3. Kirthi says:

    How amazingly you write! I agree with Roshni, we would all love to see a book about yourself out on the shelves. Each of your books are wonderful, and each story is so poignant, so painful, and gives women world over so much courage to know that such brave, strong women exist, fighting battles most others would cower fearfully from. You are doing such a wonderful job by bringing their stories to people world over!

  4. jeansasson says:

    Kirthi, you have made my day. Thank you for taking the time to write me a note. I just love it when readers “get it” while reading about the courageous women who are the subjects in my books. I know that I was always amazed by the bold spirit of Sultana, the history of Mayada’s extraordinary family, the near-death experiences survived by Joanna, the I-will-never-give-up determination of Maryam, the sweetness of Omar, and the stoic nature of Najwa. Each was magnificant in her or his own way. I’ve been encouraged to write my story so many times yet each time I thought I was ready, another amazing person would pop unexpectedly into my life and their stories were always more interesting to me than my own. But now I have decided that I’ll feature many amazing people and that they shall “live through” my book through my own experiences with them. I really can’t wait to do it now and that’s important, to have a big passion for a book that will take a year or more to write, enduring 14 to 16 hours a day in front of the computer for many days on end. I become obsessed with the stories I write and tend to forget about the world outside my door. With Joanna’s story (LOVE IN A TORN LAND) I didn’t leave my home even to step onto the balcony for the last 93 days of the writing. I became totally reclusive. That’s what it takes sometimes. ANYHOW, thanks again for chatting with me. With warm regards, Jean

  5. Stop Code 7e says:

    I think it’s really awesome that you got to go out and see what’s happening in the Middle East with your own eyes and meet people I’d never meet in a million years. If I ever got the chance to go there I surely would just to get a chance to experience a world so radically different from mine. I noticed you weren’t wearing any kind of head gear in the pictures. Did that cause any kind of commotion with the local people? Writing a book is also something I’ve always wanted to do, but I’m always so busy at work or working with animals. Make sure you take a break long enough to back up all your important documents.. I don’t want to have to work that hard for a LOOOOOOONG time Mrs. 35000 emails. LOL.

    • jeansasson says:

      Hi! Sorry but I haven’t checked my responses in a few days. I did enjoy all the travel (66 countries) and I never had a problem in the Middle East. I was in Kuwait in these photos and Kuwait was very liberal compared to Saudi Arabia. Had I gone around with my head uncovered in Saudi I would have caused a riot (I did once until I learned my lesson and covered up the hair)…

      Well, I think you should keep a notebook and definitely one day you could write a book… I’m still going to put you in a chapter in my animal book and perhaps that will propel you into writing an entire book on your different animals. Yes sir, I agree, I will back up. NOW: HOW ARE YOUR BABIES? Send more photos to my personal email. Talk later! Jean

  6. Reese Withersfork says:

    hello jean! Gosh, i just finished reading your book, Princess. what a great treasure! Just came from a tour around asia and i saw the book in Malaysia. You are soooo great!

    reese

  7. jeansasson says:

    Thank you, Reese. I’m so pleased that you found the book in Malaysia. I know that it is all over the world and does touch many lives. That makes the princess, and the author, extremely happy! I hope you get to read more of my books. Take care and happy travels! Jean

  8. Reese Withersfork says:

    Oh, that was so sweet of you! Thanks for the response. I didn’t expect that you’d actually reply to my comment. BTW, have you been to the Philippines? I hope one day, you could also write a book about Filipino women.😀

  9. jeansasson says:

    Hi again, Reese, Yes, in fact, I have been to the Philippines twice. Frank and Lydia worked for me in Riyadh and I went to see them and their kids twice. I enjoyed my visits immensely. I love the exotic beauty of the Philippine Islands, and, I’ve always been a big fan of the Filipino people, some of the hardest working and most congenial people on earth. I hope to go back to Lydia and her kids next year. They are like family to me. Later, then… Jean

  10. Reese Withersfork says:

    Whoa! I am quite flattered by your swift reply. I was wondering how I could send you a private message. I just wanted to say a line or two. I would really, really appreciate it if you could e-mail me at withersforks@gmail.com so I can say what I wanted to say privately. Maraming salamat!!!😀

  11. jeansasson says:

    Hi… Please email me to wbbooks@hotmail.com and I will respond from there — no one will see the email but me. Take care! Jean

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