July 1 ultimatum to vacate building

KUWAIT: Dr Yousef Al-Amiri, President of the Kuwait House for National Works Museum (center) speaks during the press conference. —Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: The only museum in Kuwait telling the story of the 1990 Iraqi invasion - the Kuwait House for National Works Museum - may be demolished soon to complete the road development project in the area. This will be a great loss for the country due to its value and cultural role.

The government had given the museum - located on Street 70 in Shuwaikh - along with other NGOs in the area, an ultimatum until July 1, 2016 to vacate the buildings. Today, the Kuwait House for National Works remains in the same location, but in fear of being demolished any day, and its electricity may be cut at any moment. The property on which it is located is state property, so the government can forcibly evict it.

Most other NGOs moved to other locations, as they were given replacement buildings by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, as they come under its umbrella. But the museum is under the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, which is supervised by the Ministry of Information, which hasn't provide a replacement place for the museum to move to.

Dr Yousef Al-Amiri, President of the Kuwait House for National Works Museum, held a press conference yesterday at the museum to call on the government to find a place to move to before it is demolished. "This museum was launched in 1997, and during these 20 years, I collected all the items including the audiovisual materials. I did everything from my own resources with the support of donations. I have spent over KD 600,000 on this historical work, and they want to demolish everything," he said sadly.

A bust of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is displayed at the museum.

Field trips

The museum is very active. "We receive about 150 students daily, who come on school field trips to learn about Kuwait's history. Also, this museum is included on four pages of the curriculum. Moreover, all foreign military delegations visiting Kuwait visit the museum as part of their trips, in addition to other delegations and Kuwaiti visitors and residents. We also have twinning agreements with 27 countries to have a permanent booth for Kuwait at their museums, which is a great achievement for Kuwait," added Amiri.

The museum includes many valuable pieces, although it hasn't received any governmental support. "We have a bronze statue of Saddam Hussein, which an American soldier brought for us from Baghdad. We received an offer from a Qatari sheikh who runs a museum there to buy this statue for one million dollars, but I refused, especially after Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed, one of our major donors, asked me not to sell it. We also have the cigar, diary and some outfits of Odai, Saddam's son," he added.

"Three years ago, and after long negotiations, the government offered us a 5,000-sq-m plot in Garnata and we paid the fees, but it didn't work out. We are presently located in an area related to Kuwait's history on the seaside, while Garnata is far away, and it may be difficult for foreign visitors to reach us," complained Amiri.

According to him, the ministry of information announced providing an alternative house to move into, but this is only ink on paper. "It's a promise on paper and not in reality. I saw the house but I never received the keys. We communicated with the ministry many times repeatedly, but they never respond. I really don't know what to do and how to deal with the ministry, so this why I call on the media to help us highlight this problem. Also, I know that the government let a private museum have a section at the Abdullah Al-Salem Cultural Center that hasn't been launched yet, but they didn't give it to our museum," he said.

"The government has refused to support our museum financially since it was founded. And today, it's not even providing an alternative place, although the government gave a grant of $8.8 million to an Arab country for the maintenance of a museum there, while it refuses to even spend on the maintenance of our air-conditioning system that costs only KD 8,000," he rued.

By Nawara Fattahova