Okay, my name is Reem Al-Ali and we are currently in Kuwait City, aa and thedate is October 27, 2019, and we are currently with Mr. Abdullah Bishara, thank you sir, for agreeing to this interview, could you please share your full name, birthday, and place of birth?
My name is Abdullah Bin Yaqoub Bin Ma'ayouf Bin Hussain Bin Bishara, I come froma family of "Nwakhtha" seamen, ahm li- who lived w aa some of them in India, but they never abandoned the sea and the last one to leave was my brother, the famous nokhitha aa Essa Bishara aa the, his ship called "Fateh Al-Khair" and she's still there, the last of his vessels exists (to this day), and a he's aa nokhitha aa kn- well versed in th- sh- the shores of East Africa, and we all, me and my father and my uncle and bro-- and aa my grandfather's brothers, and they all came from the sea, those ca- came- aa, in- th-I mean they were born with an instinctive aa love of the sea and adventure, in the absence of an alternative, aa no agriculture there was nothing in Kuwait, and they came, aa it's amazing that, I worked as a "deyain" when in aa London, so we aaa I mean it depends on the "deyain" and that's correct, from the area aaa east of the Kingdom, from "Dareen" there, and that aa they all used to, aa like aa practice piracy, piracy, and that too needs aa adventurism, aa a proclivity for adventure and risk taking, and aa a marine or naval savviness, so they I mean and then they were all aa a big group, every shore on, they the aa would target Iranian ships/vessels, aa and wh- where would they escape? Basra, they es- were escaping from from a band aa from a band a band, from the Iranians chasing them back. Yeah because the Iranians got sick of them the- that was during the rule of aa, the rule of the sha- Shah his name was "Nadir Shah", this "Nadir Shah" aaaum, aaa hum, aa, he wouldn't tolerate the extent of the piracy, she he attacked Basra, yeah that was around 1750 or before the 50s, maybe around 1740, a large number of them escaped from those pirates some went north and those aa and some went South toward Kuwait-
Es- escaping, looking for aa, and me- among those who escaped was our family meaning--
And th- they went to the sea and I and ga-- and that I didn't witness aa, I andwhen my dad left the sea at the age of 50 and my brother left at 57 despite his will, he said the sea aa kicked him out, anyway--
And, and when were you born?
And aa where were you born?
Where in Kuwait?
Where in Kuwait?
In umm the area in, sh-- south of the Diwan Alamiri there, Sheyoukh areaaa.IIAnd, and where were you living in Kuwait?
We then moved to Sharq, we Sharq--
Yup, I-- where um? Our neighbor was Dickson, precisely, do you know DicksonHouse huh? He was our neighbor, wholly and completely. And you were living near, near, his house?
Because those who own ships always prefer the aa the sea, and they have aconnection to the Boom and the Boom's Sail and the mariners that come to shore for it's a short period like the end of June they'd arrive, stay aaa till July and August and they frequent the area and during that time the bounty/the goods are distributed among the seamen --it's a chance during that period so they distribute like the Captain gives them --aa I remember they'd frequent us in our diwaniya so he would give them, the, my brother used to, my dad left aa at fifty, also like I, these Kuwaiti families they needed a source of income there was nothing in Kuwait except for the sea, mostly the sea.
What do you remember about the house, could you describe the house to me?
I remember I that I was I and and br-- aa I had aa my brother I think he gotmarried in the year 1940 maybe, and had a son named Ahmad who passed away two years ago, Dr. Ahmad Bishara, he was the a board member, the foundation that the aa, aa the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science, he was a board member, and he passed away in that field, huh I if he and I, we grew up in a house with ten women, my mother, my grandfather's wife and aa wi- and the mother [no] uhh my sister in law, and ki-- my brother's kids, he had two girls, and five girls we were, my sisters five--
You were aa, two sons and five aa--
That's it aa aa, and truthfully umm like we aah huh I mean our financial statusI mean we were well off, so my folks didn't need my services/work, as in for me to go like becoming a seafarer or going off on the Boom, anyways that aa I finished high school in Kuwait, and --
What was the house like? The one you were living in?
Be- and where?
What did the house look like?
Oh looks the ho-- old houses, Kuwaiti houses like when we were living there ithad four bedrooms and a rooftop, and it had aa like the shape of Kuwaiti, maybe you're too young to have seen any of them but aa for sure your dad your grandfather your dad maybe but sure your grandpa anyway, so these houses were rudimentary to say the truth, like we did didn't, were because we were a family of seafarers, even I was asea, we all and would play in the sea, even sleep, and our house was facing the seafront almost, so-- like the state wasn't, you ask me if I aa [laughs] I rem-- remember it, aa comfortably I can remember that I left it aa I'm happy that I got away from that uh environment, aa bu-- I remember neighborhood friends subh--none of them remain, at my age none of my friends are still here it's very rare, and like aa they're all dead, because the the health care system and awareness and, the aa and medical, it wasn't readily available they didn't like--
What do you remember, did you, for instance, do with them in the neighborhood?What ga- games did you play for instance?
No no aa we would play games but they're not, but the funny thing is I was atschool, and we were learning learning that the earth was spherical and rotating, so one time I was telling them we got together in our diwaniya, with those old/geriatric seamen, so I told them that the earth was round and moving, they said it can't be, I told them yes it is, one of them jumped in and said if be-- if aa if it was turning then our "jelieb" spilled over [laughs] do you know what's a "jelieb"?? Back in the day water they used to store water and each house most houses had a "jelieb" that you'd open up to draw water ha, or water "khareej" and its aa or "bircha" or "jelieb" like and even sea water aa we had water from the sea at our house and also a "bircha", so he said to me no by God if it had then sp-- that [laughs], so I mean it was people were wa-- that and aa other stuff, we'd get together like life then um, it was beautiful natural natural life friendship was natural/uncomplicated--
And you said you were near the sea-?
What aa, what were, let's say, the interactions, between, between you kids andthe sea, what did you do?
Ooof no no we lived in the sea, the sea was our wellspring, not just the sourceof our livelihood alone but our daily domestic companion.
We'd swim all the time, in the summer its hot, hot and there's no electricity ofcourse, and we'd swim in the sea and clean up in the sea aa like I remember that we'd go to sleep in our house, we'd sleep over the roofs, like life was no not pleasant, but it was simple and because it was simple people remember it in a good light, maybe even nostalgically, I don't have nostalgia for that time nor do I remember it accurately like--
What are, like events that you remember happened to you growing up?
What do you mean I don't aaa?
As in a story, maybe something happened to you with-?
Well I didn't drown in the sea because aa I used to swim, I was a good swimmerlike I didn--, I didn't have like but I'm a man because um like I told you we were well off and sailors and ship owners, so that aa of course, I aa I used to read, these magazines..--
What were some of those magazines?
Illustrated magazines I would go, there was in aa a library, and god we'd walkand the library aa I mean the library aah from Sharq we' that aa, to the public library now next to aa next to souk al umm, aa, where is it ah, aaa Almubarikyah, near Almubarikyah like the outskirts there, so we'd walk to the public library, I used to go aa, and I'd read the illustrated magazine it was called the Egyptian Paper that one, it smelled nice, and I'd read aaa I read in it about culture and I read about sports, and and I read about Egyptian politics and we were impressed by aa--
What year was that, roughly speaking?
That, bless your heart, was aa '48 aa '48 and '49, till I was likeaware/matured, I used to read, the first book I read was the biography of Omar Bin Alkhatab, and I remember borrowing it from the library-- [cup rattle] and I took it home with me and while on the way we'd pass by the stores in the souk and one of the shops, one of the vendors I can't remember him exactly, stopped me and asked me what's that? I told him uh here leaf through it and he did then returned it to me and said "excellent Omar Bin AlKhatab" and that was the first biography the first..
That was the first book you read?
Yup, it was a coincidence, I mean it's not like aa I was reading about theProphet the biography of the Prophet maybe like at that time I didn't know how, I found this book in front of me and I was blown away like by his sense of justice aa ha Alfarouk , and his bravery you know these books, these books were simple, and were written with a specific intention, an intention of course aa to teach history and to teach the characteristics that the Caliphs possessed.
Approximately, how old were you?
What drew you to- ah, specifically to biographies, I mean as a, as a youngtwelve-year-old boy?
(overlapping) How do you learn, how do you know other than by reading? Itsimpossib-- reading is the way to knowledge, the means of knowledge is reading--
But why autobiographies? What drew you to that genre?
Because aa biographies can teach me, aa the truth about life during that time,and transport that time period's environment to me, and shows me the virtuous characteristics of that time, and gives me aa, the virtues that I hope to possess, and a lot of aa of the of the books that I read and there are thousands that I have, I would aa learn like learn from the biographies and o- and of course from there I took a deep dive into biographies like with; anyways that I remember that Omar Bin AlKhatab and I finished reading it and returned the book, and I borrowed Abu Ba'aker's biography, and after that, those were Abu Ba'aker and Omar and now it was time for ha'h aa the first caliph and the second caliph, I was enamored by the aa these remarkable characteristics and by their proximity to the Prophet, I read, of course, the Prophet's biography aaaa they those book were simple, I remember like the author aa aa Al'aqad, Albasry Mahmoud Abaas Al'aqad, the biography biography of Omar biography they were all novella not book aa dense no, novellas those, but they had enough for aa, aa the the to cover the subject comprehensively and I read after that I read the r-- aa Othman, and I was surprised how he was murdered that way and how aa that the aa that was the start of the schism of the Islamic State, and how he name was used or exploited, for aa for political issues among the two groups the Ummayad and how it was that the aa he didn't didn't find didn't find any of his supporters who would stand, who could stop those came, the majority of those came from Egypt and re-- some of them remained in Iraq, those were angry with Othman; and Othman that man who gave e and was generous and the Prophet honored him by that he married ma, married the Prophet's daughter that he aa aa he over exceeds the aa the criterion that Bu- Abu-Ba'aker a- and Omar Bin AlKhatab that ye aa they held on to when it came to matters of hiring, and so later aa Ali, ha the imam-
Aa, alright, but I'd like to go back a little bit, you mentioned in school youwere taught about planet Earth-
Aa what school did you go to?
Aa do you remember, do you remember --
And my classmates, wallah who of my of my classmates, like now I remember aa aalike um you'd know them for instance aa um, who of my classmates umm maybe no- from the AlHadad family and one aa from um the family a Jaber Jaber, he was Jabir AlGhanim he's still alive but not healthy, he's not in great health, anyway.
Could you describe the school to me, like what was aa-
Describe the school, what were the classrooms like?
Yaah the school wha no no the school was built alright, and wallah Al-Mubarakiyanow now you can go see it in Al-Mubarakiya area it was a good school and we were aa look, aa um my teacher-- above the school was housing for Egyptian expats, but Egyptian teachers were few, and their livelihood was maybe better than us even their houses had running water, us, our houses didn't have water, the school was I don't think it had water like ahh in the modern way aa but um it was like available the; anyway that, what caught my attention when we would come in the morning aa we'd find the Egyptian expats exercising so we'd laugh at them those folks would be jumping what are you jum- [laughs] was aaa, and we were truthfully like our number numbers were few very few and we all knew each other and as Kuwaiti families we knew each other, and there wasn't of course aah g groups of immigrants aaa, like te- honestly in school who was aa the who was the principal I remember the principal was Egyptian, yeah ahh-
Do you remember what you studied and what subjects?
Yeah, we had religious studies and math, and we studied the English language,and there were among the among the aa the teachers were, aa aa I remember three Kuwaitis.
Do you remember who they were?
Yeah yes th- they passed away aa our mathematics teacher was Mr. MohammadZachariah Al-Ansari, he passed away god have mercy on his soul and he had a large build and was vicious.
Vicious as in he was strict, um aa disciplined and he asked aa aa from the aafrom the students things aa l aa b- maybe that were more than they could handle hmm like I would a assign aa homework some of us would do it and some of us aa would do it but not the way he wanted it, so he'd get angry, he was an angry man, and angry aa like aa, truthfully he wasn't ahhh, he was a man a disciplined man and there was another one who taught us English too but in a simpler way, he name was Abdulmajeed, and he was a good man like aaa he was okay, and there was m- aa a third man, from Al-Omar family, he taught us Arabic language and poetry, and the rest of the teachers were Egyptians, only two, but ah like we weren't aa wasn't much, and despite how few of us there were there was still an urgency to achieve academic excellence, a desire and motivation to learn more r- to leave this environment- during that time oil wasn't like uh it didn't take off the way that in the fifties starting in the fifties, we were, before the fifties and it was ha- I'll never forget any of it, that for us during that time it was the start of the Palestinian cause so we started hearing Palestine for the first time and these teachers talking about it Egyptian teachers talking about it and Kuwaitis and at and and calls for victory and there were these plays, these plays that they'd put on in schools these plays about the victory of the Muslims and the mo- and ah- aa they became entangled in these things in the Palestinian cause, like it was ahh--
Do you remember participating in these activities in school?
No no I didn't I I I was mostly an academic like the thing I did the most wasread and read read and write a bit not s- much, but ha, unfortunately, there wasn't a the country didn't have the environment of- or space for erudition, and also in schools the level of scholarship, wasn't aa the teachers in classrooms aa, and the im- the expat teachers were simple too, and and like for instance we weren't thinking about the future of Kuwait we weren't preoccupied with it, no y aa the state itself wasn't concerned with that with the future of Kuwait, and it wasn't concerned with, aa with the leaps of modernity, and and it was all honestly about how we deal with n- with what is there now and how we can use what we have to love.
As a student, do you remember any stories or incidents that happened to youwith, in- with students in school, funny stories [laughs] or stories, aa from, with for instance, with that strict teacher that you had?
Yup no no with the strict teacher aaa one time, the strict teacher he charged mewith something and he envisioned that I would like excel at it, in mathematics and truthfully I didn't I couldn't find like I couldn't live up to his expectations, so he stoned me with a rock with aa a large piece of wood he threw it at me, and and they told me how aa how na- like the students who were with me were astonished by that teacher's rage, that I let him down huh so I simply got out of the way like I remember that teacher but like now it's over I don't --
And what was your feeling as a kid, aa with this sort of punishment, what didyou feel?
