I am Abdulaziz Al Mahmeed and today I'm interviewing Mr. Hussain Al Youha inOmairiya area. Today's date is 17th of June and it is 4:54 pm aaa Mr. Hussain, can you tell us your full name?
Hussain Hasan Ali Al Youha.
Pleased to meet you, aaaand your nationality?
Kuwaiti of course.
Pleased to meet you, aaand the place and date of birth?
Yes, in Dubai.
And your date of birth?
Aaa, 1933, so I am 86 87 now.
Ahh wow may god bless you with long life.
Yes, aaaa but aaa what is the exact date of birth?
Birth in aaa I'd say 33 1933.
But in months and whatnot, I I don't know.
I don't know no.
Yes, okay sir can I obtain your verbal consent in order to record this interview?
Yes yes go ahead.
Thank you, sir you told me that you don't remember the date of birth or that itwasn't documented?
Yes in those days there wasn't of course a birth certificate etc.--
Yes, so I know approximately the year exactly, yes the beginning of 33.
Aaa so right now I am over 86 97 something like that.
Ah wow god bless.
Yes so in 33 I mean, six, sixt, 86 years old.
Ah wow may god bless you with long life, why were you born in Dubai?
Yes aa so I, my mother, and my father, my aunt was there in Dubai, aaand I gothere aaa I was, after I turned 11 years old, aaa my mother just, so my father passed away when I was five years old, and my mother maybe when I was around 10 years old, so I stayed, aa for about a year in Dubai, after that of course, my in law had after -- after I arrived I mean, my in law is the one who brought me here Ahmad Al Youha he passed away may he rest in peace, he brought me back from there to stay with the families of Al Youha and Al Radwan, and to tell you the truth maybe after my mother they are the ones who did, aaa his mother is the one who raised me, during this period after I turned 10 or 11 years old here, after that of course, it was gradual, aaa, I came here when I was 11 years old, I was, yes maybe after a year, I joined the ins-- aaa institute which is affiliated with Aleslah Society, before I knew that that they are the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, aaa, because they didn't establish the Muslim Brotherhood back then, so I came back at the beginning of the 40s, aaa, they were, as it is a charitable organization that's what we knew about the school, aaa for educational purposes, inn,
Al Mubarikiya, there was a meat market in Al Mubarikiya even the the buildingwhere we went to school or the house consisted of two floors to accommodate around 20 people, we were maybe 18 to 20, aa I studied in that aa school until the end of 1944, maybe elementary.
I finished my elementary education, and then to tell you the truth sue to mypersonal situation I preferred, although I had a family family or my people who Ahmad Al Youha brought me to, they are merchants and had their own ships, for traveling and trade in Africa and aaa India, sailing ships,
they own I mean they have a house in the city in Sharq near Amiri Hospital, andthey have a house in Salmiya where they spend their summers in the house in Salmiya in summer, so I lived with them then, aaa until, 1944, aa after that I stayed of course with them butm I found the company,
Kuwait oil, that started hiring people, back then I was 15 years old, aa to tellyou the truth I mean I preferred to work, I even left school I left after middle school, I left school, I joined Kuwait Oil Company I was hired with the ones who who got hired back then, it was when they first started hiring Kuwaitis when the Kuwait Oil Company first began in 1933, the second world war took place so they stopped working, at the beginning in 1940 they started with the first oil shipment out of Kuwait, in 1964, I aaa worked at the company twice, once when I was young at 15, aa as a porter, because they were the company had a pro project of building Ahmadi, residential Ahmadi for employees and high rank employees and things like that, when they first started working they were in Al Maqwa'a, you don't remember Al Maqwa'a you haven't seen it, Al Maqwa'a of course between al between Kuwait and the airport there is land aaa after the airport and after Ahmadi in the middle, aa this is where in fact was the headquarters of Kuwait Oil Company, and in it was a hospital, for the company and it had dorms for the nurses, aand it had a technical school, a small one, aand there was I mean the administration and a large workshop which had everything you need to manufacture cars and whatnot, aaa in that place I started working, my task as a young porter was to distribute mmm papers or paperwork from this department to that department, aaa, until around mid 1949, from the second half of 48 until mid 1949 after which we moved to Ahmadi, in Ahmadi they started I mean they started to work for Americans and the English and the Europeans who were there, they brought finished buildings made of wood, villas made of wood and Europeans stayed there and I mean aaa for the Indians because the company brought in their own employees, there weren't Kuwaitis back then who could type or do secretarial work and typing and whatnot, so the company brought in those people, aa they were staying first in tt tents then they built huge temporary building structures that they divided into different sections for each 3 or 4 individuals in one room but there was no ceiling in that, I beg you a pardon no bathrooms outside the building where they lived, for a certain period after which they left, got married, and brought their wives back so they established an area for Indians, aaa at the beginning it was tents then structures, after that of course there were buildings in the, the 50s or, I mean 1949 or 51 they accomplished this the, this residential area, they of course built buildings for the English, in the area aa in in Ahmadi and the Indians in an area for the married ones and the single ones in a different area, and they built a building near the water tanks for for oil currently, they called it "'Arab woolege" (Arab Village) for the the workers, we lived in these hosues, aaa I mean before that when I moved to Ahmadi from Al Maqwa'a we lived in a house made of mud, called "bawari," you know what bawari is of course?
No no what does it mean?
You don't know it.
It is a kind of made of the aa of wood, a specific kind and it becomes, so therewas a wall then a divider between each group a line with maybe around six to seven rooms each room has four or five individuals so in these bawari they install insulations, aaa and even people in tents, I lived in that house which was half mud half bawari and divided for about less than a year or a yearm then moved to Ahmadi to mud houses, curr I mean currently a hospital, the old one not the new one now, that place those buildings were for workers, I lived there, houses made out of mud or clay, and divided rooms and we were three four or two in one room, and I beg you a pardon they brought bathrooms, aaa portable ones made of metal, dragged by trailers or big cars, and they dug holes near these houses and installed them, around ten or twelve units, this if for the-- but the room itself was used for sleeping and cooking and it had a hole in the wall where there was an asphalt drum so that it wouldn't oxidize, so you fill it with water, in this room you'll find a bathroom and a kitchen and aaa space for sleeping, until around the the end of nine or aaa aaa November of yes yes 49, the end of 49 I left the company.
Go ahead please.
If you allow me to interrupt here so that I can go back a bit.
Yes yes yes.
So that we can get some details.
Go ahead please.
Aaa you said that you lived in Dubai until you turned 11 years old?
Yes 10 years old.
Ten years old.
Aaa yes I turned 11 after I came here.
Yes, aa do you have any memories of Dubai?
It wasn't wasn't Dubai was modest back then, we in Kuwait it was more advancedthan Dubai back then, they were the same they lived in houses made of palm fronds, aaand people were simple back then, in Dubai.
Do you remember the house where you lived in Dubai?
Yes in Dubai yes I mean but we had I remember we had a house, I mean my aunt'shouse was my mother's house, aaa living in a house, aaa of course simple regular houses, made of mud and stone and like that, aaa I mean Kuwait was more developed than Dubai back then, I lived during that time, since I was little.
Aaa what was the reason behind being in Dubai?
I mean we-- kinda, my mother and were born there, aaa, my father too, aaa, Itold you he passed away when I was five years old, I don't know I remember the day he died they took me to him, aaa so he can see me as he was dying, only these features I remember from eid when I was five years old I mean simple things I don't know, my mother no, I was ten years old so I know, I lived a life of luxury thank god there was prosperity and all, but after my mother passed, she left a nanny to raise me, during that year I lived with, that nanny, aa a bit of a difficult life of an orphan who doesn't have a place whose mother and father passed away so, I lived with my needs and the situation was a bit, aaa I was influenced by my previous life of luxury, that's why to tell you the truth when he asked to bring me I mean my in law from Al Youha family, his name is Mohammad -- Ahmad Mohammad Al Youha, aaa, so, I came here immediately, here I lived in a house with them, and to tell you the truth it was very good I mean.
Ehm, the nanny you had in Dubai?
Was left behind of course.
She passed away there after a while.
She was the one who raised me. Of course when my mother was alive she was theone who supervised and raised me aaand my mother passed away and I didn't have anyone but her, my aunt was in Dubai but far from me I didn't see her and whatnot, but aa I lived with the nanny for the most part.
You I mean had family residing in Dubai?
Yes in I had family I mean, my aunt now I have my aunt who passed away I haveher son, he is almost two years older than me, aaa I mean they are well off now I mean, thank god.
Aand how did you feel when you moved from Dubai to Kuwait at the time?
In fact I came maybe Ahmad Al Youha's mother may god rest her soul and may herest in peace, this person in fact brought me here, he is considered I consider him a father -- like my father and my older brother I mean he is not old he was young, his mother is more than a mother I mean when she became like a mother to me, more than a mother to me the way she cared for me and looked after me, aa I lived for a while I mean even when I started working at the oil company I used to go to them every Thursday and Friday, in fact this human being his mom, she was a very beautiful woman and a wonderful human being, aaand ethical to tell you the truth, so I was raised by her and I got her values and the values of people who lived with them their family Al Al Rawdan and Al Youha, I learned how to depend on myself and to be in fact an ethical human being who respects people are values them, who loves his country, this the most important thing to be honest from all of the things that I learned, when I moved here I mean after almost a yeat, the there was a bit of a bad situation, aaa I found myself improving but, I had it in my mind that I have to work, I studied until I stopped after middle school in that school established by Aleslah Society, aaa, I mean I preferred to work and not to finish my studies.
You ehm went to school in Dubai?
In Dubai at the beginning education was religious there was a mutawa'a (femalereligion teacher), for a certain time during their lives maybe around two years or something like that, and I did my elementary school here in the in Kuwait.
What were the subjects you studied with the mutawa'a what kind of religious education?
Quran, but religious, religious education.
And when you came to Kuwait you went into a formal school?
Not associated with the government pri -- associated with Aleslah Society whichlater became a branch for the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, I mean I knew them, and in the beginning when I studied I didn't know they were the Muslim Brotherhood, and it wasn't annou, they didn't announce it officially as associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and, it didn't show that a charitable society opening a school to teach, so I went and registered, and I studied with a group of people certain classes and we moved maybe during that time to two places, the first one was near the meat market in Al Mubarikiya, and there was the meat market, there was another place where they moved the people of the house wanted it back I don't know what their story was, aaa we moved in front of the council of ministers, in a house in front of aaa, the central bank, in that area approximately or near there was some sort of finishing, this house was facing this finishing activity and I used to study there, I finished around the end of 40s, I joined the company and that was it, I didn't study.
What was the nature of education in that school?
At the time of--?
Yes at the school associated with Aleslah Society.
Yes yes first grade, yes I mean in, in some, about Kuwait and math, I meanthings like that, also this school was simple, it wasn't a school you could call a real school, it was a house, a small one with a yard where we studied.
Aaa and the teachers who taught you were Kuwaitis?
No Egyptians, yes there there were Kuwaitis I think maybe two Kuwaitis and therest were, Egyptians who taught us, writing and aa reading and some religion classes, aaaa the oil company that I was, from the second part of 48, aaand 49 approximately a month before the end of that year, in November, aaa I thought of learning how to drive, so I left the company, and I went actually learned how to drive within a month I passed and got my driving license, I was 17 years old, the law back then stated that for you to obtain the license you have to be 18 years old, so I said there's nothing to prove that, so I said I was 18 years old, and after the inspection, I passed and got my license, when I took it back then I drove a fancy car to me it was something huge, aaa,
I tried in those days to get a car to drive around in, I got a job, aaa anAmerican company that does excavations and e, I mean, digging, cars with some sort of drill, that digs into the ground, and they install dynamite in it to explode, and they photograph underground for oil, so this company was aa, aaa, on the Saudi Kuwaiti borders, maybe the headquarters was in Wafra, aaa maybe after -- there wasn't this company maybe there were only two or three Kuwaitis, the rest were either Iranians or Indians and things like that, when I first worked there they gave me a car, four by four Jeep like a double gear here, it was a dodge type, the old military type, without exhaust and without breaks, but the the the the work in the desert, you feared nothing not eve, it was normal, I happily received the car of course being able to drive this car I didn't even care about the money, even if they only gave me food and I can live and be happy driving this car, in those days, the beginning of one one 1950, driving a car, it was to me something huge, like a dream, coming true, and I used to work from 12 at noon until 12 at night around 12 hours, and the following week from 12 at night until 12 at noon -- it switches, and most of the the work because it lasted 24 hours the shift changes and someone else comes along, the group is anywhere in the desert, and then the shift occurs and they come, and us as drivers we transfer the water where it was close to the company's building, a big tank where water comes from the sea through pipes, aaa when the tank is full -- we go get the water, and follow the group so that the water remains, yes so that the mud gets softer and the rocks in the ground under the water would go under so the car is always going back and forth and we get the water and come back each with three or four cars, we transfer the water because, there's always need for water, and goes up into the pipes and comes back down -- it goes down into the ground, to make it easier for the for the drill, the aaa so it can dig, aand my daily payment back then was five rupees Indian rupees were used used in Kuwait, which equals 400 fils, I mean work was 12 hours and modest food for breakfast in the morning which was bread made by a cook, and milk, aaa, and simple things I mean lunch was mostly lentils and this stuff I mean lamb and chicken and fish and that sometimes, we eat, I stayed at this company for six months, I mean I mastered driving aaand I drove large cars, I mean since I was 17 years old notice that I was young not old, aaa, the company, I finished the contract period with the company, I left the company with others, during that time I stayed without work for about two months I was living at Al Youha and Al Radwan's house who are my people and my family, they had cars they owned cars from the, the early 40s, or even 30s, they had I remember two cars, a Nash it was a Nash they don't make them anymore, American ones, my in law used to drive it aaa he leased it to a company an engineer at the oil company whom he used to drive around, and they had another car an American military car, two cars half lorry, I even before I got my license I mean I drove these cars, when I was young, but I drove it for a short while, aaa, when that was over, aaa I started driving their car they had a driver but I also used to drive my family to the city and pick them up from Salmiya, they lived during the same time where they were also in Sharq, then they sold the house and moved to Salmiya.
You ehm I mean when you came back from Dubai you lived with them in that housein Sharq?
Yes when I first came it was in Sharq.
Yes, do you remember how the house was like?
It was a big house to be honest, with two families, Al Youha family and AlRadwan family because aaa Al Youha's mother the one who brought me here she is from Al Radwan family, aaa fa fa Latifa Mohammad Al Radwan, I mean to tell you the truth a female leader, she had a secretary at home, aaa they have servants at home and whatnot, so she asked this secretary to look after me, and there was I mean when I came to them two other kids of Al Youha family two brothers of Mohammad -- Ahmad Al Youha, their parents passed away, aaa from the the Emirates, from Ras Alkhaima and from Dubai, there was -- and his nephew came as well, Al Youha's sister married someone from Al Qasimi family the sheikhs of the Emirates one of Abu Dhabi aand one Alsharjah and Ras Alkhaima, aa Khaled Al Qasimi, he brought those three and I was the fourth so we became close and were raised by one main mother who is Latifa Al Radwan and her assistant Amna Sulaiman, who supervised us and assigned the tasks of washing our clothes and whatnot to servants I mean we lived together as brothers and we loved each other, aa I came for a while and they were there, and I went back and forth and of course but at the end I stayed with them for two months at their house driving their car, they had a pickup truck, aa after those two months I went back to the company.
Aa it was in Sharq where they had two cars?
Yes they had two cars when I came at the beginning of the 40s I found two carsthere, even that Nash was in an accident, and it was in fact hard to fix because I was severely damaged, it stopped, the half lorry remained we always used it since the days before Al Radwan, we used to use it to bring arfaj those trees the big ones found in the desert which camels eat and whatnot, this was for, aaa, to make riqaq bread, we ship it and bring it home and
we bring water, in in the house there was a lake (well) where the raincollected, we used to bring water in that lorry which had a tank in it with a group of servants really who worked for Al Youha and Al Radwan, we go to Hawali until the lake got filled up, aaa then they moves they sold their house and moved to Salmiya they and I moved with them to Salmiya, so when I come back from the company when the two months were over I wanted -- they were in Salmiya.
What year did they move to Salmiya?
They at the beginning -- at the same -- they didn't take long I mean when Iarrived I aaa after maybe a year or two they moved to Salmiya, they had ships that brought specifically at the door outside looking over the sea because the house was in front of the sea, they used to sell chandal (wood), and other building tools and that stuff back then.
Aaa this is the Sharq house that overlooked the sea or the one in Salmiya?
Overlooking the sea, no the house that was that you when, overlooking the sea inthe city, even in Salmiya the wood was transferred to Salmiya, in in their houses overlooking the sea there was wood and they sold wooden things of that kind doors and that was brought over from India, and the house was big, it had about three doors, I remember, one in front of the sea, one overlooking Jibla, and an opposite one to the one overlooking the sea on the over side, so the families of Al Youha and Al Radwan were in this big house back then and people grandfather and the father and sons lived in one house, not like now this was the last, when oil was discovered in aaa people moved and were separate, before that it was a big house with all family members from the grandfather and everyone under him, so it was.
Who who lived in that house aaa other than you all?
This house belonged to the families of Al Radwan and Al Youha.
The Al Youha family of course is a family of sea captains and ship owners, andAl Youha in fact the mother of mother of Ahmad Al Youha her husband passed away and she only had this son, aaa the one who brought me here, aaa, and living in this big house in fact I mean back then Salmiya it was, the houses were built with fronds, and goat hair tents, it had very little houses aaa I mean Salmiya not more than maybe, ten houses twelve fifteen houses something like that but houses made of mud and stone, aaa it had in fact most of them were Awazim there, that's why there's a dam, we are going to Salmiya at the market not the old one on the way to the city, but the inner one there was the dam, this dam is where people drank the water from, the water collected there in winter after the rain, and they take from it, so they provided the homes with this water, there was a cart with some sort of containers that carried oil, benzene and gasoline and that, so there were twenty of these containers in the cart to be filled or pardon me on donkeys, so aaa I mean water then there wasn't any, at homes.
And ehm this water was available for anyone for free?
Yes for everyone for free.
It was gated, and people come riding their donkeys or pushing a cart, they take,of course in addition to that there are wells at homes, I mean in the house where we lived there was a we well, but you couldn't drink from it, the water was a bit salty I mean not drinkable, we bathed in it, I mean I remember in summer it was hot and we swam and then we'd bring a sarong we'd wear it, we'd dip it in water and wring it and cover ourselves with it and sleep, we the young boys did that, we slept with it on, in the diwaniya covered with this sarong it was natural like this before not like now, one wants air conditioning and wants I don't know what we didn't even have a fan or anything, we lived like this, even the rich I mean no, so little we didn't have generators the ones they used to bring for electricity no no I mean I saw most people living like this, inside the city electricity didn't reach everywhere back then, but there was electricity, I remember, near aa the headquarters of the Amir around there I mean between the fish market and there was a generator which provided Kuwait with, I mean not for everybody, the majority lived in it were--
Alright what was the nature of the relationship between neighbors in Sharq whenyou lived aaa in that house?
Yes, I mean you know houses were stuck to one another back then.
Neighbor to neighbor, aand the cars couldn't fit in the alleys that were there,only for pardon me donkeys, and maybe aaa camels, they'd come in during specific times but donkeys at all times, they used them to transfer stones from the sea to break it, they load it on the donkey and bring it over for building purposes, aa they'd enter, aaand maybe at the beginning there were people who owned bicycles, a bicycle, we would ride it only us I mean at the beginning I was, Al Radwan had aaa, aaa a
trades office at the market aaa Al Mubarkiya on the side that is like this youknow long? The side that is nea near the sea, this is where the merchants market is, so they had there was an office near aaa, it was a famous café, aaa Al Muqahwi café, this was aa, at the end of Al Mubarkiya there, all the merchants were there because the merchants market was there, I remember that also the welders market was close by welders who made nails for ships, and other things anything a human being would need even knives were made there I remember those days, you'd see the the shop opened and the fire no es banging and making, I mean there was modest industry but there was industrial happenings in Kuwait back then, aaa even in that alley aaa Al Mubarkiya, there was, a mill for, aaa they made they ground sesame to make harda (sesame paste), and in that market, aaa there were simple aa shops, shops aaa, some would sell things there was in, during these times I mean, in Salmiya there was a simple market I mean in the beginning there weren't many houses Al Radwan house was a big house in Salmiya a big one, and divided for two families, because they were aaa, Al Radwans this Latifa Al Youha's mother aaa with her was her sister each had her own space in that house, aa,
I mean, yes house, it's the same I mean even the houses of the prominentmerchants were all made of mud and stone not many were in fact made of cement there were other materials available, aaa they called it I don't know white they used it in building like cement, they call it cement, I mean these were the houses I mean some houses raised sheep and cows inside with them, aaa I mean people were close and neighbors their relationship was tight there is something I want to tell you back in those days, there were alongside the sea, aa bathrooms, made of of cladding sheets, that accommodated one person only, to do aa, I mean not for bathing for the, one who wants to bathe would do so at home in simple bathrooms, and men, women were inside, and men -- houses in Kuwait most of them were on the roof pardon me, and the donkey would come and yells "soukha soukha" (filth filth) and they'd open the door and he would come in and take it in order to turn it into fertilizer, there waaas, a welders market where they make tanks now and make I don't know what, aa in the corner near aa, I mean towards the end of I don't know you didn't witness the wall's gates, Kuwait was surrounded by a wall and the gates, there were farms, so they used to collect the filth from the roof tops and take it there to the, to put it under the plants.
The man with the donkey used to shout "soukha soukha"?
Yes on the street.
What does that mean?
It means if you have wasakh (filth).
