Partial Transcript: Aa my name is Sarah Akbar. S A R A H, Akbar A K B A R, and and my date of birth is twenty-fifth of October nineteen fifty-eight.
Nineteen fifty-eight and you were born where?
I was born in hospital in Magwaa area…
Aa, which was part of KOC, the oil company.
The hospital was for Kuwait Oil Company?
And where, where exactly is Magwaa? For…
It's just the area where the airport is…
There was a small village…
In that, in the oil field itself... aaand I so I was born in that village and then we moved to Ahmadi because my father used to work in Ahmadi so very little while in Ahmadi and aa but ya’ani...
Partial Transcript: so I was born in an oil field aa my childhood was around oil fields, and... my whole life I spent in oil fields.
So why were you born, in Magwaa in an oil field?
Cause my father used to work for the oil company.
For Kuwait Oil Company?
Okay, do you know when he started working there?
Probablyyy, nineteen forty-six.
After the fa, the, the First World War.
Second world war worked for KOC untill I think, probablyyy aaa, nineteennn sixty-seven or something so he worked for a long time for Kuwait Oil Company, he he he was like just the other Kuwaities at those times they all started like labor they had no education nothing so he will just we'll just like labor but he progressed in his career to become a supervisor aa responsible for [phone message alert] delivering aa the fuel for aa ya’ani the houseees [phone rings] the aa, various sites the way they used to transport fuel was you know they have [phone message alert] these small tankers they move them around so he was responsible for dispatching and management of the aa, of this but aa, for for a while right after the aa war aa this, this is not memory this is what I heard from him he worked in the drilling... as a labor in the drilling aa crew aand they he was working in in Waraa in Burgan he they were drilling the Burgan, so a lot of the first few wells in Burgan, and so he was involved in the drilling of the Wara wells and so on.
Okay... and so, they lived he and and your mother lived in Magwaa, so there was a…
For a while.
There was a... there was a village there.
There was a village in Magwaa it was, aa of course aa I was born and I think right after that, they moved from Magwaa…
That village was removed or something, so they moved to Ahmadi for a while and then we
Partial Transcript: ] moved too Fahahel aan we stayed in Fahaheeel untilll nineteen... maybe, seventy four or so.
Aa the, the village in Magwaa was it mostly the Kuwaiti employees or was it…
I think all employees.
Yeah, it was aa... so by a at that time Ahmadi was really not aa built as city
Partial Transcript: they were building Ahmadi but…
It was not ready... aand when Ahmadi started to come up, they moved to Ahmadi at that village was demolished.
Do you remember what year you moved to Ahmadi?
Noo, I was not ya’ani I was too little.
You were still very young, so do you have any memories of Magwaa?
No no, not at all.
No no, I I don't have the faint faintest memory or anything about this, aa...
Partial Transcript: ] my my earliest memories, aaa [pause] in aa, it was actually it's in Fahaheel where I mostly remember, aaa the things that happened I remember so, I think I was like threee or fooour [sigh] aa when aa Iraq threatened Kuwait for the first time... and aaaa [pause] you know I remember I my father was I was he was carrying me, and we were watching all the tanks for the first time, they they came from the port, in Shaibaa, and they were on the road, so that is one of the faint memories I have about that period, aaa I remember few things when I used to wonder with the kids in in in the oil fields, so I remember the flares the fires that we had big fires.
Aaa these were flares, just from the oil heads orr?
No no noo the company that time was burning oiling gas…
Just gas they didn't use gas they didn’t need gas so they had these huge flares in in in the desert and I used to go and watch these flares.
Would you, you'd go with your father or just aa...
No no no... you see, Farah what people don't realize [swallowing] that there was early days... in Kuwait, life was completely different... and you know as children, we enjoyed complete freedom, of wandering in the dessert wandering in the neighborhood, girls and boys with, hardly any restriction so the society was pure, aaand trust between people was, hundred percent, ya’ani in Kuwait probably in a whole year you would not hear about a crime, so the society was different, the number of people was much less and all the people knew each other, and they used to live in harmony no distinctions noo ya’ani most of the people were really not rich …
My neighborhood was not never rich people but they were living good not bad, but the ethical standers, the moraaals, thee securityyy, the safetyyy [noise] was something that, aa is you you you you you cannot imagine…
Now in this age and time the way we used to live, you can only see it for example in the oldest movies when people moved to new territory and then you know the children wander and you know it's like that.
Yeah, so you then moved to Fahaheel quiet young again if you're…
If in nineteen sixty one you were…
Yaaa, I was like three or four when I went to Fahaheel but you know we were living on the edge in Fahaheel very close to the oil field.
Closer towards Ahmadi?
Closer to Ahmadi closer to, the refinery.
You know where is the refinery in Ahmadi? Ahmadi refinery we were very close to that, to that territory so so like I used to aa I used to walk to the refinery, you know like that what I'm saying you know there were veeeryy little restrictions limitations, on the movement of, children like us.
We go into the refinery we go into the oil field we walk around we play together with the boys an… complete different lifestyle, that you can imagine for children at that time.
Were a lot of the people who lived in Fahaheel at the time affiliated with the oil company?
Aa, and do you remember what your neighborhood looked like, there?
The neighborhood? Aaa, it was simple houses, aa ya’ani originally eb East Ahmadi it was like simple houses... few, ya’ani few rooms very faint memory of East Ahmadi but in Fahaheel it was ara like these Arabic houses.
So East Ahmadi was were you lived before Fahaheel?
[Talking at the same time]
In in the oil company town?
But then when we moved to Fahaheel again these were mostly company workers, but it was like Arabic houses.
Open houses with few rooms and kitchen and you know, small not big.
Were these built by the oil company?
Some of them but noo,I think with people, they built them themselves.
Okay... was Ahmadi sorry was Fahaheel at that time, part of um now, is is this is in the beginning and into the sixties where in some of the neighborhoods closer to Kuwait City, there's new villas being built and government housing was Fahaheel yet feeling that development that the city was…
No, no no no, Fahaheel was the old stay still the old I mean the developments of Fahaheel come much later after I think we left Fahaheel.
Yeah, so it still was sort of like the old Courtyard houses the old firjan neighborhoods.
Um, um [swallowing water]
Partial Transcript: Yeah, so my first school aaa I went to I didn’t go to a kindergarten, although my sister did I didn't. I started right into Primary School, our school was called Om Ayman in Fahaheel and it was like… aa twenty minutes walk, from the house, So I would walk for twenty minutes to go to the school.
Yeah alone an sometimes with some of the children from the neighborhood ya’ani imagine we would walk to the school every day and then come back.
Yeah, and so you started at how old?
Like I think five or six.
Five or six?
Yeah, aaand so and then I finished the primary school and I moved to another school which was Fahaheel Intermediate School, which was on the seashore and it was intermediate that has six levels…
It was not only four like before it had six levels, but when we finished three levels, they moved us to the Fahaheel because there were very few students…
so we were moved to Fahaheel aaa High School, but it had high school and Prime intermediate school, so I two years I spent in the old school in the seashore and then two years in high school with elder girls and so but the whole Fahaheel the whole, you know, and this is not only the whole Fahaheel from all the way from Nuwaiseeb to Masila and Ahmadi. All this territory, we only had one girl's school for intermediate and prime and secondary.
Okay, and that was in Fahaheel?
That was Fahaheel High School, which was both intermediate and secondary.
So this tells you about the population. Because all the way from Nuaiseeb there was no other School for girls except for that one, to Masila, and Ahmadi and this whole territory it was only one school. Ya’ani maximum six hundred girls…
For both primary intermediate and now when you when I see the population in Kuwait, I wonder where did these people come from? [Laughs] Because I don't know I as long until I finish high school, we only have there was one high school for all girls of that whole territory, so where did these people come from? Can't, cannot figure it out, you know.
Partial Transcript: So the the the people who mainly lived in this area between Masila and Nuaiseeb, were these the same people who had lived in some of the villages before oil like in Fintas and
Yeah yeah yeah…
And in the Adan district?
Fintaaas, Bo Hulaifa aaa ya’ani aa kan Al Fintas, Bo Hulaifa, Al Manqaf, Fahaheel, Shua’aiba, and some came from Zour ma Zour eli kanu yishtaqloun hinak their families used to work in a MN oil and Jetty Oil Company then we had Ahmadi and aa and Fahaheel and that was and Masila, little bit Masila wa banat Shaikh Sabah Al Salem few people there, but that was it.
And had your father moved, your family, your parents, moved to Magwaa before that had they been living in?
Kanu eb Sharq.
In the town, in Sharq okay, and they moved for the…
Yeah, because of the work aa,
Partial Transcript: Okay [Phone vibrates] Um, do you remember living in East, we will come back to Fahaheel for sure, but do remember living in East Ahmadi at all?
Veeery faaaint memory very little I was too young. I think like three two or three years old.
Yeah, and this was in the town in the Kuwait oil company town.
And so w w was do you remember I mean, I've heard things about you know, how Ahmadi was separated between where the Arabs would live where the British would live with the Indian do remember any…
Yeah yeah yeah, it was actually not the Arabs and English, as I don't know about the separation, but I know they separated for grades.
So senior staff North Ahmadi, Arab staff or junior staff its East Ahmadi and that was the categories of their housing.
Yeah, do you know if the house you lived in is still there?
Yeah, probably it is there. They renovated houses but, but I can't remember, I can't remember the place, I can't remember, I just remember the times I used to walk into the desert, from the house, I can just see the desert in front of me.
Partial Transcript: Um, and so what was growing up in Fahaheel like? Like it first, let's maybe start first in the household, how many were you living in the house? Like how many brothers and sisters did you have and…
Sooo, we are ten people five brothers… Five Sisters aand, it was a small house but like old houses we used to live together in the room, same room, aa you know, aa [cough] so we had three rooms in the house. My father used to to to to have a room for him [noise] and my mother and then the two rooms one which was like the living room and that same living room at night we used to put the frash and we sleep aand the third room [noise and phone vibrates], aa we had like the fridge like stores a few things there and then we had a kitchen, and two toilets we had at that house and there was a section where we had like sheep and a goat and whatever, that's aa…
And so all of the kids would sleep in the same room
At night, yeah.
Yeah, yeah and sometimes in the summer we would sleep in the housh.
Put farsh again and sleep.
So five brothers five Sisters. Where are you, you in the ranking?
I'm number three.
So you had two, who's older than you a brother, sister?
My sister Zubaida and my brother Muhammad they are older than me.
Okay, and how many years between you?
Between the me and Zubaida five years, me and Muhammad two years.
Okay, so when you were living then in Ahmadi so they were a bit older than you?
And then when you move too Fahaheel you were, and then between you and let's say your youngest sibling.
Yeah, what’s the age gap?
