By Ahmad Ali
Being born in 1995, the invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War is an event that I only lived through history books, documentaries and the stories of my family. As a Kuwaiti living abroad, whenever I mention where I am from, most people who actually know of Kuwait, know it through the Gulf War. It may seem easy for others to assume that being from the invaded nation, I might feel resentment towards our neighbors to the north. Everyone who had family in the country at that time can sympathize with the stories of my parents attempting to flee across the border to Saudi Arabia through the desert in groups of jeeps whilst being pursued by Iraqi armored vehicles, or of other family members getting randomly arrested at checkpoints.
But it is nonetheless important to acknowledge the reality of conflict is always complicated, and, as with any conflict, there are stories on all sides. I cannot speak for the views of everyone, and I know that there are those who disagree with me, especially those who may have suffered during the war, and I understand that. While I didn’t live the invasion of Kuwait, I remember playing in the living room in March 2003 and witnessing the bombings of Baghdad on TV. We were watching our neighbor, who we viewed as enemies at the time, being invaded, occupied and going through the devastations of war.
I believe that it is important to recognize these stories on both opposing sides, and that these stories may be a means of preventing any future conflict, especially when looking at the current state of both nations. On one hand, Iraq is a nation that has known sanctions, invasion, occupation, instability, insurrection and civil unrest over the past 30 years, whilst Kuwait has grown to be unrecognizable, a nation that you would not know was the grounds of war if nobody told you, especially when compared to other nations at war during the same period, such as in the Balkans.
While it is important to not forget, it is important to forgive and move forward on the path of reconciliation, as both our nations share a lot of cultural, social and historical ties. There will always be disagreements, as in any relationship, but it is up to us to decide on how to approach our problems and move on from our issues. It’s relieving to know that we are on the course of mending our ties and that the past years have led to more cooperation and contributions between the two states. On a personal level I feel no animosity, believing that our peoples have more in common than they don’t..
I even find it ironic when I’m abroad, whether in another Arab country or talking with local Arab immigrants, to often find myself mistaken for being Iraqi due to our similar dialects. We’re neighbors in a region that is already very divided, with a lot of potential to offer each other in terms of cooperation, as we would all benefit from reconciliation. While there may be some resentment, especially amongst the senior generations and those who were directly involved, it is important notably for the later generations to know when to put the past behind, and to know how to move on, away from the times of conflict.