Ahhhh wasakh, yes.
Yes, I mean most women inside the house, men outside on the sea.
Yes, and these bathrooms I mean every aaa every household would build their ownbathroom on the sea?
No not everyone, the government the country built those, alongside Al Seif, Imean between each half a kilometer you'd find one of those, you'd sometimes go in and sit and find water underneath, inside, there are puddles in the sea,
this this is the situation in Kuwait before the way of the people, therelationship was solid because it was, how was the relationship, men would travel so women are left behind, so there is a strong connection between one another they helped each other, I mean men are absent for six months in the sea traveling to India and Africa, and when he's back to be honest not on the diving boats, he rides the small boats to go diving, they dive where now the young men go near Khairan over there and near, even near Mina Abdullah there, they go in these areas and bring back pearls, the Kuwaiti people lived through the sea I mean between what's that traveling in big ships that brings merchandise to to India and, Afra aa Africa, and bring back materials what they take from here is mostly dates, they go to Basra and take dates, the ships go maaany of them sunk and the crew dies, I mean let me tell you, my grandfather, and my maternal uncle, and my grandfather's father, seven individuals from one house died on a single ship that sank on their way back from Africa carrying stuff aaa they passed by Dubai and from there coming to Kuwait but they sank on the way, even Al Radwan family they lost two ships, one with 40 young crew members because the ships were aaa had, aaa 30 or 40 who worked on the ship -- sailors, a captain and workers, those who are on the ships, there they load the the materials that are being brought by the ship they are the ones who load them, the ones who are leaving from here load the dates, these same ones are the ones who load and work on the ship to raise and lower the sail and and many things the ship can bare the big ship can carry 40 individuals and the smaller ones around 20, aaa this the way it was for Kuwaitis in until the 50s, until the oil or even before oil when the Iranian cultured pearls were invented and flooded the world, people were no longer to be honest interested in these pearls that were coming from the sea, and the entire gulf all of this the two lands, one in Iran and one this one with ships of two kinds one with wood for traveling the big ones with sails, and the small ships for searching for pearls and whatnot, they depended maybe the rich people and the merchants and they had big amounts of this merchandise to be honest to ship and to aaa to search for pearls, and then the cultured pearls arrived and affected the natural one, and here oil was discovered they opened -- Kuwait sold its ships, look now the remaining ones at the museum they bought those back, and brough them and placed them, so then the, the Kuwaiti other than the captain and the owner of the ship and the sailor, the sailor spent the whole year traveling, six months he'd leave and not come back, and the one who has gone diving is gone for three more months,
so it all depends on the woman the Kuwaiti woman was a hero, she is the one whoraised her kids and the one who prepared -- there were no servants at home, she is the one who cooks and who does everything, the Kuwaiti woman is brave, during that time so they were close to each other the Kuwaitis helped one another, in a way that
like I told you the houses were stuck to each other and, the alleys were close Imean I remember the family of aaa, we had the family of Tifuni and the family, aaa Buresli, I mean families and houses we enter I mean we were young we mingled with each other and moved between these houses, a relationship that was really strong I mean back then.
How did you go into each other's houses?
Aa how did you go into each other's houses?
At -- we were young back then -- so without asking for permission, the olderones might ask for permission, I mean even the older ones, the people who who, don't travel and stay behind here in the city, a relationship with diwaniyyas I mean Kuwait not like now with diwaniyyas, which in fact host some sort of meetings and this was the same thing before, we had diwaniyyas, with people meeting, and and most of them are friends, I mean I had a relationship we for example with the house of Buresli, on our block, like like bothers, yes we respected and appreciated each other, this situation was I mean I mean something that connected people.
Were there any specific interactions with the neighbors? Aa in Sharq for example?
Yes I mean interactions aa, meaning financial or what?
No no I mean aaa how did you interact with one another and dealt with yourneighbors and what kind of activities for example?
Yes yes, I mean I I remember like I previously mentioned, that there was thiswoman, near the house, the house of Al Youha and Al Radwan, aa, the girls stayed in the house and didn't go out, they'd go to the market, this one would go to purchase, like they considered her their mom, she'd go to the market to get whatever they wanted clothes for Eid, this one would go bu -- buy the necessities whatever they wanted like perfumes or bukhoor and whatnot from the market, their clothes and stuff, I remember two women near the house of Al Youha and Al Radwan, those, like mothers to us, they had a house but they were like the ones who brought groceries and stuff most of them on the way, this type of relationships existed between households I mean, in, and the circumstances made them especially women I mean became in a close relationship with one another, the absence of their hus husbands I mean, the one who ran the house, the one who rai raised the kids, they had to help one another.
Why didn't women go to the market?
Some didn't go I know aaa our kids our families, back then they didn't go, oncea year they'd go to the market to buy stuff and come back, aaa the rest of the days no, I mean back then there weren't any schools then they established schools, sharqiyya and qabaliyya and the schools that were, aaa the majority studied religion with the mutawa'a (religious teacher) and of course at home, like that.
Aaand how did the women help each other and the neighbors when men weretraveling for example for pearl diving or for trade?
Yes, yes they helped when there was a need when there was something missing orsomeone didn't have salt or spices or something missing, you'd knock on the next door and they gave each other, do you have onions? Do you have the things, the food items we are missing they helped each other if they didn't then many people would have lived under miserable conditions because, I mean six months women stayed alone I mean they didn't have jobs, where would she get this I mean, the sailor when he travels, they give him a loan, they give him a certain amount of money and he leaves most of it with his wife, she'd buy things and spend the money on her kids, aaa sometimes he's come back, with debt, I mean to tell you the truth this was back then it was hard times, but people were used to it, aand there is the case of closeness and friendliness between some families which was good and great.
Okay do you remember why aaa they moved from Sharq to Salmiya was there a reasonbehind them leaving Sharq?
I of course don't know for sure but I I mean I knew, that they had two housesthey preferred, the two ships that sank -- two booms which they had, the first one they had just purchased and went on the sea maybe only once, it left, and disappeared, it was coming back from from from I don't know from Africa or from India exactly, carrying, in it aaa materials wood and I don't know what and cotton they used to bring reams, to Kuwait, and they left from there, so it never reached Kuwait it disappeared, in the sea, the second one after the the second year they also had a third ship I also remember it looking like a steamship a small boat, aaa after aa, these ships apparently were gone so they left,
Salmiya, let me tell you I in Salmiya I walked so much, from Salmiya to thecity, aa more than once, and more than once one of Al Youha's servants was with me who worked at the oil company when we went, aa in the 50s we would go aaa on Friday, to Salmiya and wanted to go to Ahmadi we had to go to the city and the city had big cars, trailers sent by the company to take us I mean one was as long as maybe around aa, fifty meters, huge trailers the shipping kind, they wait three or four of them at Al Safat Square, of course not Al Safat as it is now, this area where Al Safat Square was, aand it was, a lorry, Avans, this lorry would come from Salmiya to the city in the morning, and get back at noon, and go in the afternoon and come back around esha prayer like after esha prayer, if catch it that's good, if you don't it's gone, so sometimes we didn't I don't know how we didn't catch it, him and I would walk, from Salmiya to the city, and then we advanced a little we used bicycles back then there wasn't any asphalt, it was all sand, you could walk but not ride your bicycle, sand, we carried the bicycle on our shoulders, and walked until we passed the sand part, when we reached solid grounds we rode our bicycles both of us would go to the city, but we used to walk most of the time, and that one when he is about to leave he would hunk sounding like "baaab baaab" if you catch it you do if you don't it's over, and it was an ordinary thing to walk all this way it was an ordinary thing, yes, I mean an ordinary thing it was for us,
then I think after a while there was another one, a wooden bus bus, made inKuwait, ha this is the lorry where does it go? When it moves from Salmiya, it goooooes to Hawali, enters Al Nuqra, and picks up passengers, drop off and pick up, I mean it reaches the city and it takes it about two hours to arrive, the car -- and then the lorry this is the time when lorries were used and we used to ride it, it was two levels made out of wood two levels, people and sheep pardon me even camel stool, they bring this from the city to Salmiya why camel stool? For the oven the one used for for baking bread, they make the bread on on this this, because especially this camel stool when you light it it doesn't fade quickly, it it lasts long, that's why this this lorry used to carry sheep and such things and people sitting there, and it goes! This was the life I mean life it was a simple life, I mean we went through this.
This is you--
Yes go ahead please.
Yes I mean I told you that I went back aa, when I reached the end that time withthe company the six months and it was over, and I stayed for two months at home with the, the family, aa I went back to the company and worked as a driver.
The same company?
Yes the oil company, they hired me as a driver, they gave me a sedan, aa it wasa black Chevrolet I remember, aa with a physician, a physician I used to drive from Ahmadi he lived in A Ahmadi, and the the phy -- the hospital was in Maqwa'a, there was about maybe ten kilometers fifteen kilometers between between Ahmadi and Maqwa'a, I used to take him, I would wait for him from morning until aa afternoon, I'd bring him back to Ahmadi and leave the car with him and walk back where I stayed maybe around two kilometers away, hou --
Arab Woolege (Arab Village) where the occupants -- this is also, the dailypayment for drivers, there were houses, they provided houses for us this is Arab Woolege which was for single workers there weren't any Kuwaiti families in Ahmadi it was all single Kuwaiti men, so they provided these acommodations, from here to there I used to go for about an hour an hour and some time until I reached where I needed to take him and when I came back it was the same I'd park the car at his place and leave, I worked for him, for six months, there was in Ahmadi before, buses, leaving from 6:00am until 12:00am at night, in all of Ahmadi,
I mean Ahmadi after it was built, aa it became we used to call it mini KuwaitiLondon, beautiful with beautiful houses I mean before even when it was wood aa good houses made of wood I mean it was the same way in America I mean until now the houses aa hospitals made of wood, these were readymade houses that they brought here and installed, aaa, we are talking about the, the houses, living there I yes after six months, of working with this this this English doctor,
the company offered a training course, for Kuwaiti drivers there weren't anyKuwaitis driving these buses, all the drivers were Indians, I was one of the people who took this course, seven individuals together, all young men, they trained us on how to drive buses, I moved from the -- aa being the Englishman's driver to being a bus driver, this bus like I said used to go around Ahmadi on "A Road," and "B Road," and "E Road" and such, each one has has a certain road, it takes these Europeans and Indians, it was forbidden for workers especially I mean they don't -- they don't ride buses but only walk to work, but these, with this you have have a chance to carry them, so us, me when they gave me a bus, I would take the nurses to Maqwa'a and back, aaand I drive at night at twelve or eleven,
there was in in Ahmadi a company that provided some sort of police, it wasn'tofficial but they dressed as security guards, biloosh, it was aaa in Ahmadi and the ones who guarded the rigs these are the biloosh, so I used to take the bus and take them to Wara and Burqan, where the tanks were aand the oil or the place where the oil came out at the rigs, I would drop them there and in the morning I'd pick them up, when their shift is done I would go pick them up in the morning, aaa so I was on that bus driving the nurses to Maqwa'a and br -- bringing them back, and I took the guards at night aaa, to the areas of Wara and Burqan which were a bit far from Ahmadi, oil was discovered there in that area, they guarded the rigs and the the tanks and things like that, so aa aa I mean this doctor was upset because I left him, I of course first of all because the salary was better driving buses, and also I considered the bus something mmm big to me I mean I was young and driving a bus that's beautiful and I dr -- so I mean I liked this type of work, and a group of young men aa most of them of course passed away I mean my colleagues who who took this training course together, we worked together, most of them in fact have passed away, yes I worked there until the end of 52, in 52 at the end I left the company, aand I bought a car,
back then in th in the beginning of 53, those who drove taxis and had cars werenot Kuwaitis, so an order was released to forbid non Kuwaitis from working as taxi drivers, only Kuwaitis, we, so how did I leave the company back then the company wanted to rent cars to transport their employees, it's, when we used to go to work as drivers we used to wait in "transport" which is the place that assigned the dri drivers and their cars to high rank employees to drive them at a certain time you have a kind of paper "duty," written on it is your journey I mean you go to one of them, for how many hours and work with them then come back, the company started to it handed it over to no one other than Mustafa Karam, he passed away may god rest his soul, in fact he is one of the, the good ones I mean in fact I had a connection with him I mean I knew him well I mean well, aaa, this man got the contract, there was a bargaining and I don't know what with the transportation company, with the comp, with the company with Mustafa Karam's company, so they brought their cars, so we were left without work, a group you'd find around one hundred Kuwaitis just sitting there, in this transport waiting for your turn to take a car and drive someone, so a group of us thought but not all of us to buy cars and work as taxi drivers, me and them we bought a car,
and I worked as a taxi driver, I mean for some time maybe around, two years, intwenty-one the year 56, fire service, the one that belongs to, the government the state, it was in face simple, I mean in the forties they used to put out fires riding donkeys, the fires, they used donkeys, after that they got advanced and bought ca -- simple cars, expansion started and someone came alone, to took over the fire service, may god rest his soul Ali Abdulrazzaq Al Saleh they called him "Ali Fires," he became the director of the fire service, this person renewed the service, he developed it, the fire service in Kuwait became he brought Kuwaitis, before that there weren't any Kuwaitis driving buses, driving the fire service car, they told me why are you working as a taxi driver go and work at the fire service they want people they want Kuwaitis, and actually I went around the twenty-first one fifty-six, I registered at the fire service and they hired me there, as a driver, and when I got there, included with the cars that were part of the upgrading of the fire service the new fire machinery, including an ambulance for the fire service because when a fire happens, anywhere because there was more than one station, there were around six or seven stations in, this ambulance was at a station in the city after near the municipality, they assigned this one to me before that there was ga, aa I used to park at the Ministry of Public Work's garage, there was part of this garage that housed the stations that belonged to the fire service which had cars to be fixed and prepared etcetera, I worked there for a short while, three four months, and then I moved with the ambulance to a new building the one near the municipality, I would park there, when there is a fire they inform Shwaikh station, I would leave to the station I mean anywhere from within the city aaa the ambulance had to be there too, and inside the ambulance there were simple medications I mean cotton aand iodin and whatnot I mean there were some things and I was in fact I mean somewhat I knew such things, whenever someone would get hurt or something, I used to treat him and then they'd go to the physician, after that they opened up new stations, Sharq, in the past there was a cinema theater in Sharq, near the cinema there was a hotel called, the Jibir Hotel, the station was there, and a station in Shwaikh aand there was a station in Faiha, so they transferred me as well, from the aaa the station in the city they called it city number one to the Shwaikh station to work over there, when they were done with these new stations, the one in Salmiya and Faiha and aa Sharq, they moved the ambulance to aa Salmiya, with it I moved to Salmiya, we worked in the -- after that I was assigned a car a fire car that does the firefighting, aaa I mean inside the fire service and I worked there for around ten years in Salmiya, after of course this job that I did for the company then we moved to the taxi business, and after the taxi in about two years I joined the fire service, the fire service, I mean I moved between many stations with the ambulance, at the end the director of the fire service asked for me, I mean he recognized me by name and asked to speak to me, so he called me at the administration and put me in charge of something, in aaa the fire service workshop it was at the aa where the army base is now, and it was -- aaa across from the ministry of aa aa education, there was a workshop designed for repairing cars and at the beginning when cars would stop working or something like that, you'd find spare parts and whatnot there, he told me I want you specifically to go there, I want you to be in charge of the station and the person in charge before me was an officer orr corporal, he picked me and I didn't know anything the reason was that those people have finished their appointment and he told me I want you to pick two people so that you all can take 24 house by 24 hours, pick two to be there with you, and go there, I picked two people and I went to him and gave him the names, okay, I took over, at G1, the movement they used to call it the movement there was, aaa a Palestinian officer there, I became his assistant and then I achieved two lines, aa, I stayed there for some time, I mean even when I handled everything there at the station even though the officer in charge the aa Palestinian was there, I was the one who made sure everything was in order, I mean me as the first citizen I loved my work, I came to the fire service, I love the fire service, I mean my wish was to become a fireman when I was hired as a driver aaa, I was so happy.
What was your job at the fire service?
Yes, I mean at this job in fact it allowed me to serve people, I mean, to rescuethe to rescue any human being who is caught in a fire or something would happen to him during a fire or anything aaa I cared for people's belongings this is humanitarian work, this is why in fact I loved working at the fire service, with desire and enthusiasm, so I was in fact when I was working in the ambulance or the fire car the the one that put out fires, especially after that a while after that I was in Salmiya where they brought new cars that were a bit massive, at the beginning they didn't hand that over to us Kuwaitis, the director, because they thought -- they thought that we had enough on our plates, they brought those, three of those massive cars, they assigned non-Kuwaitis like Lebanese or Iraqis, the Iraqi crashed one those and destroyed it, after that they were forced to train Kuwaitis and I joined the training with a group and I was assigned a fire car a massive car, so when I went to this aaa G1, it was, aaa, I mean at the beginning it was considered a small place it was a workshop with aaa two people in charge taking shifts, and the movement had that Palestinian in charge and I was his assistant, this was our responsibility the new cars that arrived, arrived there, and we used to distribute them among the stations, and when they hired the drivers we used to assign them to the stations, aa the fire service, and it was in fact a type of work aa, aaa and, among the things that this person who helped in the advancement of the fire service he brought machinery and cars or just frames, without a body, and he manufactured there were a group of non-Kuwaitis there but Palestinians, aaa and other nationalities too, all of them were technicians I mean they were artistic too, they made the body at the workshop, and installed engines but but under his supervision you would find him most of the time as a director of the station in the city he would come at noon come to ha the workshop there and the movement we used to call it the movement movement for the cars, and the big cars, it became available to us to use in case of huge fires from this station so I mean I was the director I mean the assistant director and the Palestinian was the department's director-- I stayed until a graduate from London came, he graduated as a technician, we are back to I mean those who finished became at the beginning those working there at the fire service whether drivers or firemen or supervisors or officers they were all simple people I mean even when it comes to education, so they offered training courses, it's the same person he did this as part of his development plan for the department he brought Kuwaiti high school graduates, they took them to London to study fire service, and they came back after three four years and became assistant officers at the stations the previous ones most of them didn't have degrees or or very basic education, so he started with this plan to develop, the previous older ones left or retired so that the young ones can take their place, I I in this this this this job I got promoted I mean I got a scholarship and I joined a training here and there and became a lieutenant and I got older and at the end before I left I became what you call aa the director of the services administration, and p aa they picked a colleague who was a graduate, I mean you have Abu Althar at the workshop who gathers information, he became the director and I became the assistant director of the services administration, and I left the fire service after sixty three years of service, aaa as aa, a lieutenant, and an assistant director of the services administration, and after that I left, aa can we stop for a bit?
Can we stop a bit?
You want us to stop?
What do you think? Or should I go on?
Whatever you prefer.
I'll go on.
I don't mind at all.
Yes, I'll go on here, aaa--
But if-- if you want to go back to that period you covered at the beginning thenwe can continue aa--
As you like, as you like.
On yes yes you tole me that back then they used to aaa put out fires riding donkeys.
Aaa what was the process like?
Aaa I mean there wasn't at the beginning there was -- even when there is a firesometimes most of them are on ships docked at the harbor, there are fires so they have this water which they transfer on on the period in the thirties and forties, even the firemen would sprinkle water in alleys in certain areas that they aaaa sprinkle water on because there wasn't any asphalt it was just sand, so they were on on donkeys, then slowly the cars it's simple cars even in case someone passed away, the firemen would take the deceased to their grave and burry them, let me give you an example a man just passed away may god rest his soul he lived around a hundred and twenty years, his name is Mohammad Al Ajeel, he was before my time and in charge of the workshop at the fire service or the administration that I was put in charge of later as an assistant director of the services department this man was the head in charge, this man during that time when he was--
Aaa but you for example when you chose not to finish your studies, aaa what Imean what was the reason that made you aaa decided to get a job?
Yes I aaa, I studied after that.
After I stopped after middle school or elementary school, the school I told youabout the old one that is associated with Al Eslah Society, aaa, of course I will get to that but not now because I have something to say, because I am a member of the union.
I established the Kuwaiti union movement, I was one of them I mean, one of themso as a member I will talk--
But to answer you after I worked at the fire service I aaa ended this periodafter which -- aaa my role at the fire service came to an end, and when the invasion took place, this is interesting I mean there is so much to say about the invasion, including when the unions started I joined as school, and they tested me not just me but a group of union members with me, we had basic degrees I had an elementary school degree and others like me and that, so they tested us, I went into high school.
Which year was that?
Aaa may god bless you with long life-- maybe 66--
Hmm, this when you--
66 or 67.
At that time you had a job aaand you went into high school at the same time?
Yes yes I worked at the fire service and I was a union member, because aa highschool was so close to the center aaa the unions headquarters, in Al Qadsiyya, so we said most of us I mean had simple education why not learn, and this high school we went there and took the test and those who passed were admitted, I was one of those, I reached the third year of high school and got a degree, the last fourth year at the end I didn't go, yes I didn't acquire the degree and I didn't finish the fourth year of high school, I studied, in the evenings not mornings I mean the one that that is called literacy, there were schools in the evenings aa, I studied there, this is my degree.
But aa why why at the time when you finished middle school why didn't you thinkof finishing high school right away, was this something at the time aaa was it common then that people for example aa get a job instead of finishing their education?