No, I was was was aa and was it, there was a callousness uh and the teacher aathe overall intellectual environment in the country, teaching was a job, not a calling, just a job like I, you know, I I, like from that time I became fascinated by how I how, the art of communicating information, and I envisioned that I would one day I'd be a teacher-- I wanted to be a teacher, to relay information in the simple way aa th- aa that gets to the mind of the recipient--
And do you remember, for instance, pleasant stories or like mischief let's stayyou and your classmates?
Ayaaa- nah how can I remember mischief [laughs].
Aa at -- either at school or or outside of school around that age?
Aa like this is, you're asking me that right now, what does that have to do withquestions about the future of Kuwait?
For example, if -you can describe to me in in the neighborhood that you livedin, what were some of the things that you used to do?
We in our neighborhood, our neighborhood here, it was where aa Dickson Housethat was our neighborhood, we are aa like boys in the neighborhood we'd get together most of the time we'd gather near our house house, and aa just that -
What did you do during your let's say free time or-?
We'd play ball
Or during holidays for instance, were there any?
No, ah the holidays we'd go the s aa we'd go to the, during the holidays thegatherings of the Kuwaitis were in Al-Safat square, Al-Safat square so they'd meet up the Kuwaitis, aa a gathering like the Avenues now, aa our Avenues back in the day was the was aa Al-Safat, but when [someone else speaking in the background] not hm, not every day, no once a mo-month- during the dur- Eid, there was a swing set, they'd play in the swing set, and there was the guy with the donkey, donkeys they'd ride donkeys, and there was aa there were some restaurants, not, most of them aa Iraqi cuisine.
Aa as a family, for instance, did you have any rituals during the holiday oryour own family-specific celebrations?
Ayaa we, like, our family they visit us vi- we'd get together as a the family,ga- gathering the day day of Eid we'd have Eid lunch at our house, yes but we like you know because my folks were sea folk they were the the holidays would come around during the winter and no one was there like as soon as its- even Ramadan was, Ramadan would come and go and didn't like, they're at sea.
Do you remember trips to the sea when you were for example-?
Yup, I remember I remember they'd go in Sept- the first of September and returnat the end the end of June, and I the aa and at that time my mother she was in charge, like they'd give her money and she would take care of finances and spending- like l life was aa simple wallah wa and, ahh-
And do you remember your trips to the sea, like, what were they like?
Aa I remember yeah they were like they had pleasant rituals.
The art of the sea, it was an art- they'd get together a at the port, at ourhouse at the port and they'd board the ship, always at night, and they'd go to the ship and the ships would be farther away in the sea, the ships would be moored in the gulf and they'd get on but aa b aa, b- h- aa a small boat they'd call "almashwa" they'd call it, and in it they aa like say their farewells and well wishes, these all aa are maritime things like not, honestly, not, a life aa, is harsh but was a comfortable life I mean simple and free of the of complications.
What their return like, when they came back?
Ooh they'd come back always to "Ardahs" and with celebrations in like, in theship even, ah simplicity, really it wasn't, haven't you seen now you can see them now in even in the aa in the movies they try to replicate that, in naval bands now, similarly maritime folklore.
And what was everyday life like when most men were at sea, what was life like?
Wallah, Kuwait was nearly empty, honestly, during the winter, the men, at leastin our area, all of them those were folks either sailors or ship captains, and it was aa only a few that I knew from the aa from the houses that were our neighbors who didn't have anything to do with the sea aa Musa'ad Al-Saleh's house, the aa Al-Qinai, aa God have mercy on him he was a generous man aa may God's mercy be upon him, aa the Uncle Abu Hamad, and he was very generous and a giving man, like to poor people, he that house was the only one that had boys and men going aa they were merchants I mean aa and would trade with India, but they deal in ships and in aa other things the that was the only house that, was always men, meanwhile for us, regular houses, there weren't any no, most of them o- o- o-, traveling few that were like for instance would go to the mosque, aa the mosque's imam was always there, there were aa very few most mosques like didn't didn't have hh, there wasn't much in terms of population density.
And you mentioned that the women managed the household?
Yes yesHow so?
It was normal the money she'd give- my father would give it to her or my brotherbefore they set out to travel, and she'd handle the spending, but she had to be careful.
And they (the women) were the ones who brought, for example, the householditems/groceries from -?
Yes, yes, aa like rice we'd bring- they'd bring, leave, before traveling therewould be a large supply of rice, but in, daily expenses those my mother was handling them, but life was I don't know, like I don't miss it at all.
Could you describe the women of the time?
Wallah, how can I describe the women to you, they were at the time impressivelycapable, like even when it came to the house's income, like for instance our neighbor was aah, next to our house they'd sell this "bajilla" aa Kuwaiti bajilla do you know bajilla? It was two women, one was selling bajilla the other was selling nuts ha-
At the house?
They were selling it at the house?
Yes, yes on the street, they'd sit wearing black and si- [laughs] aa but ah notlike women and all that, and they'd go to the sea the women wash the clothes in the sea, not like but aa, no a sh- di- you can't imagine what life was like.
Aa do you remember the vendors, aa could you for example, describe the souk howit was or what- ?
No aa no the sou-
What were your favorite places?
But, this, aa things, you know aa were the souk no, [we had] the Al-Gharaballistore, the Bin D'ai store, these, these stores they wallah they were built-up and sophisticated, at least for their time I mean, and the majority of the aa restaurants were Iraqi kabab, so there were also a few Iranian restaurants but the a-
And what was the merchandise sold?
The merchandise, what was being sold there?
All of it, no, it was foodstuff (or groceries and produce), there were aa thefish, fishermen, of course, Kuwaitis would bring the fish, and there were also all sorts of clothes from India aa and there was also another thing, um there was a bookstore called "Al-Ruwaieh" they sold books so we'd go see Al-Ruwaieh, Al-Ruwaieh bookstore- it still exists by the way, so that was really helpful for us, ahh-
You mentioned restaurants what was your favorite meal at-?
Wallah kabab, till this day [laughs]
And I'm going to invite you for kabab [laughs] yeah wallah I love kabab yeahwallah, you know why? It is low maintenance aaa doesn't cause much of a mess and it's easy and doesn't need, aa no bones or [fish]bones aa like aaa.
And what place did you frequent the most at the souk, for instance, a placewhere -?
No, wallah, we were like a gang, like on Fridays all the neighbor kids wouldwalk there, we'd go, that, like, and this was when things were better, we'd walk to the souk and k- aa eat kabab in the late morning, I, my friends passed away Khalifa Al-Omairi he he he was the leader of the Al-Omairi naval band he passed away a year ago, he was my friend, my kindred spirit aa and I love him, and he was a good person so we'd go him and I and the kids of al- alth- Ali Al-Najdi, these folks, their manners, were like simple we'd pit- pitch in yeah like we'd all pool our money actually, each one of us would throw something in, and we and we'd eat, k- k- cheap but like that was our Friday we'd spend it like that and in the afternoon we'd go play soccer, wallah what else can I tell you.
You used to eat desserts like or a thing you like?
We'd eat dates, wallah not and e- and we'd eat and shrimp, shrimp is eaten bymany of this, resident of Kuwait, we love shrimp, and we'd eat it [laughs], yeah and wallah umm what can I tell you, I'm tired of talking about unimportant issues, of narrating these things, not, this, I thought you'd be asking me to talk about politics; you'd be asking ask me about ask me-
We'll get there insh'Allah, to that stage-
When will we get there?
After I'm all worn out?
No insh'Allah, you're blessed, but aa okay let's move to the next stage, let'ssay high school, what high school did you go to?
In ahh we went to school the aaa Shwaikh High School it was called, yeah whatyear did I go there? '52? Yeah, '52.
Aa, what do you remember from high school?
Wallah, I remember ah ha- this I actually remember because aa first, we school,this we went to a boarding school which was somewhat of a reprieve, we went to a boarding school [and it had running] water aaa bathrooms and showers, umm food aa like restaurant ahh, we became a community for the first time aa w we lived in a state of community that is hh like aa a gathering, ha? We became involved with each other and we be- went in and became friends, and I remember also um like they all or a large number of them still, so we lived th- for three years at the boarding like at the school we'd go on Thur- when would we go..? We'd go the aah f- Friday night we'd come back to our houses, I- s-, like, considered boarding school to be a beautiful opportunity one can read and get to know other people in Kuwait, we lived as a community as if we were a family, but men like young men.
At the boarding school, how were you living, I mean in the one-bedroom/dorm,could you describe that to me?
Ah no yeah like aaa a wing, but each one of us was in a wing there weren'tindividual rooms and each wing had ten maybe like that, and houses there was a house one two three, like but we there were only a few of us so there wasn't the aa, the school aa a large population, and I s- a honestly aa like I liked it and felt at ease being there, that period we got to know we expanded our knowledge we started knowledge knowing aaa the Al-Murgab kids and Jibla kids and the kids ahh the Al-'Agoul kids, aa we before that we were limited by our geographies, in, the school was limited to our area and street and our neighbor's street, but there we got to know more we became a community we met aa there were students who aa come they'd have, car, their families there were others that aa by bus, and wallah we lived aa like and became umm it was a nice life, there were Egyptians they came came as teachings in large numbers, ahh-
Do you remember what wa-?
The subjects that you used to study in high school?
Wallah we studied look here, Arabic, English, history, math, ahh biology, thosewere the ahhh they divided us into a sciences and a humanities like I don't know how the distribution was like
And was aa a major or focus that you liked?
I love literature, I am a man, ah as you can say, I was in harmony with readingand literature and history, and politics so I ch- chose that track.
Do you remember maybe like a specific teacher that influenced, aa affected you positively?
Ah, na listen here, we were there were very few of us in class, and during thattime Kuwait started to become more open and gave out scholarships gave aaa academic scholarships, to like Palestinians to Arabs I mean, I won't forget there were aaa I and we were in class there was maybe seven of us, huh, and huh, and we'd laugh/mess around in class, one day the teacher called me, aa, the teacher was Palestinian too, he, told me we didn't come to Kuwait to to, teach aa we came here to teach Kuwaitis, and you're the future of the country/you're the ones who will lead the country in the future, so instead of you and your friend that huh laugh, huh? You want to learn and follow and not let those who are here on scholarships huh outrun you, you are the sons of the country, I'll never forget his words wallah I told my friend he called me and my friend wallah I remember too my friend he's still still alive, I said aa I told him listen here this this man who whose blood burned for us we have to aa like we can't let him down, and walah we became more serious about our school work but I'll never forget that man, and that the aaa you know, this man he didn't stay in Kuwait, he left and disappeared. Two years ago my son aa in London, who lives in London, told me that he went to aa gathering of alumni who graduated from American schools and he found this older man who asked him who are you and he said my name is Xyz and he said there was one guy there was this one guy whose name is Xyz and I told him that's my father, imagine that, my son told me about it he said do you know this [man] his name is Xyz Xyz, his name was aa Al-Mugdadi, the family name, I forgot his first name, so he said imagine, this was two years ago, and this man left Kuwait back in '55, like that's something I'll never forget.
This was a Palestinian teacher?
Aa, do you remember aa, but were the teachers from Egypt and Palestine or not-?
Yeah, I remember a few of aa from Palestine like a.. groups and groups, and theysettled in Kuwait, and a -- and some of them were naturalized getting a Kuwaiti citizenship aa like some of them passed away in but that the majority was Egyptians and aa Egyptians came in like in, honestly umm in aa, in Egypt they have a history of sending teachers to African countries and Arab countries, so they came from that framework/program/ and was of course the first time they see this desert aa in in Gulf water ahh like they were d- not they didn't have aaa a political reason they were teachers who were satiated and focused.
The Palestinian group would talk about their issues, aa, and we were influencedby their issues, like through Palestinian teachers and through the merchant class in Kuwait, it became a the aa [someone speaking in the background]
Aa how was the immigration of Palestinians into Kuwait aa if you could talk abit about that subject?
There was aa, aa a small group, they graduated from the American University ofBeirut, so they brought them, brought them, the person who, the person who brought them really, aa one man who was aa made the general manager of education and he, he then aa Iraqi..? Palestinian? Palestinian. And he's the one who armed the Palestinians, brought bands of them to Kuwait, and these groups were good, youthful, and young like at that time the graduates and no, and also it was politicized like in class-
That was in the fifties?
Yes, early '50s 50, the year 50, but the numbers were few and they got smallerlike it ended aa ended, aa the Egyptians became the majority, so nah-, education in Kuwait I mean, it went through many stages, the first stage was aa it wasn't aa it was very simple and aa there were very few people, and there weren't any major abilities or means to make like aa there weren't much means aa to extend activities until much later during the later stages they'd send people aa they'd teach aah physical-ed, music etc you know
Aa you mentioned that the oil business began in the in the fifties, could youtell me a bit about that transition between like from the forties to the fifties?
Yeah there was it was a shift not g- a shift that occurred in Kuwait, becauseoil production began, the year 50, ar- aa Kuwait was there's this po- the Kuwait naval port was all ships, ship Kuwaiti ships that were large, and one next to the other, suddenly suddenly these ships didn't have sailors because the oil company started and it needed employees, these employees in one month with the oil company could earn what a man makes the whole year at sea, so they left, and all of them moved towards the oil business, including the nwakhtha sea captains like we didn't our family didn't didn't leave the aa but and these ships stayed there but ah-
Like for a short period of time then our merchants began selling them (i.e. theships) to the Iranians, they sold almost all the vessels, like more than two hundred ships of those large ships, can you imagine- it was a large Kuwaiti naval fleet, and they sold it, and even this the, the ship that remains now her name is "Fateh AlKhair" in Salmiya my brother sold it, he sold it to , she was owned by Abdull- Mohammand Thnaiyan, and he sold her to the Iranians, and my brother aa took a small ship and put installed a mach- aa an engine, meaning a motor engine, but all of Kuwait abandoned, imagine the year '50 was aa the migration of the sailors to to the oil company, the sailors and the captains, aa and even the merchants, and it was like aa aa phenomenon aa phenomenon, geo- a sociopolitical phenomenon aa geographically aa it changed Kuwaitis this aa and that with the foreign scholarships, the emigration of Palestinians and Egyptians, the number of Kuwaitis was extinct like the number of Kuwaiti teachers was extinct, aa they were already so few of them to start with and they weren't qualified, and those teachers came qualified and -
And where was the oil company?