I don't know, never thought about it.
I even don't know what year she put she was born. [sigh] I don't know.
You don’t know? [laughs] but was there, when you were growing up for instance in Fahaheel when you were in school in elementary school middle school were all ten of you there or some were still not born yet?
No, no some were not born and they, well all of us were born in Fahaheel bas aa ya’ani I remember for example, I was like twelve or fourteen even, fourteen when Adel was born my brother, so fourteen years Ascia is two years younger, so sixteen years between me and Ascia.
Ascia is the youngest?
So that kind of difference.
Okay, so by the time when she was born you were almost, you were in high school you were in secondary school thanawiya.
Yes, kint bel thanawiya yes.
So what was that like living in a household with so, with with you know, ten brothers nine brothers and sisters and your parents.
So, so my eldest sister because she was the eldest she took big responsibility. She was helping my mother all the time because… we had a helper one nanny who used to come help my mother when she had children and so bas my sister she took a big responsibility, she was like the one who helped my mom raise us.
Now… I was not very responsible person, let's put it this way. So I would help in the household and so ya’ani I help in the washing the dishes cleaning the house, but I was not dedicated to that. I spent a lot of time outside of the house playing, going with the boys. I was playing with the boys all the time.
The boy is your brothers or the boys of the neighborhood?
Both my brothers, neighborhood, so I spent more time outside than inside.
Partial Transcript: Aaand so in school… I was very good at school, and I did not need to, study hard to get good grades. I think you know in my family, I am almost always almost the exception that I really did not put a lot of effort and school, but I got the highest marks. I was special student in the bel madrisa until high school, I was very special because of my biological nature. So as aa you know, I waited I my weight was 35 kilograms until I finished high school. So I was very tiny very tiny person, dark I was dark because I was always out in the sun playing around, so I was tiny dark and smart. And that actually so I remember you know in in in high and intermediate and high school they used to give us a lot of gifts when you get good marks when you are in the higher number one in the class or whatever. I always got those gifts and they always had me interviewed in school because I was ya’ani shatra but in order to do those interviews mathalan fi taboor alsabah wla wherever they have to put a chair so that I can stand so that people could see me because I was really tiny…
Very small… aaa so, school, I really enjoyed school, now I have to go back a little bit and tell you in my education I learned English before Arabic. The reason for that is I had a friend in the neighborhood Pakistani girl, aaa whose mother was a teacher, the Pakistani school, so I would play with her and then like 4:00 pm her she would sit and her mother would actually teach her alphabet teach her words teach her numbers addition subtraction like that, and I was very very jealous of her…
because I think we were like four years old five years old, so I went to my mom crying said look why Foziya, look she's she knows how to write, she knows how to use the pen, Oh, that's big privilege. She knows how to read. And you cannot teach me you don't put like the same time effort Foziya’s mom's doing for her. and of course, my mother never went to school, she never knew how to write or read, not neither my father. Both of them were just, no schooling… So what she did she went to Foziya’s mother and she asked her. She said look, since you are teaching your daughter alphabet and this why don't you put Sarah together with your Foziya and teach them and I’ll pay you a KD per month. And you know at that time one KD was like one hundred KD now was very precious money. But still my mother was willing to pay her so that she shuts me up…
Because I was nagging all the time about this. And I started doing that with Foziya’s mother, but because it was a Pakistani education, it was in English, so it was English education not Arabic so I learned the alphabet, I learned some words and you know English is much easier to teach than Arabic, so I learned all of that, and then when I went to school we never had English was all Arabic right? So, I mean first time we took English was in aa year five…
So the educational system came as a shock to me… Because, firstly, I went with the spirit I know everything only to find out that I really know nothing. Not only that, to learn the Arabic was so difficult after the English learning. So for the year one and two, I was a such a horrible student. And I still remember in year two one of the teachers I can see her, miss Meyassar, aa I had very bad marks bel Arabi and she hit me with the bel mastara I still remember that, because… I could not understand how I could not read and do the Arabic well. I started only to improve after year three, year three and four I did well, not excellent, I was not on the top of the class, but at least I started to understand the Arabic I started to get interested, even for the numbers, the Arabic numbers. Now the time I really flourish now I just got out of was when I was started year five and why because we started to take English and it's immediately came back all my English came back came very useful, and then I got the Arabic and I got the English and that's when I started to come out that above the class and you know, all the it's like you open the channel and now I flourished after that so… So that I mean it, it taught me something about education at tender age and how does it affect, you know your coming up and so, [inhales] and actually, today if I do a mind mapping... Normally for engineers you would have your right brain more active, but in my case, it's very balanced both parts of the brain because, I worked, you know, my passion for aa artistic talent, for, artistic work for, creative writing, for it's as strong as my engineering skills and whatever. Aaa but both are average, they are all superb. Okay? Because if you do use both parts of the brain mean you can be Da Vinci or you can be just a normal average person. Now… for a long time during my education, I was thinking, should I do engineering and medicine or you know technical line because I really liked it, or, I should focus on history, poetry, Arabic language and linguistic, because I really like it too until today, I can [laughs] I think you know when I finished with my job with Kuwait Energy, I was thinking I wanna go back to school…
I wanna study something and I said mm I don't want to do anything to do with engineering for sure, but what do I wanna to do? Do I wanna do philosophy or history or Arabic literature? I'm still, you know, I am sixty years old now almost, and still I cannot figure out…
what exactly is, because it's so diversify, you know, in my own brain, so I'm thinking I'm still thinking I do wanna do I wanna study I want to do a research, I want to be involved in that, but I'm not I've not figured out which one of these through three things I wanna do. I love them all.
Well, that's great that you have, you know still have an interest in pursuing something new after excelling in one field in engineering.
I, I, I do wanna do that and I will look at the first opportunity that comes…
To detach, from everything else and focus on education. I wanna study, I wanna be a student, aa I want to go deeper in one of those three topics.
What's really interesting what you said that this experience from very early on, umm, studying English and going into the school and the shock of the new system aa really instilled in you the impact and effect that education can have on on somebody. Aa when you were going to, when you first went into the school, did you continue taking lessons with Foziya’s mother in English or you stopped?
No, we stopped. We stopped after we because well, you know, I had to do homework and so on and I didn't I wasn't very keen on homework and whatever I do most of the work most of the teaching in house in the school in the class itself, because after class I wanted to play…
I wanna go around then go to the seashore I go to the, play with the boys and you know, go to the market.
I'm gonna come back to that. I wanna jump back for one second to ask you one thing. You mentioned that there was a Pakistani school where Foziya’s mom taught.
Was that in Fahaheell?
‘Atiqid it was in Mangaf.
In Mangaf. So was there already at that time a Pakistani community living in that area?
Partial Transcript: Oh, Pakistani, Indian, Egyptian, all all the nationalities were there.
And so that region in Fahaheel, Fintas aaa, this was was quite mixed…
Aaa by nationality.
[Swallowing water] We had every nationality was there.
And we were the neighborhoods mixed? Or was there like this neighborhood is Kuwaitiyeen and then this neighborhood was other nationalities or it was mixed.
La mixed, mixed bs khal aaa let's put it this way, they were not big communities.
Ya’ani like I explained to you, area from Nuwaiseeb to hatha we had one school.
And, and Foziya and those girls were coming to the same school.
So they came to the Arab, to the to the same school that you, government school?
Yeah, after, after, after some time, it's later join our school.
So you mentioned earlier you used to go out after school to, or you know, and play with the boys in the neighborhood by the seashore. Can you describe that the so, you know during your childhood, the things you do for fun?
Partial Transcript: Well, you know we used to go aa to the seashore, most of the time we spent on the seashore Fahaheel. And so soon he was number one playing with the sand, and whatever, fishing we did a lot of fishing, used to go with my father fishing. Aaa… then we had you know, there are some games…
Al muqsi, al ’anbar, al eteel all of that. I played every single game the boys used to play, with them. Aand aaa we wandered around in the desert, we used to go under the fence of the refinery…
Into the refinery, into KOC territory, aaa, used to do small fires and set like campfires, talk, every type of childhood crime I can say.
Like, what? What did you, were some of the naughty things you did?
Ya’ani some of the naughty things, we know, we used to go on top of the roof nitil kan fi ‘aal jeeran aaa aa, there was aa Omani group in aa in the neighborhood every weekend they have tubol o taqtiqa o wanasa used to go watch those.
In their house or in the?
Kanu ysawoona bel fireej.
And then sometimes in their house and they were the house behind our house, so we go up on the roof and watch them have haflat ziran o haflat ma’arif shno…
Partial Transcript: I used to watch that ba’adain al omaniyeen fajaa ekhtifaw kilhom rahu Oman aaa they all left.
What were they, the Omani community doing? With a with the oil company wala bas they were living here?
No, they were mostly fishermen, baya’een eendhom shops ya’ani various jobs some, fewer in the oil company.
And then how come the, you said they suddenly left? Rahu.
Because I think when aa Sultan Qaboos, aa became the sultan he called them back and they went. But there was a nice community of Omanis bel Kuwait they all went back.
Partial Transcript: Yeah, yeah, was it, were, was it normal also for other girls in the neighborhoods to go out also with you guys with the boys and play or...
Some. Few girls.
I think the to the great extent, I was kind of abnormal in that scenario.
Was it also that, umm ya’ani were families more strict on their girls?
Some of them.
Yeah, but yours was, you felt you had more freedom?
Yeah, my family, my mother, I think maybe… she was too busy with lots of kids and household and all of that. This was one reason, but aa because I was with my brother, so I have two brothers younger than me and one brother older than me and I was with them all the time and there was and so the other girls that my, in the neighborhood they their families were far more restrictive on them, so they wouldn't go like I did.
Sooo, I had no choice but to play with the boys because you know, there wasn't anybody in that same kind of, except for Foziya who was with me all the time as well.
And she would play with you guys.
Yeah until, until they left, you know, after her mother was killed they all left.They went to Ahmadi.
Yes, but you said you you, you kept in touch?
No, I, I met them waaay later in time.
No, no no, after they left the the the Fahaheel, they moved to Ahmadi, I didn't see them for like I don't know aa... in high school.
So they used to come to the high school, but during the whole primary, primary and intermediate school, I didn't see them, no.
So did you know she was going to be coming to the school in high school or did you suddenly see her one day?
No, I was suddenly I didn't see her.
Do you remember how.. but you saw her suddenly ya’ani she came to school..
I saw her but she was never the same person. She completely changed all of them completely changed. They didn't want to remember the time. It wasn't a good memory for them.
So they try to avoid and I never became, we never became real good friends after that because it just took them back...
You were part of the life when her mother was...
Yeah, she wanted to, yeah, she wanted to forget.
[Sigh] unfortunate. Yeah.