Yes they accepted it back then, I mean for example I came to the fire servicewithout a degree- or I had an elementary education and I mean it's nothing -- they accepted me, aaa and there is a way when someone goes to the fire service if it was a fireman, let's say a manager, the fireman gets a training, aaa three four months, a driver is not required to get any training -- I didn't get training at the beginning until I became in charge when I was promoted to officer and whatnot so I got training, he was ah -- the director forbade the drivers so we revolted of course after that we said why is there discrimination between us firemen or drivers, aa why not, so then he opened the door for those, to get training I mean now if you see the fire service all the young men have high school degrees, they aa have I mean, they are educated some of them with university degrees or not, aa they drive the firetrucks I mean the firetrucks need someone who is educated to drive them they are very expensive with certain mechanisms and things I mean it has to be someone who is educated so he had to open the door, I was promoted to -- one star then two stars then aa three stars then crown and crown with a star I mean this is through training courses that I took, yes and no, before it was accessible they needed people but if you see the fire service now, if they need a hundred they'll get a thousand applicants, they used to look hard for them before and not find any, there was no one [he laughs], yes, so when I came they didn't require a degree and whatnot you just go in and that's it, now it's not like that, now they have university graduates working at the fire service.
Okay if we can also go back to the time aa when you worked at Kuwait Oil Companyyou told me at the beginning you were aa a messenger then aa you became a driver right?
Yes, what was the relationship like between the employees I mean with regards totheir different nationalities?
Look I mean, Kuwaitis are basically sea people, most of the ones who were hired,aa they were sailors, the ships were done, the diving was done, searching for pearls, the Kuwaitis had to join in, there is maybe if you can watch the tv show Al Tindail, of the deceased actor Hussain Abdulreda may god rest his soul, this this tv show talked about, most of what I'm saying, aaa the way of -- it didn't talk about the mud houses or the ones made of palm fronds in which we lived but it talked about the Kuwaiti employees workers in tents, it's true but we -- I lived through this time, I existed then, maybe no one told him, yes people say such things, some say how can you talk about palm frond houses in Kuwait and I -- I stayed there, I am one of those who at the beginning stayed in these houses that I told you about the bawari divided houses made of mud one house made of mud but a line like this that accommodates around fifty or sixty people, we lived like this back then, I came to Ahmadi, a house made of mud, the roof is bawari (wood), aaa no what do you call it the other one, aaa they bring it from Iraq from from Basra, made of shoulan, there is a tree that grows in rivers, long ones, it goes up high, they uproot it then they make they line them up and put a wire on them, one of those becomes as big as this rug, okay? They install it as a roof, and they put it they build houses with it, installed in houses here in in Kuwait there were people using it for rooms from this, shoulan they called it shoulan, animals eat it at the same time they use it for this aaand it is intertwined inside with with wires like this, the roof when they install it it doesn't leak, it holds water, so this this building where I lived in Ahmadi it was made of mud and had this bawari roof, I mean it was a harsh condition, I mean at the time it was harsh but it was normal.
Aand it was only Kuwaitis occupying these houses?
The ones in this aa no there were non-Kuwaitis, but many Kuwaitis too, I meanokay how the the the the Kuwaitis who worked at the sea moved here? Most of them are illiterate, what would they hire them as? Why did the company bring employees from abroad? I mean one can say, let me tell you I mean maybe I didn't mention this, aaa, our daily wage was, when it comes to workers I mean, maybe when I became a driver my salary increased, three rupees and eleven annas, it equals less than a quarter of a dinar a day, okay?
And we provide our own food we bring it with us on Thursday and we stay untilFriday you'll find a big zibeel (palm frond basket) the person who was with me the the Ahmad Al Youha may god rest his soul, my friend and brother I mean I consider him a brother I mean, he carried this zibeel over his head in it was lentils and rice and mung beans and I don't know what dried shrimps I don't know -- there wasn't any lamb or chicken or fish to eat there, and you must have a tiffin carrier, the lunch -- there is an hour break, he'd put rice and stew in this tin and take it with us, aa in the morning it's carnation milk for breakfast like this but the solid one, so that I won't spoil, you know without a fridge, this tin would last for a week, we make tea, bread, in an oven we made it ourselves, this this in fact what it was like back in those days, so when we came to this house made of mud, we cooked for ourselves I mean, we cooked ourselves I told you I mean the room was a kitchen and a tiny separated pool inside where we bathe, and a bedroom, they gave us mud and we went around aa looking for cement to cover it or paint it so that it would cover the mud, and we made the bathroom ourselves we put up a partition like this so when you and your friends two or three of them in your room naked it doesn't work so it would close, we made it out of of of cladding sheets, you know that outdoors toilet, they pull it in by car, and dig around it, it fits aaa four people inside, with an open door-- I mean this is what it was like, so Kuwaitis were being made fun of by those those those who came to work at the company, of course it was in that tv show I think something like that, they come to work at the company aaa they say there are people who don't agree how can -- he worked abroad aaa went aa I mean a sailor or here at the oil company, most of those who were brought in became workers but they are the ones who built those temporary structures in which the Indians lived.
Notice that the Kuwaitis--
Built these temporary housing structures huge ones and they were divided insidedorms for the the Indian workers and the bookkeepers and the the the, the typists and such things, it was this big half of this room with a wall as tall as you some people here and some there, but they had they had an outdoors bathroom aa with a water barrel on top of everything, but we didn't have that, yes you want to go there to do the big one (defecate), you would take water with you there, and sometimes this barrel you have inside for water that the tanker truck would bring yes the tanker truck, they put the pipe inside so that you get water, sometimes it overflows, you'd come back from work and see the room full of water up to here, he doesn't see, he puts the pipe, I mean this I I I have seen myself not heard about I mean, I lived through this era, so the tv show talks about this phase, or this era that, and even when Arab Woolege (Arab Village) came about of course this we don't write about [he laughs] or even talk about, aaa the --
Okay aa let's go back to aa aaa Ahmadi when you worked at the oil company aawhat was -- was there any sort of interactions between you Kuwaiti workers and non-Kuwaiti workers? And what was that like?
It was good you know I mean there weren't any problems, aa mostly the majoritywere non-Kuwaitis, and mostly Iranians and there were Iraqis, aaa, most of these workers were from these countries I mean there weren't any Egyptians aand, Syrians and Lebanese and Palestinians maybe a few but the majority were Iraqis and Iranians, aaa it was good a good relationship,
there were during the time I worked at the company there were some strikes, Imean there was a strike, in the the rigs in ba Wara and Burqan, in the eight the beginning of the company, there was a group demanding some improvements for for the workers aand simple but it was a strike the one that I took part in happened in 51, this strike, there was a labor committee, a labor committee with I think I'm not sure seven or nine members, the head was Ashour aa Ashour Eisa Ashour, from the Ashour family the parliament member.
Aa and there was, one I mean of those leaders, Fahad Attiya Al Khashti he alsopassed away, and another one I'm not sure Al Rishidi I have it in my book but a book they took from me and never returned it, aaa this information is documented there I mean there is a book about unions, I have maybe three or four I give it out to people they take it and I don't know what they do with it and then they don't return it, aaa-- those those three within a group, they lead the negotiations with not I mean strike at the beginning but a committee that did this sort of work, it was aaa this -- 1951 may god grant you a long life I was coming from Arab Woolege (Arab Village) to the work place where the transport is you would sign and put your number in for work, there is around a kilometer or a kilometer and a quarter something like that, I came in the morning, I wanted to sign in then he said there's a strike there, there was a wire fence around the area and there was like a door so they were gathered at the door in front of the hospital now there is a hospital now in Ahmadi, the old one not the new one, they told me a strike aand, everyone was there so I went, of course I had nothing to do with it but this committee, it was leading to a negotiation phase, aa these days, aa, Abdullah, Abdullah Al Mulla, he was the person who who negotiated between the state and the company, he was the representative of the government at the company, all of the negotiations and things concerning relations he was in charge of Abdullah Al Mulla, so this committee consisted of seven or nine who had negotiations with Abdullah Al Mulla, in order to improve the status of the workers, before like I said the houses were made of mud and whatnot, they just built Arab Woolege (Arab Village) but within the strike was the issue of residence that is appropriate for workers and a good salary aand they asked for food and many demands, they negotiated with him but didn't resolve anything, they went to Shaikh Fahad Al Salem may god rest his soul, he was exactly during those days but after that he became busy with the municipality and the telegraph and telephone, they were negotiating, then suddenly, the company instructed the government to arrest some of the the the committee, and the other half, the deceased mother of the crown prince may god rest her soul, in Ahmadi she had a villa there a house in Ahmadi, they went and hid there, so those ones no one came close to, the rest were arrested, the news reached the workers that the committee were arrested of course they don't know that some of them were hiding there, some of them who were outside were found and arrested and put in prison, so they decided to go on a strike, demanding their release and asking for their demands with some conditions, the gathering took place and I attended to see, I had nothing to do with it I mean but but I came like everyone else, his highness the late Amir Yaber Al Ahmad may god rest his soul came, he was in charge of Ahmadi he was the head I don't know I mean he was the one handling Ahmadi during those days in the fifties, fidawiyya (bodyguards) came with him, back then the process of fidawi the phenomenon of fidawi the one who hold a gun and walks side by side with the the Shaikh, they existed all Shaikhs had fidawiyya, he came and said what are your demands? Anyways he gave a speech I listened to him I mean he said this company belongs to the state and you I mean you have to take care of it and you are something like that, a refined way of talking I mean with negotiation, he asked those there, and then what do you want? Your demands are with me, pick three of the, the strike to come to my office we will negotiate this issue, they picked three, the strike ended, under the demand of, the deceased Shaikh aa Sabah Al Ah -- aa Yaber Al Ahmad, we went back after that I went and took my car I used to drive a bus too, and we continued, we received news that the three who went were arrested, anyways some demands were met, I mean during those days maybe I used to drive a bus around seven rupees was my salary I think it was five rupees, they increased our salaries, there was food, there was aa the club that was for Indians aa there was cooking and whatnot so aa you'd go eat but with a small fee, aand Arab Woolege (Arab Village) at the beginning it was distributed among people they distributed it I mean it was within the strike this demand but they finished building it and they started occupying it I mean I lived there, but that was before the strike it wasn't finished yet, the building was just finished though, aaa, the ones who were initially arrested three or four I don't know, and those three were fired after two months, the aa the demands of increasing the salary and food and residence were done we mentioned Arab Woolege (Arab Village), I mean there were some adjustments, but despite that the Kuwaitis who were a minority as workers at the company didn't raise demands for Kuwaitis only but they demanded things for all workers at the company that this situation is not good and it has to be improved, it improved based on a demand, the one put forth by his highness the late Amir Yaber Al Ahmad, this in face is the strike that I witnessed, before that I said a little while there was a strike but a strike of Kuwaitis also, aa at the rigs, where the oil is, aand that that of course was an extension of this, I mean that was what made us consider this committee the core of the formation of unions in Kuwait, I mean we took it as an example, that aa we have to have a voice as workers and Kuwait is becoming a state, we used to be an emirate, aa, this is the era of the company, I have a taxi era, we will go back to that again, right? Go back to it.
Or do you have a question to ask?
Just a question the the three who left to meat Shaikh Jaber may god rest hissoul aaa why were they arrested?
Hmm I don't know in face I mean anyways the four of them or five and those threewere also also also arrested togther.
Aand what was --
And were fired that's it.
Yes, and what was the duration of the sit-in or strike?
Aaa what was the duration?
Aa morning until -- I mean it wasn't long, arounf three four hours only.
Based on the agreement with, Shaikh Yaber may god rest his soul it was overeveryone went back to work, the beginning of the strike was in Ahmadi and it was intended to go to Fahaheel because a representative of the the group left so he moved the, group in Ahmadi in other areas, but before that no, it -- the strike started to spread arriving, aa his highness the Shaikh when he was in charge of Ahmadi, to the the strikers the issue was solved.
Aa w what happened during the sit-in during aa or during the strike I mean aawere you chanting certain phrases were -?
Of course it was I mean aa their chants were relevant to work, aa and thedemands they demanded talking about that I mean I heard after that most of it there was nothing they were standing, they gathered all of them some drivers and some Kuwaiti workers working because before the the the the the Kuwaitis because we said they didn't have degrees so they took over the role of the workers and built built, on their forearms the temporary structures were built the ones the Indians occupied, the majority ones -- even their salaries, notice the European salary was first rate, the Indians second, the third for Kuwaitis, I mean for example, the the Indians get ten rupees 750 fils but for us it was three rupees and then it became seven rupees, less than 600 fils 550 fils, aaa, I mean, and you provide your own food and whatnot you go and bring your food, I mean hmm it was simple money in fact, yes.
Aand do you have any idea how this strike was organized?
The strike this committee committee aa after they were arrested it seems theyhad a connection with a large group the ones who picked this committee because the committee didn't assign themselves of course not I I don't know about it, I wasn't part of it and I don't know about it, the committee was aa in fact aa negotiating on behalf of everyone of course those other ones with them so when when aa aa they were arrested those ones continued with the strike they were able to continue with the strike the ones with the connection to the committee.
And how did you hear about the strike?
How did you hear about the strike?
I told you I came to sign in.
I came from the from the residence my housing I wanted to go to work and youmust before not in transport there is a room you go to see the number aaa aa the card you have, and they register you because they took attendance in this office their job, they told me there is a strike they are gathered there and I went with them, but I mean I didn't have any role, but we learned a lesson and an example when we formed unions later on-- now do you want me, to move?
Yes go ahead please yes.
I mean I during the time when I was a driver I mean I mean I will go back a bitnow ha, to the days when I used to be a driver, and som -- I owned a car, I mean we are drivers but the car is ours too, everyone who came with me from the oil company bought cars, I mean they were mostly used, my car was used, aaa, we worked as taxi drivers, we received, a phone call from the late Sami Al Monayyes, the parliament member you've heard of him of course.
A human being in fact a humaaan being may god rest his soul, a decent human akind human a sophisticated human, he had an office, a a flying a travel, a travel agency, we had a call with him and we met with him as a group-- he said that a meeting will take place here with us for you, there will be an organization for the committees of the taxis and taxi drivers union, where will this meeting take place? It was in headq- in the center of of aaa the Arab Nationalist Movement the Kuwait branch, Sharq, Dasman street a little before before Dasman there was aaa a headquarters, aa the people of Ahmad Al Khateeb, Sami was with them I mean m m a member of this, and in the meeting in that building on the roof, in July of the year, 54, I left left the company in the beginning of March -- I mean a year after I started driving a taxi, I ar I arrived and I saw with him aa there there some people, and the meeting took place with Sami there may god rest his soul, and he gave us all aa, a small wallet and a notepad, in it is an explanation of what the union is and its role etcetera -- we we didn't have any background information I mean about unions but we know we hear in Europe everywhere in the world the union movement which started a long time ago, years, he gave us that, and there was a discussion on the subject of the union and its role and formation, but the majority thought it wasn't the right time for it yet, to form the union Kuwait now is an emirate let's wait a little, in 54, indeed we I mean the rest before us that we postpone this issue and the meeting ended until the future, the meeting ended, we didn't form a union, I told you after the the taxi, I went into the fire service, in in the fire service before I became an officer when I was a driver, there was a constituent assembly, the one that, introduced the constitution or made the constitution, we as union members or as as a group we wanted to establish we didn't stop see from 54 until forty until 60, we met in secret, we didn't stop,
so when, the elections of the constituent assembly took place to establish theconstitution we participated in some people making it to the parliament, our allies with with with forming the unions.
Who were those you helped with making it to the parliament?
The aa who did you help to make it to the parliament?
Some of the names aaa doctor Ahmad Al Khateeb and Sami Al Monayyes and thisgroup in fact is considered the the national force I mean, we pushed them for that that ultimately they would put forth the issue of the unions in Kuwait.
Not not just, not just unions unions and even for the for the merchants, KuwaitChamber of Commerce and Industry as part of the I mean it's like it is a union or an association for the merchants.
Aaa and why were your meeting in secret?
During those days this issue was very dangerous people didn't talk about it anddon't, yes it didn't didn't didn't didn't materialize like now, that you'd have the courage like now aa everything you say back then no it was a bit difficult that's why our work was done in secret, not you get let me tell you how it happened -- how we became secretive, we, when the assembly was elected the, the constituent to establish the constitution we helped some people make it, we as a group maybe around fifteen young men -- back then we were young not now, aaa the elections took place and the ones who made it made it our people that we supported most of them made it to the parliament -- the constituent assembly, it came time to establish the constitution in article 43 in the constitution which handles the establishment of the unions aand the unions for merchants, and it was suggested at first that the unions include Kuwaitis and non-Kuwaitis, back then the percentage of Kuwaiti workers didn't exceed twenty-seven percent, seventy-three percent non-Kuwaitis-- of course it's not fair, because anyways when the constitution was approved these articles came about, we were always ready, to form the unions, and even our meetings with Sami Al Monayyes may god rest his soul didn't stop during that time after that I mean aa in the 60s we went back as a group to meet with Sami Al Monayyes, and many of them talked about the unions and the role of unions etcetera and a group of us in Ahmadi at the oil company working towards establishing unions they also went there to them, until the parliament formed and the aaa elections happened the national assembly that's the one that of course that established the constitution the elections happened then,
in 64, we met more often, and we put together a schedule on how the union howthey'll form -- we had in the Social Affairs, mm I mean it turned after the constitution Kuwait to a state, it was not longer an emirate, and the state any emerging state has to have unions, almost I mean there isn't a state in the world because there is, International Labour Organization, representing the workers and employers and governments, this organization was established before the second world war, the date now around 80 years since this this organization was established and it was necessary for workers to attend its meetings which are held every year for about 25 or twenty twenty days of meetings where the workers of the world attend, and they participate -- the owners of companies and the governments in this and we based on this -- and a state that needs its people to contribute in anything -- we are a simple people
but we can as Kuwaitis to contribute in building Kuwait Kuwait started to changefrom sh -- from an emirate to a state, we had to have a special role a role in laws that are concerned with the the workers in it is all those who work it happens in the, the Social Affairs we were lucky all those in charge there were our people, and they encouraged us, and even the state, the state brought in experts, from this organization, Egyptian professors and Syrians for, for the new situation, in the Social Affairs the ones who worked there some of them aaa became employees at the ministry, and some of them they brought them in as secondment for a specific period of time as part of the establishment phase, aaa the unions and the establishment then the state was on board with the process -- establishing the unions, it wasn't anymore I mean it became secretive after the constitution was established, it started a bit to open up I mean people started to -- before that it wasn't the case, I mean to the point where it was secretive before that we used to gather in the house of Al S -- the the Al Khaldiya ka -- it was just being built, someone had a house nea -- near the police station we would come with workers and gather there so that no one would believe that it is near the police station someone would gather, we gathered near -- we put together a program for the union work because we wanted to -- to establish unions so we put around thirteen topics under the union work, me Hussain Al Youha working as an employee is different from me at the union different different that -- as a personality aaa representing people, the state I said that it helped and encouraged otherwise it wouldn't have been possible, but in fact the intention was there, aand as far as I know there was back in those days the head of social affairs before it became a ministry it was his highness the Amir Sabah Al Ahmad, back then when they attended a conference -- the conference of the international labour in that organization they would bring along workers but there weren't any unions, they used to take workers including the founding union members, therefore there was a desire to have unions and for Kuwait to become a state and we are enthusiastic to project the image of Kuwait this small country of how people are living there and how those people have aspirations aaa to improve this their country, because we will participate in the -- with the Arabs in the confederation of Arab Workers in the International Trade Union Confederation we have to be part of it and through it it is possible to propose the issue of Kuwait the name of Kuwait and our behaviors and ethics in this the the the the organizations to show that the Kuwaiti how I mean this human this the not just anything aaa out of thin air I mean they didn't just establish the state unless they were worthy aaand they have in fact the ability to lead this state, I mean our goal despite being simple workers I mean simple people people but we had this mentality and also we heard from people we heard from the outside and we heard we know in the world there are unions, Confederation of Arab Workers exists it gathers together all the Arab unions, at the beginning there were unions in s -- in Syria and Lebanon in Egypt, in Libya, but here in the Gulf there weren't any, the first unions in the Gulf were us, the constitution was established the elections and ha -- aaa, we gathered, in 64,
we started establishing the unions, even the constitution regarding the unionsthe social affairs participated in with their experts and had the experts of the organizations brought in by the state to help in preparing the constitution for the unions, I mean the unions in the -- how its goal there is a union after it there is a professional association after that a general federation, so all of this we n n we learned from the social affairs the Ministry of Social Affairs aa and the ones who are in charge of the social affairs it was aaaa one of the people I mean who stood by us aa what's his name Al Rujaib the assistant undersecretary and then he became the undersecretary the one who, aaa, the old names now I can't recall among them those who were in charge of the Ministry of Social Affairs there was the minister aaa Abu A -- the grandfather of the current minister Al Roudan, aaa, anyways this, all of the people who were there -- even the the the the experts of the state they helped us every day we would go to the social affairs to in fact to to have our stuff in order, so the day in 64 in October the first union in Kuwait was my union, I used to work at the fire service the fire service is a department of aa the aa the municipality, so therefore I represented the municipality in general, we gathered 28 individuals it is required by law it states that you have to have 15 individuals, in order to form a union and the memberships can reach up to 100 individuals -- and we had that amount so instead of 15 I was able to get 25 with my people 28 individuals, and we started to establish the first union in October on the 21st of October, three or four days after that a union at the health department, after that the unions started, but they gave us a headquarters where the group of Al Khateeb were, which was the Arab Nationalist Movement, and they moved to another location and gave us this building, and the unions started to form, until we became in fact, the unions formed in the the government, how is it then -- how is the way to establish unions, through aaa professions, I mean the union of the carpenters or something like that aa close to that is the welders the I don't know what the ships and etcetera -- we didn't have that, Kuwaitis were very few at the workforce, especially in the private sector there weren't any, in the public sector I said it reaches up to -- aa no yes- it doesn't exceed 23 percent, so we had to make it on the level of the ministries, the union of the municipality the union of public works the union of health the union of electricity the union of etcetera,
so we came to the first union which is the municipality union with 28individuals I established the union I was elected president among nine individuals as the board of directors, aand an assistant director and a secretary and a treasurer etcetera and our headquarters became in this building in a room, the health followed us and then the rest the electricity etcetera, we have a program consisting of 13 demands, work, the the the thing that was established later the security aaa the social security the one that gathered the Kuwaitis back then there wasn't any, this d -- demand our second demand was to establish aaa a school for the education of the aaa, those who didn't get their degrees aaa I mean didn't get to high school, in middle school to get training in industrial education, carpentry and welding and painting and I don't know what etcetera things like that, aaand-- they opened the door for Kuwaitis to learn so that they can replace Kuwaitis, because we said from 23 to 77 is a huge difference, so for in fact so that Kuwaitis can handle things there has to be education for them in this and it happened now the aa the public authority for training, maybe of course -- and a center for the the aaa Kuwaitis was formed there those who had less than high school degrees the one in Canada Dry Street near the mosque this offers training, aand some of the founders of the union studied there the -- the place because they used to work in the m -- in the morning and, and at night it wasn't in that place place it was it was in Shuwaikh, those in the unions they used to work in the afternoons they go and study there, and they acquired certain professions some became mechanics and some became aa electricians and some became I don't know what etcetera, aaa until a headquarters was built for the unions, aaa a newspaper or a magazine aaa talking about but in the union movement, aaand from that in fact I mean these issues we put forth and we started to establish our union and we proposed it officially to the government and and the government approved it, in 55 -- this was in 54, in 55 we formed an association, that puts together all the unions in the government, we said unions of ministries, it became the association of the government unions, the oil sector formed around four unions, Kuwait oil "KOC," Kuwait National Petroleum Company union it was -- Al Ameen Oil in Khafji, they established a petroleum association, in 57 we becam -- we formed a general association in a pyramid form from under the unions then trade unions two of those then Kuwait Trade Union Federation, when we first started to establish two unions we went to the conference of the Confederation of Workers --
Until the fifties.