And and you said that aa most Kuwaitis worked aa- what were they doing at theOil Company?
Laborers aa laborers
And the company management was British?
Englishmen, yes, and they (Kuwaitis) were laborers; some of them worked ascontractors bringing aa they'd bring dayworkers, bring taxi companies, they worked so like it opened up, opened up, truthfully jobs that Kuwaitis didn't know how to work, so they became drivers, became diggers.
And aa you said that the English managed the company, aa could you talk a bitabout that period when the English came to Kuwait?
There was -- Al-Ahmadi they built it into a beautiful city yeah? And and, thehouses are beautiful and a beautiful hospital and greenery, but they were like a town, a town in the middle of the desert, a European town in the middle of the desert-
What did it look like? I mean a- at that time?
I don't know, it was different, aa the way it looked was like a British town inthe Kuwaiti desert it was-
Meaning the infrastructure?
Huh? The houses, this house, the tiles aa, these houses are still there aa, Iused to go like s, we'd all used to go um, we'd go see them on Friday, but this... you, Iaa I can help you with other issues, there are others who know more about this.
Alright, how was the coming of the British, what was the reaction/overallfeeling among the Kuwaiti society toward the coming of the British?
Good, and a- aware that um good things are yet to come, those who have amercantile intuition, they saw the sign and knew there was much to be earned that the price of real estate will go up, that the exporting ah ahh of oil ahh will increase, that importing will benefit the future, these, these are the benefits, for us sea folk we didn't buy real estate they bought Boom's (vessels), and Booms died in a single day.
Alright how was the relationship between the British or the English and Kuwaitis?
Um -- no it was near total isolation, that that in that area (i.e. Alahmadi), weweren't seeing them around in Kuwait (i.e. the places Kuwaitis lived).
They weren't intermingling with the Kuwaiti society?
Aa how about workwise in the workplace, like if Kuwaitis were working with the English?
Ah hh, there was, there was a general manager- a general supervisor who wasKuwaiti, he organized them and th- and and he- he aa- he was the liaison between the Kuwaitis and the Englishmen
And there were at the time aa workers from India with them?
The English brought them as accountants
Did they work um at the company with them?
Let's talk about your time in Egypt when you went to university there?
Can you tell me th- like the scholarship that aa-
I'll say this thing, in college, three things caught my attention, first, ah,for the first time, I was in coed spaces the university, in the cafes, the college had female instructors for the university lecturers who were ah women and from -that was aah like, it was a transition like, you can say a transition till we ha- had we had female friends meaning f- female friends as in acquaintances from the classroom we'd borrow their papers lecture notes, they borrow ours and we'd ah exchange, and I was the only one from the ahh I '54, -5? And, who was there from Kuwait? What did they know about Egypt? Who heard of it then, so they used to call us ahh the Eastern students like we ahh
And how many students from Kuwait were there?
No no there was, it wasn't too bad, at that time it was approximately seventymaybe? Yeah not actually maybe fewer but there there the number was okay ahh
And where did you live, in aa Cairo?
No we each lived alone
Each person alone?
Yes of course each
Aa Did you have these, like these political clubs or um affiliations?
Yeah, there was the student union; it started he- this, the Kuwaitis ahh gotinvolved, in the Kuwaiti students, ahh, in Egyptian politics, like Egypt became a Republic and a radical republic so the Kuwaitis were positively influenced, some of them, positively some of them supported and others were against it, some of them got involved in tribalism and Pan-Arab movements and Baathist and the socialist party, ahh yeah we I for me I wasn't ahh like m never m- b- these the ahh issues in, in political ideologies wasn't ahh-
A lot at that time was influenced by Marxism, let's say, but what were yourpolitical leanings, or what were the things that mattered to you the most?
No, no, no, I wasn't leaning- I like liberalism ahh, Western democracy, humanrights, these ideologies, I can't tolerate others
And, and, what was the effect, let's say--
This, this, the- this one thing was what I already mentioned and the secondthing that I like, let's say that in college there was no one um mm no one to carry you
You are responsible for yourself, if you don't care- that they call itself-reliance, self-reliance, you read and go out and research and excavate and learn and d- and draw your future yourself no one is making it for you, and no one contributes to it other than yourself, in aa this I like, no the third observation.
Did you study literature in Cairo?
Yes I love literature, aa--
Why literature in particular?
That's just who I am, I have aa I have-
Being inclined to literature, the literature ahh English Farsi literature,Arabic literature, and aaa, it gives you a chance to read, and to enter the lives of those, and see, some of them wise, some insane some, geniuses so- some of them perverted geniuses in aa like, honestly h h- but this, college isn't what delivers knowledge to humans, the thing that delivers knowledge to humans and knowledge that comes by way of antiquity the ahh-
What were you reading at- during your time at the university?
Everything, I read everything.
What sort of English literature, like what?
I read every- I read, for English literature I read crimes in ahh, I used toread espionage crime, and I used to read in aah, a number of bio- biog-
Yup, I used to read those a lot, till the like I didn't stop, even yesterday Iwas reading about aa about Queen Mary with ab-, I couldn't stop, and the more I read, the more I discovered.
So autobiographies you read in- a, more specifically I mean in what genres ortopics? World leaders or-?
Yup, world leaders, and singers, and dancers.
Like? An example?
I read aa for dancers if a like I read da- d dancers if you want [laughs]"Tahiya Karyoka"[laughs] I read her life, I read the live of "Sabiya Jama," [laughs], these ahh their lives were sweet/leisurely but at the same time their lives were terrible because they didn't they had limited knowledge, they didn't know how to manage the opportunities that were offered, offered, offered that time offered gave them a chance, they didn't, like, that sort of reading is light reading, I love, the other day I read it was a book the life of, unfortunately, there wasn't ahh the life of the Kuwaiti poet Fahad Boresli I was reading his life, and I read the life of every from books about, about Kuwait ahh every book that was about Kuwait I read, and about everyone who lived in Kuwait and wrote about it, I read it all, Dickson wrote- Dickson wrote Dickson and w- like mash'Allah, aaa still there the-
And in Egypt, you felt that you had the opportunity to read more widely than inKuwait because of the overall situation or your environment.
Why, yes, of course, because books were available, and then Egypt went into andus there aaa got entangled in political clashes with Britain and France and the securing of the Suez Canal, and the inner system and a cleansing, cleansing of the Pasha-hood that disappeared and the monarchy went away too and the class ahh the "velvety class" the cushy upper class as they'd say, went, changed.
How did you engage with these issues as college students?
Wallah, I don't, l, we had nothing to do with it, some of us, and I am one ofthose, stayed out of it; they used to watch it closely and read about it, because I was in another world, reading, reading biographies and reading about Egypt and reading about the Pasha the ruler of Egypt.
Even Kuwaitis were involved in, in, in, the topic of the-
Politics in Egypt?
Yes of course t-
How so? Or in what ways?
They became Nassirites, a large number of them.
My apologies, sir; just so that we can wrap up the section about Egypt, how manyyears were you in college in Egypt?
Four years and so what year, approximately, did you come back to Kuwait?
The year 59
Aa, were you able to recognize Kuwait after the time you spent in Egypt? Did younotice any differences in those four years?
Yeah, it was very different, it had institutes now ha? And they, had, didn't,didn't there are ministries, but Kuwait was, the identity the Kuwaiti identity emerged, the Kuwaiti entity and the essence of the Kuwaiti identity emerged on the Arabic and Global scenes and started, started, like the effects of the oil, you see? The production of oil pumps money and life started to spread, and the houses started having electricity, running water, septic systems, [laughs] refrigerators, and air conditioners.
And your house was still in Sharq?
No aa no no, we left ninety-, '55 '56 we moved, we left the family I was abroadand my family left, and all the folks of the area moved
And where did they move?
Aaa, my folks k- moved to Al-Dasma, all of the people who lived in Sharq movedto either the area aa either Al-Daiya or Al-Dasma, anyway umm that like I honestly didn't um aa I came back aa in '59, and, and aa w worked with, I went I aaa, I taught.
Where was that?
Yea, at the, at the university, at the high school
Shwaikh high school?
Yeah, I didn't I liked teaching, but, I, not that it was going to be my job Iwas trying it out.
What did you teach?
I taught English and honestly stayed there for a year, and then was hired as adeputy, the school deputy for the high school, and after that, I left, there wasn't, but I; let me tell you if I, aa like if I had continued I would've aa, I would've continued as a Director; like I'd become, I'm not a man cut for teaching and educating, -- [interjection: Mohammed came? Give him a- give him that [someone else replies], take this to him [someone else replies]
Aaa, why teaching in particular, did---
You didn't want to continue-?
No, a, didn't, it wasn't the job that I wanted to live off and, wasn't, wasn'tmy thing, like I as, a, I was exposed to the world of public policy/politics, I kept reading about World War II, World War I, and started thinking of living abroad, aa started like that I'd go to England to live, and I
And when, when you taught that year in Kuwait, where were the teachers thus far,still Palestinians?
Aa no, there wasn't anyone, no no, there weren't any -- in fact, my colleague,was god have mercy on his soul, he passed away a year two years Sulaiman Al-Mutawa was my colleague at the school and Ibrahim Al-Shatti, the rest no they were, the teachers, aa mos- Egyptians aaa, anyway we passed, passed through that stage and entered into the era of diplomacy, this is for the next session we'll talk about those issues.
We'll stop here and th- the next time we'll continue talking about --
Insha'allah, Insha'allahAbout politics
My name is Reem Al-Ali, and we are currently in aa Kuwait City, the date todayis January 29, 2020, and the time is approximately 11 am, and this is the second session with the aa Mr. Abdullah Bishara. Sir, in our previous interview we stopped aa after your time studying in Egypt. And, and we agreed that in this session we'd talk about aa when you went to study in Britain, aa you mentioned that it was around the 50s'?
Aa, aa mm honestly, yeah, let me tell you something, I aa m, I got ascholarship, from what was called at the time the Ministry of Knowledge, yeah to Britain to continue my studies in, in English literature and literature in general, and at the same time aa an announcement was made for about opening for the Kuwaiti consulate, t- to prepare for Independence, and the ad was in the newspapers, so I I aa went and submitted my application as per the ad, and honestly aa my luck was great because I got chosen along with twelve others.
Do you remember who the other twelve were?
Aa Ahmad Al-Naqib, who, he's still here, may god extend his life, and he was theambassador in London; Nouri Abdulsalam Shuaib passed away god have mercy on him, and he was the ambassador in Algeria, aa Mr-- god have mercy on him, Mohammad Al-Harbash who was the ambassador in Tokyo, he passed away, and Mr. s- Saed Shammas, and he was the ambassador in Moscow, also passed away, Mr. Muhalhal Al-Mudaf and he was an ambassador to the United Nations and Pakistan also passed away, Mr aa Jasim Boresli and he was the ambassador in Jordan, still alive, and Mr.. Abdulaz--- Mr. Abdulhameed Al-Ba'aijan, and he was mo- the ambassador in Lebanon, and he's here still alive, like aa those are the ones I remember.
And and what made you switch from studying English literature to--?
Wallah, you know I didn't have like umm, aa like I h aa as as what made me dothis would say, I am drawn to aaa travels and cultures and getting to know aa corners of the earth, so this consulate [gig], this allowed me to move around and th-, that's the truth, and not like there wasn't another reason and truthfully we went, I also like a- I enjoyed, while in school [taken a class?] international law, international law was an easy class because it relies on precedents; for instance precedent aa a plane comes and lands in Kuwait this plane aaa is owned by companies that went bankrupt these companies so the aircraft landed and stayed on Kuwaiti grounds for a long time aa then the question of who owns the plane is raised which results in a debate between the companies, like I'll give you an example, - the mediator, mediator comes works works saying that this belongs to company A, for instance, this becomes a precedent in international law, after that incidents happen again aa like that one, and likewise so when I became also like comfortable with th- the subject that has a cerebral nature and has research like aa mm, if one, for instance, aa commits a crime and escaped to aa Portugal and changed his name and got married and had kids, they discover after forty years, ha the government t aa and this discourse and law like and from those ah things and truthfully I studied it and came, came in aa and I returned so I joined the- huh? And Kuwait gained its independence m-s- no and the, the ministry of foreign affairs was established, and I was part of it like from the ministry I was one of the first, the first class.
And while you were in Britain, you were preparing yourself for a diplomatic path?--
I read, I read, read from all over, I read history, I read like the mostimportant thing I learned back then at that time I aaa the French Revolution and, how aa, and wars, Napoleon, how Napoleon lost, I Napoleon was adventurous but was a military genius, he- managed Europe for fifteen years m under his rule, and he was defeated in battle of course, there were many factors- anyway things like that.
Aa you mentioned that you enjoyed reading biographies.
Aa, during that time when you were in Britain, what political figures were youmost influenced by?
Nah, wallah, plenty I read, let's say, all the politicians who are there theones that we had like I mean contemporary British history in ah Chu- Churchill of course and truthfully s aa George Lloyd, and aa Adly, and Eden, McCain those all I read them aa, and this not books aa their journals that they more, more than one person wrote about them aa, books, and these journals consist of three, four books first volume the second and the third, so I read about them and then after that I read we read in aa b, do you know they call them aa the sisters Brontë, I read them aa Emily Brontë and her sister--
And I read about aa m, Jane Austen and I read about those, I read aboutShakespeare and aa D.H Lawrence -- like I like these things, but you know these things t- teach, you a lot, because they are a, means to knowledge, and the means to. an entrance, entrance ha- to the greats aa the greats t- like the greatest of the greats aa, I was obsessed with Tolstoy, Tolstoy's life is entertaining.
In what way?
In what way?
Tolstoy, like, was an aristocratic man, from the nobility aa and a land owner,aa f- aa and a philosopher, he lived in cottages and gave up the riches and spoils- and a, was aaa married and left his wife, and lived h aa "Sa'alouk" (vagabond) like aa, so I d a there has to be something wrote with this person, th,e he no- no- the rich noble becomes a "sa'alouk" something's wrong with, aa in his person, his personality is endearing.