Partial Transcript: Yeah, aa, so you would go to school you'd walk to school and primary school Fahaheel, it was, this was a good... in primary school was it also only girls or was a mixed girls and boys?
No, it was only girls.
Only girls. So it was always...
Al hukuma o kila banat separate education, yeah.
And the boys were in the same area? The same school, your brothers were just...
No they have their own School.
Yeah. Ehna we had aa Om Ayman our school aa Ohma Othman Bin Affan school ba’adain ehna rehna Fahaheel mitwasta ohma they had ehna ba’dain rehna thanawiyat al Fahaheel ohma thanawiyat al Fahaheel baneen.
So you said from your five onwards is where you felt that you really started to flourish in school, aa do you remember, what are some of your memories of that period from intermediate and secondary school?
Yeah, you know, I remember like I said, I was a little tiny for physical reasons and I didn't grow up I think for hormone problem problems and stuff like that, so I was tiny in the class and you see at that time… we had many girls in the class who were muchhh older because ya’ani that period was the period where they started school anyway, so like I was for example, I was eleven years old, but we had people fifteen years, sixteen years in the same class.
Yeah, they started later ya’ani?
Yes, of course because you know with education this is what the start of the education, so we had variety of ages in the class. It's not like you'll have one age of, no, it was variety of ages. But I was, I was very smart, I really liked science, math, English, Arabic, so I excelled in all the classes. And I still remember the times when I was this tiny little girl surrounded by all these girls who was much older than me. I was the one who was teaching them…
And this gives you some kind of you know, edge I think on the class in the class, so that is something I really remember. I remember, like I told you when they used to interview me on the taboor alsabah o o o musabaqat whatsoever and they had to make special arrangements because I was little tiny and I could not get to the microphone.
To the microphone, yeah.
Okay, I remember... aaa some of the teachers…
Miss Ala, Amaal Elaiwa, She was our aa omloom mudaresat oloom I really liked her.
Where was she from?
Where were the teachers from?
She was from Egypt, Amaal was from Egypt, Amira was Palestinian. Amira is the one who made me really like Arabic language.
Amira, do you remember her last name?
She was... no, she was very tough, nobody liked her as a teacher, because she was really tough, but she's the one who made me really love thee thee the language and specially writing. I used to write I still remember a few of the things I used to write, aam very is, like science fiction. I love science fiction. So I used to write science fiction stories and she was really encouraging me…
So Amira had a big part in me loving Arabic literature, and poetry, and Amaal is the one which was aa the teacher for, foorrr science, and I remember one time in her class, so I'm at the top of the class and I made a smell a small mistake in one of the drawings for a filter.
And she punished me, because I made a small mistake until today, I cannot understand why she did that [laughs.]
What was the punishment? What did she do?
Oh the punishment you stand on the back, you stand in the back until you can figure out what is the mistake.
So you stand there you think about where did you go wrong in the drawing and then once you figure it out, she can make you sit.
Did you figure it out?
It was just one aaa… the outlet.
So stuff like that.
So that was what what class? Was that, that was what kind of science were you doing?
This waaaas, it was General Science, but you know how do you design a filter.
Umm, and were there many Kuwaiti teachers or most of the teachers aa..
We only had two Kuwaiti teachers in the whole school. We had abla Ma’asooma o abla Altaf two of them, one teach taught history.
O Altaf taught aaa tarbiya wataniya.
And philosophy. So those two, in the world...
That only two teachers.
What did they used to teach in tarbiya wataniya in those days?
Aaa distoor likuwait tareekh likuwait succession, history hub alwatan it was, I think it was a good, aaa a good class.
Umm, and so this was now by now you're born in fifty-eight so we're in the seventies by now. Sic, late sixties…
Into the early seventies, um how much were you at that age, especially living in Fahaheel, aware of things that were happening ya’ani you mentioned al distoor so nineteen-sixty-one was al dist… sorry, yeah nineteen-sixty-two, sixty-three so it was recent but like the political things happening with the…
Partial Transcript: The only thing I remember is you know, like on Abdul Karim Qasim was threatening Kuwait and Shaikh Sabah Al Salem was Amir and you know…
Abdullah Al Salem?
Sabah Al Salem.
Sixty-one mu Sabah Al Salem?
Abdullah Al Salem.
Abdullah Al Salem?
Eee yeah [pause] but there might’ve, I mean there were different periods again later were they might’ve been aa…
Abdulkareem Qasim haddad likuwait…
Sixty-one lama bel with aa independence min britanya.
But later in the fifties also there was bas also ayam Abdullah Al Salem oh, no, that would have, that was before you were...
Atathakar kanat al Samta…
Al Samta al Samta lama Abdulla Al Salem aaa Sabah Al Salem, laman atathakar, hata oboy rah etawa’a, bel haq al bel preparing for ya’ani a kind of war Iraq…
Ehtalat al Samta shay like this.
This was in the...
In the seventies.
Seventies, late sixties, I can't remember when it was but I remember that political. Aa bas ya’ani mathalan harb sab’aa o siteen sitta o sabeen…
I don't remember any of that, or yeah, faintly maybe, aaa kan harb al sitta o sabeen sab’aa o siteen… I remember yes kan fi hachi ‘ala harb and we had to buy fooood to keep it at hooome, aaa, yeah.
Did the teachers use to talk to you, to the students about these things in school?
No. I can't remember any of that.
[Sigh] da’am al majhood al harbi.
Kan aaa fi bel madresa yimkin the only event they did okay tibara’ao eb ashya’ sawaina bazar to collect money stuff like this.
Yeah, bas la ma ‘endi wayid eb thikrayati.
Partial Transcript: Did you also use to go to the city much? El deera?
Oooh it was so long distance to go. Yes we used to go bas masafa le’na ma kan fi shari’a ‘aadel.
Yeah was there a main highway connecting Fahaheel at that time?
No, no highway it was just a stupid crazy road and it took like maybe two hours together two hours more than two hours to get to the city.
Bas did you have family still because you mentioned your father your parents moved to Magwaa min Sharq so their families...
[Talking at the same time]
One of the issues we had with our family in my mother is single my father is single so we did they did not have brothers or sisters so ma ‘endna khalat o ‘amat…
Bas we had some ya’ani far relatives, some of them live in Ahmadi and then when Sabahiya was built so they were in Sabahiya few were in Omariya, in Sharq so yes but they are distant families we don’t have that strong connection with anyone.
What about your grandparents? Were they alive? So when you were born? Your parents parents.
No only, my mother’s mother was alive, faqat.
And she was in Sharq wala?
La la she was living with us.
Oh, she lived with you!
She was with us all the time, yeah.
So she lived with you till how ya’ani how, do you remember how old you were when she… died?
She dieddd wwhen aaa I was in university.
Okay, a so she lived with you your whole childhood the whole time.
Yeah yeah yeah.
She was ya’ani she was old, as long as I remember her, she was old.
And so so was there any what was umm you know as well as young women for instance growing up and with your grandmother living with you in the house and your mother, what did you I mean,
Partial Transcript: did you feel growing up as a young as a girl aa different from your brothers for instance or your other sisters in terms of expectations?
Yeah, no. My father differentiated between girls and boys. He liked boys normal hatha el’aadi because he felt they can help him out in the future. I don't know shal concept malhom bas ‘aadi a’atiqid kil elrejal bil kuwait most of them… they think that the boys carry their name and then that’s why they have preference to the boys. Why I say that because I told you in my family I was a you know, the best in class bil jam’aa o fil madresa so I used to get a lot of gifts from school, needs to give us a lot of gifts because you exceed and excel and my father encouraged our education. Yes, he was not educated himself, but he encouraged us like hell.
So if I, the end of the school year you will look at the grades and he would buy us gifts as well. But the irony is my brother who always was not succeeding and had duwaweeh eb shahadtah would get a similar gift like the one I got although I was on the top of the class and I felt that's unfair why are you are getting the same reward when it shouldn't be like that yes. But this was part of the discrimination I felt in the way he dealt with my brother my eldest brother my younger brother and then me, aaand sooo… it still I feel it hurts, no, the only… from my all my sister's the only one who had special treatment from my father was Ascia the little one because she was the last one bas the girls we felt discriminated against by my father aa because he preferred boys and he dealt with the boys at a different manner. Now haven't even with that, he really encouraged us to study and he used to create like a competition prizes with prizes for knowledge and information.
So put series of questions and if you answer them you get a gift.
I can't understand where he got his ma’aloomat ya’ani kan wahda min al aseela eli I still remember I figured it out that time was “mino ekhtara’a al tab’aa?” who made the printing machine?
What were the first printing machine? And where when who why, and I think about it, this was very early on, okay, of course I had to search o dawer o rooh o nabish ‘aala ma ‘aarif min wain bas why did he ask that question?
What was the, and he used to do a lot of those kind of al aaseela, al musabaqat eli kan yisaweeha lina to encourage us to encourage our curiosity beyond education.
So I think until today I'm a very very curious person because of the way he… and you know, what's so ironic that my father never went to school but when he died he had a huge library because he educated himself. I still remember because I was the best in the class again, I'm I repeat this leaan my father was used to do in the morning mathalan yiqoom yisali alfajer he would like to read the Quran ma kan yi’aarif elqiraa ‘aadil fa eeybni eyqa’aedni yammah and I read to for him and he will repeat behind after me I read and he repeat after me and read and repeat after me and he memorized the whole Quran.
So he himself put a lot of effort in teaching himself and read and then read read read read until he created his own library and he became one of the truly self-education educated.
So and my mother because of her time limitation, again, she taught herself to read and write but very primitive.
Now having said that… I believe, she was one of the most aa intelligent people, in every aspect of life, she was truly intelligent and how she deals with things and how she solves problems, aa ya’ani even she had, if he, I think even though she had no formal education.
Formal education, yeah.
So that's the kind of environment, aa o ba’adain ya’ani the other thing, aa ya’ani I know my brothers eli kanu shiyateen… eli ma yadrisoon, el ‘eeqab it was horrible what they got ya’ani entaqo taq elyahad, enhabso, ya’ani el el el… kanu yikhafoon eeyiboon elbait elshahada o feeha duwaha I remember one of my brothers kan jayeb shahada o feeha duwaha.
Duwaha is the... th…
If aaa if it is less than the mathalan less than 50% in the shahada kanu yihitoon ‘alaiha duwaiha hamra.
So they circled the mark in red, and if you have a certificate certificate ya’ani min elmadresa o feeha red circle, then it's the end of the world.
So I remember one of my brothers khayef yiji elbait altogether le’aan feeh duwaha. He ran away. He ran away. We were looking for him like a whole night.
Oh my God!
Le’aan he was so afraid to come back home with the shahada feeha duwaha so that kind of fear drop the education of the boys. Bas now elhamdellah kilhom PhD o Engineers o Masters kilhom tikharijow min jam’aat o min hatha bas it was the fear was far more effective than the carrots for this purpose.