We didn't upgrade to asphalt.
There wasn't asphalt in Salmiya there wasn't asphalt before, in aa it happened,the end of the fifties I think, the king of Saudi Arabia king Soud came to visit, and they made the asphalt quickly they delivered it -- because he was going to visit Salmiya, the previous Amir Sabah Al Ahmad was there in Salmiya, he was there aa Sabah Al Ahmah aaa Sabah Al Salem, the brother of Abdullah Al Salem aand also Fahad Al Salem was there also his brother in Salmiya and the sons of Soud they came those were Shaikhs from Iraq they lived in Iraq, the family came in the, aaa fifties it was ruins before in Kuwait it was -- in Salmiya there was nothing, a road a sandy road walking we walked a lot, even when the unions were established, aaa, the unions were formed in Hawali I didn't have a car, I walked so much from Hawali to Salmiya, when, at 11:00 pm or 12:00 am, I get home at 1:00 am, such enthusiasm, and there is devotion, we didn't aspire to anything we didn't want anything our salaries were simple two hundred rup -- dinars it didn't even get to that, but we had enthusiasm and we had a drive we loved our country and we were loyal to it, I mean this, this gave you gave you motivation.
We projected an image, aa you didn't record this now are you recording?
I am recording now but if you want me to stop it's okay.
No no no record.
I mean when we came to establish the unions the goal wasn't just some peoplethought that it's like that and they stood in our way and they made us out to be communists and to be aa, we are nationalists we love our country and we are loyal to our country, others loved our country too lov -- of course, aaand the the existence of the unions, we project aa an image of Kuwaitis to people abroad I mean at the Federation of Arab Workers allover the Arab World every time it takes place -- every conference at a different location, a dialogue takes place and meetings and whatnot so we transfer, we reached a level of that this small federation in Kuwait the small one, it -- better than some of the the unions abroad because of our reputation, and this is a blessing that is what wanted for our country this is our goal, then regarding the laws we the laws were put in effect before the establishment of the unions representing the workers those who work, it was unio -- aa the laws were unfair, we came aa and changed these laws or we contributed to it, we don't say that we -- the state wanted to -- to improve we contributed,
I mean this is now that came out aa the law the general civil jobs, in in ourdays the unions we were enthusiastic because there was a government back then, there were three laws, employee, and worker, aand there was a what? Us -- user, three types, this takes 45 vacation days annualy, this one takes one month and this takes 15 days, and they all do the same job, I'll give you an example in the fire service we all work the same job for example a driver, this one is an employee and this one a user and this one a worker, this one has a different vacation than this and this one has a different vacation than that, is that fair? Not fair, so we sought to unite at least in the beginning to get some resolutions to rectify so that they'd become the same until a law can be passed, when the civil service law came into being we had a role, the social security we yes the Kuwaiti back then would get fired from work and then there's nothing -- where? He goes to look for another job and doesn't get a salary, this happened a person was brought in by the state despite the fact that at the begin -- the beginning the ones who the ones who were putting the law together for the social security aaa the Egyptian expert, then the late Amir may god rest his soul aa Yaber Al Ahmad was assigned to this, Al Jouan Hamad Al Jouan the member of the parliament, that he is the one to put to put the law together detailed about Kuwaitis, although we said maybe this has some sort of the of the aaa I mean some aa discrimination but not ha -- but this is the right way what can you do, the people of the country I mean I told you 23 percent to 27 percent Ku -- Kuwaitis aaa no fairness in this cas -- in this case, therefore he was given the chance he stayed six months in the chalet may god rest his soul working on this law, the Egyptian whom they brought in we took it as unions, to put together for us the law of the, of course he couldn't change it like Hamad, and we proposed this law or a proposal of the law to the government, and when the law came about aand they approved it we backed it up as a union movement because it was indeed a good law that would do what we needed done, we are a simple people but our hearts were tied to our country, we wanted Kuwaitis to learn so that they can take the place of non-Kuwaitis and this is one of their rights, I mean, aaa, this building that we built now a movement -- the Kuwaiti union movement, we didn't have money, although from the beginning the government used to give us a sum of money for each union and for the federation separately and for the general federation, but it wasn't wasn't enough we would collect a quarter of a dinar a month from each member affiliated with the union, we didn't take personally from this money that came to the union on the contrary we contributed some people at the beginning of the union work wanted to get married we would make him a gift or something to honor him using our own money out of pocket each would put five dinars five dinars five dinars and get it together, we didn't didn't take any of the union money, like today unfortunately people say so and so took a million and took I don't know two millions took took, we aa, simple people but we, had aaa a sense of love towards our country and loyalty and dedication,
aa in the International Federation of Arab Trade Unions we used to gather withall the Arab union members, we moved to the international stage with the International Trade Union Confederation on a global level, where a hundred unions attend, the number of attendees would reach up to nine thousands or ten thousands individuals, we spoke on behalf of Kuwait, I mean we projected to them what Kuwait is we projected an image, this was part of the establishment of the unions no just demands for workers, aand it was our right to have a law, a fair law that gives aaa people their right without injustice we said at the beginning this then the law of civil service came about the one related to social security we had the role of establishing the education centers for the the people so that they can learn industry and whatnot etcetera ev -- those days there were a lot of people without high school degrees, when this center was established it helped people people graduated, when now this general training is available we have thousands of people, this was our wish, we wis -- we wished that when we establish unions we carry on with it for a certain time then we hand it over to -- to our children, the ones who are more educated than us, we consider ourselves like we we we lack the ed -- the education at the time, we wished this -- this would happen and those would come with their degrees to improve the union work, from from from from our time -- this is better this is what we wanted, we wished for this, we each one of us we reached around sixteen seventeen years and then we left the union work, but, we are not satisfied with the union work journey although some educated people came along but they didn't learn from us which we wished for, I personally wish in fact they'd go back to our days the days the simple regular days we were able to establish a union movement, and it defended all the workers -- of course every human worker what we call workers in our country in -- in Morocco they call it "shiqila" (a different word for workers in the local dialect), aa I mean we every person who works is a worker, aaaa this is a fact I mean, therefore when we talk talk about the worker not only about the worker but about all Kuwaitis, for our love and loyalty and indeed those are the people in in in the social affairs the minister -- the pervious one the first minister in the in the Ministry of Social Affairs he was a person in fact respectful and he stood by us and he came Al Al Rowdan, and with him the undersecretary after him aaaa, what's his name, anyways this is in the second session.
I will bring more names.
So that we are fair to the aaa I mean, the one, I mean I'm a little now.
Yes don't worry no problem.
I didn't prepare for it.
Aaa, I wanted to tell you something that happened in the fire service.
Speaking of the in fact there were days, those before -- after the donkeys therewere some cars.
[Al Mahmeed laughs].
And the fire service took the deceased on one night during summer days, theytake the deceased to the cemetery, this is told of course by Mohammad Al Ajeel may god rest his soul he lived for about 120 years, they reached the cemetery of course the the the the workers who dig the graves, because it's hot they slept in the graves the ones that are empty, every two or three would sleep in one grave because it's cool it's cooler you know just freshly dug and that is cool not hot, so they started to lower the, the deceased, and the first one went in and he stepped on the stomach of one of those sleeping, this one screamed and that one screamed.
[Al Mahmeed laughs].
At night and it's dark there wasn't this one di -- didn't see him and he steppedon his stomach.
[Al Mahmeed laughs].
I mean these are, matters I mean.
What year was that?
This, before the fifties.
Yes, during during the the the when I used to drive the fire service ambulance,it happened to me before we had may god keep you safe near aa, aa, this area in front of Khaldiya what is it called, in front -- this was all palm frond houses, thousands of them, and most of their occupants were Iraqis our brothers the Iraqis, some were for singles and some for families, and here daily especially during the summer daily fires, sometimes 80 houses sometimes 200 houses and sometimes aand you'd say almost aaa I was during these days in Shwaikh driving the fire service ambulance and I went, you saw a spectacle you saw everyone -- one lady came came with a box this big tied with a rope around her neck and she was beating her head, a -- the thing that left this this palm frond house the one the one that didn't burn was only this box, it seems that this box had something in it I don't her money or her things I don't know her stuff she was beating her head and the box was swaying this way and that way, another incident, one man was fire fighting, in a frond house, without a fire, one man passed by him I mean running! Da da da da da and he went into one, the one with a fire in it, and they caught him and hosed him with water and dragged him out and it turned out his leg had a burn a little, his face and that and I took him in the ambulance and brought him to the Amiri Hospital, [he laughs] this is one of the old tales I mean.
Fascinating [he laughs].
Aaa-- ehm, the petrol, I mean it was before we said I mean that the three thegov -- the government with three laws for three specific categories with the same job, no the same th -- the human but -- registered on this the, either employee or user or worker, the company had the private sector law, a law that gave those working in the oil sector a 14 days vacation, aaand it was really aaa unfair aand, aaand, this this is the private law was put together for non-Kuwaitis, unfortunately we say that we don't discriminate but this is the fact the reality I mean, it was built or put together for aaa non-Kuwaitis who work at the private sector, but it was being applied on Kuwaitis, when the unions were first established, we worked on a law proposal and we presented it to the parliament, some union members of the oil sector went to Egypt, and met with union workers working in petroleum, they helped them, and we came with a law until now they live by it,
I mean no this last one last one maybe some modifications took place but we hada role in the process and the improvement of the situation of thousands of workers and the door opened for Kuwaitis to be hired at the company before that the company didn't have Kuwaitis only a few, and even insurance we had a role in the process of stirring the public but the national force at the parliament were the ones who proposed it and backed it up but we participated, we participated, we had maybe a magazine, it became a newspaper it became a magazine, aa we published it, aa but it wasn't distributed among the general public, aaa this newspaper was I mean defending us and it cla -- clarified some issues and cases, we established in the beginning for the union work, an institute for workers knowledge, before the institute that we established came into being because we didn't have a pla -- we had a rented headquarters, in Qadsiyya near the house where we established the unions, after two years we rented a big house the unions became nine there were nine government unions in this building and the public sector confederation and a general confederation, the oil was there they had an oil confederation and four unions abroad, they had an old house, where they handled their union work, aaa,
we asked the government to give us, it gave us money -- aa gave us aaa land, aland in Hawali in Maidan Hawali, where the headquarters of the unions are now, this land we came to build to build on it but we didn't have money, may god rest his soul -- aa may god grant him a long life Hussain Saqer a union member from the founding members with me, and Ahmad Said Al Asbahi now he is a bit sick, aaand and some brothers, we had a meeting with a contractor he was aa, Al Khurafi, Bader Al Khurafi-- we told him we do not have money, we want -- this is before we went to him -- we showed him some offers, people proposed to us certain prices, one company came to us and asked for 115 thousands this is the highest amount and the lowest amount was Al Khurafi company, around over 50 thousands, we told him we don't have money, and we will pay with aa installments, he said don't worry go ahead and build it, we will build it for you, and may god rest his soul I mean god rest his soul, aaa he helped us.
This is the one that is supposed to be the headquarters?
For the headquarters.
We built this headquarters, the one belonging to the federation of governmentsector unions I mean not the general federation, but the general federation was the same one and the government sector was in this building, aa, and this headquarters was built, we established a special headquarters for the cultural courses -- the institute of Culture for Workers inside the building-- this was approximately, aaa, in the seventies in its beginnings, when it was over we moved from Qadsiyya we went to that building this one aand we started the courses when?
Before we had this building, we collaborated with experts from the InternationalLabour Organization, and from the government and us, we agreed to give courses at the sports institute, in the area of aa, near Khaldiya there is there is a building for this, so, the courses started there, first of all we the central union members we the ones who made or established the unions we took this training course, so that we can study union work of course experts from the International Labour Organization and from Kuwait professors and whatnot, and many lectures that were conducted in this the, I during the first course I was a student, the second course I was in charge, we went on for about two years and we did around, fourteen or sixteen courses, each course had thirty or forty students, some of them became union members, we moved to this building, before that no forgive me god it was Ahmad Said Al Asbahi he's the one aaa, I mean in charge of culture, aa a representative or something aa not -- the center for workers culture aa the aa in charge of the the culture in the unions movement or the international federation of Kuwait, when we moved there I became the director of aaa the center, and Ahmad Said Al Asbahi became the undersecretary of the institute, aand the institute consists of a group of union members one from each union, a board of directors was formed consisting of of nine members, we managed the -- we managed the workers culture, we sought the help of, expert from the government and we brought in from international organizations from the world some people we even brought in the director of the oil company in in Saudi Arabia, one of the early founders, he passed away may god rest his soul, and here in Kuwait many professors in charge aaa we sought the help of the university and in aa the Ministry of Social Affairs, the course in in from three weeks in two weeks the first course started and then some graduate from this course course the one that is more advanced, and we also sent a group of union members abroad, back then it was the Soviet Union, and what is called the socialist countries we established contracts cal -- and an agreement with these countries, Bulgaria Hungary Romania the Czech Republic, aa Poland Soviet Union, we sent people and they gave us the, the Soviet Union gave us four spots annually for people to go to university there free of charge, [he coughs] they gave us and they gave to the student union before it was taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood, when it was under the national force or the national youth, were the ones in charge they gave them four and they gave us four and we used to send, we sent no less than a hundred individual in the past, to the -- when the Soviet Union collapsed, we have maybe in the world two federations, the the workers, it used to be three, International Trade Union Federation, the Free Labour Union Federation, and the Christian Federation, of course you can't do -- a federation or a union aaa for a certain religion, or for a certain nationality or for a certain people, it is all for the world, like the International Labour Organization which represents the entire world, so the federation the the Christian one became the democratic federation, because it didn't work in this field because it represented one religion which is Christianity that doesn't work, the same thing when it comes to the federation -- we, aaa in the international federation of course we attended from the beginning of
the union movement it happened officially they used to send regular people towork at any ministry or any institute when the unions formed they were the ones to nominate, a representative of the workers to participate with the delegation -- a delegation would go with members from the government business owners and workers, there they would be divided to meetings the workers together the business owners together and the governments together, those present the issues of the workers and those present the issues, and therefore, they present everything generally, and decisions were made, and in fact some of the decisions was that the cultural courses if you conduct it for a week or a month, paid by the st -- the state or the company where you work, you I mean the duration of the training in which you are participating your salary is ongoing this is one of the decisions that the workers came up with in general in the world, so we used to send people abroad to the the socialist countries, ha, why did we became in a federation us one of those three federations, of course this is what happened the democratic one became a small federation, but two big international federations and an international federation -- the international federation this was aaa parallel or loyal to the -- the Soviet Union, all the countries in it are socialist countries, Bulgaria and Hungary and Romania and the Czech Republic and Endo etcetera those one, the aa the other one had its headquarters in Brussels this one had its headquarters in the Czech Republic, we joined this one, for what reason? I mean some people accused us they said you are communists, we are not communists, we are Kuwaiti nationalists, this is -- this s -- our direction our thinking, so that we can benefit, because those one the mem -- the aaa the members in the Soviet Union -- the aa the countries, have institutes for workers education and they train union members, so this we said is like a benefit to us, we used to send ten fifteen five six, all of these socialist countries they went to and studies there, they studied what unions are and their roles and what is going on in the world etcetera, and lectured by high level professors, and those who translate are Arabs for the ones who attend there, and we said that the Soviet Union opened the door for us in addition to this so that we can send people to study at universities they studies medicine and engineering, we benefited from this we didn't have anything to do with, even the state didn't forbid people to go to the Soviet Union it was not allowed in in -- in Saudi Arabia not allowed in Bahrain not allowed in Qatar during those days not at all, aaa, Kuwait allowed it, I mean who would they forbid? There were people who tried to interfere secretly from within the ministry to incite the students who we nominate so that they don't go, this is the Soviet Union that you would go to and these are poor people and these don't have aaaand etcetera, we would get shocked that one person who we finished his paperwork and everything to leave and then he changed his mind, and the reason behind this is those people so we went to the minister who was back then may go re -- may god grant him a long life Jassim Al Marzouq a minister and we told him the whole story he said we don't forbid, we in Kuwait they can go anywhere it's up to them, we are benefiting go -- we have nothing to do with them, it is said that if you want to know if a system is good or not you have to go see it for yourself, we the ones who went there didn't become didn't become communists they all came back Kuwaitis and no one I mean embraced communism or anything like that, so aa we benefited from them, and some of them came to lecture here and collaborate with us, I mean this in fact how we benefited, now it's the opposite recently the international federation disappeared, it ended -- the Soviet Union ended the international federation ended, it became like a kiosk in the Czech Republic or I don't know where now, I don't know in which country it is now, although in the past it used to gather thousands of people,
and it was from Cuba I mean we had a conference in Cuba, I have here pic --pictures aaa I was with Castro with the delegation that went, we participated in it.
Do yo -- do you have a photo?
Yes I have a photo, aaa, so regarding aaa I met him, the Iraqi the Syrian aa,aaa the Algerian Tunisian all of those in charge when we go to a conference we meet with those.
You used to travel aa to those conferences or trainings?
We used to travel.
But I was at the beginning because the -- I didn't have the foreign language, Itraveled a little only but a -- aa towards the end I started to go more, I went to the Arabs,
to Arab countries there are conferences in Aden it was Aden before the Sou --Southern Yemen, we went there the lecturer we used to lecture me and ther -- my colleague may god res -- may god grant him a long life Ahmad Al Asbahi and, and Hussain Saqer we went I mean, aand the unions in from the North despite the fact that they had aaa I mean, an order, aa against unions, they were our friends aa we helped them we helped even the, in Bahrain, the unions were banned, although there was -- they wanted to establish unions before us, and it didn't work, because in fact we opened the doors for everybody, to benefit whatever we could do, we participated with them, the union movement was in fact active we hope in fact that our brothers who are working now to listen to what I'm saying to do as much as they can to progress because it's not fair for the movement to remain the same as it was at its beginnings, that it has to be aa now more developed and more work and more participating in all areas available now they can participate in meetings, I maybe aa, after I retired from the unions and cho -- was chosen in the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development, my colleague Hussain Saqer, Abdulatif the director of the general federation -- the first director of the Kuwait labour union, I was his deputy, he was chosen to be the deputy of the general director of International Labour Organization they formed it like an organization of countries aa countries a -- international, they formed an Arab one, he became the deputy of the general director, for about five years, and I for four years at the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development from the unions, we had a person who passed away may he rest in peace Mohammad Al Osaimi, he became a member of the parliament for more than -- two terms or I don't know three, I mean the Kuwaiti union movement thank god we, maybe a law don't don't don't aaa in the unions you don't talk about politics but we talked about politics no one said anything because you can't -- cal -- anything you do is political, so you would have to slip -- aa but we were not held accountable on this on the contrary the state nur -- nurtured us and helped us and provided us with land now we have another land next to this federation a second land for the general federation, they gave it to them and now they built it and it became the headquarter of the federation by itself, the general one, we used to be all in that building, we conducted trainings there, and activities, we even had a theater troupe,
a committee for the working woman of which I was the head at the beginning, fora year and a half, and all of them were women, because we didn't have in the council, aaa the council the the federation a woman, after that a woman from the oil sector she took over and after a short while the head of the woman's committee, not me a y -- a year and a half I was leading in addition to my job as a director of the institute for workers' knowledge, deputy of the general director of the federation aand, aaa, the head of the working woman's committee, now it's better there's a committee with people in fact who are good, a professor and I mean, one wishes in fact that this kind of work and activities it must.
Aaa I am Abdulaziz Al Mahmeed aand this is the second session of the interviewwith Mr. Hussain Al Youha iin his house located in Al Omairiya, aaa the date today is 15th of July, and the time now is 4:53 pm, aa how are you?
May god bless you with a long life [he caughs].