Aa all right, while you were in Britain, other than, what were you doing everyday, what was everyday life like meaning, for instance, was there a--
I study, hu?
A literary society - a society for Kuwaiti students?
No, no, no, we didn't, we were far away in the city of Oxford and la- - weweren't students- students tha who- were in their early twenties we more we were a bit older.
But you would all get together, all the Kuwaitis there, with each other?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, m yeah, we'd gather together, us as a group, aa but the cityof Oxford was a beautiful city at that time like it wasn't industrialized, but it was quaint wi aa the overall academic ambiance, and I love the aa to go sea, was in I loved going to London and attending plays and coming back like aa go- good, a life we benefited from that life, a lot-
Aa, did anything interesting happen to you there, like an endearing incident, oras a student there or..?
[laughs] like no- endearing stories, no I don't remember, of course but I don'tremember them like, there was ahh we were all we were sometimes wed get together aaa in one house, and one would cook for us like that um but you don't know like after that, that story is maybe more than ha ho- years fifty, sixty years.
And you were married during that time?
No no noNot yet.
No, I wasn't married, I, until not like, until much later, aa not late, but Ididn't get married like early at five -- five, twenty-five, marriage nah, I got married when I was thirty, and anyway that,I when I returned and, and they asked me do you want to go to Tunisia, I'm going to go back and tell you why-
Now when you returned to Kuwait, so that I can go back a bit when you returnedafter completing your education aa and, and you entered the diplomatic sector--
What was that time like?
No, that that the start was Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem the Minister of ForeignAffairs, and the late Jasim Qatami the deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and truthfully a when he was hired aa the late Jasim Qatami and he's m a man who aa, is, has integrity, and virtue, and and patriotism and courage and he was one of the Nasarines, came from Al-Nasaria, so truthfully he embraced a large number of those who ca- he yes- was the Chief of Police and he resigned aa also in protest against aa -- the shutting down- in '58 and was i- was in movement we were abroad but a movement a, aa like um an open symposium celebrating pan-Arab unity, so aa this symposium was in uh support and from the- and drafting a constitution ca- to and aa it's normal at that tim- at that time it became much bigger than needed but it aa, so aa the lodges were closed down and Jasim Qatami resigned to protest that decision, but when our crisis with Iraq happened in the year '61, all of those came back like all those who were hesitant and everyone who s- in- had some hard feelings, they got over it, and it was like a a nationalistic call and they responded to this call and Jasim is one of them anyway that he brought a group all of them like loyal Kuwaitis with integrity, and w- those who tribal Nasarrites; we weren't we, for twelve years that we came back all of us pe- people of different variety, were intellectually different so anyway that I like w- aa I remember that Jasim Al-Qatami told me that, so I went honestly to aa study French that that was the main motivator, and I went, the ambassador was a respectful man the State of Kuwait didn't have any cadres at its nascency, the Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem used the help fo men a- businessmen, those businessmen their jobs weren't like relevant to diplomacy and nor were they interested in being expats but they went and sacrificed for the sake of their country, a large number like I remember our Kuwait's ambassador in the first Kuwaiti ambassador in the in the Kingdom (KSA) and aa his name Essa Abduljaleel, also was one of the businessmen, aa the ambassador in aa Cairo Mr. Abdulmohsin God have mercy on him too he was a mentor and aa, aa the ambassador in aa umm, in Tehran was also aa the late Al-Aalem, also from the Al-Salem family, and aa Mr. aa, Abdulrazzaq Razougi, in Jordan, and ahh my father-in-law was in Jordan Mr. Khaled Al-Adsani, and aaa I went, with god have mercy on him, the Mr. Mr. Rajab Al-Refai-
Where did you go?
He was the ambassador and--
Anyway it was, honestly it was an opportunity for me but I didn't didn't staylong, di- di- a- di- h- aa I didn't acclimate well with the the weather because truth be told aa aa I was I was wounded, on my hand- nope it was like aa like aa umm like, aa, infection we call it like, and this infection was [cured in one hand] then moved to the next, and from here to there, so I went for treatment I remember and and later fini- I was done with foreign affairs I, like I excused myself and, and aaa like, aa I love umm, health like reasons these health reasons and wallah I returned (to Kuwait), and returned and aaa there was a chance I told you maybe the last time that we were in aa meeting of the Arab League that was an office called aa Palestinian refugees and the Arab League had a committee aaa for Palestinian refugees so aa supporting them and organizing with the United Nations in and refugee relief agency, so it was there was a thing, honestly aa they told me go to Cairo and c- go to the committee and head the committee and represent us and I had just arrived.
And this was in what year?
At the end of '62, I think, or early '63 I mean, exactly, umm aa honestly, whenthere I was surprised to find that the aa Egyptian delegation distributed a memo aa accusing in it- speculating, not accuse to be honest, saying in it that there is an agency from Australia at a hotel in Kuwait flying out the Palestinians in Kuwait to Australia which was a [covert way] of resolving the case like that was because in the decision of the League that they're not flown and aa stay a kind of the aa, one of the strangest decisions at that time, so I protested aa like this is an accusation against Kuwait for- you you should've told us we didn't know like so honestly we didn't have the technology, so those would surveil the situation and instead of telling us went ahead and made it a whole thing, like a story it wasn h- it wasn't benign it wasn't like calculated but it also wasn't benign and I reported aa to Kuwait and at that time it was a Sheikh - His Highness Amir our current Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad had become the minister of foreign affairs, and I returned and and went went to him, what happened in Cairo was was about aa-
What was their response like?
Yeah, anyway, I explained to his Highness the Amir and -
Alright, what was the reaction to that incident?
No, no wallah, they called the ambassador; they called up the Egyptianambassador and told him like aa k aa, in fact, it's not worth it aa tell us and we'd do what is required like na was aa anyway that was what happened aa so said later aaa the Amir said, his High Highness, like s as the minister, told me "stay, work in my office," so it was I aa Iw aa like I worked--
And that was in the year '64, correct?
Aa aa the late, late '63 I think
Alright, I just want to go back a bit, you mentioned the constitution andKuwait's independence; can you talk to me a bit about that time?
What m aa what about?
Yeah, how was, let's say, the general atmosphere in Kuwait leading to?
No she I ah, aa on the first aaa that the Independence ca- on the day aninteenth of June 1961, and aa thing- like we we exuberant, I we were abroad but they were exuberant those in Kuwait and joyful, and on the twenty-first -- on the twenty fifth the aa Prime Minister of Iraq aa the coup, a coup happened in the in Iraq, aa a coup on fou- fou- fourtheenth of June, and came he and wiped out Al-Hashemites, she he came and a AbdulKareem Qasim took over AbdulKareem Qasim a man umm an ordinary man aa a barely-educated, and he declared that Kuwait is a part that can't be divided up and that the right decision and talks, aa like aa ruffian, irresponsible language aa, so there was an uproar, uproar, and there was Kuwaiti turmoil and aa Kuwait is not equip at that time aa, so the Sheikh Abdullah aa Al-Salem was a wise man, he called the English and they deployed two thousand aa to defend Kuwait because this threatens, the a Iraq was anyway they were deployed and there was there was an Arabian crisis honestly within the League, Kuwait was not a member of the League and not a member of the United Nations, so the State of Kuwait submitted a request this request took the duration of a month, aa that what how Iraq would reject, in aa among Arabs they were flattering Iraq it wasn't a matter of aa no aa they didn't know Kuwait and Kuwait was a new country, so there was fawning and flattery and they had interests countries like Lebanon I remember, countries that are near us like, so I aa I in aahh, anyway that the aa truthfully it was a huge crisis and the crisis then became more convoluted because the leader Jamal AbdulNaser said aa that this the English must retreat, because they are threatening Iraq and threatening the Arab nations and threaten, all that generic political talk, so the Sheikh Abdullah like said alright you sa- you say that the English need to back down what's the alternative? He said the alternative is we'll get you an Arab power aa, aa like morally, what use is a "moral" power yaaa aa this Iraqi army wants has greedy aspirations, morally pshaw, the ethical deterrent, what ethical deterrent? Anyway that, Sheikh Abdullah like didn't, said look the -- since there's an Arab power comin- the British also advised Sheikh Abdullah to join the Arab League as a step that would enable and strengthen the backbone of Kuwait, and Kuwait joined the League and after a month, and all thanks is to; honestly, the wisdom of Sheikh Abdullah and the role Saudi played was, King Saoud sent like was insistent about Kuwait joining, aa the first ground that I stepped on was the ground the dirt of Kuwait and I won't allow-- anyway it became the Arab power that would protect Kuwait in lieu of the British and the British retreated, and we started creating embassies, and I went, I went then to Tunisia, and at that time our job truthfully was to establish the Kuwaiti presence aa and at that time too the Algerian Revolution was ongoing, there was Kuwaiti support for the revolution, li- no- aa. Our status was okay and thank-, but we stayed for a while like in this ordeal until the fall of the Iraqi regime in '63 February of '63, in a counterrevolution that was Baathi aa with Abdulsalam Aarif anyway, things changed like now aa easy Kuw- because Kuwait joined the Arab League after a month of negotiations, as the United Nations it joined after three years yea- or two years actually because more than the negotiation there was the Russian veto twice the Soviet, and that like aa unpre- unprecedented that that a large country uses the veto against the membership of a country didn't, it never happen before, ah I remember, in the year '60 twenty countries joined the United Nations in one deal but now they were pandering because the Russian Soviet influence in Iraq, and between them the aa, they did they vetoed us twice, the third time after the coup Kuwait was successful, so his highness the Amir went and gave a speech, aa this all was in '63 ha- I still haven't gotten there yet, in a '64 I was there and started to work with aa one aa kuwai- "naturalized" like his name a Jarrah, ethnically Palestinian, he was the office manager to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
He honestly was, was a w -- with, at the Ministry of Health with the Sheikh aaSabah Al-Salem when he was the Minister of Health, Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem, so when aa Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem became the Minister of Foreign Affairs, he brought him with him, so Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem became the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, he went left that there s- aa the Sheikh stayed with Sheikh Sabah till '64 he was appointed in London aa as the Second-in-Command because in London I think Sheikh Salem Al-S -- yeah Salem Al-Sabah Salem god rest his soul became the ambassador so, she he went I became with the manager the ma- by the way from '64 early in the year '64 I think yeah, but I stayed in the office of the minster till-
Till approximately '71?
Aa till '71
Aha all right
Aa this the aa period was aa eventful, and the Sheikh aa his Highness the Amirmay God extend his life, was, had aa foresight and knew that it wasn't possible, possible for Kuwait to be comfortably settled amid Arab disagreements, in a sea full of reconciliatory and overlapping waves and conspiratorial currents going after each other, so there had to be a kind of the aa clearer climate because from- in a clear climate the State of Kuwait can breathe easily, so he was honestly aa, he would mediate and liaison, and I was with him like aa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs s- I and, with me a fellow of Lebanese origins also and and one was Kuwaiti us, thr- we were four, me, the Lebanese man who was like a technician and one Kuwaiti who was for like the Sheikh's personal matters and another one with him, anyway, so we we- we used to go, between the s- Lebanon and the Palestinians, there was a conflict and the Amir would intervene, Syria and Lebanon also had a conflict and the Amir would intervene, the aa Jordan and Palestine the Amir intervenes, however aa the biggest thing honestly was the war was the aa tensions were high between Egypt and Saudi Arabia because of Yemen, and the Saudis were, of course aa w- with all, rightfully so a considered the presence of the Egyptian army in Yemen as threatening their safety, there was never a like in the modern world, never did an army come out- aa from outside the Peninsula aa l, threatening the countries of the Peninsula, so aa they were, a like there was a war honestly, between the now between the royalists who were dethroned by the revolution in Yemen, and between the revolutionaries who Egypt supported; Egypt supported the revolutionaries and aa Saudi Arabia supported the monarchists, but also aa it was a struggle for power, and I thi- and the Nasserite vision was a di- had was ignorant of the Saudi regime and the depth of the regime and the legality of the regime and they were envisioning that this aa a regime ya aa that it would fall and they'd pressure them and planes the important thing is that ah didn't happen, for the Sheikh was mediating, we brought here- there was- Kuwait because -it but aa were calm conversations it wasn't,- so it was h-came aaa vi- vi- the Sheikh visited I can't remember what month that was Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem I saw him when he was Prime Minister be- aa no I saw him as the Amir, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem passed away aa in '65 and Sabah Al-Salem took on the role of the Amir, and of also also Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem was like a school of compassion and brotherhood, ha ha, and Sheikh Sabah inherited that school and became its dean, so a he went on an official visit to, to Egypt and told them we want to reach a to bring you closer between this and that that you need to meet in the Kingdom, King Faisal and Abdulnasser, o alright, and s aa -delegated he assigned Sheikh Sabah, for Sheikh Sabah honestly between Yemen and between Egypt and Saudi Arabia and and they agreed and they came here we drew up the paperwork not aa a lot I was responsible for for their visit f-secret, calm visits in the region, in houses in a house in AlKh- in the aa in Al-Dahya that's where it was, so we umm but we didn't succeed, and it went on this the war until an eruption k- the war of '67, '67 changed everything the Egyptian revolution was defeated, was thwarted, and re- the Khartoum Convention took place to revive Egypt and its revolution with Saudi and Kuwaiti backing, for at that time there was no Emirates. Kuwait and KSA were the ones who contributed monetarily to revive Egypt meanwhile the rest no no nah Iraq didn't pay and neither-- only with words, and the and neither did Libya, Libya is bothersome and maybe Algeria doesn't have the money so it gave arms and what not anyway it was, that was it afterwards it ended, the Yemen problem, and the Egyptian army retreated from aa from Yemen and things became normal I mean, aa not aa there wasn't, it wasn't confrontational but rather ordinary, and and it stayed like, no, things stayed that way, aa after that we were preoccupied, the Arab world was preoccupied with '67, we were the most important thing was so that you can understand how the aa, the Kuwaiti role was in, the healing of Arab wounds, this, the defeat of '67 the day aa 11th this fi- five f fifth of June the Egyptian army, this, the Egyptian air force was destroyed, it changed, that's it, the war ended with, with, aa January 9 aa was eleventh, aa ninth, of June 11th or June or something Sheikh a, s-, an exceptional meeting was called here for all Arab ministers of foreign affairs and we met at the Sheraton in such difficult circumstances for a day, and they decided aa the ministers on that day to go to New York because Russia- the Soviet Union which had adopted the Egyptian cause wanted there to be an international response/stand against this, to, for what happened, to the defeat, and Israel's insistence on its annexation of the lands, so w- called, aa the prime minister called for a meeting for ministers to aa session the aa special Emergency Special Session aa for the General Assembly of the United Nations that doesn't have the veto, so we went and took every available Kuwaiti aircraft--
To New York?