That was mainly on the boys? Because you said your father also really encouraged you for education [talking at the same time] but will you still, did you have the same risk if you came brought home your...
Would you also get punished?
I remember my younger sister same story she had a duwaha one time and laa and my little sister… so what happens is they give you ya’ani aa aa I think it was like every month or every two months they would give you a certificate to show your progress and where you have to take it home to your parents and they have to sign on it that they have seen it.
So what she did she forged the signature and she sent it back to school first certificate second certificate again she forged it. She didn't show it so my elder sister she got curious why is not she's not bringing her certificate and so she went to the school and she asked why you are not sending certificates on the only to find that, you know, forged signature and then she says to the their headmaster ya’ani look at the signature [laughs] How can you accept signature kharboota?
And when my sister found out that she was exposed she ran away again. She went and hid in one of our friend’s houses and we looked for her like crazy until we figured out where could she be mean you have to have the thinking where would she be be and yeah we went and she we found her there and brought her back.
How old was she?
Eight or nine.
Did she get in trouble?
Big trouble. So, yes, you get the same kind of treatment if if you don't do well, but you don't get the same rewards if you do exceptional, yeah.
Did you ever… um you said that this frustrated you or you realize, you felt the discrimination. Did you ever say anything?
Oh, yeah, I objected. I objected. I remember one time my father bought us when at the end of the year aaa bought us first time el tape recorder came out the tape recorder so he went he bought a tape recorder for my brother and a nice radio for me. I was Furious. I have to get a tape recorder. So he had to go back get me a tape recorder. And the first thing I recorded was a thanking note for him.
So you recorded your yourself.
I recorded thanking and I showed him the recording and I asked him to record as well.
Was he happy with that?
Because you know, but I objected and I was one of the times I remember so one of the things is, you know,
Partial Transcript: now you have the parents days and parents events and so on, now at that time parents were not really engaged with school so my parents hardly went to school and one time there was a they made a party for people who are doing well ya’ani ykarmoon el mitfawqeen.
And they asked me to bring my parents my mother or father ya’ani so I went home and I said my mom, you know 4:00 o'clock we have to go to the school because they want to give this and this mother said I can't go I will not go and ya’ani el fatrat el thohur hathi qailoola, my father would sleep from two to four every day hatha sacred o ya wailah ahad yitale’e sut fil bait, okay? Fa I was telling her I need to you need to come you need to come you need to come and she was saying no, I will not go anywhere yallah mako o ana ana I started to cry with very high voice ya’ani athker kan omri yimkin ‘asher sineen ow shay chethi I don't remember… but then I wake up my father and I got the nicest traq [laughs] so I've got two, hit twice.
They didn't go to the event. I didn't go to the event.
You didn't go?
No! And I got hit as well, so that was not a good reward for my school a...
But why didn't you go?
Because I had to take my parent with me and she wouldn't go with me so I can't go myself ya’ani it was like parents meeting or something.
Yeah lots of [both laugh] funny memories of the, of that era bas ya’ani let me give this credit to my parents who ya’ani gave me the highest latitude to do whatever I wanted to do without interfering in ya’ani in in my life at all throughout when I went to university I said, I want to study engineering, okay up to you, graduate I wanna work with, do whatever you think youuu, fits you so on education they were very stringent, they wanted us all to be educated and to get degrees and so on but then what you do with your life [noise] they they did not interfere at all, almost.
Partial Transcript: So when you were in… bel thanawiya did you have to choose between science…
And you chose science?
Science, but that's what I'm saying, I always struggled to see where what should I choose because I'd actually loved all topics.
And I enjoyed both topics, so it was very hard this choice, but then I thought you know, maybe I want to do medicine or I want to do engineering or so I, it was science was much easier choice for me.
And you make that choice when you're… what fourteen?
No, actually in our case, was it fourteen or sixteen?
Ee Okay. And then you graduated at, how old were you lama when you graduated?
Eighteen, so during those years, during the high school years al thanawiya when you were a teenager…
What would you do for fun at that time? Ya’ani we talked about childhood bas alheen when you're a teenager, what did you use to do, socially?
When I was a teenager, we actually moved to Mangaf aaand in Mangaf we had a farm...
So spent a lot of time learning how to sew clothes, how to cook, how to ya’ani ashya herafiya.
Lots of it okay, how to for example, we had bait elmi’aza hai bait el ghanam ma ghanam I used to milk the sheep. Aaand so I learned a lot of stuff which ya’ani is a huge luxury for any girl today to do those type of things.
So those, that was part but the other part I used to read like hell.
I just since very tender age...
I loved reading. I had a library ya’ani my favorite magazine was majalat Al-Arabi min ‘adad raqam wahid.
I read every single page in Al-Arabi I just loved that magazine fa reading a lot of reading, and the writing as well, so I used to read and write and then I had some few friends that I really was very close one of my best friends used to live in Bu Hulaifa so I spent a lot of time with her and the advantage she had that her father has a huge library so I used to go with her to his library and buy or borrow some of the books...
Big books ya’ani kotob al adab al Arabi al qadeem.
Al-Aghani, Al-Masoudi, Al-Jajeth al I would take a lot of books from her library, but I spent a lot of time with my best friend Mariam, fa it was social with Mariam and the family a lot of reading and a lot of handicrafts.
Partial Transcript: Ee, where there are many places to go at that time? To go out ya’ani mathalan would you go to Ahmadi at all? To the cinema than Ahmadi wala the market or...
No, aa I don't remember going to the Ahmadi cinema, there was a cinema in Fahahel maybe I went once.
My father was not the type that would ya’ani was so embracing cinema, but we had TV at home.
Ya’ani ehna aa tells you a little bit about my dad, he was, he embraced technology much faster than other people so when the first fridge we bought kan ‘ala eli yishtiqil ‘ala gaz.
Fridge el thalaja, we had the only TV in the neighborhood people used to come to our house to watch this TV black and white and then you know, soo there were things like that ya’ani around but yeah, we used to go sometimes to Ahmadi bel hadeeqa bel park o ma’arif aish visit some of the people we knew bas aaa a lot of fishing.
A lot of, yes, I used to go a lot with my father to fish in bahar fil tarad.
Ee o bel shabak bel khait bel hatha so professional fisher me and...
[Giggles] You'd go [talking at the same time] you and your dad or with your brothers and sisters?
With the brothers not sisters only my brothers.
I was the only exception like I said you know my other sisters not really they didn't have the same type of outgoing character like me, aa I I think it's the upcoming I came different bas ohma la ma kan, kanu eeyon el bahar yisbohoon o chethi, o ba’adain la tinsain farq el omor.
They were much younger...
So we had I had that even my older sister my older sister unfortunately because of her position and the family she became like our mother.
Fa she was a house she helped with the raising the kids she did this she did that with the younger children bas ana la’ my position in the family gave me that escape route where I can do things I did.
Yeah, umm, that's interesting. Sooo when you graduated, aaam well actually I wanted to ask you one thing before we move on
Partial Transcript: you mentioned going to your friend Mariam’s house and borrowing her father's books but where their places that you would buy a be able to buy books for?
Oh yeah oh yeah...
Where would you go?
So there were some libraries in Fahahel.
And as a matter of fact, aa so, souq AlFahaheel there was this library and I became friends with two people bel souq.
It's very strange, story, two people the first person was the pharmacist… a Pakistani pharmacist, know I was like twelve years old and this pharmacist was like twenty-five twenty-six a young man.
His name was Akhtar, aaand the reason I used to go to the pharmacy a lot because I used to buy milk for my little kid, little brother, so I used to walk to the pharmacy buy the milk and with time I got to come his friend so I used to go there sit in the pharmacy he would bring me tea we talked about life like a grown-up a real, friendship ha, a real friendship… and all the people the Pakistani friends that Akhtar had they all knew me and gave me the same kind of treatment with Akhtar, yeah, and that aa relationship ya’ani stayed for like I think like five six years… and the other relationship I was I had was with a lady that ran the library called Nabiha.
So Nab... I was so keen to develop this relationship with Nabiha, so one time I bought a postcard and I wrote a nice letter to Nabiha that I admire what she does, I want to be her friend and put it on an envelope and I just gave it to her and run away.
Then after I think two days I passed by the library, and she called me, come sit o ma’arif shno o hatha. Okay, and we became friends with Nabiha, and then it became easy for me to access any book I like.
Umhm, where was she from?
She was I think Jordanian, Palestinian...
Yeah, she was, aa, the way I, so she, I had a friend Suhayla, I think she had the relationship some kind of relationship, she's a relative of Nabiha from school, and one time I went with Suhayla, and I saw the way they were dealing with each other and I loved the relationship, I was so jealous, I wanted to have similar relationship.
And then I was thinking how how how until I came up with the postcard or the the note I wrote her on the hatha likroot elhilween malot awal.
Ee o min wain yibti el the the…
Sharaitah, shrait kart.
What was on it? Do you remember shno kan?
Kan design flowers o chethi so I wrote in a nice ana mujaba feech jidan o fi akhlaqich o eb shiqlich.
O dadadadada I gave it to her, and I ran away and two days later I pass by and she called me and I used to go and spend so much time in the library her Library, It’s it’s it’s hiya maktaba.
Um ya’ani tibee’e not pub.. ee.
Yibioon kotob yibioon majalat yibioon notebooks
Ya’ani elyoum my passion is for this, so I loved to collect notebooks.
I LOVE them, I like pens, I like aa ya’ani books hadith wla haraj I gave away twice my library so far.
Sooo, that is really true, my true passion and that's where, so I spent a lot of time so if you I will never be lonely Farah.
Why? Because I always have companions in my books. The two things I love most is to read and to swim in the sea.
And those two things I I don't need to have somebody it's sufficient those are sufficient things I can can spend my life doing those two things without any ya’ani big problem.
Did you maintain contact with Nabiha ya’ani...?
For a while and then she vanished I don't know where did she go, she got married and she loved the life...
So she was young?
Yeah probably in her twenties.
Yeah, even Mohammad Akhtar.
I'll tell you the story...
So after I went to university we moved from Fahaheel I didn't see Akhtar for a long time and that whole pharmacy was gone, so I went after some time and the pharmacy was not there and I lost contact with the doctor. I, when after when I ya’ani was working for KOC as an engineer ten years I think later or twenty years later for ya’ani long time after that, I went looking for him.