Do you remember --
In aa, in one of the things that you could benefit from the names the aaa Imaybe didn't mention a lot because aaa, the members of the boards of the federations and the founding members aand the ministry of social affairs, before it was aa, I mean each of the, ministers who, we met during their time because the union movement is connected to the ministry of social affairs, aaa the first one, his highness Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad, he was in the fifties he wasn't the prime minister in Kuwait before it became a state we said I mean the governing system -- it was an emirate -- Kuwait was an emirate, therefore he wasn't a minister -- it was the head of the ministry of social affairs not a ministry, the head of social affairs, and there are assistant undersecretaries, we of course through, aa this ministry, which is in ch -- in charge of aa the union movement, or a liaison with the union movement, all of these ministers to be honest offered us during the foundational period aa, a lot I mean we benefited from it aa the first of whom is the Amir, aa the Amir of humanity, aa he was back then not a ministry a ministry of affairs, the head of affairs, aa, he helped us and
back then Kuwait started aa before independence and before the constitution anddemocracy and the parliament, it joined as a member of aa the International Labour Organization, which we already said a represents the workers and the business owners and the governments, and they hold their annual conferences aa for three weeks each year, and back then when there weren't any unions, his highness the Amir was the head of Affairs, they take within the delegation workers and merchants because even merchants didn't have an organization aa like the chamber of commerce now and whatnot, aaa, they participated in the conference with the government, until the unions were formed and then it became official -- the Ministry of Social Affairs would write a letter to Kuwait Trade Union Federation, and they select their delegation, which would join the government delegation and the business owners, aand they would go together, there of course the business owners, they were together the governments together and the aa workers together, aa in -- in certain sessions most of them the three parties are together, but in case the topics are brought up by the workers or the business owners their meetings become aa separated, and, the the good thing about this International Labour Organization, is that aa, the human being is at the forefront, this is the charter of the organization and even in -- I mean in, aa, not just Islam but in all religions, this organization aa does not discriminate, the workers together and the business owners and the governments they meet together and in -- they propose things and their ideas aand then they meet all together and make many decisions, I mean for example one of the decisions which is very important, is that the educational courses which the union movement conducts around the world, for certain fees I mean aa, you would enroll in a course for a month two weeks three weeks abroad not in your country, aa, the business owners and the governments pay the salary of the worker and it wouldn't be cut off, through this organization, so I mean we were since the beginning before the unions formed it was when aa, the head of Affairs his highness the Amir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad who was in fact -- who gave a chance to Kuwaiti workers, and he before that they formed a club, and he encouraged it and others in charge at the Affairs too and we really benefited and maybe I am repeating this aa, all of those in charge in the Affairs, from from the top to the little ones they were in fact on call to help us with everything, the experts who were brought from abroad for Kuwait to become a state and therefore it was prepared for this this day, these experts were from the International Labour Organization to help us and they helped us with establishing the Kuwait union movement and most of them were Arabs from Egypt, some we already knew, they hadn't come to Kuwait before but we went to Egypt and we had connections with some of them, therefore we benefited from them we benefited from those in charge, and it formed this the, this club which was a cultural club a club that discussed topics and issues and a lot of things inside the country and it was the beginning of the formation of the Kuwait union movement, this book that I brought out for you --
So that you, aa can go back to every --
I will read it and bring it back -- I'll give it back to you do you need it?
No aa no problem.
I left it this I brought to you --
This is especially for you.
Ah thank you may god bless you with health.
Yes, I have another book, aa before this one, we published it.
Or someone wrote it aa, we had aa an engineer, and I I mean I collaborated withhim I gave him this information, about the union movement he turned it into a book it was more general but this one is good by one of the brotherhood the first president of Kuwait Trade Union Federation.
Who was Mr. Hussain Saqer.
Hussain Saqer was the first president of the trade union?
The first president of Kuwait Trade Union Federation.
Yes, which is the federation that included all of the government sectors?
All of the unions, yes.
The oil sector, and the public sector.
Beautiful, thank you very much for the book.
You are welcome.
But sir aa since you brought up being part of the international workers'movement which was under the aaa Soviet Union or the West?
No the the International Labour Organization under the world.
East and west when the communist regime was present and the Soviet Union waspresent, it included the whole world, it's different than the union of the workers of the world, there are two federations, the workers one, aa the world, aa it was under the Soviet Union or the countries that were referred to as socialist, and the international organization the, the free they called it back then, it represented the west western Europe and the western world, even in France for example there are two federations for workers, one dominated by Soviet Union thinking, or the socialist countries, and one, under the free federation which is the second one which had its headquarters in Brussels and that one was in Czechoslovakia back then the Czech Republic and Slovakia were were one, before they separated, aa these federations differ I mean each has a certain ideology but the International Labour Organization is an organization for the world, aa aa it was established before world war II, this one includes the three parties, it has nothing to do with, with any side, these people present and those present, but the union of the workers of the world there are two international federations and there was one we already mentioned a third one called the federation of of of aaa, it had a religious take, the World Christian Federation, the union movement can't be -- I mean it can't follow aa any religion or any category or nationality, it should represent the world everywhere, aa with the the Soviet Union and, what is called the socialist countries the -- the world movement -- was divided for the workers, not the world federation which is one-- I mean we aaa, where did we stop?
Yes we stopped in the fifties and sixties when the first union was establishedand the first union federation, aa but I would like to go back a little bit to two points before we continue with the fifties and sixties --
If there isn't an issue, aaa when you talked about the school you went to whichwas part of Aleslah Society --
Aaa can you tell us about the daily life in that school what was a normal schoolday like?
I during that time despite that it was, maybe [he clears his throat] aaa theaaa, the society, which was called, or, which we called the guidance society, I mean religious, but back then at the beginning it wasn't clear aa that it was under the Muslim Brotherhood, later I mean in the fifties, although there were some aa meetings before that in the forties in Egypt, but I don't know here I, I lived through it or I was living in Salmiya which was Al Dimnah before, in the fifties a delegation came from Egypt of leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood aaand the ones in Kuwait and they met in Salmiya and they formed as an official branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait, aaa and, I mean I I knew back then that they were the Muslim Brotherhood when I studied there, but I didn't feel, I mean I didn't know that they went into schools aa to try to make you a member in they give you they train you in the system of brotherhood and the thinking of Hassan Al Banna and Sayed Qutub the leaders aa of the Muslim Brotherhood but what I knew during my studies I was only studying, aaa I mean in elementary school, aand middle school, they were teaching us like that, I mean all of the subjects were aa, the one aa the beginning of the studying for young men and children, I didn't feel that they were the brotherhood, and I continued for about less than two years I studied there -- of course in the evenings, not mornings, aaa, because I at the beginning didn't do to school, aa I studied in it and later I continued when the unions formed in 64 because there was a school near the headquarters of the Kuwait Trade Union Federation in Qadsiyya, aand, it was from middle school to high school education, and I went there and studied until the third year fourth year of high school I didn't get a degree from this school -- the government school -- a government school but -- in the evenings, and back then there were a lot of aaa aaa schools working in the afternoons or evenings to combat illiteracy, aaa we agreed as the leaders of the union work to improve I mean most of us have basic degrees lets study and then they tested us to see our levels I mean if we are suitable for middle school or h -- or high school, so some people jumped directly to high school first year of high school, and some people middle school, aand we studied also around maybe two three years in this school.
Okay this school which was under Aleslah society, can you describe it to us howwas it?
It was a house an old house I mean before it used to be houses made of mud inthe in the in the fifties, and the house was in Al Mubarikiyya aaaa -- it was in the meat souq, aaa this the house was near it, and it was a small yard with two floors we spent around a year in this one and then we moved to another place across from the council of ministers on the sea, there was aa, a shop aa called Gray Mackenzie this aa specialized in ships it was connected to the sea it was close to us, aa there was also in this spot also the same thing a small building not a big one and we were no more than twenty individuals studying there, of course it wasn't mixed.
[Al Mahmeed laughs].
This is back then but about how after that that I discovered that they aandthose were the original Muslim Brotherhood who went to Egypt aand took some ideas and came back and established this school in order to get members but I didn't -- didn't feel that they incited me to be a member or to be part because they the what they cared about most is that the young people would join this organization even in the future and what happened now I mean they now overtook the aaa student union in Kuwait, those who established it were the same ones who established the union movement they established aa the student union aa the national student union of Kuwait, and they established the Kuwait Teachers Society, I mean the society union but a society not a union, the national force is the one who established it, the Kuwait Trade Union Federation, National Union of Kuwaiti Students, the Kuwait Teachers Society, they lead it, and they came and overtook the aa the National Union of Kuwaiti Students and overtook the aaa the Teachers Society -- and until this day I mean it's almost forty years they are the ones who are dominating aand they are really benefitting aaa I mean they are corrupting the thinking od the -- they facilitate, and this is now for those who lead the, aaa Aleslah Society and others who are in Kuwait which is part of this organization that was here since the beginning of its establishment in Kuwait, aand most of them went to study abroad some became leaders and yeah -- in Cairo they came to Kuwait and then Egyptians came here aand, and they pushed Kuwaitis towards this ideology, aa I mean aa after that I of course even with the younger ones who was with us in the union who studied there and, I mean after two years I don't know aa it was done we took some of them some acquired high school degrees and some -- I didn't get one I am one of those who didn't acquire a high school degree, and I didn't take the high school exam -- I finished the third year of high school, aand, aa, we maybe during that time I mean how? We didn't allow any one who belonged to any particular side to take over the union work
even I mean when they helped us aaa aa, aa the people of Al Talee'a or what iscalled, or aa the branch of the Arab Nationalists, or the people of Dr. Ahmad Al Khateeb I mean I always call them the people of Ahmad Al Khateeb because they are different although they are a part of aaa the Arab Nationalist Movement and on the level of the Arab World, but in Kuwait it had a different path most of for the good of Kuwait and back then to b -- to build up Kuwait, at the beginning of the establishment of a country so these ideas belonged to Kuwait, and maybe during the invasion the leadership of the aa, aa the aa Arab Nationalists in Kuwait Dr. Al Kha -- Al Khateeb aand I mean somewhat the -- the late Jassim Al Qatami may he rest in peace, he was mostly a follower of Jammal Abdulnasser, more so than an Arab Nationalist, therefore he and his group took over the teachers society, and the Kuwait Trade Union Federation and National Union of Kuwaiti Students, which was under them I mean, they belonged to the Arab Nationalist Movement, but at the end both groups worked together as a national front they got into the elections for the parliament together at the beginning of the constitutional council, and we embraced the nationalist ideology in I mean for a short period not for long which was maybe two years of the Arab Nationalist Movement and two years maybe we joined what aa aa, not I mean aa another group, there is a name I forgot what we called ourselves -- this is after the two years aa we separated from some aaa,
when the election fraud happened, after two years, we disagreed with som -- aawith them, with each other, aa our thinking was to change the path of the Arab Nationalist Movement but we were ultimately we became two parts we as a group it was was the late aa, Ahmad Al Rubie and Mr. Ahmad Al Dayeen and Nasser Al Ghanim aand Nashi Sa'ad and this group we lead this the separated ones or the one separated from the Arab Nationalists, this period after which the group got dismantled almost the one we formed until it happened in -- I mean aa most of us the organization came to an end aa, but --
Which year was this fraud?
The fraud was in 67.
Yes, aand which year did the group get dismantled, the one you were part of?
We after the the the aaa I mean the beginning of the, the beginning of thedismantling, or after aa, two years after, the fraud, we did we released a statement as a group that separated from them, a statement about what happened with the fraud, aand after that the dismantling started, yes I mean after this statement aaand we took some -- aa we took a radical path, I mean we moved to aa -- some sort of the aaa we released a statement about the talking about the second anniversary of the election fraud, and it happened --The director of the municipality was Jassim Al Marzouq, may god bless him with good health he is alive, he was the director of the municipality, and the president of the municipality was Mohammad Al Adsani, when I came to resign they told you can't resign, wait a little bit things will change I mean, I told them no that's it there is a law the law has to be applied, aa I re -- I handed in my resignation, when the law was passed -- the aa the Amiri decree, the law was rectified immediately I went back to work, and I worked at the fire services I mean, because the fire services was a department under the municipality then, not like now the fire services is an independent entity under the minister, not under the municipality before that it was under the municipality, I mean, all is good like they say [he laughs].
[Al Mahmeed laughs] this is regarding your job but aa aa I mean your work withthe union movement with the unions and political work did you continue with that?
After you came out of prison?
Yes I of course after, after the the group we did at our branch of the ArabNationalist Movement in Kuwait, I mean after the release of the statement and I left or during those days at the same time I left the group, I didn't have I didn't have anything to do with them I mean, that's why I maybe my verdict was of a lesser sentence, one year, unlike others there are -- some some of them got four years, aaa, for me of course when aa I was released in aaa under the law that says you don't work I didn't work, I considered myself that I aa from a president of a union I left work it's not that I left the union work all at once but aa as a union member it came to an end, I became an employee at the Kuwait Trade Union Federation, for around nine months seven months I don't know, I mean a short while,
and when the law was rectified I came back to work, I came back -- for thesecond time I nominated myself aand I wo -- I became a president of a union, so I continued as the president -- in the municipality for around aa eighteen years, aaand, from -- also from the beginning I this was Mr. Hussain Al Saqer the president of the federation and I was his deputy, before the trade union federation was established, I was a deputy, when the trade union federation came into being, he became the president and I become the deputy, after some time he was part of the Arab Labor Organization similar to the International Labour Organization but only for Arabs, aa I at some point became the president of the Kuwait Trade Union Federation, Nasser Al Faraj was the president of the union, aaa he became became aa ill so he stopped and I completed the term which was two years, as the president of the trade union federation in addition to being the president of municipality federation and I was in charge of the institute of workers knowledge for about aa ten years, this institute as we already said we established it at a sports club to have our courses there then after we built our own building in Maidan Hawali we had the institute there, we moved there
I became during that time the director of the institute the institute of workersknowledge which included a group of union members one from each union, we had a board of directors and a director and a deputy and aaa a secretary and a treasurer and there was between -- the institute those who lead aaa the institute around nine people, I completed ten years in this institute and then I retired, I left work of course that's it aa because the law states that when you work -- you become a union member but when you finish your work your work as a union member also comes to an end I mean maybe in in some countries one can stay in the union even after finishing his work but here we in the law that says that's it you don't represent workers because you retired or you left work that's it it's over --
I during that time also left union work and ret -- aa after the invasion in 92aa I retired.
You retired from your job and you left the union work in 92?
Yes yes, maybe after this time this last time I served maybe at the GeneralSecretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development I was cho -- I was chosen as a member there, aaand I worked for around four years, of course this the, aaa General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development four years might be renewed with four more years or might not, I of course finished the four years and it ended, and it ended for others too.
This was in what year?
In three and -- in 2003, until 2006, I was a member of General Secretariat ofthe Supreme Council for Planning and Development, I mean the council consists of 25 members in addition to a number of ministers, and the president of the aa aaa council is the prime minister who doesn't have a deputy, and the first aa president of this council was his highness the Amir Sabah Al Ahmad because he was the prime minister when Yaber (Jaber) Al Ahmad was the Amir, so for two years maybe he was our president, the following two years Nasser Al Mohammad became prime minister, and aaa his highness the Amir Sabah Al Ahmad became the Amir of Kuwait-- aaa, the 25 maybe three or four of them came back again for four more years, the rest no they changed -- now they hold elections or assignments every four years yes maybe some of them would complete eight years maybe, but the limit is eight years.
Aaa what was your job at the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council forPlanning and Development?
Aa I the council consisted of committees, maybe there are three committees, Iwas part of one of those committees the committee of civil society, I was a member of the committee and a member of the council, these committees each committee meets alone, they specify times for meetings aaand at the end all of the committees' work come together at the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development, I was in fact in this committee our president was Dr. Al Kharafi, aa, what's her name? I forgot, and her deputy aa deputy Mohammad Al R -- Dr. Mohammad Al Romaihi, we are maybe a committee of seven eight I don't know how many-- I mean aaa our mission, some things would come to the government and the government transfers that to the council, they look at it and they share their opinions, it also gets sent to the council of ministers for implementation, I mean before the implementation of any plans ir aaa works it has to go through General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development, and it still is this way I mean, the supreme council is still working all those years I mean for a long time since the beginning of Kuwait as a state this council of planning and development has existed, and many worked there, aaa or the members of the council would have certain suggestions they would present it for example I mean maybe one of the suggestions that I presented to the council was aa a deal with a consultant of the Kuwait Trade Union Federation and it was aa the issue of aa, the Kuwaitis who worked and the non-Kuwaitis, some of the ideas we presented is that, there were plans to develop Kuwait in the thirties, I presented this topic saying that reaching the thirties the number of Kuwaitis has to be 50 percent to non-Kuwaitis, and I presented some ideas of how to make that happen, from this the -- education available according to demand, aa I mean not anyone can study anything and therefore he would graduate and not find a job -- I mean aa, so for the time being now we are twenty after ten years we will reach I mean today we are a third, two thirds are non-Kuwaitis, and this is unreasonable I think, we have to be more that the, the non-Kuwaitis, aa either we remain the minority or the third will continue -- continue for years which does not serve the country does not serve the state, many things are not good, so I in fact with modesty presented this back then we established aa, a proposal -- a law and presented to the council, aand even after that they interviewed me about the proposal, about the proposal which we did aa Kuwait Radio, and I talked about why we did it this proposal a law proposal, for these reasons and I explained it in fact I mean in more than than one venue on the on the radio and on prog, aa, and I became a consultant for the Kuwait Trade Union Federation, we established in fact us the old ones, they chose from among us maybe the president of the federation and the president of a union at the beginning after aaa we retired, they made us consultants without a salary of course.
This is after you left General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planningand Development or during your time there?
Yes, no. During my time at the council.
Yes why did I present a proposal because I was part of the unions, and maybethey chose me because I was a former union member I think this is the reason, it didn't come out of nowhere, they benefited from my ideas coming from the union work background and the laws and whatnot, I was chosen and the person who chose me called me he was the minister of state back then aa, he told me that his highness the Amir the prime minister his highness the Amir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad wants you to join a team, your colleagues at the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development aand I was delighted of course aand, aand I participated aand -- a consultant in the union movement until a while ago I stopped, aa I didn't start, we did or or -- there was a federation for the retired in the Arab World we did the consultants who were chosen we were around five, and some former union presidents,
aaa we formed a committee for the retired, most of them aa I mean from theunions, and we joined this federation, and Mr. Hussain Saqer became aa a president for a while a president of this federation and we participated in their meetings abroad, and a meeting took place in Kuwait -- we did that and abroad until a while ago maybe even we left this federation, it wasn't to be honest anymore, and in honor of our work we were chosen as volunteer consultants, aand we did present ideas and whatnot to the president of Kuwait Trade Union Federation, they either implement it or not but aa of course we had experiences and we presented things that were important to the union movement we wrote and presented it to the council -- council aa federation.
Sir you told me at the end that you worked at General Secretariat of the SupremeCouncil for Planning and Development.
Aand you were at the time a consultant for aa --
Kuwait Trade Union Federation.
Yes yes, and after that aa you retired aaa are you still a consultant or youleft a while ago?
No I aa I mean before I became a consultant -- I became a consultant then I retired.
Before that I mean at my job I was at the unions a director at the municipalityunion, so I was the director of the the director of the Kuwait Trade Union Federation the director of the workers' knowledge institute all of those I started to gradually ease my work load, I was in charge for a specific period at the federation of the working woman's committee, in addition to my job as the director of the union federation aaa the director of the municipality union the director of the workers' knowledge institute the head of the woman's committee aa the aa working woman, before the establishment of the unions there weren't any women working in the government of anywhere else, verrry few very very few, and therefore we have working women and we conducted courses mixed ones for men and women and ones for women but during this course the participants asked to form a committee for women in the union movement in Kuwait under the federation, and they formed this one -- there weren't any women in the executive board at the federation, so they chose me to be the director, aand this committee came into being and it had certain activities within the union movement or some names some women were working at the beginning who worked at the government or the oil sector, maybe after a year and a half and then they nominated a woman from the oil sector, aa the federation did and she won and became a member of the federation and then took my position, aaa I mean I participated with the union movement in all areas -- after that, I used to participate in -- when they have seminars or orr aa training courses I used to participated and present about the union movement in Kuwait, I used to in fact take many training courses maybe, I went to what used to be called the Soviet Union or Russia, I participated in a training for the directors of the workers' knowledge institutes around the world, in in Moscow, I went to Cairo I went to Aden, or before it became aa one state it used to be aaa the south and the, aa I went there to give lectures in in Yemen, in Egypt I participated in a training by giving lectures, or a lecture, I mean after that aa, in in during my retirement is when I became a consultant we were part of a union for the retired ones, we used to participate in it, either by giving seminars or meetings to provide services for the retired people all over the Arab world, aa, after that I reduced my load, unt -- until I stopped completely aa that's it as a human -- I mean I worked for 36 years at the fire service, and four years at the oil company, this is 40 years, thank god, that's enough, aand and I retired in fact
I aaa maybe I don't know if I told you I have aa an honorary certificate fromthe state a second class medal aa, Kuwait Liberation Medal, I have it, I will also give you photos that I have here.
I will show you.
With the photos of, aa, this is a photo with Jamal Abdulnasser.
This is a photo with Castro.
This is a certificate from the institute the the what is it called, the GeneralSecretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development.
They gave me this recognition, and this is the model driver recognition.
And this is for the aaa, the medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal.
The Liberation Medal the one can you explain to me what it is? Is it for yourcontributions during the invasion?
Because I aaa, two months out of the seven months I was here.