No- to London, in, I, the ambassadors, no truthfully we flew from Kuwait toAnkara, aa some of us disembarked, the Syrian ambassador, the Syrian minister aa a few ministers got off in Ankara, and in, and, and, and, and we arrived in London, the ministers disembarked, and we went on our way and the Arab Prime Ministers each when their own way, this the aa I like this highlighted the role of Sheikh Sabah when it came to the matters of the Arab nations in a significant way and the role of Kuwait, so when we went there, there were continuous Arab meetings.
Could you describe to me like-?
Could you describe to me the situation, what was it like meaning the-?
The aa the A- the Arabs were not just aa shocked, but rather at loss, "thereisn't a single word between them" (they didn't agree on anything) they weren't agreeing on things because, at that time, was the aa the Egyptian front, the prime minister of Egypt was a wise man called Mahmoud Riyad, Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs, and was a wise man, and was presented the committee was two resolutions regarding the Israel annexation in '67, resolution t- like America was behind it and supporting it presented by countries of the Americas like the ah Argentina and Brazil, and a resolution pushed forth by the Soviet Union and presented by Yugoslavia and India and, and us the Arabs. These two resolutions, the dispute, they all call for disarmament but the conflict aa the, the Latin conflict, which is the American one or the one America wants, that there would be a retreat with a peace treaty, okay-
All right you were talking to me about the, the two resolutions/solutions,those, were aa the withdraw- the Latin America? And the American-backed resolution?
Yes, the Latin resolution states claims reconciliation, the other one statesIsrael withdraws its troops unconditionally, and and we placed both resolutions before the Assembly , and d- and both failed to to gather the majority of votes, so what happened s our state, I'll tell you with all honesty I feel that what was supposed to happen at that time we u- like we were distant, but rather the, a the those that understood the situation and have experience within the United Nations aa Mahmoud Riyad the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt had wanted truthfully, but aa the excessive bravado of Arabs is a problem, the leader used to the aa the Arab meetings were called daily, the prime minister of Sudan called, aa Mahjoub, h aa, his name Mahjoub Mohammad Mahjoub a man of poetry and a politician, and an experienced veteran but he also aa is influenced by the by the bravado, and the Iraqis are rebels and the Algerians rebels, aa a also aa that time we luckily didn't have any Libyans present, but those are the one--and the Syrians are bothersome.
Aa alright let's go back a bit you mentioned to me the aa the stance of Arab countries.
Yeah, and wallah the aa those they bid and a- s- and the aa, aa, it was likeSouk Okaz, the Arab caucus and the Islamic caucus and fundamentalism, and the anger, anger because of aa betrayal like accusing the Uni- the United States accusing, there was rage, and the angry subject can't y aa th- ahh think in an objective way, I was aa saw ka- the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, he was objective, and truthfully he was overburdened, and Sheikh Sabah aa was like, aa li- the relationship between him and Mahmoud Riyad was amicable, we were- that's Arabs they can't leave anything alone, they said someone reasonable and wise, it failed, that was it, the United Nations failed and Israel's status was confirmed, that the world was supporting them in that there won't be any withdrawing without peace this ha- this was the first step the the first win, and the issue aa kept being discussed within the United Nations from '67 ahh till, it remained five months um aa the Security Council looking aa in some way a for a, the situation was tense, so after five months the Security Council announced resolution number two four two (242), which is famous, the resolution that, had, had truthfully has a clause that brings comfort to Israel, the retreat from from some occupied territories, to territories, not a complete withdrawal from all territories just from the occupied territories, and the resolution solved the refugee crisis and not- aa this by the y- the, aa not- aaa- not accepting aa aa not- aa um gaining any profit by use of force, but all of that isn't important what's important is the clause that it called for retreat from territories and not--, so this b- this was in November, issued unanimously, truthfully, that was the problem that it aa treats aa the Palestinians as refugees and doesn't secure ahh-- and the withdrawal and there were nego- aa in the United Nations appointed this man his name, Jarring, to move between Egypt and Israel and Jordan, and Syria refused of course the decision, outside the nations and was this aa the aa this when si- fi- '67 and I went to the United Nations in '71 that was still there aa nothing happened and truthfully the aaa the thing that changed was the President Al-Sadat when he came and ga- saw the situation those the Israelis were ravaging the lands and building settlements with support from the United States, who can take them out. So he went aa of course you know the story of the war of the 7th O- the war in October '73 yeah for that I was in the United Nations, anyway that I'll get to, it I this the, we returned ha-, we returned look here the Sheikh in '76 requested a meeting with President Johnson, and I went with him, with us the ambassador of Kuwait his name Tala'at Al-Ghusain naturalized Kuwaiti, and President Johnson and truthfully aa said I, I'm committed to the safety of Israel we're the ones who expelled the Israelis in '65 and that's correct, from Sinai, on the basis that it stays t- aa this the aa the Strait of Tiran stays open to international navigation, that aa President Abdulnasser didn't respect that decision, and he closed it and that act triggered this war, and like from the, aa that's a fact but anyway that no- succ- we-, like this like, like put in the effort aa to speak with President Johnson and this ,this was the American stance we presented to him the Arab stance and went the -- aa and we returned to Kuwait, and the sessions at the Arab League kept happening and the aa and and delegations and no-, nothing was achieved I was wi wi- with the Sheikh till this like and after I like, saw that, not- aa, I did seven years.
At the office?
The office, aa I wanted to go another place, he, the Sheikh, asked me where doyou want to go? And I said to him there was a permanent representative in New York who didn't want the position anymore, he has kids and doesn't want it, so I told him that, and he said to me, look at, so aa His Highness the Amir, I can't remember, he told me I can go to, to Tokyo or to the United Nations, to choose one, and I said to him the UN- and he said if you get bored of the United Nations come back, and truthfully I went and didn't get bored and became captivated, but this aa- that's for the next time, now I'm going to do some work for a bit.
Okay, so in our next interview insh'Allah, we'll talk about aa the year 71 atthe United Nations.
Yup, that's a long story, that one
[Al-Ali laughs] Insh'Allah
Because, that matter, I wrote a book about, I did.
Today's date is February 3rd 2021, and the time is 10:30 am, umm and we are inat the office of his Excellency, the ambassador Abdullah Bishara in Sharq. Aa thank you your Excellency for this third interview that is part of the Oral History Project at the American University of Kuwait, aa last time we ended our conversation talking about the period when you were the permanent representative for the State of Kuwait at the United Nations.
Aa could you talk to me about aa--
Could you talk to me about that period of your life and why you chose to aa totake that job instead of, aa aa I believe that you had a choice between that and going to Tokyo?
Yeah, because I aa, I love the aa the a diploma- the the diplomacy that iscalled multi-lateral, multilateral, not the bi-lateral, the bi- bilateral this one, mind, like I'd enter the hall aaa, and with me there would be a hundred and fifty countries, we'd engage with each other, we'd converse, respond, I clarify the position of Kuwait, what is the State of Kuwait, Kuwait's generosity, Kuwait's culture, Kuwait's diplomacy, Kuwait. I discuss that we, aa our diplomatic policies are finer than your diplomatic policies for reasons so and so, so this, truthfully the United Nations is a whole world inside a building, instead of circling aa Africa and Argentina and aa and aa Tokyo, all of this, the world is there and its issues are there too, not just its issues but also its worries and sensibilities and great feats and a- and its defeats they're all there present inside this building. So I was introduced to the aa to a- various strata of people, classes aaah, ak- aa that were genial and upbeat, and those who were miserable, people that have given up hope, some that are holding on to hope and begging, so the United Nations, truthfully, is an essence and a portrait that is emblematic of this phenomena that we call now globalization which is aa the the globalization in- inside one building, this, globalization is not humanity but rather its issues and hopes and expectations and defe- defeats and loss and despair, and aa we see aa, in need, aa entire continents that are miserable and in need aa of that, truthfully to be taken and ra- raised and have their statuses raised and to t aa f- like from the the t- they need a crane , and the only crane in the the world is Europe, the United States and and Europe, and the Gulf Countries honestly because they, oh and Tokyo and Japan of course, because the rest, the other countries could barely wi- fulfill the needs of their own populations, and these the Gulf Countries are countries of surplus, and these surplus countries aa gav- aa ,created for the Gulf countries a- an enthralling state, firstly, why? Because the Gulf Countries had a captivating rank and I'm talking to you about Kuwait, and when they say, call Sheikh Sabah aaa "the Humanitarian Amir" is an acknowledgement of a truth, of a reality since since he started working in Foreign Affairs in in J- in January of '63 until his passing, he truthfully was always in the business of giving and participating in aid and aa involvement with the development of the aa the of African countries and Asian countries- and those in needs that the cou- those countries aa the Gulf Countries are called Countries of [laughs] ah Countries of the aa giving, countries aa the countries, they're countries that give unconditionally, without any political greed nor do they have aspirations aa that they're trying to achieve nor do they have any political goals or martial intentions, all they want f- to participate in global development and the improvement of the living standards of humans wherever they may be, so this, Kuwait donated, and the Gulf Countries donated too but especially the State of Kuwait has a aa a- um-
Yes, aa al-
Reputation, an excellent reputation.
Hmm, aa aa-
Aa all right, sir, you mentioned to me la- last time that in the year 1971 aayou went to New York with your family?
Okay, could you describe that to me aa, or maybe describe the moment you arrivedthere aa how was-
I a, like, I wasn't a stranger to New York because I went with the minister, andI was his office manager since '64, Sheikh Sabah, may god rest his soul, used to like going to New York and liked the gathering of the United Nations and recognized its usefulness, because in the two weeks that he stays or three weeks, he meets with a hundred and fifty ministers of foreign affairs and twenty country leaders and aa thirty aa prime ministers, in all in one building. So this is, truthfully, an opportunity to carry the message of Kuwait, and he used to carry it with real enthusiasm and not just carry- he ca- he carries it harmoniously and sweetly because he's an affectionate person, and, and, and, and genial and captivating, so this combination aa the combination of these attributes that he embodied with the character of the State of Kuwait aa and, truthfully, he became, like his presence was really captivating.
And, and you used to like that climate in in n-
Yes, very much so, and I love the, by my nature, I love, love writing and the w-- and oration and the and social networking, and truthfully, that would be exhausting for a person who doesn't like socializing a lot because in, in one day eight aa parties, receptions that I, as an ambassador need to go to, parties, and there are tons of dinners and lunches, and there's, there's truthfully aa, aa that aa, it requires discipline otherwise a person would gain weight--
And, and become exhausted, and lose sleep, so it needs discipline we learned inwith the -- period like we learned the importance of discipline
Aa all right well now that you mentioned that story it's a good segue to my nextquestion, aa do you remember your first speech or any of the early speeches that you wrote? Aa-
I, a was aa, was in aa, we, at the United Nations usually aa, of course beforebecoming a member of the Security Council, aa traditionally the ambassador would be there, the aa he isn't tied to a specific committee because ma- aa he's an ambassador he can speak in all the committees and, and te- the comm- the United Nation has seven committees wo- working with each other, in the first committee that has the ambassadors speci- specializing in disarmament, disarmament.
This subject has been going on since the Second World War, and until this day,it hasn't been resolved and can't be resolved, who will accept disarmament in a world built on deterrence, and the matter is, and aa like the truth, the United Nations, what was the thing that made it like ineffective concerning political issues? And the martial front? In aa in the aa the charter, the charter states that there, aa the martial committee would be composed of the countries that were victorious in the Second World War, which are the Soviet Union and Britain and France and the United States, and China, but China, of course, the war aa was a civil war so it didn't intervene in WWII and at the time Formosa was- anyway, is that aah, the leaders convened -- this martial committee convened for one session, in the year '64 maybe, and after that Satlin said why? How can this be? This committee aa committee this Stalin was expanding and creating a Soviet empire and wanted aa he wasn't going to accept that a wallah a martial committee from the United Nations putting limits to his greed, so he objected and said wallah this, that this not like, he boycotted, and China boycotted too so it failed no- it didn't have any other sessions even though in it it was composed of the American Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and the British Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff but -so it failed, and diplomacy continued working; aa okay so disarmament, there are experts who spend their whole lives working on disarmament, and disarmament is a science not does- doesn- now it's no longer nowadays its rockets and these rockets the the atomic, and hydrogen and rockets not deployed from land --they used now they are deployed from the sea, and now rockets are even ah without pilots, and flying aircrafts without pilots, and rockets that can't be detected and pas- and now too we entered the in aa the aa, cybersecurity this this ha-, cybersecurity this its, entered a thousand- comp- I don't think now, I, back then disar-; the first speech I gave in the first committee about disarmament and considering that I am from Kuwait and considering that we passed aa through crises, from the independence crucible and the false claims of Iraq, aa that wallah Iraq and the Soviet Union gained immunity, and aa di- and power was favored at the expense of justice, and aa we we're talking about the right of power- for aa, like the power of justice, not power aa and not the power right, right to power, the power of justice meaning the power of legality, not aa the power of force, but this is nitpicking so I gave the speech about that idea considering I am from a small country that is threatened; and the second thing I, the thing that really opened my eyes, was the war, the aa the Indo-Pakistani war in November of '72 and I sat and aa followed the sessions of the Security Council for three days aa the Soviet Union protecting India from any decisions that would condemn it or stop the war, and Pakistan implores the United States for support, however whenever a resolution was proposed the Soviet Union vetoed it, and the veto that honestly paralyzed the United Nations and the veto wasn't being used for the benefit of aa the nations, it was being used for the benefit of the countries that had the veto power that, so I saw the aa and was thinking about Kuwait, for if, that Pakistan a country that aa is an ally of the United States, but the United States didn't save them it sought refuge or assistance in the Security Council but it was dragged through the floor because the Soviet Union was bankrolling India and providing it with arms and protection, as I aa this this I was thinking of Kuwait honestly in '72, and aa since that time I've been preoccupied with the incident with the Iraqi issue and their demands especially since I lived lived through it with aa the Sheikh-
During the 60s, I lived through these events, and in the book, it's there in thebook, about w- how we called the Iraqi ambassador and how the Sheikh was bereaved and bothered, but he was patient, and w- w- we, we were in a sit- we were in a tough situation aa no- we didn't have "a back" to defend us, we had we didn't have a deterrent, and the deterrent that we had was moral, in st- in when it comes to the right to power there is no longer a place for legal rights, so I, a in you learn that in the United Nations, and you can see that the world is, is not the place for gentility of diwaniyas and not the etiquette of gatherings, the modus operandi of the world is that power and benefits, ha? And benefits and the ha- the aa, ethics are not valued globally, and aa those who are weak need to a to find someone strong to protect them or a co- or a corner they can protect themselves in and hide their weakness, so we cover-, we used to cover our weaknesses with our high morals aa, aa and generosity and magnanimity, and honest actions and elite behaviors that all was our behavior in the United Nations.