I wanted to know what happened to Akhtar, so I remember when we used to talk that he really liked the name Sadaf and I remembered when he because he got married when we had that friendship I remember that he was thinking to call his daughter Sadaf so when I looked in Fahaheel I said well I saw a pharmacy called Sadaf I said umm probably that is Akhtar has something to do with this, I went to ask I went to the pharmacy said is Mr. Akhtar here? They said mmm the lady behind the counter was his wife, I didn't know her I didn't haven't seen his wife, or kids, she said what? Do you know Mr. Akhtar? I said I'm an old friend if he sees me he will remember me, she said well I don't think so but let's try because he had some kind of Alzheimer or some kind of disease a neurological disease he got…
But their flat was behind the pharmacy, you can see him he’s there and it was AMAZING Farah because this guy can't even remember his family but when he saw me he remembered me.
He did ha?
He remembered me, and he wanted to hug me, you know, it's like aa, a memory from deep that came up so suddenly and even his wife was shocked, when she said what is this kind of history in the relationship ya’ani we were friends.
Real friends, we would talk about strange stuff for a child my age, and a young man, like him. But yes I found him later and I found that he actually created that Sadaf pharm... I don't know if it's still there have not gone to Ahm... to Fahaheel for a long time but it was the name of his daughter..
Sadaf and he created that Pharmacy but that's one of the kind of strange relationships that you develop that sort of community, in Kuwait.
So you didn't know he was there just by chance you saw the pharmacy called Sadaf.
It’s just intuition.
I knew he liked that naaaame...
So I thought probablyyyy...
It had to do, an a pharmacy so I said maybe it's something to do with him so I went and...
And did you maintain contact after that?
He he was not in good shape.
And I was too busy as well.
So you don't know what ended up happening?
Because that would have been before the Invasion that you saw him again?
Yeah, okay, but that's amazing that he, recognized you.
How did that feel when you first saw him after all those years?
Sooo, I, you know, I remember him as this young handsome Pakistani...
And he was old and all white hair, and tired, and not the same person anymore. Soo, aa yes I thought I brought something new to him for a while but I knew it was just like a light that went out, I wouldn't think it would stay on for a long time.
But you never, mmm, track down Nabiha again?
I tried, tried to find Nabiha bas I was not successful.
Because I think that library got sold again to somebody, and the other person the man, an older man bought it, another Palestinian bought it, and he was not as friendly.
And even you know, after I left Fahaheel I really didn't need to go back to that library.
Aaa bas I kept, you know, buying books and aa growing aa my hobby.
You said you left Fahaheel and you moved to...
Partial Transcript: Mangaf.
When was that?
I this it was seventy-five...
So you were still in school bel thanawiya?
Yeah yeah yeah, I was in high school.
In high school, but you went to the same school?
Because you said you it was the one school, how did you get to school at that point?
Used to get the school bus soo...
Umm, and you said it was a farm?
Yes it’s a farmhouse.
But it was still al like an old house or was this more modern?
A little bit more, modern but same old stuff yeah.
Same the housh courtyard?
Housh o ghoraf hawalaina.
O bait ghanam.
Yeah, why did you move?
Because the area where we were living in Fahaheel it was next to the refinery, and the government wanted that piece of land...
To, I don't know, the refinery expansion or something, so they asked people all the people to leave the territory and so we left.
So you graduated thanawaiya in...
Seventy-six, and your plan from then?
I went to university, Kuwait University.
Seventy-six I joined.
Had your sister gone to university? Your older sister or were you the first?
No, no, my sister when she was seventeen she got married.
Aaand sheee didn't finish her high school, and aa later after she got married she went to school masaee bel lail.
She finished high school, she finished ma’ahad she became a teacher.
Okay, oh, well.
Yeah kil el’aeela they were very keen on education, like I said.
It’s driven by education.
[Short laugh] yeah, so and then and then there was your brother older than you?
Had he gone also to jam’aa or...
Oh yeah yeah.
He was in university.
He was already in KU…
And what was he studying?
Aaa, history he studied history.
That's what I wanna study... Yeah.
But so then and then next was you titkharijain?
Partial Transcript: So you went to Kuwait, jam’at likwait to engineering, where was engineering then?
Same? Khaldiya, yeah, aaa so what was jam’aa like?
Mm, I still remember day one...
I was wearing aa, a yellow pants and aa qamees ahmar mbakar.
I remember that dress, which was very odd bas ‘ala kil hal I went to register, aaa riht m’aa sadeeqti Shaikha Suwailim we went together, she did… science she wanted science, I did I went to the engineering, registration and I went down, when I went into the Registration Hall I found one gentleman registering the same topics I was registering so we registered and you know they gave us some English, aa engineering 101 and primary stuff… aaand they said you need to have an advisor so doctor Faheem was advisor for me and for this gentleman Jamal, and we were in chemical engineering. So this was the first batch of chemical engineering.
Because engineering started in seventy-five but they had four topics...
And ma kan feeh chemical engineering, chemical engineering seventy-six awal sinna.
And how many were you?
Fa I, first I mt this guy Jamal, Jamal Jafar he is now the CEO of KOC, and when we went out together from registration we went to the cafeteria and we saw the rest of the batch.
So the batch was twelve people, and from day one, we had all topics together...
And we came a group, friends, and we spent five years together as group, fabulous relationships that we have until today.
Mmm, was it, how many women were in the program? Out of twelve?
Was me, Madiha, Nihad, aa Aish Bilhool, Nadia Shabaan… Najah. We were like seven...
So it was…
Seven girls, five boys.
Five boys, oh wow so more women in the program?
Of course, until today jam’aat likuwait 70% min kuliyat alhandasa banat.
And so how was life in jam’aat likuwait in those days? What how what was it like? Your like your, an average day?
[Sigh] I believe that, I don’t know, people when you look back aqool we are the product of ignorance okay? So today I really don't know what happens in jam’aat likuwait.
Do students still enjoy jam’aa life or they don't, but for us that group of people and the people who were in College of Engineering at that time jam’aa was our life.
So we go there 8:00 o'clock in the morning, you would leave like 9:00 p.m. every day… aaand lots of interaction in the classrooms, cafeteriaaa, rihlat in the laaabs, activitieees, sports, you name it, such a vibrant lively environment with zero discrimination between women and boys we were just good friends, relative ya’ani it's like ‘aalaqa mumayaza.
I don't know if this is still the case bel jam’aa wla hatha el nou’a min el environment has demolished. We were very intimate with our professors, Dr. Faheem, Dr. Abduhafeeth, Dr. Ahmad Beshara, Nora ElbinAli, all very intimate relationships, so, what I can tell you about university life at that time that it was a real good life.
Ya’ani I think my generation we benefited from the times of the childhood, the times of the university, the privileges that we had ya’ani I don't know if, it's unparalleled is there something like this now I don't know.
So this, so now, are you, did you drive?
No I did not drive I you know I used to live in Mangaf that time...
So the bus, again...
We can, we go 5:30 in the morning to get to university by 8:00 we had classes, five that, so that was a long drive, and then at night because I had labs we finish at 7:00 and it was a long drive so I decided to move to the hostel in Kuwait University bait al talibat.
Aaand I spend there, like… four years.
So again, interaction with all students from the GCC, and from Southeast Asia, my best you know my roommates originally were girls from Bahrain and then I had girls from Indonesia from Thailand who I still have relationships with, and Somalia and...
So at the time jam’aat likuwait was more open then to students who are not from Kuwait?
Absolutely it was a true cultural mix, and it was a true student life.
You did not only learn science and technology and all, no, it was a huge cultural mix, you learn everything about life. You learn how to become independent, how to take care of yourself, how to you know, mingle with people how to...
The dorms, where were they located, the hostel?
Ee bel jam’aa.
Shifti el mabna el chibeer hatha?
This is the irony, when I was a child when we used to come from Kuwait from Fahaheel going to Kuwait we used to pass by this huge building on el fourth ring roads and I thought this was university, Kuwait University, and I always dreamt about me being in that building. When I joined university the thing I found out that this building actually is not the university this is the dorm.
Aaand, I actually lived in that dorm.
Yeah, and then later I think [background noise] towards the end of like I think maybe nineteen-eighty they decided to move the dorm to Kaifan.
So they moved it to Kaifan and I think still there, aand that big building they move they changed to the College of Engineering and now I still it is mabna mal elhandasa.
So was it common for, you mentioned your roommates were from Indonesia, Bahrain, was it common for Kuwaiti girls to live in the dorms?
There were few ya’ani there were Kuwaitis from Failicha from Ahmadi, from all the distant areas...
Who used to live in the dorms, it was not difficult to apply you get accepted there is room...
And your parents were not strict about that? About letting you go and live by yourself?
Yeah, no, not at all.
What, so you stayed, you move there after the first year wla how long?
Correct, when we started to have long labs..
The labs which took all the night ya’ani ma kan fi waqt tirji’een o tabeen tihileen homework o tabeen dadada o tabeen tiqumeen elsibh elsa’aa khams o nus ‘ashan troheen eljam’aa fa you were tight on time and it was real suffering to...
To go, commute back and forth.
Yeah, it was like one and a half hour drive.
Was there also a boys dorm?
Shuwaikh, okay yeah.
Shuwaikh yeah there was the boys dorms.
So you mentioned all the things that besides classes and labs but then also activities, sports would that be bel jam’aa or also just bel deera like what did you used to do more socially?
La mostly el jam’aa mostly el jam’aa el jam’aa was more vibrant than the deera ma kan fi shay bel deera or I did not know what shino qa’a yiseer bel deera at least bas kan fi ‘eendena rihlat, nirooh el bar nirooh hadiqat el haiwan nirooh madri wain o ya’ani kan fi lots of…
You do that just broohkom ya’ani wla through the jam’aa they would organize it?
Through el sakan through el jam’aa through etihad el talaba el Bahrainiyeen, el Yamaniyeen, el kan fi etihadat el talaba active.
El jam’aa elyoum mafeeha el ashya hathi a’atiqad wallah madri.
Madri jam’aat likuwait I’m not as familiar with bas...
Bas la it was very cultural mix...
Very vibrant, kil anwa’a el jinsiyat mawjooda bel jam’aa, kanat fi’alan hayawiyya.
El heen I don’t know.
And did you use to at the time, umm, you said okay you didn't really know shino kan bel deera so ma kentaw titlioon wayid min el jam’aa to go out?
Kint arooh el souq not ya’ani I didn't go much bas kan kina nirooh el souq, nirooh ba’ath el mata’eem…
Shino kan do you remember what which mata’eem there were in those days?
Kan fi mata’eem shari’e Fahad El Salem.
Wahid esmah el Jabri, fi mat’aam fi kan fi mat’aam fi Loulouat el Marzouq, kan fi mat’aam fi el Sheraton, ya’ani ashya min hal nou’a, bas la mu hatha, mu el mata’eem el nou’eeya eli tihajeen ‘aanha thak el waqt. I did not know, I did not go, but maybe others…
Umm, and did you still go back to Mangaf for the weekend…
Yeah yeah, every weekend I would go and saw the family bel weekend o hatha o arja’a marrah thanya.