And when the liberation took place aa I came back and participated in theprocess of rebuilding the fire services and bringing it back to normal operations.
With others of course I participated, and that's why I received the liberationmedal, aand the one for the model driver I didn't have any accidents and didn't do anything during that period so I received it, aand this, also Al Qabas wrote about me in the aa, that thing they do, the British government their ambassadors in every country, aa the time with information and things like that and they release it every five or six years, aaa they publish it but before that it is confidential, so they published about me aa that aa, the things I've done in the union movement, and this in fact someone who works for Al Al Qabas wrote about me, that the English brought him back to the spotlight again, I mean, you do want aa these.
Yes I do if you can send them to me.
Yes, someone can carry them?
Yes yes, aa maybe at the end of the interview aaa you can send them to me?
Yes, yes yes.
Aaa but since you mentioned aaa I mean meeting Jamal Abdulnasser and FidelCastro --
Can you talk to us about those two meetings?
Yes Jamal Abdul --
Aand also I mean your visits to Yemen and Moscow --
I mean if there is a chance we could talk about those too.
Yes, aa, okay now, what do we have now now almost aa now I gave you this book.
It has a lot of things that you can benefit from to add to things I said, thereare things maybe because I the names of the union members --
I can't aaa I mean now I am saying it now just like this but I can give it toyou written down.
Or they are here in this book maybe you can aa analyze what's in it or you canbenefit from it and combine the two.
The same as this one.
But do you remember meeting Jamal Abdulnasser and Fidel Castro?
Yes, Jama -- Jamal -- god bless you maybe I met Jamal Abdulnasser by the end ofthe seventies, we were at a conference in in the in in Cairo for the Arab union movement the Federation of Arab Workers, and in that conference we asked to meet with Jamal Abdulnasser, and we went all of the delegations to El Kobba Palace in which he resided, aand we took photos with him and we were arrested -- aaa we met I mean briefly, where are you from? From Kuwait and -- aa each country, each delegation, I even back then I wasn't feeling well because I was a Nasserite, with enthusiasm, it cannot even be described, until the defeat happened, aa so they told me you're sick, so you can't come with us I said nooo what do you mean I can't go, sick or not sick I have to go, Jamal Abdulnasser back then he was something globally, aa his speech aa I mean it was something when he gave a speech and attracts people's attention, many people loved Jamal Abdulnasser among them are the Kuwaitis we used to call some of us Nasserites and some the Arab Nationalists we were excited for this so I aaa I said this is my chance I went on the day of the meeting it was a quick meeting just for photos aand where are you from and what about the union movement some questions here and there but but in fact I mean even we didn't eat anything or anything like that inside when we went to them, it was just a meeting and after that it was over we left, there was the Federation of Arab Workers its headquarters was in Egypt, and most of our meetings took place in Egypt, and cultural trainings in Egypt all of this until the time of Al Sadat, Al Sadat aa went to Israel some of us in the workers' unions we were against Al Sadat and this or against him going to Israel -- of course back then, aa -- nonsense I mean [he laughs].
[Al Mahmeed laughs].
Aa we were the same, the federation was moved from Cairo we got upset even thedirector of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation he used to be the minister of labour in Egypt, in addition to his position as director of the federation, aaa the minister of labour, he went with Al Sadat how could the director of the trade union federation go with Al Sadat to Israel? This is Israel a problem, aa we stood against it we held several meetings in Algeria and we made a decision in Kuwait to move the headquarters of the federation to aa Syria, and that the director of the federation would not be from Egypt, back then most of the directors of the Federation of Arab Workers were from Egypt -- and the director this time was from Kuwait, he became the director of the Federation of Arab Workers.
Who was he?
Nasser Al Faraj, may god rest his soul he passed away I mean, he passed awayduring the invasion, aaa, we among others participated in the process of relocating the federation, our overt enthusiasm, aand it wasn't acceptable but it happened back then when it happened I mean.
Okay how did you feel when you met Jamal Abdulnasser?
My god of course aaa, happy to meet Jamal Abdulnasser for the first time, theway he looked aand, and the way he talked of course I was sick aand I went to see him because I wanted to see Jamal Abdulnasser, aand we met with him and we talked with him, and we expressed out -- back then we wanted to unite the Arab World, I mean some of what we did here we went to prison is the ideology that we followed that the Arab World will be united from the Arabian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean which is what Jamal Abdulnasser called for he said the union of the Arabs and we were excited about this I mean today this way of thinking is over it's gone back then you couldn't say no to the union they would say it will happen! Aand [he laughs] it's not possible!
It can't happen because I mean --
[Al Mahmeed caughs].
It's difficult aaa our enthusiasm for this union and Jamal Abdulnasser as ourleader I mean meeting with him was so exciting I mean something good, that's it.
What year was this?
What year was this?
Aa the end of 77.
Okay what about your meeting with Fidel Castro?
Castro is the same thing there was a conference for the InternationalConfederation of Free Trade Unions, it was four years prior to this in Prague in Czechoslovakia or or the Czech Republic, aa there the decision was made that the next conference the 19th one will take place in Havana.
Aa what year was the tenth one?
Innn-- maybe, maybe the 70s too.
Yes the 70s or early 80s something like that, aaa I think there is a photo withthe no -- no no that's in the phone.
Ah the phone.
I was the head of the delegation, there were four of us representing the KuwaitTrade Union Federation, we met with Castro too, he met with many delegation and with us the Kuwaiti delegation we took a photo with him during which we had a conversation about Kuwait, he said that there's something not happening in Kuwait, he said you in Kuwait want to drag an icy mountain, from the pole, this back then was about Saudi Arabia, that Saudi Arabia intended to bring aa a mountain to Saudi Arabia to cool off the area, not us, we told him that's not us, it's Saudi Arabia they are the ones who proposed bringing this icy mountain, not Kuwait, aaa I mean this this this meeting with him, it was just to introduce Kuwait I mean you see so many important things after the formation of unions or federations and after Kuwait became a state,
we participated on the level of Arab countries at the beginning and theninternationally, in order to bring the name of Kuwait to the forefront, we cared that people know Kuwait and where it is and what it is, what here people are like, back then we were merely thousands, in Kuwait I mean the inhabitants, today one million and four hundred four hundred thousands, back then it wasn't even half a million, aand Kuwait is an oil country, mm so we said there are federations, there is a parliament, there is democracy, there is respect for the the human being aand our participation internationally although we are a small country with few inhabitants, this was one of our goals or our aaa motivation to establish the union movement so that we carry the name of Kuwait and to be in fact recognized internationally when we share our ethics and we show them how much we respect people and we appreciate them and we are ready to sacrifice for the unity of the world and the happiness of the people, and the working class without any discrimination, the entire universe I mean this is the fact one of the things that we used to dream of is to reach this place after that when the unions formed we actually I mean participated, aaand we attended all the conferences everywhere, we reached China, we reached America we reached everywhere and we spoke on behalf of Kuwait, and thank god I mean back then with the testimony of ministers who took over the social affairs they saw the ethics of those leading the union work how great their reputation is around the world, we were small maybe others were bigger I mean if you take Russia, 300 million individuals or even more America three -- maybe -- other countries China then Kuwait comes along a small country to participate in these conferences and see Kuwaitis aa I mean, something delightful something something good it was, what we wished for the dream was actualized, we didn't only defend workers or defend those who worked no everything -- everything that mattered to our country we took part in, and we made an effort and we worked on our ethics to -- the delegations that went we made sure that their reputations among people and people knew that we are loyal to our our country and had a presence in those those conferences around the world and they respected and appreciated us and was took part in the International Labour Organization for example -- I told you once about the delegation that consisted of three parties the business owners the workers and the government, every year in this conference at International Labour Organization after that we had a smaller Arab organization -- an international organization and an Arab organization aa for Arabs only, even in this one -- every year they hold -- they hold a conference for two weeks, we participated in it as a three party delegation, three parties, I mean we started -- to move from -- aa the region of Kuwait the Gulf to the Arab region to the world we met many people, we brought people from abroad to participate in giving lectures at the institute for workers' knowledge aaa Kuwaitis and even without -- we brought some from the Soviet Union from from Germany we brought people to talk at these institutes in Kuwait, aaa we learned what union work is all about how to lead we we used to think we stayed for a while and of course the time for retirement came and our role was over but who would lead the union work in the future, we had ambition that the young and educated would come along with their degrees aand enthusiasm to their country to become better than us and lead the union work to participate in everything in in Kuwait, I mean we maybe didn't succeed a hundred percent with this ambition that we had but thank god the union movement remained not only in Kuwait the union movement had its ups and downs ups and downs, the same thing globally today the union movement is not the same as it was 20 years ago, I mean in the world in in the Arab countries today there are a few unions or federations it is not that the it became all about interests, sadly, we are of course still saying that these ups and downs, that some day we will be up, I was talking in last Wednesday I was participating in a seminar in Ahmadi at the federation of oil workers, they invited me aand three others of the founders of the union movement in Kuwait to meet with union members, to talk about the union movement, how it started and how this, so we told them I mean that we until now you are, young, you are our hope you are the future that we are happy to see the union movement progress and become better, we said that this is what we wished for to become a reality, we would push them and push them to work for Kuwait, to build inside Kuwait, to criticize and, aand to take part in and in everything that comes along aa to take part in it, this in fact was what we wished for I mean.
Aa okay can you talk to me about specific visits that you did back then likeYemen when it was two countries and the aaa Russia the days of the Soviet Union --
Do you have certain memories related to these visits?
Yes I in fact maybe visited the Soviet Union several times.
I mean conferences -- that they held, and meetings because you said that youparticipated in a training for the directors of the institutes internationally and the lecturers were internationally regarded professors among them I wanted to tell you something that happened, we were at at the the -- aa at one of the meetings in that institute in which we represented the entire world a cultural training, for the directors of the institutes, one of the experts who spoke an expert at the International Labour Organization on an international scale, we had with us a woma -- one woman, a woman who was like a flower to us in in in a bowl among us, and who's that woman? Badriyya Al Awadhi, from Kuwait, I mean something something delightful right? I mean a woman from your country and the only woman between 21 expert she is an expert talking around the world to us there, he said, she is like a flower he said, I told her, I met with her here I told her do you know what that expert said? In in in an interactive dialogue session he said you are a flower, as if this person considered -- between between 21 that you are the only woman -- representing Kuwait, I mean more than than a flower and more than than beautiful, someone who is I mean proud of you, I met with her at one of the seminars I don't know or one of the meetings and I told her this.
She was working with you in the union?
No no, she was aa an expert at the International Labour Organization, fromKuwait a professor and also she was of highest caliber I mean, aaa so she worked -- this person says, he said among 21 only one woman from Kuwait who is Badriyya Al Awadhi, I mean an international expert, aaa a human being I mean aa who is respected and appreciated who is representing your country and you are proud of her, aaa, at the Soviet Union, I attended during the time of aa, Brezhnev,
he was the president of the republic -- of the Soviet Union, a conference I meanattended by thousands of people, aaa, we discusses and -- or this meeting was for them the Soviet Union but they invited us as guests, a huge conference and the number of attendees maybe exceeded a thousand, and both the president of the republic and the foreign minister were there, and the minister of defense and some officials and they had speeches and during this conference, also on the Arab region level I went to Algeria I had a photo that was taken from me a photo with Boumédiene who was the roller back then the president of the rep -- aa the Republic of Algeria.
What year was that?
It was in the, the seventies something like that, aaaand s -- I went to Syriaand I met with Hafez Al Assad the father of this, when he was president we also met with him and sat with him and talked, there are photos but I also don't have them, Boumédiene I have a photo with him not -- I also met with Al Bakr, in Baghdad, he was the president before Saddam, after that Saddam removed him, and took over, I mean the union movement aaa opens up doors for you, a if you want to develop yourself to live in this world and go everywhere and take part in things, and they would come to you and you would go to them, the visits were mutual on the level of -- I went and gave a lecture in in the in Aden, when it was aaa the Republic of Southern Yemen, aand the Yemenis came to visit us I mean, the union movement in Kuwait although small but it had a long-established experience it participated on the level of the Arab world and globally we wish in fact that the young generation in charge now of the union work that they would build on this, maybe back then we the situation differs from today's today everything changed, they benefit but at the same time they serve their country not just that I mean, aaa, I mean many officials aaa we had tha chance in fact to meet with them, and to benefit from them, and we learned from the union work we learned love, love towards our country and love towards everyone you respect and appreciate them, aaa, you serve people they would elect you I mean what is more precious and valuable than this that someone would come without any return we said now there are people -- if they run for the parliament they pat money and pay something to be able to make it we were not like this it was free people come and leave their work and come to elect you, this I consider a huge thing I mean, the respect people have for you and their appreciation, they teach you, to develop yourself in an indirect way.
Yes sir from aaa the 60s to the aa the Iraqi invasion were there any events thatwe didn't talk about that you'd like to talk about?
Yes, aa, I maybe, when the invasion happened I was here in Kuwait, and I was atwork, and when the invasion actually took place I was in chalet overlooking the sea, and I received a phone call and they told me to come, the Iraqi forces entered Kuwait, and I left the chalet with a friend of mine, we said let's go through -- the sea, fast, and I received a call there and we quickly went back and I left him at the chalet and I went, and I went through that road from Ahmadi aaa Fahad, Fahad s -- aa Shaikh aaa King Fahad King Fahad Street, I used that road and I couldn't continue my way to inside the city because before it was across from, aa across from Abdullah Al Sa -- aa Sabah Al Salem area, I went right and I moved closer to the bridge aa the Fahaheel one, and I went back again because my work location is at G One, I was aa the deputy of the director of services department at the fire service, with me in fact the administrative manager whom in fact I respect and appreciate so much so much in fact, this person whom I worked with is the director and I am his deputy, they chose me as the deputy because I was in the -- the this aaa aaa I was working here before he joined, he is in fact one of the young ones who studied abroad in Britain and some went to America and came back with degrees and replaced the old ones, not the ones with lower education, there was some kind of changes and these young ones came along, he is one of them I mean when I was aa, the deputy of the person in charge who was Palestinian at the fire service at the services department the one that included the car garage and the the the maintenance it included I mean so many things I was the deputy of this Palestinian man aa, the Palestinian left, this man came and became the director, back then it wasn't an administration it was considered a department then it became an administration he was the director and he picked me to be his deputy, aa we worked together as colleagues he respected and appreciated me
and when the invasion happened I stayed until October, and I left for a reason,I, we were sitting one day aa, at work and thinking of leaving, aand, we began to make ids,
new names and different nationalities, two of the, the officers at the fireservice, the ones who do this kind of job, and with me at my department we were making an id, you are so and so your name is different, and your nationality is different, aand the the Iraqis I don't know some of the ones who worked here because there was a group of Palestinians and Indians and the ones with us at work someone told them, because the the aa the Iraqis came to us at the headquarters the one where we worked they lived there aand they even brought their own director for the fire service and he lived there at the headquarters, so he came in and saw them making, immediately he arrested one of the officers, aand and he took the things the printing equipment, for printing and these things that they are using, I on that day, I mean I left early, aa right before them before -- they were working they were making I left I went home I came back in the morning and he said where have you been? Yesterday it was a total mess here, what's going on? He said I swear he took all of our things aand they arrested the officer and another man have you heard of him Hameed Bahman, at the fire service, him aand, aand this Hassan Abdulghani the director I worked with myself maybe the oldest and in terms of rank we stayed, the rest all of them either were in hiding or traveled to ha, we didn't didn't leave we stayed, so he was in charge, this aa Hameed and I aaa the director was Hassan Abdulghani, we were in charge of everything, at the fire service aaa the workshops the warehouse and whatnot all of it everything was under us, so, I came I came in the morning they told me that this man came and took aand aand grabbed this officer then Hameed Bahman vouched for the officer, so that they'd let him go, I mean so that he can leave and then tomorrow, I came in the morning they he said "Yaba where is that one? So and so? Bring him to me." He said this one and that one will be facing execution, you are printing I don't know what I don't know what he was saying, something like that and he was threatening and wanting this, I went ahead and called him, I told him to be careful this man is asking about you and he wants you so take yourself and leave Kuwait, and he actually left, and I left after him and we met at the Iraqi Iranian boarders he wanted to go into Iran, I they didn't didn't let us in, he went in, I mean that Iraqi wanted him he said who is this man who is this man, then I said what can we do with this Iraqi how can we calm him down a bit? I told him now what do you want? He said "Abu Ali I want flour." I said "okay I got this." Flour and we went some of our friends went to the the mills company, and brought two bags of flour, I left one at my office and the other one I took to him, and I went to that director the one I was deputy of and I told him we reached an agreement with that guy with flour, and this is the second bag leave it with you, now I will leave and all the troubles that happened you can blame on me, and the next morning I ran, I left it was aaa, in October, even August's salary from the fire service, I went and got it the director Hassan Abdulghani he gave me this task and the other man aaa Hameed Bahman, they told me to go -- I took an Iraqi engineer with me who was married to a Kuwaiti woman and I took the assistant engineer with us and we went and met with the director of the municipality of Basra they brought him here, at the building of the the at the Souq the municipality building, he was staying there -- his room was huge so he said we want our salaries they told him you want your salaries come here who is in charge of you so that we can arrange the process with him for August's salary, I went and I took those guys with me, and I went to this man and it was a short Iraqi guy with an officer sitting there he said "yaba what is going on why are you why aa where." Those people left left their jobs and -- he said where? There's nothing we don't have anything -- you are scary with the officers sitting here there was even a murder and some beatings and I don't know what so people got scared of you I mean not not -- people are not at ease so why would they stay at work, this guy also wanted something, he was living in a house I don't know -- I don't know maybe in Shwaikh I don't know where, he wants a water tank, aa "I want water," what do you want a tank? He said -- I said of course, no problem I will go back to work now aand and I will deliver the water tank to you, he said now take some people with you to do the work for us aaa the details of what you are in charge of aa for so that we can give them their salaries, I told him this is the Iraqi engineer and this is the Kuwaiti engineer -- assistant engineer he is married to a Kuwaiti woman at the end aaa they killed his wife's brother, anyways we went to those and they did the process of salary payment and they had all the names and whatnot and they paid for August I mean I received my salary before I left I took it and put it in -- I don't know my leg or my sock or in the car and I took it with me, and I left, I left and someone with me there was a woman in our family and the father of aaa her husband he was with us in a union training in I don't Egypt I don't know where
and he was coming back and the accident happened and he went to Bahrain, aand,he was waiting there for her, she nagged and she brought her car and I left with her in her car it was her and her kids and we left, we reached aa Saudi Arabia the Kuwaiti currency dropped in value, 800 didn't even equal te -- aa ten aa twenty dinars, aaand aa, we stayed one night -- at the borders until we went in, and after that we moved in, her husband was waiting for her at Dammam or Khobar I don't know, or maybe he came to the borders no he came to the borders he took her aa or I mean aa he drove along us I then dropped her at the borders aand after that I crossed to Bahrain because my wife aand I had a little son I mean my son was little then, he was with her in Bahrain, and I went to them, I went to Bahrain, and she went with her husband, they gave us on the way there was a man giving out money one of the Saudi princes giving Kuwaitis money each 100 riyals, they gave me and her 200 and they gave the kids her kids two of them or three I don't remember a hundred each, and she said I want to buy I don't know what and you take the rest of the money with you, I don't want it, I dropped her at at at Al Khobar, and then I crossed to -- there, and went to my wife's family, aaa I didn't even have a p passport, I left without a passport, and from there from Bahrain, I called aa the Kuwaiti embassy it was aa Mr. Fai -- aa what's his name Faisal Al Hajji he was the ambassador, he was in in Bahrain, I called to acquire a passport they told me you have to go to Saudi Arabia, and actually I stayed in Bahrain maybe for two months, aaa there were a lot of Kuwaitis and we were divided into two groups one with the government and one not, I was with that one.
With the one against?
With the -- not with not with.