Aaa, all right; since you mentioned that point and mentioned that Kuwait, as asmall country engaging in that issue, what was the response or impression of the other countries, meaning you personally, when you went there and were present there, what were the reactions of those countries or how did they receive you personally or the state of Kuwait?
No it was excellent because I, for, aa represent a country with a pleasantreputation and whose behavior is honest, and aa, like [clears his throat] truthfully [coughs] graceful, graceful throughout, ah it doesn't have any demands, aa and doesn't have any aspirations, its aspiration was to exist and for st- stay- to keep the threats at bay, and burgeon aa and to give, and aa, receive and l- it had aa acted positively, I mean like the aa honestly a ballerina ha? A ballerina is clean-cut and elegant and luxurious, we c- we're a courteous nation, courtesy, the courteous, nation decent, so we as -- that was for us but this tr- that's integrity proper, but it doesn't deter aa ha the, the ot- it doesn't deter, and that's what happened on the twelfth Au- the second of August, the Arabs so aa the apparatus of Arabs was dismantled, and the system of Arab morality fell apart--
Aaa alright before we move on to that point, do you remember an incident aa apersonal encounter that happened to you aa with one of the members of the United Nations that affected you aa either in a positive or negative way?
Aa aaa positively there are many because aa I like aa um, there was aaaah i- atthe United Nations I remember the "AlSamita" happened, in '73, March of '73, I was aa of the opinion that Kuwait should present a letter to the Security Council, that was my opinion, but the State of Kuwait, for the sake of Iraq's feelings and giving aa Iraq a kind of the like what you can call a kind of well-intentions the- ha, and wallah that might've been a mishap, haa, as always the forgiveness of a generous person, so -- aa Kuwait didn't, didn't care much, but the aaa the other countries, countries cared because the reports of the two men who were killed and the protests that went on in Kuwait, so there was a sympathy haa- and great compassion and aa w were like any, we any stance we took we were supported politically at the United Nations didn't l- didn't, and also aa the other thing, that I, like, the, when we joined the Security Council, of course, we had a differential status, why? Because we were pandering to neither the Soviet Union nor the United States, you-- aa we used to wrangle the Soviet Union in, a- word- with words over Afghanistan, and aa I was among the formidable voices and I used to clash with the United States over Palestine, at the Security Council or the General Assembly, aa aa the Soviet Union aa their ambassador came up to me and said to me, "Brother Abdullah we love you and respect you but in wh- in when it comes to the issues we see you side with the West more" with- [he laughs] so, I, that wasn't correct, but the ambassador was a great man really, he passed away, and I told him that's not true and he say yes it is aaa anyway that in aa --because, we, our clash with America was over the subject of Palestine and gave it our undivided attention ah we weren't distracted by other cases and we really championed the cause, anyway it was that we were, because we were speaking about the United States and cr- cr- and were criticizing the uni- aa the Soviet Union and China aa we were criticizing the three aa the superpowers, we didn't have any problems with Britain and France, so this experience gave us honestly credibility, and the other countries were, that, that wanted, for instance to vote aa, aa African countries, Lebanon, Palestine they'd come us, they'd come to us aah t, l- like owing to the fact that our voice was heard, that, that if we adopted a case we adopt it because it's a a matter of justice, not a matter of personal gain or interest, so they used to li- aa support us like the African nations and I was truthfully now like you, in the so- there was ah at that time aa aa aa the Zimbabwean government at that time it was called Rhodesia, and its leader he just passed away his name aa was aaa, aa in Zimbabwe he reigned for a long time aaa, aah, um, anyway I'll give you, aa aa, aa so he used to come to me and at that time they weren't an independent nation yet, their business was all in the United Nations, because Rhodesia was an insurrectionary country- punished them, it had a white government, aa the white minority overthrew the preexisting government and ruled over the Black majority so pun- so the United Nations sanctioned them with aa by boycotting, and other African nations wanted w w to overthrow that regime, and the Security Council was-- who was was sa- there was this fellow his name Sam Nkomo, aa and there was aa the other who became president, Sam Nkomo was his deputy and and was, aa aah, okay okay, aa should I make a call?
Aa, we, we can look up the names aa--
--at another time, it's not a problem, the names yeah
Ahah ah good, so he used to come to me and tell me I c- aa I want you to speakbecause when I talk I at the Security Council, it's different l- than say, a European speaking or speaking- I speak powerfully ha? I'm uninhibited, like the Europeans, they speak but they're careful because they take into consideration, into consideration their business interests and economic and political- us we didn't aa have anything to do with Rhodesia, and did have aa the s- or neither did we have any deals or interests with Namibia, so he used to come to us m-, aa Namibia's leader at that time was called Sam Nujoma, and he used to come to me and say, to aaaa to encourage me, aa because I have to speak, speak and adopt, to truthfully we had a certain stature because of Kuwait's actions and Kuwait's generosity and incorruptibility and credibility.
Aa yes, yes, was there like an unpleasant encounter that affected you? It can beeither a general one or maybe from a particular country or a particular person.
I'll tell you, I aa li-I was really upset, aa at, at the aaa the United Statesonce gave us -- this was during Carter's presidency, President Carter was a humane gentleman, aa the best, one of the best leaders that came through for the benefit of developing countries, and the Palestinian cause, so there was, aa the subject, aa that time was just beginning, beginning, Israel was just beginning to build settlements, so there was, we had a resolution that would condemn these settlements, we drafted this resolution with the United States, we- I- was- I- they gathered at my house and we negotiated the resolution, there are always negotiations when it comes to resolutions, no surprises, we- at the Security Council negotiate, and we go in- aa propose in the name n- as a nonpartisan group that consisted of the African nations and the Asian nations, and us, seven countries, with the United States, I remember that we they came over to my place in- and it, we had, it was a Saturday a weekend and, and we sorted things out, and and we took a- we agreed on a resolution that the United States would back, I aaa and we carried on based on that, and I was surprised that the United States didn't vote to ratify the resolution, so truthfully aaa I was really exasperated and sai- aa and spoke up at the Security Council ha? With words that, ah it was a spontaneous and uninhibited, and I attacked them a lot, and they told me, aaa the Europeans they like they're unaffected when- they came to me and said wallah you have every right--
--but these are our instructions, like [he laughs] so the Natio- the UnitedNations aa like aa had Kuwait aa a glowing, the United Nations was a beaming beacon of diplomacy, and the world knew Kuwait from its place in the United Nations, aa who the like the in the world, in Asia how would they know of Kuwait, aa other than the embassies and whatnot, but rather it was its presence and magnanimity and participation and words and stances and its independence, an independent country is one that doesn't need economic assistance from others that could askew or affect their morality but rather, aa it's an ethical country, aa a papal country like the Pope [laughs]
s- he speaks about virtue in a de- in a building that has no virtue we speakabout virtue...
Yes, yes, yeah
In a place a has no virtue full of vices, as they say, so, this, truthfully, wasattention-grabbing; the same goes for the Emirates and the countries of the Arabian Gulf, countries of the countries of Gulf generosity, no- like so that happened. Afterward, that, the second thing, let me tell you something, in the Uni- States- I was aaa going around and giving lectures a lot, in the United States, about the United Nations, about Kuwait, there are a lot of things about Kuwait that we're proud of --there in the United States and in the United Nations for it is a country with a parliament, women are in the parliament, women and men are alike, women have their freedom and freedom o] choice of everything, aa it has, press the right to free press it has the freedom of organizations ah aa that of public benefit, it has-- it doesn't have any restrictions, doesn't have, doesn't have, doesn't have a record reco- record aa umm prisoners of conscience, it doesn't have any of that and these are all assets, rare for a developing country to be like this is very rare, so we were we used to flaunt that, and th- of course they know th- if that we were truly were like-- and now it's, the same thing, currently I'm a member of the Kuwait British Friendship society I say that in Britain, the same thing, lectures and and press interviews, so the image of Kuwait isn't ah- generosity, correct; conscientiously with integrity and diligence, correct; but also it's a beautiful portrait on the inside, the portrait of its interiority helps honestly,
And the support
Aa of course, if I may, because you mentioned c- aaa the Gulf countries, if Imay jump forward a bit to the 80s since we're tight on time, mmm and your appointment as the General Secretary for the Gulf Cooperation Council was the year '81?
Aa could you just tell me aa how you started, when and what you experienced atthe beginning of that appointment?
Let me tell you something, honestly, I was very comfortable at the United Nations.
And and and the oth- aa and oth-
And I know that sh- aa God have mercy on his soul Sheikh Sabah had a fundamentalrole in the creation of the Gulf Cooperation Council, so he told me, the Sheikh, that we like you, that's it, you're done, you spent ten years it's time to come back he didn't tell me where s aa I, that, was, it was an order, so we returned-- I returned, truthfully, in February, '81, in April we went the Sheikh went to Moscow, and I was with him, he told me we're goi- why did he go to Moscow? Because the accord being composed between countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council was finalized the and it was agreed that they wou- would meet -- in, in May the Gulf Summit was meeting for the first time and signing in agreement the statute, the Sheikh had informed the Arab countries and informed Britain and the Amir --he wanted to go inform the Soviet Union which at the time had a rocky relationship with the Gulf countries, with the exception of Kuwait, they didn't have relations aa diplomatic ones with the Kingdom or with the Sultanate of Oman or with the Emirates or Qatar or Bahrain, so the Sheikh went- we went, we went and the Sheikh met aa I was to be with him, with aa the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gromyko, aa at that time Gromyko was a masterful man like and had influence because in the a he was in the Central Committee for the Party, the Sheikh told him we I want the support of the United Sta- aa the support of the Soviet Union, the summit will be held ahh Cooperation Council is composed of this this and that and I want--and I informed the other nations and they all taaa support that and this secu- a step that would secure the regime and the safety and stability of a very critical region, a region which produces, all of it, the global oil reserve from the- aaa 40% of it, so he said he replied Gromyko said to him, if the countries of the Cooperation Council will adopt the diplomacy of Kuwait then I will back it it and support it , but the others because they imagine the other nations they call them --about them that they are li- behind every chair is a ghost--
Ha? The Soviet ghost [he laughs] so wha-- aa anyway and afterward, aa, weattended the summit, I was the candidate, and what did the Summit do, the first one? The heads of states signed an, the bill and elected the Secretary-General, the Secretary-General, the Kuwaiti nominee, who else was there but me?
Why me? Not- because I lived/spent time in the United Nations in a globalorganization, I have experience when it comes to the functioning of organizations, and, and the Sheikh, God have mercy on him, was, like, I worked with him, and he trusted me and know, so I aa aaa truthfully, w- the first thing I did at the Uni- in the Unit-
At that, the, in May aa of '81 was reading the concluding statements [laughs],and, I read it, so I remember that the Queen- the King aa the King Khaled was representing the Kingdom he said to me, me your name is Bishara and your countenance is auspicious, and your work brings good tidings. [he laughs]
Aa, I won't forget his words, anyway truthfully aa the delegations left, and Iremained because I have to build the-- I went to the Kingdom on the first week of Sep- in aa in June '81, and it was Amir Saud, but aaa like he welcomed me, and we went looking for a building for the headquarters and the --he even told me aaa and, and when s aa told me we'd pay the rent on that building (headquarters), the Kingdom--
And ha l- we rented a large building with eight floors, ten floors, we preparedit, and afterward, I chose, truthfully, assistants aa, I didn't choose anyone from Kuwait because, I chose, aaa we started as a small group, and it grew from that, my feelings, truthfully aa like, the King- I knew the Kingdom, but I didn't live, I didn't live there, I don't know like, aah, um and, and I knew the basics the in general; however, aa, aa like there, the Diwan, Diwan n- different ah- the Diwan here is different, the Diwan there is essentially a stronghold/is in its essence a force, and a, a, present there when, all the ministers are present there in the morning and, and like the ca- se- I, when I got there, to the Diwan I felt as if the entire world is present.
I witness the American presence, and the presence, like, and visitations weall... a hive of, from the- a hive of activity, truthfully and, and c- aa c- the country of Saudi Arabia depends on really on aa, ensuring the security and the borders and the safety of the country there, like I benefited by learning from the Kingdom; Saudi diplomacy combines, combines the aa soft diplomacy with hard diplomacy, it combines them, there's a deterrent force that Saudi Arabia can't take on present with the American ally. Meanwhile Kuwait relies on soft diplomacy which is generosity and genial neighborliness and good intentions and magnanimity, which is a formality, it's not a deterrent, that's a disincentive in meetings civility, civility won't d--the invasion taught us, ha, so we changed strategies we now depend on soft diplomacy and hard diplomacy like Saudi Arabia, we have the biggest base here, and I visit, by the way, the on- the only one maybe that goes
And a- and I invite them over to the house, officers, and I give speeches andtell them about aa a- the gratitude that the Kuwaiti people feel toward them
And their sacrifices.
Aa, of course, aa before we move on, about that point, you mentioned that youdidn't pick anyone -the, from Kuwait; who was on your team?