Partial Transcript: Yeah, aam and what about traveling, did you use to travel much out of Kuwait at that time?
Only to Bahrain...
Because I have relatives fil Bahrain.
Bahrain, aa Omrah, aa…
Aa that’s it.
Not real travelling, was ya’ani ehna we were not a rich family.
Fa ‘ala qadna, fama kan ya’ani fi likuwaitiyeen wayid kano yirohoon Libnan, yirohoon Masir, o chethi no we did not have that.
Ya’ani ehna were a big family, ten people one provider it wasn’t...
And through this time the whole time your father was still working for the oil company?
No then he quit kan ‘eenda he started his own business kan ‘eenda mahalain, yibee’e baqala ma baqala o ashya chethi.
In in Mangaf?
Kan ‘eenda mahalat ba’adain ham he quit and heee, ya’ani retired he didn't do much work after that.
Okay, yeah and your mother never worked?
No, of course she...
She was raising the kids.
She was very busy.
Ee so you graduated in nineteen eighty chinna no,
Partial Transcript: what year did you graduate?
Eighty-one, ee and so what was the plan after el takharooj? Had you've been thinking about?
Yeah, I always imagined myself working in the refinery.
I thought. So when I graduated I applied to the KNPC, KOC, KISR, many places and again here is the privileged generation that time there was more demand in Kuwaitis than supply, so you apply in one place all of them call you ta’aali ta’aali ta’aali there was competition for Kuwaitis, so I don't I think I remember I applied this week next week they called me for an interview in KOC and I said okay since you were the first to call me I'm fine...
Let's try this job, and I took the job.
Now do you, I mean you talked about, you said you’re a dreamer, your vision was always to work in the refinery, and of course you mentioned from your earliest memories playing in the refinery, is that where it came from?
Yeah, I've always thought about process design and you know this complicated factory, aaand, so it was fascinating for me.
An I thought because of Miss Amaal Aliwa [clears her throat] the science teacher, that I can actually design things… and aaa ya’ani aaa this came so naturally.
I just lived next door to the refinery for a long time, but I apply to them as well but KOC was the first to call me so I went to KOC and I got the job interview and they said okay.
What was the job? What was the position?
It was an engineer under development, it's, they call it UD.
Where they train you for like two years and then then you join one department.
So they train you in different fields?
In aa yeah you have like start with the geology department and then you go to the reservoir department and then you go to the drilling and aa planning and then aa petroleum engineering… so it's like two year program and each, three months you move to a…
different department, now that's the difference between me and the rest of the batch that were accepted the same time is I spent more time in drilling than the rest so in drilling I spent six months, because I went to a drilling school, aaand I spent time with a drilling school.
Where was the drilling school?
It was in the workshop in Ahmadi.
Aaah in Ahmadi okay.
Yeah, they had designed the school for the drillers and I was fascinated so I asked to join the school an…
This is while you were working at KOC?
Yeah yeah yeah.
You stayed for, okay.
Oh this part was part of the training.
So this was a school they designed for the drillers.
Of KOC, aand I joined that school so from the batch that I trained with this was an exception.
Because I trained with… basically practically in the field with the drilling… so this was one… exception, the other thing is I insisted, to work in the fields because I always felt that's where I belong.
Aaa it was my natural habitat that's where I feel myself, that's the place where the least stress for me is when I am in the fields, aaand sooo… the two periods where I enjoyed my training was when I was drilling, I felt exceptional, I felt exceptional, and then when I was in the petroleum department because in the petroleum department it's actually fieldwork.
So once we finish the training, then all the women engineers go to planning or into a reservoir which means office work in my case I said I don't want to do that I want to continue in the petroleum department I want to work in the fields, and of course in KOC at that time it was not possible.
Women are not allowed to take fields jobs… sooo I had to play many tricks actually… in order to be allowed to work and petroleum department, now I have to tell you one thing, isss… what KOC was looking to, to have is they wanted petroleum engineers, there were not enough petroleum engineers in the market for what they wanted, so they took a lot of disciplines from university including maaath, aa civil engineering, chemical engineering, whatever engineering they could put their hands on they recruited them and then they created a diploma, petroleum diploma, classes from university they brought few university professors same university KU petroleum department so they gave us introduction to petroleum, geology, reservoir simulation, completion, production engineering, and act like aa eight topics over two year period.
And, in that program I excelled as well but I was like a straight A, you know in in the topics that time [sigh] [pause] very interesting class, but anyway so when I finish my training I said I want to join the petroleum department and they said no you got a reservoir I said no I insist I want to be in the petroleum department and I entice the petroleum department head to take me into his department because I do want to get my hands dirty and work I think I can do this job and so on so after some convincing they accepted for me to join the petroleum department, only to make me do programs in the office.
And not to do the work… sooo… I was really upset I sat there for a month doing programs not going to the field and one day I was sitting and I was I may had, you know, I remember now looking back we had a manager who became deputy like the DMD his name was Faisal Al Jassim, an Faisal waaas you know people should give huge credit to Faisal not for his management skills, not for his technical abilities, that he was supporter number one for women in KOC… people forget some of these facts.
What was his position? He was ma...
He was a manager...
Of that group...
And then he became the deputy.
Deputy managing director, okay.
So Faisal, he's the one who hired all the women, and he was the supporter, and he's the one I went to in order to put me in the petroleum department.
I can never forget this for Faisal, I say it every time okay, people should never forget the opportunities Faisal opened for women and supported women, some of them did not deserve it, but anyway in my opinion it really doesn't matter.
Okay? He set a trend [pause] so I went to Faisal and I was sitting in the office so when I wanted to move to petroleum I went to see Faisal, he called me he said I understand you want to work in the field? I said yes, please, allow me, he said aaa are you sure? You will not regret this? I said no I will not regret, you are not gonna come back to me complaining? I said no I'm not gonna be coming back to you to complain, he said okay as long as you work during only office hours from seven to four no problem you can go to work in the petroleum department… so he allowed me to move to that department, now an he was watching me of course so Faisal used to come every day like seven o'clock in the morning like six thirty, he's in the office, by seven o'clock he's taking a full round in the office to make sure who's in who's out.
Ee, where was the aa, aa...
O ya wailah eli yit’aakhar khams deqayeq.
Ma yinjoun min ‘aathab Faisal okay?
Fa kint qa’ada I was sitting in the office and Faisal passed by and he went but then he came back and he came an sat on the chair wallahi I can see him, he said how, how's it going? I said well Faisal I said I'm not gonna come and complain to you bas I am not happy here, so why? I said I joined this department because I want to go to the field they are not going, sending me to the field, I do programs I sit here [noise] is they send male engineers they don't give me the chance. Said haa okay, so he went to see Abdulkareem Al Rubah and Ahmad Saleh and he said why are you not sending her? They said well we cannot take responsibility for her safety, for her, said no send her during the day, it's okay… so he encouraged them to send me to the field so next day Ahmad says mmm Sarah you are going to the offshore we are drilling one well in the offshore you go and you do the job you did the program we were stimulating a well that we drilled just south of Failaka, said okay how do I go to the offshore? He said well you go to the marina board terminal you take you have to get first the aa ID haq el marina tedkhileen el marina o ba’adain you take the boat and you go to the offshore [pause] and you make sure enna by four o’clock your back, okay, so I went o I got the pass an I went to the marina port and then I took the boat I got to the rig it was like eleven, by the time I got to the rig, I started to do work bel ‘ala el rig, it was like four just started the job so I called Ahmad, Ahmad it's four o'clock now how do I get back le’aan mafi crew boat.
The boat was for the oil company wala bas commercial?
Ee la la la la for the oil company, ya’ani eyjeeb ‘omal yewadi ‘omal eyeeb material yewadi material.
Fa qalli Ahmad check with the crew boat shoofi mita biyjoon falamma chayakt qalaqw la yubba el bahar hayij ma niqdar nidiz we cannot send the crew boat now you have to wait until the sea is calm and then we can bring the next crew, next crew ten p.m. ‘shra bilail ten p.m dazeen muhandis Pakistani esmah Ahsan to replace me bel el bahar sah ma kan hayij wayid bas enna still ya’ani it was rough sea o Ehsan hatha first time maybe he gets in a boat and he was sick, seasick and he was vomiting o lamma wisal he was not in shape to come on board fa he refused to come on board, aand aaa I was on the helideck waiting for him to come on board ‘ashan ana anzel ‘al board and he refused so I called Ahmed, Ahmed hatha this guy doesn't wanna come on board he'sss, sick, he's seasick and he's afraid to sit in the basket to come up… so Ahmad said well we have no choice now then we have to wait until next boat can send a replacement engineer, next boat ten o'clock in the morning, so I continued to work until next day in the morning when the crew boat came and Mohammad Al Huqal was my replacement engineer, he came took the job, I left back home and this was the first job I did in the offshore, aa, after that I worked two years on that same rig we did Rikhwa one and then we did aaa Julaiaa one two wells, and then the rig left Kuwait and I started to work on shore, on shore I worked for ten years until the invasion I was an engineer… I worked all over the place in North Kuwait, west Kuwait, aa Burgaan, aa Mitriba Kira’a el Maro, Abdali day, night, shifts you name it, nooobody cared if I want in or out when I did that or when, so time was not an issue because normally our jobs stake between tweny-four to forty-eight hours, so I worked ten beautiful years doing all sorts of fields jobs that I rrreally liked.
That, that first night that where you ended up staying all night...
Umm, you were the first woman to have ever...
Had that job in the field?
Aaand, what was the reaction… back in in in Kuwait Oil Company among the department? That this whole ya’ani that your first shift and you ended up, they said you have to be back by four and you came back at ten.
They don't publicize these things.
So it went as if it is a normal engineer...
Doing a normal job.
No big issue.
But the timing after that was never an issue for you?
It o it...
Nobody even took notice that I was doing all of this, very low-profile.
In the fields I was a big thing because you know dealing with all the labor, I became friends with all the people in the field, I had these fantastic relationships with all the ‘omal supervisors muhandiseen contractors ya’ani to the extent ya’ani various crews from various contracting companies I would go in the morning five o'clock we start, get there we eat breakfast together on the ground sitting ‘ala alarath bel ramil, futoor, etha el crew falasteeni el futoor fatayer wala labna wala jibna wala falafel etha el crew hindi yaybeen lihom aash madri eshmash I was all over the place… withhhh, fabulous relationships, fabulous learning, field management and a technical work and so on.
Do you remember the reaction ya’ani mathalan the first day when you took the boat and you got onto the offshore rig?
And this is the first time, assuming, for the special for the laborers that it's a woman engineer that's coming.