Aaand we gathered at night in in, at a house in the diwaniyya that was made forKuwaitis a diwaniyya at the embassy and a diwaniyya here, aaa I stayed up until mid-night and then I would go walking to Muharak or someone would drop me off, after two months I had this cousin also my milk brother in the Emirates in Dubai I left my wife aand in Bahrain, and I went to the Emirates, when I got to Bahrain the money I had was worthless eight hundred dinars worth nothing then because I think the dinar was worth a quarter quarter dinar then, so it became one fourth of its value instead of the eight hundred being an actual aa eight hundred? Yes eight hundred eight hundred I think I don't know, anyways aa, the money was not enough, I arrived to the the Emirates and I stayed there until the liberation, and something happened in fact maybe in in in Bahrain the group of Kuwaitis there and especially the fire service most of them were officers in charge I gathered them at the house of my cousin my milk brother to prepare for going back to Kuwait, and I in fact had hope, that the situation won't take long and that we would go back to Kuwait quickly, and I told them, I told them don't be afraid your country will be liberated and we will go back to Kuwait, be ready, be prepared, the director of the fire service was there, the one in Bahrain, and my brother in law there in Bahrain he used to go fishing so we went with him and we took the director with us, I told him be prepares, now most of the machinery and equipment that we had in Kuwait are either stolen or dismantled and left behind, in remote areas, be prepared he said I might not go I don't know they chose, one of the officers he became in charge later at the department, aaa to prepare machinery and buy some from abroad, we put even aaa the news in Kuwait that they are taking the batteries out of cars and the seats and they are leaving the cars behind, and many cars belonging to the fire service were left in the desert, without wheels -- I mean damaged -- or taken apart and they weren't able to take it so they left it, aa left outside in the desert, aa we stayed until the beginning of the liberation and we were ready for going back, aand we took the plane from Dubai to Bahrain, and from Bahrain we crossed in cars, we came to Saudi Arabia and we found our friends from the fire service there in Saudi Arabia, the Kuwaiti government was in Tayef, many Kuwaitis were in Saudi Arabia, aand
we took equipment, cars and machinery and things, aand we came to Kuwait, we gotinto Kuwait and it morning but but it looked like night time, the oil fires covered all of Kuwait, everything was black you can't see anything, I mean darkness, I I mean before I left I said to this director who was with me he said I am not leaving, I told him I am leaving and put everything on me, when I came I saw him in a poor mental health I mean while he was aaa aaa working during the invasion he was in touch with Iraqis, I was before aa, I had a friendly relation with I mean with the director of the fire service they brought a director a kind human being, kind and honest, I had a chalet in Mina Abdullah, I used to go every three or four days once my family didn't allow me, because the Iraqis were everywhere there in in Mina Abdullah spread over there,
I used to get away and see the chalet, I came aa I mean after three time thefourth time I saw no one at the chalets aa, very few there were soldiers at the mosque there is a mosque in Mina Abdullah their commanding officers were living at the mosque, aaand, they stole many things from the chalet and threw things at the beach even beds I don't know what were everywhere, aa then I came to this Iraqi the director I told him I was rubbed, aa my things they took them and how can I file a complaint, one of the officers said yes you can file a complaint I will write you a memo, this guy I told him he said let me tell you Bu Ali, all of Kuwait was rubbed, just you? I swear, I mean he said but I will go with you, and he rode the fire service car and I rode one also and we went there, the chalet, he went to the mosque where the commanding officers were there at the mosque and he told them this is our friend from the fire service not the military, they were looking for military men, not the military he is with the fire service, take care of him take care of his chalet like this aand, we were going towards the chalets we saw two officers, they stopped us and talked to us they had two stars this our friend the director at the fire service is a lieutenant with a crown and a star, those officers had two stars yes, they stopped and talked with us then they left to talk to him and then one of them came to me, they asked him who is this this is called Bu Ali, welcome Bu Ali I want a pickup truck, this pickup is from the this director of the fire service the idiot, I had a sedan, I told him not me the director of the fire service, this is the director of the fire service, tell him he will give you he said forget about him he's an idiot I don't know what he cursed him, he replied aa I told him now now I can't give you now go back, I will figure it out I told him don't worry about it it's simple what else could I have said? Say no? we left, after a while aa I stopped, this director stopped too, I told him this guy said he wants a car so I told him to go to you, and then he cursed you he said yes he's right, do you know who this is? He is with the secret service of the regime, which means I knew that this person is a certain type of person aa he said yes he is right, I told him your rank aaa let it be, but I advise you not to go to the chalet after this, I told him you got it your words my command, anyways we went back he told me I will prepare a memo for you to aa for the issue of those who stole your stuff, and he did and wrote it for me, and he presented it but I told that one and he said Kuwait as a whole was rubbed, only you? He didn't solve the issue, here I aaa, when I left I told these two directors who were with me to be careful anyways we hid the bag of flour with that guy to take to the other one aand the issue of blame everything on me because I am leaving, and I left and arrived there and when were coming back, it was a mess, but the fire service, aa they serviced the people, some people didn't have running water so the fire service got them water, they fixed machines and whatnot, when I came back I saw, I was supposed to be in charge of the workshop and the warehouse and I told that guy with me, his name is Abu Ahmad Abu Ahmad Hasan you are now in distress go and take your kids and get out of here and leave me, I will cover everything aa be careful I want you to leave and he agreed and left with his kids out of Kuwait, I came and took charge with the rest of my collogues I told you a while ago aa we brought the fire service back to its former glory, we collected the cars that were scattered all over the desert up to the Iraqi borders -- they wanted to take it to Iraq but they dropped it during the last the last days they left everything, everything they had after Jahra, they stole gold they stole there are some people who got rich, they find in in those cars gold I mean, yesterday this guy was saying this is the first time I'm hearing this, that that that,
when they were leaving Kuwait, they gave their gold to three, one at the embassythe Tunisian one, they said hide this with you we are leaving, when they came back to the embassy aaa it was destroyed, and rubbed, they said that's it the gold has been stolen and everything is gone, and suddenly someone called them, because they had written down their addresses and their phone numbers with the gold, with the money they had money they put there too and they left, yes, he called them saying, I want you aa to meet with you, and this guy happens to be Bidoon (stateless), he said listen let me tell you, he recognized them he told them this is your stuff safe with me, and the reason behind this is my mother, I just heard this I mean two days two days ago I heard this, one day I saw my mother and he said where did I get these things? On Jahra road, the day the Iraqis left, the ones who stole things, they left things behind and some even dies, he said I found it this Iraqi dead in a car and holding aa this this this bag with your stuff in it, I took it from him, and I brought it home with me living in in Sulaibiya, the house, he said I am a poor man we don't even have food, I saw my mother, I showed her look at this fortune for us, she said be careful, I am your mother I am not, I am not your mother anymore if you even touch this stuff, you have to bring it to its rightful owners, he said that can't be we don't even have food and we have nothing she said if you do anything with this stuff I'm no longer your mother, he called the people and told them, he said on my way to you people I thought of taking it, I heard a voice that said take it and don't give it back, but I couldn't my mother, he says I tried to convince myself to take it but I couldn't my mother's words insisting that this is a matter of trust, then according to this man the people gave him money and gold from these bags, and he left I just heard about this story, so when they left --
they even left the fire service cars -- running cars our friends went and foundit you know the diesel doesn't run out, as long as there is diesel in the tanks aa it works I don't know three four days the car is running in the desert they brought it back, who helped us here in the in the in the brining back the fire service to its former glory? Aleslah, the first thing we did all the -- the electricity you know, they have generators, broken generators generator for the water I don't know what broker they have those, they brought trailers from Turkey, big ones, to carry benzene gas I don't know what diesel, with this aa even the water ones you can still smell gas or benzene in these cars, they brought those to the fire station, we started to give water to people, we started to fix their generators and that's what we did and we collect and fix our cars,
who helped us? There was one aa aaa from Africa, a country I don't knowMauritania I don't know what one of those countries sent some individuals to help us to work as technicians and this one was in the fire service I don't know where, they were here we brought them in in the workshop to repair things, and the Americans some officers and this and technicians, they worked with us, and we grabbed everything aa aa we found on the streets mechanics aand working on cars at Alghanim at Toyota at Almulla at all of those garages some left some didn't, some left some stayed in Kuwait, so we benefited from them we told them come to us, we gathered them and promised to give them work, we couldn't employ them, so we brought them over and gave them something simple, they worked with us and we started to fix the cars we kept at it for about a month or more collecting these cars and fixing them and whatnot, and repairing them we almost brought back 50% of regular work, aand aa, including a huge warehouse with machines and fire service equipment, clothes and pardon me even shoes and things like that all in this warehouse, we had the keys with the director this aa Bahman, they took the important things and put it away and sealed it otherwise the Iraqis would've taken them, they said why do you need these things these machines now your country is small it became part of Iraq and therefore we will take this to Baghdad, they stole things and took thing with them, they took things but these two people in fact the ones here hid some equipment in their stores, the cars that we had aa the big ones before the invasion there was a fire in Iraq, so they prepared big cars trailers to go participate in putting down that fire, these were in in a huge warehouse maybe fifteen sixteen cars new ones, they couldn't steal them, they stole the car seats they store the batteries they stole some things from them etcetera they took it and the rest they left it like this abandoned on the streets, we had this, we worked it out thank god for a certain time aa we brought back the fire service functionality to at least 50% and they brought new equipment I maybe I mean after a while in in ninety aa, yes 92 I think, I retired, that's why I'm telling you I received the medal, aa for my role with others my brothers and colleagues I mean aa and the ones who stayed in fact those in fact Hameed Bahman aand, aand Hassan Abdulghani they endured hell, aa they even saved a lot of state money and equipment the one at the fire service, if it wasn't for them maybe because most of those in charge were in hiding and some were afraid because it wasn't safe anymore, every day you hear someone is killed someone every day you see someone hung even some of their friends, I mean I went to my chalet at the end I found that they dug they sit under the ground -- they pardon me they defecate and cook there, they destroyed they broke a -- they stole I mean somethings they took with them, even the ones who came during the liberation some participated in the process of the aa, looting, the ones who came soldiers and, I mean not all of them but some did in fact, some couldn't the Iraqis couldn't take everything, even at at the desert during these days the days of the occupation there were cars on the street because some people abandoned their cars on the streets and left, so as a help I mean sadly, this happened I mean, aa this period in fact maybe aa we lived through it thank god.
Hmmm, are there any other events you remember during the invasion period eitherin Kuwait or in Bahrain or in the Emirates I mean?
Yes, I maybe aa my wife aa, the invasion was on Thursday, Thursday the second ofAugust is the day my son was born he is still around, okay? We were waiting for them to come over for the birthday party, the invasion happened so they couldn't come over, they stayed in Bahrain, aa my wife I mean she has Bahraini origins, she has sisters aa her family her people, aa what made me go to Bahrain is my wife who's there and my son still there, but here aa, my kids, my son and his wife, and his kids they stayed, my two daughters, also with us the -- I mean their kids, one had kids and one doesn't she wasn't married yet, aand, one of my sons also, aa here didn't leave, and most of the time they stayed in this house, aa, one of my daughter's cars was taken by the Iraqis and they almost shot my son, my son took part in the resistance but I think he wasn't with the main resistance group, there -- there were others with him one here our neighbor an officer at the army he used to live abroad since he was little they were among the first to live in Omairiyya, aa they played a role in fact in the process of communication with the resistance they had a connection, aaa,
one time there was a search here, I was here, in this house across from usthere, aa the mother of this officer, my son was there with them they had guns, they were scared that there was a search, they had a huge freezer, they opened they laid down the machine gyns and the weapons at the bottom and put on it stuff and meat and I don't know what etcetera on top and covered it, and the police came the Iraqi police, and searched, and who's there the mother of this guy, I mean if they found the weapon they would've executed her, she did something for them she made them breakfast I don't know what until they left and didn't search, aa the freezer, they started to search a bit but she immediately worked on them, what do you want to eat what are you doing she offered them I don't know what she got them occupied -- she knew that it was there, and she actually was able to get herself and others out of it, anyways the Iraqis left and didn't search the freezer, and the weapons in it, aa I mean, listen there is something, aa a good thing that
we saw younger people on the streets cleaning they took over the work of themunicipality men, I came to take part with them they said no, you are an old man why we will do this, look at the young ones everybody worked brothers and colleagues I mean some sort of, strong solidarity together, some young people became bakers making bread, sweeping the streets cleaning them, anything that the country required they did it, those young people, aaa I mean thank god Kuwait is full of good people aa during a crisis people come together, they had a role in this aaand, the food of course the coops were open at the beginning, they used to move I mean what I know is that my daughters and my daughter in law went to coops to look around for what is available, they took things, and we used to get smuggled in money, for the people, sent from aaa aa where the Kuwaiti government was, and there were people here who donated food items, aaa, they came here to search, they reached the door, at the door I saw them fiddling with the neighbor's car they wanted to steal the mirrors from this side and that side, when they saw me hmmm, I had a watch in fact aand, and I mean, Rolex, there was a fire at Burqan and we participated in putting it down, this watch wasn't for me I I participated, but I didn't get this gift, they gave it to someone and that someone sold it to me, I bought it, they took it from me there they stole it.
[He laughs] and his name was written on it his name because all of the watchesgiven out by the company aa had names written on them, so the name was on the watch, they took it those cursed ones [he laughs].
[Almahmeed laughs] this is when they searched your house and took the watch?
Aa not at the house at the chalet.
Yes, at the chalet I passed by once and there were officers sleeping in therooms, and the soldiers were outside, I was wearing a uniform on purpose the fire service uniform the red one, I came and brought bread with me and watermelon and I don't know what I knew that they were there, I came and he said -- no -- they put that in my face I said why this is my house because they don't know what a chalet is, I said this is my house, and if you want to make sure here's my photo hanging up, I took them in and said look the photo who is this and I was wearing the same thing in the photo, they calmed down, I said who's there the ones who said there are officers sleeping aa, one of them started talking to them he said we can't, they had broken the door and gone in, I said why did you break the door here's the key, don't break the door or anything, and if you need anything call me I'll get it for you, anyways take care of the the, the things in fact, aa and another time when I came I didn't find them I saw that they took things and left, more than once they change the officers and they change.
Aaa I am Abdulaziz Al Mahmeed aand this is the third part of the interview withMr. Hussain Al Youha, aaa we are conducting this interview in Mr. Hussain's house located in Alomairiya area, the date today is 22nd of July 2019, and the time is exactly 5:00pm, aa Mr. Hussain we stopped at the last interview towards the end at the Iraqi invasion part.
Yes, do you have any other memories about the invasion that you'd like to add?
No I don't think so I mean, I think all that aa we reached that part where wecame from from, from the aaa the Emirates.
With Bahrain on Saudi Arabia and at the beginning of the liberation we enteredKuwait with equipment aa, machinery and such, aaa and we started working, this I think I I said, aaa, the fire service was most of the machinery aand some equipment was taken by the Iraqis, aand, and some we found at the desert, some were without batteries and some without tires without tires and some -- aaand we collected them and fixed them and the Americans the forces the the American military helped us, and helped us to aa rebuild the the machinery or to fix it, at the same time with got all the technicians who worked at the garages of Alghanim and Almulla aand, Toyota aand I mean, those remained in Kuwait therefore we benefited from them as technicians, aa with all kinds of machinery that was available in Kuwait, this is almost, those, aa technicians with -- they fixed it, so we brought them in so that we can benefit from them, aa I mean we gave them something modest, monetary -- so that they can get by, because we couldn't hire anyone, and we promised to hire them one day, in case things went back to normal and if they wanted to work but ultimately they'd go back to work for the companies where they used to work, so we benefited from them, we were able to rebuild in a short period of time approximately fifty sixty percent of aa I mean the fire service went back to aa their normal operations, during even after the end of the invasion, people needed electricity, people needed water, we provided families with water, we got cars from -- from Turkey, but most of them were used for diesel and benzine, so the tank smelled despite that people used this water, we used to give this machinery, aa for people to drink or at least to wash, aa we started I mean aa the fire service it played played a vital role during the invasion and after liberation to help people, aand, when everything went back to normal like I said before after that there was at the time when we needed them, ehm, aand it worked, then I I I mean in 1992 I retired because I completed 36 years at the fire service and my intention was to retire before the invasion but the invasion happened and I helped in things going back to normal at the fire service I participated, aa, when everything went back to normal I submitted aa my request aa for retirement.
Aa when did you go back to Kuwait after the invasion -- or after liberation?
Maybe a week after liberation.
We came after being in Dubai, from Dubai we boarded a plane to Bahrain, fromBahrain we took cars, we entered, I think we stayed a night or two only,
aand, the day we came to Kuwait we found fire but it was like night, because ofthe smoke and the oil fires, it was a disaster I mean a disaster, I mean humanity did not accept what happened, a dictatorship aa, I mean ultimately with unknown consequences, the consequences was to be dragged out of a hole after he used to rule a country, and everything was under his control, he became in fact a human being aa, unhuman, aa now in fact the situation is better, of course all places were restored -- something normal, aand Kuwait is fine, thank god.
Thank god, aand how was the process of reacclimating back to normal life for youafter the liberation in Kuwait, in general?
Yes, honestly a bit aa yes some trouble I mean even getting groceries, it wasdifficult and it was, but for me aa my kids were here, the one who was abroad was my wife in Bahrain, and I had my son -- the youngest, he was five four years old, I think something like that, his birthday we wanted to celebrate on Thursday and on Thursday the invasion happened, and they stayed in Bahrain aand, I of course left from here to go to my wife because, aa she is originally from Bahrain and therefore her brot -- her sister and her nieces and nephews, aa were there, after that I went aa I said before that to the Emirates and I had my nephew and my milk brother I stayed with him there, aa, we came back thank god.
Thank god, aa okay you aa last time mentioned off the record that you went toprison for a second time, would you like to talk about this experience?
Yes, yes the second time in fact it was, in 76, they dissolved the parliament,aa, aand they suspended the constitution, of course there was a reaction, people didn't approve of this, there wasn't a justification for the closure of the parliament -- or the suspension of life -- the parliamentary life, therefore the civil society or most of the national organization worked -- aa gathered aand, disapproved of what happened, including issuing a statement from the aa -- the Kuwait Trade Union Federation a partner of those, he participated within a delegation from the director of the federation who was Nasser aa, the brother of Saad Al, ehm, the actor, Nasser Al Faraj aa and I was the deputy, aa they closed most of the national organization, the federation was not closed or they didn't stop the union movement, aand, they arrested at the beginning around ten or twelve of the union youth who distributed the statement at mosques and at some places and for that they were arrested, aa after that, they wanted the director of the federation but couldn't find him so they arrested me and I told them he is here he didn't leave Kuwait, aand they called him or something like that I don't know, or through his brother Saad Al Faraj, aa, and arrested him in addition to Saad Sa -- aaa Nasser because he was the director of the federation and he signed the statement, aand there is, aa, Al Haroun, Thabit Al Haroun who later became the director of the federation back then he was in charge of external relations, so him and the director of -- of the federation participated in the meetings of the national organizations and presented the statement, aa aaaand they signed the statement, of course I didn't participate in this but the responsibility in the place of the director is the deputy, so I was arrested, and then they brought them in we spent 36 hours, I mean we spent the night in prison, aa and after 36 hours they received orders, they let us go, us and even the young ones before us maybe they spent ten days there, but aaa for us it was thirty s -- this is when I said Saad came to us and said if you would go to Yaber (Jaber) Al Ali may he rest in peace, aa I mean he had a hand in letting us go free, and I maybe I've spoken about this before, aa we went to him he had a garden in west Fintas, and we sat with him in in the in the garden around us are the chickens and the sheep and whatnot, and it was a good conversation to be honest aand nothing to be upset about I mean, we of course thanked him for what he's done for us he said it wasn't just me even the Amir who was aaa Yaber (Jaber) Al Ahmad and the rest of those in charge had a hand in the process of letting us go and when we were done with him he told us to go to the Amir, Shaikh Yaber Al Ahmad, I mean to pay our respects we said we don't mind, we left him and went to Shaikh Salem who was the minister -- aa Shaikh aa yes Salem Sabah Al Salem, he was the minister of affairs and we had a relationship with him because the ministry of affairs was in charge of the unions, we went to him and didn't find him but found his sun we told him we are here to pay our respects, aand the next morning, we took-- we went to the Amir, in Al Seif Palace, aaa, in his office, he received us, aand in fact I mean we witnessed kindness from this human being may he rest in peace, aa, different from other rulers who see people as worthless, he left his desk and sat among us, we were a group of about twelve maybe ten eleven people, aand we talked about Kuwait being a small country and I mean aand a lot of people I mean are envious -- they envy Kuwait this -- this what happened that we are aaa the circumstances, aa sh -- we were forced by the circumstances I mean when it came to the issue of aa stopping the parliament or suspending the constitution etcetera, aand he didn't bring up what happened to us or I mean aa nice conversation aaand very classy to the point where we are I mean of course respect this human being he was the rul -- the ruler of Kuwait and therefore -- he talked with us with this logic and class, and we left him on good terms aand he advised us to go to Shaikh Saad who also had a role as aa -- the cabinet of ministers at the time, and we went to him and meeting him was also wonderful he told us that you are I mean some of you are extremists and, we said that there are aa there are special agents with you who give you false information, and therefore from from what he said he said that if I was with you now sitting in a room here even if we reach the point where we are beating each other up but we leave this door we are brothers we also of course said the same thing we appreciated what he said and we left like brothers, aand Kuwait went on to be better this in fact is what we hoped for, we weren't in fact -- us as unions we didn't -- care about anything but the wellbeing and future of our country, and at the same time people asked us to defend their interests and defend the interests of all the people in this country whether they are Kuwaitis or non-Kuwaitis with love and care we didn't have any agendas if we exhibited back then some sort of a little bit of I mean extremism aa at the end our goal was the wellbeing of our country and the development of our country and we hoped for Kuwait after the invasion and liberation to be better for the sake of the Kuwaiti people because the Kuwaiti people sacrificed during the invasion, aa they removed trash they worked as bakers in the place of the Iranians who left the bakeries behind, I mean especially the young generation I am one of the people who at the beginning maybe in Al Omairiyya I wanted to participate in cleaning Al Omairiyya from trash and filth but they wouldn't let me, they said you are our father and our grandfather an old man just have a rest and we will do the, so this is something to be proud of, and thank god, aa this is in fact I mean the period after the liberation.
Aa okay aa wh -- do you remember what was in the statement that caused a problemaand led to your arrest?
A statement aaa that, what was said -- aa that led to the dissolution of theparliament aand the suspension of the constitution -- or or some of the articles of the constitution, aa we and all the national organizations I mean in our opinion not not aa that important to suspend all of this, so eventually what happened after this was the elections and the parliament was back but it was in fact I mean at that time there wasn't a justification for this -- we didn't know, maybe the government knew, or the Amir knew, but we for this reason in fact maybe issued the statement from the national organizations disapproving this, that's all.
Aa okay how was aa the experience of going to prison for the second timecompared to the first time?
The second time of course we didn't we didn't stay for long.
I mean this was in fact aaa, unions I mean the fact that the Kuwait Trade UnionFederation or the union movement participated with the national organizations that's why we were arrested, not aa politically but this is not considered in fact being arrested as union members, aaand we took part in disseminating the statement, but the good thing about it is that some national organizations were dismantled but the the union movement was not it remained the same, and we went back to normal, aand.
Was there a difference in treatment between the first and second time?