No, at the beginning, it was aa the aa aa aa, there was with me, aa anassistant, an Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs from Oman, Omani, and a Secretary-General for Economic Affairs from the Kingdom, and, and aa Chairman of the Military Committee from the Kingdom, and, aa- aa the Chairman of Humanitarian, Environmental, and Legal Affairs from the Kingdom, like c- the country where the headquarters are it had to, in the ah- m- the Kingdom at that time, there wasn't a Kuwaiti workforce, truthfully, to oversee the work in the Kingdom there wasn'- I did hire some Kuwaitis, but they didn't stay yeah they didn't stay--they stayed for a month and and and returned because of familial circumstances, like their families in Kuwait, and the, se- at that time, there wasn't aaa a the airport there was an airport in Riyad and it was miserable--
And, and your family was with you in Saudi Arabia?
No, no, my family, no, my family was in Kuwait and I, but I used to come likeevery two weeks I'd come to my family, aa truthfully I adapted to that life, I'll tell you it isn't r- it isn't easy, it isn't easy, like aa for a person to live ten yy- twelve years, aa my family, at the expense of my family and at the exp- like also, I sacrificed, and my family endured--
And during that time, you, did you have aa any kids aa?
I had yea, I had in school we were in New York they, their, the schools, I hadthem, a girl and a they came here and had to go to schools so they stayed but I would be going back and forth, I even rented a house, like I didn't have a house.
And how was your social life, aa you talked about being in politics and thepolitical lifestyle when you were in Saudi Arabia, but what was your social life like?
Wallah, the amm- the aa, Saudi Arabia, life g- they had evening gatheringsbetween Saudis, and at the diwaniyas, by the way, I used to go aa, aa from far back d- aa the aa, King Salman was my neighbor, so I used to go to him every Monday he had a diwaniya, back then he was the Amir of Riyadh, and I would go to him and I go to d- to some of the other diwaniyas and I'd go to the s-
Could you describe that diwaniya, meaning what was it like?
[coughs] we, oh, no diwaniyas the diwani- majestic diwaniyas, not lounging and blabbing--
No, a gathering [coughs] a majority of those who come they come because theyneed something, and they come with aa letters
So a formal gathering, the, the--
[coughs] no [coughs] but they were also, the people were accustomed that a visitto a Saudi Amir who has a high up position and has influence and has the power to make things happen, that I, Saudi, they come with the m--he'd sit the Amir aa Salman on Mondays when, and there's a dinner too, with I aa rest--around the Al-Maghrib prayer time after the athan the Diwaniya starts the Amir comes, they people are already seated here, the Diwaniya the people are already there, forty-- fifty a hundred, more [coughs] the Amir comes with his secretaries-- the secretaries, he had three or four, this s --and the Amir stands, the visitors would come, shake his hand, each one of them has a letter and hands it to the secretary.
The secretary ends up with quite the yield, and throughout the week, they replyto these letters, to those who need help others-- and there's a dinner always after we, this, we go have dinner with the ha-, and we go out, and that's a day the aa in the Diwaniya the, the King receives the scholars on Sundays, at the general Diwan, but the scholars, I used to go, aaa like I'd go- aa the King Fahad was, but um m from a distance like and not t- aa we'd sit for a bit and then leave, and Tuesdays were for the Crown Prince the Amir Abdullah, ah I didn't attend that one, but I used to go to-, Saudi diwaniyas are symposia of dialogue with the people, not political discourse, n,o t- aa providing needs satiating, needs aa messages like that. With scholars, this, no, this is part of the, of the political inner workings, on Sunday they'd come the scholars it was Sheikh Ben Baz sitting on the first chair on aa to the right of the King, and they'd sit and talk about public issues, religion and politics, religion and politics, but religion for them, [sneezes] like politics um is infused with religion. I'll tell you one like those scholars also had influence, like once Ben Baz called me, the Sheikh Abdulaziz Ben Baz, aa- they the sheikh's office called me on the phone saying the Sheikh is requesting your presence, I w- Secretary General what do I have to do with the Sheikh? And I went, your eminence, what can I do for you? The sheikh Ben Baz had a secretary aah like he no- doe- s- he- aa blind, letters they take- told me I came, I aa m aa I called you do you know why? I said no. He said the Omani television broadcasts music and lewd dancing, ha? And aa and the residents of the Empty Quarters are complaining about it, the residents of the Empty Quarters, I told him your eminence, what would you like?
He said t- tell them this, that-- aa, not to exaggerate matters and minimizethis outrageous sin, wallah I said ha- I went on I carried the message and and and and told them that, those, of course, those groups the [laughs] that group is very different from these [laughs], aa like, [laughs] in Oman aa, the system the aaa the Sultan is, um, aa the religious advisor aa is of the Ibadi denominations, the Ibadians, so they those don't um they don't like the Wahhabis and not- and are conflicting, and they have always the s- sheikh Al-Khalili who is aa an Ibadi scholar, always requesting um symposiums with Ben Baz [laughs].
Like it's about those issues, so ha- when, when I told them they, said fi---what does Ben Baz have to do with this? He shouldn't watch us.
The thing is he can't see, the people, so this like, these are some fo thethings a Secretary-General is exposed to, ah thin--
Different encounters, meaning
Yup, and then also, like, one time, for instance, aa- I was called by KingAbdullah at that time the Crown Prince, and the ki- king Abdullah as a Crown Prince didn't have anything to do with the Cooperation Council, he doesn't attend, and doesn't read-, and he summoned me, and I was surpr-, in fact, I was in Riyadh and he was in Jeddah, they told me the Crown Prince wants you in Jeddah, and I went, "your eminence," he asked me, "do you why I--? aa no, he said, you're like a so- in like one of us, I don't like the ambassador, and ambassadors and, and interfere, in Alkhafji, the Alkhafji was joint--
Aa, the sa- they're ripping apart my picture, and ask- disseminating pamphletsagainst the Kingdom, they're writing on the walls arguments against us, and e- and smuggling banned books, and I'm going to tell you honestly, I--those, all that we're uncomfortable with all of that, and I want you- wallah I went and informed Sheikh Jaber, he said, could it be? I told him, wallah, that your highness is, that's what's going on, s--, they audited the staff, truthfully and changed the staff like, aa and I informed the King, Abdullah the crown prince, that this happened and informed, and truthfully that was resolved and they settled, like aa, so thing the like ha aa like m- my journey is on one route and this journey is and where --, the but this is part of the job, in the kingdom is a sprawling country, austerity is key, and the nation is strict, and when the invasion occurred I was here,
Aa I'm aa but, I notice, like I wanted to ask you a question here, that pointwhen the, the Iraqi invasion happened aa you mentioned in your book that aa umm aa Sheikh Sabah ca- called you at one in the morning
Yes, yes, yes
Aa umm and he asked you to go to the Ministry of Defense
I went, yes.
Aa could you tell me aa about that call that, that you aa--
Could you describe to me, um, how did that happen that thing how did it like, aayou received that call and and and what happened exactly at that moment?
He said, he said to me aa, "your Iraqi brothers did it--"
And you were at home at that
Yeah, I was coming with Sheikh Sa'ad after a failure, aa-- we were in Jeddah
And we arrived in Kuwait around the time, aaa seven o'clock maybe? In theevening, and, and and, we arrived and there was the -- the airport nu- a large number of Kuwaitis aaa anxiously so we we a group and I went down and they bombarded me, a few Kuwaitis, asking what happened? So I told them wallah didn't, didn't aa the climate is not promising, and aaaa with me also, aa they swamped each one of us, Sulaiman Al-Shaheen, and also with us Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad, aa Dhari Al-Othman, and Sheikh Sa'ad went immediately to Sheikh Jaber to inform him, Sheikh Sa'ad was, we flew aa from, aa, Jeddah to Kuwait, and he was upset, so I went to him alone, he was sitting on a chair up front, so I went and sat down and said to him your eminence, we have to seek help from America, ha- aa this was Wednesday night
So he said to me, "come back and see me again on Saturday," he said, "don't theyhave secrets." I said, what secrets now? The Americans, he said to me, don't they have any secrets? I told him what secrets, anyway, based on that I was going to go on Saturday.
At one o'clock, I received a call from the Sheikh
He said to me I-- come to the Ministry of Defense, l- he said, "they did it,your Iraqi brothers, they did it they invaded us," and aa- I had no driver, but I had a car, of course. I took eight thousand dollars, my passport and, and aa how, I arrived, arrived at the Ministry of Defense, and I went in, and I saw aa an uncomfortable sight, I found them in a state of absolute bewilderment, bewilderment, aa the shock paralyzed them, they were paralyzed, and everyone I, aaa every now and then someone would pop in asking "ha-? did they arrive? Where did they get to now? Al-Jahra, and a little while after, "Where now?" They arrived at Sulaibekhat, they got close, Sheikh sa--aa he went out Sheikh Sa'ad.
And he went to the Amir, his brother
We took the Sheikh out- he went out and said to him, let us go to the Ministryof Foreign Affairs to make some phone calls to the people, to inform them. We went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but they made it there too, so we left and went to the border--
And Sheikh Sa'ad was aa not with you?
Before us, no, he went there before us with Sheikh Jaber. He took Sheikh Jaberbefore us; Sheikh Sabah was asking where is Sheikh s- Sa'a-- where's Sheikh Sa'ad? and we searc- and we went, passed by the beach houses, but we didn't find them-- and we went we crossed the bor.., the Sheikh Sabah was in the chamber, s- the whole time, he was composed, silent, silent and truthfully he was the one, like, who tolerated the Iraqis
He was not expecting this shock, and aa, like he was wounded with this kind ofaa ingratitude
Ingratitu- he was the- the Chairman of the Seven-Member Arab Committee he goesaround to, for the sake of the world, for its benefit, and the bene- we arrived at the border, and I told them I aa have to go to my office in Riyadh to make some calls
I went, as soon as I arrived there at five o'clock on Thursday
I spoke to the Bureau, and the first, firs- one first one I spoke to was SheikhEssa, s Sheikh Essa
I sa- said to, to him "a summit, right now. We need to have a Gulf summit," sohe said to me, "Brother Abdullah" and wallah, he was crying, speaking through the tears, "you have to speak to King Fahad, King Fahad--"
So I spoke to the, ah King Fahad, and he told me "Brother Abdullah," this is abig issue
"This guy is coming to me tomorrow," he was speaking about Izzat Al-Douri,"let's see what he has to say, ha? And after that, I want, truthfully, a unified Arab stance, I want an Arab summit first--"
"So we can know where we are standing," the King, he like, has foresight, aa- heknows that first thing tomorrow, and he said "in light of the arrival of this, the aa, the envoy Izzat Al-Douri, I aa will inform you"
He arrived, he told us, in, he said, he came, we asked him "will you withdraw,"he (Al-Douri) said "how could we withdraw, this is our land, it's been returned to us, and I'm coming to tell you, to agree with each other, we have cordial relationship between you (KSA) and us (Iraq), and, aa no, no aa there's nothing, nothing between us, it's all good stuff and cooperation," he said to him "is that all you have?" He said to him, he said to him, "all right then, no- we're done here, we each have different paths," aa so what did he do ha? There were communications with the United States.
At that time, the conversations have begun--
With George Bush, so they came aa on the sixth of August; the Secretary ofDefense came too, his name was Dick Cheney.
And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell came, and, and aayes, and went to the King and said to him, we're aa-- ready to participate, he said all right, send the troops.
L- that, now that decision was made, the Amir- the King said to us we'- that wasit, the King relaxed a bit because he guaranteed, guaranteed the participation of their allies, now, after that meeting began the global alliance, the international alliance to liberate Kuwait as facilitated by the Kingdom, the Kingdom, of course, the king, the power of the king, the Saudi influence, Saudi Arabia gave it its all and was armed to the teeth, armed -to ar- to liberate Kuwait, internally and diplomatically, the army
The sky, the money, the, the international delegations, they sent delegations,poets t- Commercial chambers, aa journalists to the world, ss- they were spreading the message sayi- we are defending Kuwait and the s -- the Kingdom, and we, our goals is liberating Kuwait not attacking anyone--
And the Security Council was working on one end, and the United States, and aatruthfully there were communications baa with- the- Kuwait of course, first they moved Kuwait the interim government headquarters from Dammam to Taif--
I used to go each Sunday, to the king, to to the Sheikh, aa, Sheikh Jaber, Iused to go, so I'll tell you, now like-
So the King said aa, us too, that was after the Americans came; after a while,he agreed with Hosni Mubarak about the Arab Summit on the tenth; aa at that time, the Iraqis armed Jordan
And the organization and a few other countries, their buddies those--
Excuse me sir, but you were in Riyadh?
s- you were in Saudi Arabia and, and was your family with you as well?
No my family wasn't -- they were in London
Oh, okay, they weren't there
No, no, no, they were in London,
They came later
After after two months, so, i- the Arab summit took place, and it happened; thatwas it. Aa the Arab regime fell apart, the moral and the political and the safeguards, and everything, and be- the Kingdom began, no- no nothing other than liberating Kuwait.
And he used to tell me, King Fahad, to go inform the Kuwaitis that Sheikh Jaberou- is our prince, all of us, we either fall together, or we come out of this together that truthfully--
All right you used to receive news from Kuwait and, and h--
What was the thing that you, like, remember the most, that affected you all, ormaybe the first thing you heard about the situation in Kuwait I mean, from the grounds
We w- there were telephones
The government in Taif
Of course, there was the resistance
And there was
Phones were smuggled and do- our families were, had, I had my nephew there[phone rings]
He'd go to Baghdad to make-, to call me because the mother, my mother at thattime, she was alive
So aa y he would let me know that my mother was okay and my sisters were fine
And we were, but we were afraid--
Of displacement, the Iraqis wanted to forcefully displace the Kuwaitis, to pushthem to travel and leave, aaa and aa br- the Iraqis were bringing expat communities--to replace the displaced Kuwaitis--
They bring those, aa the aa, the guerrillas, the Palestinians, the, so we were--that was preoccupying our minds; and the person who was handling all of that was Sheikh Sa'ad truthfully, at the Taif government, everything was in the hands of Sheikh Sa'ad like
Sheikh Jaber was stunned, he was stunned by this shocking betrayal
Yeah and wallah, and everyo-, we were all shocked, but Sheikh Sa'ad aaremained-- he was con- communicating and receiving ambassadors and speaking with the resistance forces on the inside
Like he was in-
Do you remember for instance, specific people from the Resistance that you werein contact with
No I didn't have ay communication with the --
Or maybe prominent figures that aa
Aa, there was Mohammad Al-Bader yeah Major General Mohammad Al-Bader was one ofthe figures, aa the Major General the aa, aah , Yousef Al-Mishari, aa the Major General aa AI-Muzaini, ahh his first name-- those, they all perished, they are all of.. ah the fallen soldiers; Mohammad Al-Bader no, he passed two years ago
But aa Yousef AlMishari and, and
And Al-Muzaini was one of the fallen soldiers?