And then you had to stay overnight, do you remember their initial reaction wala shloun? How they were or was it…
[exhaling] well [pause] ya’ani some, very very helpful, they looked after me, they wanted to help me, and they offered all core kind of you know support, ya’ani mathalan qa’adeen ‘ala el rig belail ehna ehna waqfin lea’n ma, qa’ed yanzil min el beer fa wahid yab mathalan dram asked me to sit.
Le’an belail o qa’adeen o ta’abaneen o toul elyoum mafi noum ya’ani o hatha, fa yab li dram siqeer qalli qe’edai ‘alaih mchi nice gesture ya fa ba’adain shofi el judgement bel field elli eyharik el omoor ohwa el knowledge.
So once people in the crew know you know better how to manage this thing you have a solution for this problem… fa immediately they fill fall in line and they will just do what you tell them.
It's amazing dynamics in the field, it's amazing dynamics which is purely based on intelligence, knowledge, ability, skill purely malah ‘alaqqa enti shino el gender malich you look good or you don't look good or, irrelevant the minute they know you know how this operation is going to happen, what is the outcome, how can youuu, make this a successful job or a not successful job, they fall in line.
And were you living back at home at this point?
When you started, Mangaf?
And did your, your parents were comfortable?
No no no, by that time we were living in Sabahiya, we moved to Sabahiya.
Aaa, you were living, but you're still living with your parents?
Oh yes of course.
And did they have any reaction about you staying out all night on the rig?
Yes, the first time yes, because you know, I called at night say I am going to stay but my mother did not [laughs] she was not comfortable let’s put this way, and even, my father was not comfortable that I was not staying at home at night… but when I came back in uniform and tired and all… I think, they swallowed it, they didn't like it but they swallowed it… and as, I progressed in my work and I I I did I they got used to me going away for two days on the rig and whatever they got just used to it. Not they were happy about it they felt this job is waaaay not suitable for a woman but it was my choice and they just had to live with it.
And did any of your friends the the jama’aa that you were with at at KU, aa the group that you were, the twelve of you, had any of them come to Ko Ka to KOC with you?
[Sigh] The only one was Jamal Jaffar.
Yeah and but he was
But he was…
In the inspection department he worked in the inspection I work in the field, I progressed much faster than Jamal, soooo [pause].
He was the only one but we kept kept...
Kept in touch.
Our relationship with the rest, yeah we kept the relationship.
I think this is a perfect place to pause, cause it's all it's been to two hours now and you meant I think you said you had other things, aam, because I think from here we’re we'll pick up ya’ani the, the lead up to the invasion and what you your job with the wells and what you're doing and we can maybe pick up that next time.
So pause here for now.
Okay so today is August nineteenth two thousand eighteen, it’s aa twelve o'clock and we're here in Rumaitheya Kuwait, and this is Farah AlNakib and this is a continuation interview with miss Sarah Akbar, aam, so Sarah last time we spoke we left off aaam, ya’ani in the eighties you had started working, with KOC, aa you told us the story about your first day on the rig well on the offshore rig when you went out aa, and I was wondering if we could just speak a little bit about you know from that first day to, to understand ya’ani your progression with
Partial Transcript: Kuwait oil Company and where you reached, by the time of the invasion, and then we'll talk about that but just to fill in that gap ya’ani what were what were you doing during that time?
Yeah, so [clears her throat] from aa eighty-one aa I, like I said I loved the work in the field so I continued to work as a field engineer, and actually I was the first female field engineer in Kuwait, the whole history of aa KOC, and… I truly enjoyed every single field job, so I used to go to do the well maintenance work so sometimes ya’ani this is interesting about oil wells, each oil well has its own, character its own, even fingerprint you think about it, aa it has about own problems about it has its own character so we measure, theee oil well just like humans, with humans we measure the pressure we test the fluid so it's like the blood test, then we measure the temperature, and we take the electrical signal so you have each well has its own electrical signature… so whenever they had problems in the fields in any of these wells, productivity goes down or the pressure goes down or, then I go like the doctor to examine the well prepare a report and then recommend a treatment, aaand treatment either we make a smaller choke on the well, or we pump acid into the well, or we clear it with with xylene, or you know there is a blockage in one of the pipes or you know, whatever, or the equipment maybe is leaking or something, sooo this was the nature of the job I used to do in the field and like I said I spent ten years until nineteen-ninety, when we had the invasion, I was hundred percent field engineer doing variety of things aaand… I always found huge support from the people I used to do deal with in the fields because as I said last time in the fields what really matters is your knowledge and your intellect more than your physical capability, although you know the perception from the outside is no this is tough work because it needs muscle it needs, the reality no, it needs more of your brain and how to interpret things how too, to make real good suggestion that can bring the back the field well back into production or you can perforate the well and you see the difference before an after, so those are the kind of things that earn you respect that earns you aaa you know aaa your position, because then people start listening to you.
And this is a very important, thing because eventually, you know how to deal with all categories of people from the small labor all the way to the manager to the people on the camp to the contractor to this and… you need a certain skill to make all of those people to work for you to deliver the result, so a lot of my learning education training in management came from those field days… aaa like I said and the beauty of this is towards the late eighties, whenever any of the field supervisors had a problem with any of the wells, they would call into the office specifically asking for me to go a a and try to fix their wells, so they really appreciated, a lot, the work I was doing, and you know it made them look in better in n n n an achieve their, targets. So until nineteen-ninety I was just a field engineer.
How many times, a day for instance or would you be out there daily in the field or certain number of times a week?
Probably yeah it’s probably two or three four times per week.
But you know when you go out… it’s the whole day so we start like five o'clock in the morning and even sometimes four o'clock in the morning and we finish by six or seven and sometimes it gets even later aan sometimes on the rig especially when we do rig jobs it takes forty-eight hours or thirty-six hours or whatever, so it's long periods.
So this was the system and we used to go and you know interestingly enough because, I mean, there were there were not many engineers in KOC at that time to do all these jobs so we were very very busy really, aaand and an interesting piece so our manager was really, ummm, you know he thought he can do things for the company and there was a big, you know, focus on cutting cost cutting cost, and one of the things he thought to cut was oo the overtime because you know we work for the eight hours but our jobs normal extent so he said well you know for overtime I’m gonna pay you only like three hours per day extra on the overtime but the rest of the hours we can accumulate and then you can take day offs these off, so I said alright, aand we accumulated so many days off and then the invasion took place and every record was gone and everything changed you lost I don't know like forty fifty days of work [laughs].
Oooh, so that all that information was lost.
Yeah because it was…
You know in small files here and there, sooo it's interesting but the the systems that people create in order to cut costs, but anyway so so mainly I was doing that type of work until nineteen-ninety.
How many fields, how many oil wells were in?
Yeah in Kuwait and then also under your supervision?
All Ku, all the wells.
All of them.
It was about a thousand well.
A thousand about a thousand wells, okay.
Yeah, the total number that were actually in operation..
Were about aa I think like eight-hundred sixty-eight hundred seventy but we were drilling.
As well, aaa you know aaam those are the active number of wells.
Li’aan the majority were in Burgaan then we had North Kuwait and west Kuwait an [sic] all.
Yeah, and so during this time you wereee… still in your twenties into early, early thirties?
Where there aa, did did other women… join after you were there or were you still even by nineteen-ninety the only woman?
Yeah, no I I stayed aa only woman for a long time.
Aaa because aa you know, we had women come in but they went to the reservoir department and they were not encouraged to go to the fields there was one lady or two actually specifically who were interested in the field work, but I think, you know, there was a little bit mix between their, you know they were very normal people you know, aa good-looking girls, but one of the issues was... they they like to use makeup, they like to look as feminine as possible, it's their nature and I kept telling them this is not the right thing because you'll be ab, abused in the field, you know, these guys, on the rigs especially people work tweny-eight tweny-eight so they are there for tweny-eight days and then they go home for tweny-eight days and they come, so in that kind of environment you don't try to, you know, encourage people to talk to you in a different way, sooo both of them actually could not continue because of the amount of harassment.
Yeah, it's indirect.
It's not like a direct harassment but the way they looked at them or, you know, so they made them feel uncomfortable and by, aa one of them I trained for like two or three years, I used to take her with me all the time and push her to do field work and I kept telling her, look you need to look different little bit, don’t put all this makeup when you are going out doesn't help [clears her throat] here in this location just put sunblock.
That's all it needs. [Laughs]
And but they didn’t, they didn’t take your advice?
No I think they were young and beautiful and they like to show their beauty.
So, and that kind of environment, real, this doesn't work you have to be as natural as you can aaand just be just be there for work forget about everything else.
And so they did not continue, but you know after invasion have lots of girls in the fields.
Lots of female engineers they’re doing fantastic jobs.
All all throughout Kuwait ya’ani ma mafi mushkila.
And during that time in the eighties ya’ani when you were, as the first woman going out in the field, what were some of the reactions to the work that you are doing, let's say outside of the company? So as you said in the company, you generated a lot of the respect from your colleagues because of your knowledge and your know-how and experience, but what about you know, in society?
Dear Farah, in KOC isss a closed box, when you work for KOC when you live in Ahmadi, when you live in that environment, nobody knows about you.
You know, now at this age an time people know about things because of Twitter because of all the social media, but at that time we had no links to the society whatsoever. You are there from six in the morning until six in the evening, you go home you sleep you're tired you come back and it's continuous, so very little interaction with the rest of Kuwait, that's why if you go back to those times, you wouldn't hear anything about what's happening in KOC or in the K, KY companies or whatever. It's now that these companies became like more like governments aaand aaa the all the things that happen in the governments happen there, but aaa no reaction in the society, the only [drilling sounds] the first time the society comes to know about my existence was after liberation when I worked in the firefighting that's all, oooh we have engineers who work in the field, ooh we have a woman here, but before that no one knew only the people on the field and in KOC knew.
Were you living, where were you living at that time?
In Sabahiya? Okay, and were you with your parents with your family?
Yeah with my family? Yes.
But I tell you one one thing which I really [hammering noises] appreciate and love and..
Okay, we're back.
So one of the things I really appreciate, you know, I find a lot of engineers with female engineers that actually went to the engineering school and, and went back to KOC and work in the fields, and you know when you ask them, why did you do so? Because we felt if you can do it you can do it.
And I just really love that.
Because yes, I put a lot of effort in my job and I… Open that line, but now you can see the amount of female engineers all over KOC, I mean, this is really, if I achieve something in life, I think that would be a great achievement.
That's a wonderful achievement.
Yeah, and it's true because you do hear that ya’ani in Kuwait.
[Talking at the same time.]
I had a lot of people coming to me saying, you know, I went to engineering school because of you even in the U.S. you know what I go to West Virginia to see my daughter and, many engineers oooh you know, we went to because, and you know my father told me look this is…
The kind of person you gonna be, and so, these are very very nice feeling that…
You know after all these years I feel okay I've accomplished something really and I did something for Kuwait.