No no there wasn't aa we were kept for 36 hours I mean -- aaa I remember in theafternoon they took us aand we slept at night there in prison, aand when the aa, when it was afternoon time, they received orders and we took our things and left, we had with us each one of us had a b a blanket and personal things, we put it on the floor and spent the night there, aand after the morning they let us go, and it was back to normal after that aand, and thank god.
Aa if you would allow me I know I am jumping from one topic to another [clearshis throat], but there is a topic we didn't talk about --
You mentioned that your wife is from Bahrain, aaa can you talk to us about your marriage?
I, may god bless you with long life, Bahrain.
In sixty-seven, no sixty-five, I think yes, in sixty-five I got married thereaand I brought her from Bahrain a little after getting married, aand after a while she got the nationality and became Kuwaiti, we lived at the beginning in Salmiya, close to my family there, then they gave us in Al Omairiyya, houses they gave house there, and I was aa after the the aa marriage, aa I signed up and my turn came after twelve years I think, and I got the house it was in block one, some of my current neighbors, their houses next to mine, they told come here and helped me to switch my house to this one, and from aa -- [he sneezes], I'm sorry.
God bless you.
Aa I've been living in this house for almost half a century, it is a good areaaand my neighbors are good and we lived together as brothers, this is the period of, aand I had five kids, three boys aand and two girls, my son my daughter was aa, aa when I retired she was a vice principle at a school, and she almost become a principle, but she decided to aa retire so that she can focus on her kids, my other daughter the same thing aa in in school or in education, she was a secretary, aaa she worked for about less than 20 years and then retired for her kids too, of course I didn't approve of this, but it is their right I don't -- I can't intervene in their business, aa it was possible to do two things together, caring for children, and staying at work but they chose this path, my son aa one of them, aa studies aa in the former Soviet Union, and graduated as an engineer, and worked at the municipality as an engineer, aand a while after that aa he was sought after by the -- the secretary general aa, of what is it called? The National Council for Culture, Arts, and Letters as an engineer aand, and they hired him as a director of the -- aa the committee - the renovation committee because the council the the the national council for culture had a collection of heritage buildings that they wanted to renovate for example the Dickson house on the sea, and others I mean of course, anyways he worked there and after a while he became the assistant undersecretary of the deputy, of the the council, for eight years I think and after that he became the secretary general, for eight years he was the secretary general, now he is retired, and my other son is in the fire service, aa, he was aaa, aa he graduated from the -- the training center in Kuwait, aa he worked as a welder aa, aaa he majored in welding, and he stayed at the fire service until he retired, my third and little son, he studies also at an institute, the industrial one or the, public authority for industry or training, aand he worked as a supervisor at the municipality, and he is still working at the municipality of Farwaniyya.
What are the names of your children?
Aa, my children, my daughter Shaikha, my other daughter Intisar, my son Ali,Jamal, Khaled.
May god bless them.
Aa I mean, the eldest of course my daughter, after her is my son Ali then Jamalthen Intisar then Khaled, the last one, aand, around seven years ago my wife passed away.
Aah, may she rest in peace.
Yes, so, of course I didn't didn't I didn't didn't didn't get married becausethat is it, little remains of my life, thank god, I am living here at my house in Al Omairiyya it's been quarter of a century -- aa half a century almost.
Aa okay will you allow me to ask you aaa how did you meet your wife in Bahrain?
I in fact I mean before I married my wife I was about to marry someone fromKuwait, I wished for it to happen but it didn't, therefore I had my brother-in-law, aa he took me to Bahrain there were our people I mean related to us, we visited them and it wasn't my wife but another one that I got engaged to, and [he laughs] we aa we didn't agree eventually because she didn't want to come to Kuwait, she wanted to stay in Bahrain, and I of course wanted her to come to Kuwait, so I got engaged to my wife, the one who passed away may she rest in peace, in fact I didn't go there to marry her, but at the end we agreed on thing and I got engaged to her and we got married, and we got married and she came to Kuwait.
I mean was it arranged through family or, I mean?
Yes I mean not close family but related, yes related my brother-in-law was soexcited may he rest in peace for me to marry someone from our people our relatives, it's good that the other one didn't accept, aa I married this one my fate.
Aand what did she think of Kuwait when she first came?
I mean nothing special because she was young when I married her maybe fourteenyears old, back then people married at a young age especially women, aa, we lived in Salmiya, for some time until it was our turn to get a house, so we came aa to Al Omairiyya we got a house in Al Omairiyya, because there were areas areas still being built aand after that they distributed the houses, you would wait for your turn between 12 to 14 years something like that, so for us it was almost 12 years after we got married that we got this house and we came.
Aa did you have a wedding in Bahrain or something like that?
Yes of course.
They had a party and music and whatnot, aand, I mean, they brought in a women'sband, aand, there was some drumming and whatnot aa, we got married [he laughs], mmm.
Aa how old were you at the time?
I at the time was, I mean, aa in fifty, fifty-six, I was married, yes, fifty-sixfifty-five, for me in fact I mean, I wasn't old I was 25 years old maybe when I get married, but aa I mean it happened and we got blessed, and this marriage happened, and my fate was to be married from Bahrain not Kuwait, because I was in fact very excited and focused on one specific person aa aa to marry but it didn't happen, aand we quickly went to Bahrain and the engagement and the marriage happened.
Aand your first child was a daughter in --
Yes the first.
What year was that?
Meaning two or three years after getting married?
A year maybe a year after, aaa I mean, fifty-eight fifty seven maybe I gotmarried I don't know in fifty six something like that -- I know that I was 25 years old, and she was 14 years old young, aand I had a daughter and after that a son and after that a son and after that a daughter aand a son yes.
Do you remember the day your daughter was born?
Yes in aaa, which month, June I think, j -- the 9th of June.
No no I mean do you remember that day? Aa I mean, where was she born aand?
Yes she was born aa in Salmiya, aand of course in the maternity hospital, shewas born at a hospital, and our house was in Salmiya, this aa, the first one, and back then it was, no no no no air conditioning we didn't even have a fan, now I remember when we got that it was in in the month of aa, September it was I mean the beginning the end of summer, but it was hot, I went and bought a standing fan, to put it on the floor or the table so that it can cool her off only, not for the rest of us we are used to the heat, I mean, we lived back then even in the chalet when I got the chalet in seventy-three, we didn't have noo, aa we had something called treak (lamp) you power it by pumping, and it had aa something like a bag to put it like this, aa it lights up more than a lantern because a lantern is the least light I mean we have two kinds of lanterns the one that still exists, even this treak still exists I have one now in -- there at the chalet, because it gives more light and that we had the simple normal one, aa of course there wasn't aa air conditioning and no aa, even a fan, but we managed, I mean I remember in in in the chalet, one day, it was a summer day I mean in summer my kids when they come they sleep on the beach on the sand, and when morning comes they pack their things and go behind the chalet because there is shade, they go back to sleep there, and they are aa, their mom used to cook back then we didn't have maids or housekeepers, the women used to cook for us, we had three rooms at the chalet, one room was the kitchen where we ate, she used to cook for us, aand, and at night we slept outside in winter of course in winter one time it was cold, we had a gas operated heater, made in Iraq, we had it on in the room and they were sleeping on the floor like this -- their mom and me and the kids the small ones were, I don't know how around two three o'clock I woke up I don't know why I woke up I think maybe I wanted to go to the bathroom or go outside or something, I was surprised to see the heater catching fire and the the room is invisible from the smoke, it was good that my kids were all covered with with blankets because they were cold and their faces were under so they didn't smell the smoke, if they did they would've suffocated, so what did I do? I crawled on my belly, and went directly to open the door, I opened it wide open and we had two windows which I opened, and I didn't wake them up until the smoke was completely gone, they were shocked how did this happen we could've died on that day but thank god we survived, aa, and when we woke up in the morning we saw the the walls of the chalet completely black on the inside, and the ceiling was black I mean I was cleaning for two to three days to get the chalet clean, but it didn't affect them -- they didn't know anything at all, I have some experience because of the fire service so it made me do this if I had stopped or been scared of the smoke I might've fallen, but I crawled on my belly and that helped me and nothing happened to me and aft -- immediately I opened the door and the window and the smoke left, aa after that I remember we took a small machine, to power three or two lamps or three I don't know, and we got a small television it was black and white after that it became colored, so we depended on this, we used it for a while and after that we got a bigger machine I mean so that it can power the television and more lamps, and the third time we brought a bigger bigger machine, until, there was, a fire at the chalets area, close to me, and the wind was blowing north, and it reached my chalet, the chalet caught on fire, there wasn't anyone there, I was traveling, I remember I came back at night from traveling and the maid said to me: baba the chalet is gone. How is it gone? She said it caught on fire, in the morning I went and there was nothing at all, I about six months prior to that I had insured the chalet, I saw that my neighbor did that and who insured it for him? My nephew, he told me so and so Osama from Al Youha family oh! This is my nephew, so he told me he is the one who encouraged me to go aa, I said why didn't you tell me all this time so I can get the insurance with you, anyways after I heard that from him I immediately went and got the insurance, so when the chalet caught on fire they compensated me, they compensated me with a good amount of money and I built my current chalet standing until now, with the whole amount --
What year was that?
What year was that?
This was may god grant you a long life maybe around six to seven years after wehad the chalet, I mean towards the end of the seventies, the fire happened or the beginning of the eighties the fire took place at the chalets area, our neighbor's chalet caught on fire and then it came to us, and you know wood catches fire quickly, we didn't -- the fire station didn't do weren't able to come in time to stop it from spreading to others after, aand, I rebuilt it with this amount of money that I was given, I made a new chalet with a Turkish-Iraqi company, they made it for me they brought this pressed wood, aand, they brought it ready made and installed it there after they put in the flooring, and since that day in fact aa -- and we bought a machine this time that was bigger bigger a diesel operated one a big one that powered everything from that amount of money I was given and thank god it worked out, until now this chalet we renovated the inside we added new things but the old stuff are still there and are good too, for about 40 years this chalet is still standing made out of wood, and we are still in this chalet.
It is still built out of wood?
Some of it aa I mean my son built a chalet, and now his kids are studying abroadhe has three daughters, and the daughters are doctors, the three of them studied in Britain, and after they graduated they are close in age, they came back to Kuwait and got jobs, as doctors in, and after that they went aa one of them went back to Britain a dentist, she majored in one type of dentistry or something, aaand two of them one has been done since September and is coming back to Kuwait, with her husband they got married and studies together in London and they went to Canada together, she is a doctor now graduated aaa in plastic surgery and he aa specializes in the brain, I mean high caliber doctors.
Yes, so they spent so many years but eventually we hope that they will servetheir country and hopefully in September they will come back and start working, aand, thank god.
Hopefully, thank god.
But what happened, a little that aa, my eldest daughter finished universityhere, and got a job, my other daughter not from, vocational education center, she majored in secretarial studies and she worked as a secretary, aand I said like I said before that he works ha -- he works as a welder certainly a great technical job, aaa at the fire service, aa he worked for thirty years and the youngest is the same thing he didn't go to university after high school, I had hopes that they will all go to university -- but this is fate and something must happen I mean aaa, and their kids, aa and my daughter the eldest one she has four boys she doesn't have girls unlike her brother, her brother has three boys and doesn't have daughters, she has thre four boys, one of them is aa an officer at the army one with the police and one also graduated from the education center, and the other one -- the other two, one retired these days because he is a bit ill aa with seizures, so he didn't finish the legal period -- and he retired aa the fourth one has a job, my other daughter has one son and three daughters, aa, one just went to university, one finished high school and now in training, The Public Authority for Applied Education and Training, and the boy also aa, also in The Public Authority for Applied Education and Training and his major is he works at the airport, aand something good is that this Mohammad my other daughter's son Mohammad, and both of them love jet skis, aand participate in races they've been at it for more than ten years, and therefore both of them are world champions, in jet ski races they go to America and they go to the Emirates, now they just came from Belgium, the jet ski of one of them got broken so the other one he had to -- he became the world champion just now, and they go almost every year to America, aand the Emirates of course all the time annually they hold training courses in which they participate, so we have two world champions in this aa jet ski major, and it's good right?
Yes, may god keep them in good health.
Okay what is your relationship with your kids like?
Thank god, very good, of course aa, I love them, they are my grandchildren, andnow I have little grandchildren from my youngest son, one who is five years old and one two years old, here with me at the house the house I'm living in me and my youngest son, my other kids have their own houses, aa one lives in Jabriya my oldest son and my daughter is in this area close to me aand my other daughter in Abdullah Al Mubarak, and my youngest son here with me, he is upstairs and I am downstairs if we wanted to have lunch we call each other and have lunch together, now after I retired and after I served at the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development for four years aand and a consultant at the Kuwait Trade Union Federation, that's it, time for us to relax, aaa, from Wednesday I go to the chalet, Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday, my kids thank god are with me, and my sons-in-law are good and kind and love the sea love the sea and they are sea people, both of them we all go to the chalet, the girls, I mean maybe my oldest son was busy with the National Council for Culture, Arts, and Letters sometimes until until mid-night, there would be concerts and some things he doesn't come home so he would rarely come to the chalet, the girls no, and the two boys are always with me even when their mom was alive may she rest in peace they were always at the chalet yes and even here at the house they left the house but they used to come to their mom almost every day at the house, and their chalet with me and I'm so happy with them and their little kids, and thank -- thank god we are living.
Aa are there things aa you like to do after you retired other than going to the chalet?
No thank god now, I of course am now 86 87 years old thank god, my health isgood and everything is good good, my car I drive my car by myself, I go to the chalet, sometimes I go in the morning, I had friends who would come ones who were union members with me, every Wednesday to have lunch, every time it's someone's turn to provide lunch -- or every week now some are traveling and whatnot but once they get back we go back to this arrangement, if they will have lunch with me I leave in the morning so that I can receive them when they come at noon, aa, we divided ourselves, sometimes here and sometimes there it's good I mean the sea is beautiful, the weather there is beautiful, the sea aa is beautiful, aa, I used to go to catch fish and whatnot but now, my age in fact doesn't allow me to do more than this, aa my sons-in-law took my place at sea, and some of my kids love the sea aa some would go fishing with their brothers-in-law I mean the eldest Ali, the other two not that much but they love to swim, they don't like fishing and things like that, but my eldest son no aa, like his brothers-in-law fishing and whatnot so he goes with them, also it is close not that far from here to the chalet around half an hour a little above half an hour, aaa, Mina Abdullah, near Om Al Haiman almost, I mean when we first went there everything that we needed we have to bring with us or we would go from the chalet to Fafaheel to buy stuff, today in fact Om Al Haiman became the suburb of Ali Sabah Al Salem, a big coop two big branches of coops and everything you would need is there, so we buy from there, okay, a good situation, I used to travel when I was a union member I go on union missions, I mean I went as far as Cuba like I said before, I wasn't that excited to go abroad because I only know Arabic, and therefore I mean aa I tried as much as possible to avoid going, although it was an open door for union members to go anywhere, aaa and this is something good in fact the communication part between, different people in the world you take from them and you benefit and you come back to apply the good things you learned in your country, I mean benefiting from the union work I mean you yourself, your relationship with humanity in its entirety on a global scale, and we truly benefited from it maybe we got distracted others maybe went towards commerce and whatnot but we stuck to union work but it was something beautiful the way people loved you, aand, when it was election time yes -- they go out of their way to come pick you you don't pay them anything just because you are you they come and they don't want financial gains or anything like that, and this I think is a gain for us, the aa, people are kind to stand by us and help us and they are considered our teachers we learned from them dedication and loyalty towards our nation and work, we have a principle I mean I know most of the founding union members we were the first to go into work we had jobs we didn't just do union work and we were the last to leave work at the same time we did union work, this.
Aa after we covered your entire personal history, aa was there something youwish you had done differently in your life?
I mean, aa the most important thing to me was that my kids get educated, thiswas the first priority to me, to reach this thank god now I have an officer in the army my son one was the secretary general of aa the National Council for Culture and Letters, the other two still work aa one at the municipality and ha the fire service he also left -- retired, they did their work and their duty my daughters work in education one almost became a school principle and the other one could've been promoted but they preferred to be close to their kids more than work because at the beginning of their lives there weren't any maids or anything like that not not like now I mean almost half of the Kuwaitis have house maid but before that it wasn't like this, except for the rich merchants who had maids but in Kuwait in general it wasn't like that, I wished for this but it didn't happen, to have money aand thank god, I have a house I have my situation is good aaa I'm living I mean, I don't need -- all my kids work and have salaries and support themselves and my salary from the fire service is good my retirement salary, and I don't want more than this.
We are almost at the end of the interview --
Aaa do you have any thing you would like to add I mean from your personalhistory maybe we didn't cover something maybe we didn't talk about something?
No maybe aa the last thing I said I mean this is what I wish for for my kidsafter me -- I had hopes for the unions first that they would come -- to carry on after us the educated and it actually happened people with degrees came to become more than we were and to participate in building the country, aand to build on what we did and this in fact is a reality I mean until now we are the founding members so they respect us the ones who took over the union work, and there is communication between us and them, I mean aa two weeks ago I went to take part in a seminar in Ahmadi for the union movement the one that is associated with oil this communication exists this is what we hoped for, we maybe aa, there wasn't that much development in union work but we wish to see more effort from the youth now there are enthusiastic people who are giving as much as they can but we wish for them to do more to look at their country that is very important, this is their country and they are all responsible, everyone here every Kuwaiti is responsible for Kuwait they can't say it is none of my business no, and thank god there is freedom, I mean in in even a long time ago before this freedom was available like it is now -- now you can say whatever you want as long as you don't cross dangerous limits or the limits that might harm you, and there are I mean few Arab countries like this like what we have in Kuwait, to care for it and improve it and to be union members of high caliber to be chosen those people who elected them to work and to be an actual example a role model and to love each other and to be brothers and colleagues because what benefits them or what allows them aa to offer new things is their unity aa with each other, aand, Kuwait needs them needs everyone to offer something even if it was little, this in fact is all I wish for, and even my colleagues I know they are the same kind of people I mean the role models in everything.
Okay since you are I mean one of the founding members of the union work inKuwait aand I mean someone with a long and rich experience aa do you see a difference between the aa union work now and union work when you used to do it?
Yes I mean from talking about this I'm saying that I wish for more, I wish formore because the the union work aa in, it can contribute, offer something I mean for Kuwait, in everything you can imagine and see in the world you wish you had that, to offer, to think to participate, because when we were back then even in the process aa, aa issuing the labour law in the private sector we participated in that, in the annual plan every five years since the beginning of union work we took part in that, we presented suggestions as much as we can and to the best of our ability, I mean we are people who don't say, we came knowing everything, but all we wished for, for our country we offered back then, and they considered our opinion, somewhat, and this is something ba good I mean one of the things that that we are proud of aa the labour law in in the oil sector, the the oil sector used to be under the private sector, the law was about not the, aa we are not saying that they didn't do enough for Kuwaitis, I mean now in an oil country aa there is a law that matches the status of this country, aa the public aa sector law were rectified, we had a role in social security, now aa I mean a Kuwaiti when he re re retire, he gets a salary and lives happily and this thank god is something something good, we hope that these youth with their enthusiasm to translate this into actual work, we need some work to improve our country to criticize to say some things are not good and somethings are good, I mean now when you go out on the streets you see hundreds of aa bridges that were erected in Kuwait during the past five six years, these are huge gains these are great things, Kuwait after it was destroyed by Saddam Hussain or the Iraqi regime came back better than before, these are gains, we have to thank people who did this and appreciate and respect them, aand towards more that you ask for more and ask for the best no one is telling you why are you talking why are you saying this, say whatever you are thinking whatever is in your heart, don't complain, complain while you are sitting in your house no take that off your mind like they say take it off, and go into into work immediately, offer what you want offer what you can through unions not through you personally, the unions present written projects and rely on on specialized experts its their right to have, I mean, how did we come to union work we didn't have that much experience with union work some people taught us very well, we in fact are grateful to them those are the kind people who came from abroad, they gave lectures and they participated with us and they gave us, so therefore, you alone will try to do things but you can do everything, you are limited but you rely on people who are experiences to give you instructions and, to give you things that you can offer, this is all I wish for thank god and I'm living, aand the most important thing is people's love this is a great gain, and this is thank god something I have, so I mean wherever I go, I mean they appreciate the previous efforts that was exerted by someone and the sacrifice, I didn't get something for me personally, I never in fact wished to have something for me thank god I'm the same as others from a driver at the fire service to a deputy of the director at one administration -- the fire service which is the services administration, this position from aa a simple driver position to a leutanant and there wasn't at the time a rank higher than that at the fire service if there was I would've achieved it, I consider myself one of the pioneers the ones who achieved all the ranks, but as a job I got the position of deputy I reached the position of the deputy of a director, this is in fact a great achievement for me, aand because my education was limited aand of course the educated ones who came had bigger opportunities, and they came to the fire service and improved it I mean every generation has its, aaa a type of people who can learn and the education today is changing and improving, in all fields, from medicine and others, I mean before you would do a heart surgery where they cut you, aaa now they do it with a scope, I mean life before we used to ride camels and then we developed I mean bit by bit and today we ride cars and planes something I mean, it's changing humanity is developing and advancing, thank god.
Thank god, aa now we have reached the end of the interview I mean we can't thankyou enough I mean I personally thank you and on behalf of the oral history project at the American University, aa you offered us a rich narrative on your personal history aand I mean we thank you very much.
Thank you, a lot, I hope that I aa succeded or tried as much as possible todeliver this message to you so that it can reach others to benefit from it, with appreciation and thanks to you for having me at this interview, thank you.
Many thanks, I will stop the recording now? Yes.