And Al-Muzaini aa yeah, Al-Muzaini, aa those, aa- they perished and many otherwallah, so many of them; but also in aa Taif they had connections with one from aa the family here
Here yeah, he was from the family, that one aa, like, I forgot his name andwallah. Anyway, there were communications, a Sheikh Sa'adYes
And the money also, was co- was getting to us here
Yes it was distributed to Kuwaitis
It was distributed of course
Aa all right you mentioned Desert Storm in your book as well, aa I just wantedyou to tell me, what that first started, what was the overall atmosphere like in in Saudi Arabia
A- Aa Desert Storm?
Day si-, it started on the sixteenth of January, we were all on edge, and weknew that will aa umm a, the supporters of Saddam Hussain like Jordan were going to find an Arab resolution, days, like, they will try to disrupt the global revenues, ah the international revenues, and indeed that was what happened but aa like ummm-- do you remember the Soviet leader, they had an envoy his name a Primakov--
That Primakov, aa came in October with resolutions, with ideas; he went toAmerica and went- a and came to Saudi Arabia; and also in January he came, he wanted to, obstruct they were en disruptive ah the so- the Soviet, they didn't want like, ah power, because that will leave America to be the only country in the world with that power as a superpower; like the world will bi- from bi- to mon- aa d like from aa, from aa, aa like unilateral from multilateral to bilateral uni-, multi- to uni-, so so aa that failed this.. the aa, and we are on, on edge those, they ruin--
--the dish, ruin the plan, so Arabs and Primakov and te- the Soviet, and otherslike we- made an appeal to the organization- we bother the Muslim Brotherhood, they bothered us, yeah with, with their appeals with their use of the mo- mm of mosques.
Ha? Their use of religion -using religion to marshal support for Saddam, and thesituation was difficult, like even this the k- and, and, the, the Tunisian, he's here now like, and he has problems in Tunisia.
Aaa their leader mm, so that was one of the more prominent ones that theychanted, anyway that, we at night at one o'clock, we made calls on the telephones between us s- those in Riyadh the Kuwaitis in Riyadh--
I, because I work in as the secretariat-general, I had a big house, so Ibrought, truthfully, a large number of Kuwaitis, they lived at my place, my wife's friends, aa her relatives--
So, it was like telephone calls, and good tidings and, and ha, and tears and,and hope
And that went on for a while, and, and the truth um like it continued that way,the aa from January until the ground [attacks on] the twenty-fourth of February...
February and this was the return trip I'--I'd like, just if you can tell meabout that return trip to Kuwait with Sheikh Sabah
The twenty-eighth, wallah I was stunned at first by the flames, when I saw, youcan't image these fires you, where were you? Where were you at that-
Me? In Kuwait.
You didn't, didn't see the flames?
Hmm, aa the oil fires?
Oooof, it was something! We were above the flames in the plane, unbelievable,the sight of it was horrifying, s- truthfully, and it was, when I arrived in Kuwait, it was a ghost town, the stray cats and birds, the seagulls- the white one?
On the streets-
--running around and looking aa for food, and the cats, and aa, and we stayedfor only four or five houses, the Sheikh went to his family, and I went to my family
You know, I went and kissed them and everything; I felt that I was a stranger tothem; they had-- the- aa their life during the invasion
And the isolation, the loss of hope, we moved away from the-- as if we were, wewere in fact distant.
Even I, when I hugged them, my mother and four sisters, and, and our children-their kids, it was aa, something like not- they couldn't believe it
They couldn't, how did you cross that bridge?
How, that bridge-- that we returned from, who brought this bridge--
Of course, aa this, that feeling, the feeling of simplicity aa and my mother andthat, indeed, I felt that I was a stranger, something I -- and I felt that aa, I was ashamed
Yes, ashamed because I wasn't with them
All right since you brought that up, was there something like aa, aa a riftbetween, the between those who stayed in Kuwait, Kuwaitis, and Kuwaitis who were abroad, was there... I mean in general?
Was there what?
Hard feelings between the, the people who stayed in Kuwait, or aa like, yousaid, a form of estrangement between them.
Yes, yeah, yes of course, I'm telling you about myself--
and my family and I, we were really close, and, and, and, and even when theinvasion happened, my nephew Dr. Ahmad Bishara, God have mercy on him, he passed
May he rest in peace
He was in America then, and he came to me and said I- he left his kids with me,and he went into Kuwait, that time there was aah those aa Saudi drivers, in aa the, aa the Iraqis there were not in every single pla- spot
So they could get in- he went in even he aah, after a while like, when I came tohim I saw he was telling me aa, we were more comfortable in Kuwait you ruined our system.
[Al-Ali laughs] all right, how was, I mean briefly, aa, aa the period ofrestoration? Restoring Kuwait and, and let's say, the like, for things to return back, somewhat back to normal, meaning
Aa for things to return back to a semblance of normal, we can't say normal, buthow was this transitional period?
Wallah, they were w- they brought international corporation, yeah, and prepared,prepared that like, the American role, ah they're experienced, in Vietnam, in other countries, so they had companies specializing in matters of--
Gas, water, and infrastructure
And the sky, and the fires and mines, ha, and the dead, and whatnot, so theywere preparing, like it was truthfully their preparations were good, the Kuwaiti government that is, with the agreements with international companies
American corporations, European corporations, all of them like they did a- sotruthfully it was, no one believed it like I remember that we held a conference at the Cooperation Council here after two months of liberation
No, no one believed that this country was invaded and broken down, and whatnot,this-- is it possible this? Like [coughs] and after I like, aa, look, aa Kuwaitis love their homeland
And they are dedicated to their country and have a streak [coughs] they're proudof their homeland, and this coming from Kuwait; those who built Kuwait are sea people aa sea people and the, the, a the ones that drowned and fought and traded with India and with Africa like--
I aa we're a family of seafarers
Ship people and we know this we know like, I lived in, I lived aa, aa in a housewith ten women, and I was the only one, I was the only man, a young man, because my dad was a captain in the Boom
And my brother s--Essa Bisharah he passed away ah, he passed away a year ago orless; he was a hundred years old he died
Masha'AllahHa? That aa his Boom remains "Fateh Alkhair"
It used to, aa there wasn't any, they come for two months only --
In the summer, they'd be busy, like I aa no, no, one asked me what I study
To this day [laughs]
So like they have pride in their homeland, they built it from nothing; there'snothing in Kuwait; what is there? Sea--
And, and miserable weather and, and sand and um aa no greenery, nothingenviable, and no nature and neither, but with, in, with their arms with their adventures they built the so that the streak--
That, this our homeland, and we established it we built and raised it, and li-the society, we created a society, with, its arts with mu- with its dialect with its ways with traditions, so all that had a strong presence, aa like and--
So that helped with the restoration in-
Yes, of course, and they had, like, a when there were Kuwaiti families aa inRiyadh, they would be bothered by the aaa m- men religious men who chase after the women, ha? My sis- my sister and my wife- they were subjected to that thing, yeah so that was like how can that be? This the system social system like that-
It changed now
It changed, aa, yeah wallah--
Aa all right if I may, just, in, in, in the, the end to jump one last time toaa, aa the office the establishment of this office aa can you tell me aa?
Ohh, why this office? What do you like about it?
[Bishara laughs] I, aa truthfully aam, when I left for good like I didn't haveit in me to go and be an ambassador and not anymore, so I left, aa let me tell you a story like--
w- why? I, a- when we returned, we returned, Sheikh Sa'ad called me, and said,"I want you t- to work with me"
What year was that?
Year? Aa, the, the, he told me, '92
The third--early '93, yeah aa I came, and I bade the Cooperation Council farewell
And came and went, I visited
He said to me you, aa like in April of '93, he told me "it's set," I told him,okay, I um I'll tell Sheikh Sabah, like, he said to me ha--, so I told Sheikh Sabah who said "wallah good, good choice, all right" I stayed there, I went to him after a while and found that the man changed, he wasn't his usual self, he got that disease, and even like, he asked me questions that were unexpected, so I knew that, that I don't have, aa my friend is no longer this man, and that was it he got sick and god have mercy on him.
May he rest in peace.
But I stayed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a bit; when did I leave? I'ma man, aaa like aa sure, I'm a diplomat, but I'm a writer
And, and I harmonize, discuss, and lecture
And your study of English literature as well--
Yes, yeah, and I'm a literati like I savor-
[Al-Ali laughs] yes
Plus, I lived in Britain, and I lived in America and w--and I know lecturing andthe art of it, so I had to do something like
And to wr- I want to write
Honestly, so a, what happened aa, s- aa there was this guy a Mohamad, now thisguy was the aa he was general manager Mohamad Shareef he's in Cairo now, his resident visa was expired so he's there, he can't come, but he is able to manage from a distance, so I first thing I did I wrote a book titled, aa a Between Kings and Sheikhs..
That book, I put everything in it that was on my mind, it has like aa, that Icould share
Your experience the aa
Ah it's my experiences socially, politically, aa even things that I saw inAmerica, aa among them I'll never forget this, aa I happened across a woman sitting next to me on a flight
In America, um, a gorgeous woman,
And afterward, we sat and chatted, and she loves champagne
Aa when she left she said to me, I'm Presley's wife, the singer.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Yeah, I told her "why didn't you tell me before!--
"You didn't give me your address." Anyway aa, so as I was telling you, I evenincluded that, included it, the things I witnessed
I used to love the opera
I loved ballet. So I wrote this book as a, as a reference, like I umm aa afterthat, the book, I found out that, s aa it, a person can't carry it, it wasn't working, it has to be divided
So what did I do? I went and did tha, t aaa, aaa, I said but let's start bywriting easier books; what's the thing that occupies Kuwaitis the most? Their relationship with Iraq, so I wrote a book titled Kuwait's Diplomatic Wars--
And that book is extremely valuable, and you can't find anything like it, andaaa aa, aa it's all based on British documents, and aa, currently I'm translating it into English because that ah the English told me we want it--
Yeah, this that's the thing you're saying, that we sai- they said, give us whatyou're saying, so I'm presenting them with a translation. And I wrote a book from New York, I started it back when I was in New York, Two years at the Security Council,
Didn't you see it
And likewise, I believe the introduction for a book aa about Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem
Yes, yes, I supervised it, I oversaw that book
The Sheikh, not Abdullah, Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem
Aha my bad Sabah Al-Salem
Yeah, they said this the Sheikh, a- aaa Sheikha Hessa--
She charged me with that, so I chose an author, and we chose the British documents--
Now, it was printed twice; every time we discover aa, and new British documentscome out, we print out a new revised edition.
Now we'll print a new one insha'Allah after Corona
[Al-Ali laughs] insha'Allah
Aa a third printing, since there are things, things, recently released from theclassified British archives
Aa meaning it lifted, aa, they're declassified, and I would like to add it tothe book
But not now, like after Corona
And I wrote a book aa, [clears his throat] the invasion
Yes is that
That, and I wrote a book aaa aa what Two Years at the Security Council, and aa,and Kuwait's Diplomatic Wars, and Between Kings and Sheikhs, and aa, aah, The Wretched Invasion, and now, I'm writing two other books
There, a, the book that'll come out, this, like, within aa two months, and it'slight, it's titled ahh k- Memories of Abdullah Bishara between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations
And it's undemanding, and it's light-blooded not thick-blooded, and aa book aa,aa, aam, Scenes from the Cooperation Council, that, I'm writing that one now, I'm typing at it now the
Scenes in the Cooperation Council, yeah, those are two books I'm working on, andby the way, it's not easy wri- writ writing a book it's not easy
Not at all
And I'm alone, like I don't have researchers
I don't have researchers
So aa like that what's going on. I'd love for you someday, like, to come over tothe house
Insha'allahI'll show you photos ahh
Excellent, maybe even a picture of the events that we talked to us about
Maybe aa, photos corresponding to the events that you talked about andbeautiful-- Aa, all right, your excellency, ambassador, anything else you'd like to add, maybe something I didn't ask about or-?
There are so many things you didn't ask me about how--
For sure, aa but be-aa because of the time crunch, unfortunately
Yes, yes, I mean, aa I'd love to tell you, like, in the book Between Kings andSheikhs, each, each one, I gave each one a sketch, I made portraits, so I and, and aa these portraits I'd like to convey them to you--
Who is King Feisal? Who was Sheikh Jaber? Who is--that's all in the book that aathe book the thic- don't you have a copy?
Aa at the library, there's a copy at the house there-
Perfect, because I don't aa don't truthfully umm I don't want to print- print itagain, and I don't and nor am I prepared to review it
So I s- I'll take from it these scenes and make them into a book
And put out four hundred pages,
Yeah, light the aa, aa, light-weight and light-hearted
But I didn't put any portraits, portraits I a lot the aa, in the book who isKing Fahad? Sheikh Jaber, who is Sultan? Who [coughs] what is Saudi Diplomacy? These things that you did ask me, you'll come to the house, and we'll talk about it
We'll talk, talk w amm we talk, I'll read to you the bo- the blue book
Hmm parts of it
The one I have at home, yeah, and I'll read to you about King Faisal
Aa I wrote what about King Fahad, Qabous these things
A portrait, it's a portrait
Not an honest one but semi-accurate
[Al-Ali laughs] aa all right, thank you again for the interview
Wallah, you are lovable
And your blood aa
You're too kind
Aa you're pleasant, and I'm so sorry really for inconveniencing--
No, no, not at all, thank you so much