Yeah, but at the time I mean when you were, you know, this young woman out in the field, were you even aware or conscious of the barriers that you were breaking for women in Kuwait?
Oh, absolutely. I told you there was...
There were many many barriers.
That people were trying to, I, you know, It's just not taking risk.
It was not like intentional, no we don't want to have women compete, and they didn't think about it and in that perspective. It was only, we will not take responsibility for something happening to the women and it's the same kind of male aaa ideas about women.
That's that's about it.
It's not, it wasn't well thought of really...
In their minds that no, we don't want women and so, no.
I believe it was more like… we don't want to take the responsibility and the risk of opening this door.
Umm, so now by the summer of nineteen-ninety you're still working, aa you know in the field and
Partial Transcript: ] so in the lead up to, the invasion ya’ani from July when there were all of these aa issues emerging with Iraq, Kuwait, the oil, slant drilling and all of these things that were coming up, were you, what we're w w w, where were you and what was your reaction to some of this news?
Yeah, so in July when they started, you know, accusing Kuwait of stealing oil from Kuwait, we did some work in KOC to prove it's not true, aand aa you know, the reality is that we have a small portion of this Rumaila field so it's insignificant in the bigger picture on any migration that can happen between Kuwait and Iraq, and the reality is that the Iraqis themselves held the migration or held the case why because they were injecting water in their fields which maintain, to maintain pressure.
And as a result, they were pushing some oil towards Kuwait.
It wasn't like we were to taking from no we're producing naturally normally and we only had like, I remember it was like eight wells that were producing from Rumaila, so we had a small study on the effects of this r r r, to, technical work to prove that during this whole thing about stealing oil was a a is a complete not none true scientifically, aaand that was the kind of discussions we were having in KOC to support the case with the government and the discussions with the Iraqis, sooo I don't think anyone anyone expected that the Iraqis would invade Kuwait and that massive thing, except for few people, who actually, the older people because in their mind, [pause] you know, since the threats ayam Abdulkareem Qassim they always felt that Iraq will invade us sometime.
They kept saying they will come they will come,
Partial Transcript: and eventually they came.
And so you were here?
Of course, I was here, I was at home when the explosion took place, I got up and I went to the office and office was closed, there was nobody there, I went to find my boss's house, I locked the door, and what's happening? Are we doing something? You know, the men should be going to the military, do we need to operate the fields ourselves? Do we do? Ya’ani what is the action? He said, I have no instructions, I’m not gonna do anything until I receive instructions.
So on the morning of August second, when did you first realize that Iraq had invaded?
Six o'clock in the morning my sister called, she said, she works at the hospital, she said we are receiving a lot of casualties from, an Iraq has invaded Kuwait, I said is it in the only the North? She said, I don't know but it looks like they are in the city.
You were in Sabahiya?
At the time.
Yeah, sooo… I got up an I dressed an I went to work.
To, to K, to Ahmadi?
To Ahmadi to KCO.
And you didn't see anything on the road?
Nothing was on the road, nothing, nothing.
What was your parent’s reaction?
Well, you know, my father was not there because he, he passed away a couple of years before, but aaa my mother was there aaand we are all scared, we don't know what to do, so I went to Ahmadi I couldn't find anyone except my boss who was not actually reacting [door slams] and I said, okay so the office is closed, is there aaa, you know, are we going to meet somewhere [noise] are we going to do any, no reaction, so I went back and then on the radio they said you have to register to go to Oraifijan to take weapons and whatever so we did that, we went to the makhfar we register we, with my with my brothers and so, you know, we wanted to fight now it's, we didn't know exactly the size of the invasion anything, and you know, a lot of bombings a lot of shelling a lot of sounds all over, we really didn't know where, and that first day was an unbelievable day, it was a day of panic of fear of I don't know I wish so my elder sister she came to our house with her kids, and so my, my husband that time, my husband is a Bahraini and [noise] he was there in the morning then in the afternoon I said, look now that we have this invasion you will be locked in and you will not be able to go back to Bahrain so it's better if I drop you at the border and you go, he said okay, so I put him in the car and we went all the way to Nuwaiseeb, I left him in Nuwaiseeb and he went out he was my fiancé, he was not, we were not married.
So he left and aa I came back in the road, on the road I saw some Kuwaiti police checkpoints and aa… they no one had a clear picture of what was happening, it was clear the next day in the morning when I, we woke up aaa an we of course these sounds all night the shooting [noise] the explosions aa in the morning aa again I went out I wanted to go to KOC and the roundabout I saw an Iraqi tank with these soldiers.
Near KOC or closer to your…?
La la in Sabahiya.
Oh in Sabahiya, okay.
So I was looking at these guys and you know, the fear from the other thing, when I looked at them said God are we afraid of this! because you know the way they look, the way they dressed, they drove I thought, I don't know, all night to come to that roundabout and they looked horrible, shay they were you know, we were, felt pity for them more than you know, we were afraid, and that's you know, immediately removed a lot of the element of fear, once we saw them…
Gosh, what is this! They’re hungry, they are thirsty, they are, it's like, you know, in horrible shape.
And I went to Ahmadi, again I looked for aa, Oh, that's second day when I went to Ahmadi there was a checkpoint before Ahmadi they said no you go back, I said no I work here, they said no no nobody get, no one goes in no one comes out, fa I had to go back, it's only the third day I went back and they allowed me in [people talking in the background] I went to look for Ahmed and and for the guys and eventually I found them in the maintenance building, the control room of KOC they moved it, it did not stay in the main office, they moved to the to the maintenance building because they thought the main office is so obvious...
So they had a small office in the maintenance building an that's where they started to operate the KOC assets, and eventually actually the whole oil assets of Kuwait, you know, all the companies were managed from there as well.
With the, did the Iraqis know what was going on?
Afterwards the Iraqis came, yes, and we had to cooperate with the Iraqis.
Because we had serious issues about many things.
One, we wanted to maintain some production because we needed to run the power plants.
Soo, that was one, aa the first objective, power and water without it, Kuwaitis, no Kuwaiti can stay, and if you remember it was summer we needed to safely close all the wells and reduce production, we are producing two million barrels, we needed, we brought it back to 250,000 barrels a day to maintain the internal needs of Kuwait. We needed to make sure that the ammonia tanks in aaa Ahmadi in, in Shaibaa, it would be emptied because you know ammonia is very poisonous and its gas and big tanks, it's liquid, if it is hit, then the whole population will die.
Yeah, these are…
So if they, if they had deliberately or accidently...?
Yeah, if anyone wants to get rid of all, everyone who lives on this piece of land, we just said that one single tank.
And ammonia will take care of the rest ya’ani.
Soo we had to agree m’aa el Iraqiyeen ena ehna we will operate the urea plant in order to get rid of all this ammonia to urea so that with these tanks are empty so that because they realize it's risk for them as well, so this wa,s this when I say we cooperate m’aa el Iraqiyeen it was on those kind of runs where we ensure the livability in Kuwait for the Kuwaitis.
Umm, and, so, first of all, how many were you, that were there working at KOC during this time? How many was your, on, from Kuwait side?
So, in the initially they were like, I think three hundred…
Four hundred people in the beginning.
KOC had five-thousand employees, but a lot of the employees vanished in the first few days, and then the people who remained until the end were no more like fifty people.
Ya’ani everybody else had to leave slowly...
They moved in, they moved out, those who were identified by the Iraqis or something they had to go, so we eventually we are left like fifty, fifty people all together.
And who was… sort of managing the communication with the Iraqis?
It was actually two people, you know, one of them is Musaab Ahmad Alfuzai’a Musaab Alyaseen is a very intelligent man, aaand he took the leadership, he took the role, nobody gave it to him.
What was his job at KOC?
Before then he was I think general superintendent for planning or something.
So Musaab was very instrumental everything and then we had Eisa Aloun in the refinery, who really worked hard as well, and Bin Salama in the k, PIC, so these three people actually, but the organizer, the thinking they could, the guy who used to deal a lot with the Iraqis was Musaab, and he did it very very smartly, aaand I think Musaab of was never appreciated by anyone because, because I told you know, we had to cooperate with the Iraqis, not for what they wanted no, to get what we wanted.
And I don't believe that people appreciated this afterwards, because Musaab after the liberation he stayed there for like three four months and then he left, he left.
He went where?
He, he, he went out of th, he resigned.
He was not treated well.
Where is he from? Is he…?
Weld Ahmad Alfouzai’a Alyaseen.
Ah right Alyaseen yeah okay, so he left Kuwait?
No no, he left the oil sector.
He started his own business.
Alhamdellah it turned out it's a good business lakin I don't believe he was treated well.
By the management that came from outside.
Why? Do you know why?
Well because they felt he took the leadership when, he had to, these times [people talking in the background] you have to do what you have to do, and he did a fabulous job, really.
To keep things running, to, he used to prepare a daily report for the government.
For the Kuwaiti government?
Yes, and he would risk his life to send this report to the government.
He risk his life many times over in many places, him, Ahmad Murad, Ahmad Alrayes, Adnan Alarady, Ali Alqabandi.
But none of those people were really appreciated after the liberation.
But those are the group of people who manage the sector during these tough times, and they had to deal with the Iraqis, the Iraqis brought their own management to KOC Abdulsahib Qutob was the chairman the Iraqis brought, and they had to deal with that every day.
So the Iraqis brought their own…
Yes of course.
Umm, but they had, they didn't manage anything.
No, but they were…
The Kuwaitis managed, yeah…
But so that's who the Kuwaiti team was discussing and negotiating with, was the Iraqi management.
Yes, of course.
So they weren't military? They were brought in as..?.
[Talking at the same time]
No, civilian they were civilian, they were from the south oil company...
And that's why we could, they understood...
The issues, when we said there is this ammonia we need to get rid of it, because it will kill everyone, so they cooperated to do what we wanted to do, but then of course they came a time they were asking us oh we want to go back to produce two million, and we said we can't produce two million because You to, you stole all the files from KOC, they said well, we'll give you the files yallah t’aalow el Iraq take back the files, we said okay we will go to take the files.
So they’ve taken all the KOC files?
Because all the microfilm from the company I took out, I hide it in my house.
How did you do that?
[Sighs] Well one day, aa it was I think like tweny days after the invasion, I went to Faisal Aljassim who was our Deputy or the aa manager, I said Faisal we should take all the microfilm from inside KOC, he said yeah we should, I said we have to take all our files because we have to secure it and aa he said how? I said, well, I know the microfilm I know where is the key to the safe, because they were in saves but I don't have the key to the room where we have the microfilm, but I know that the lady who used to, let me find her house and I'll go get the keys from her, so I went looking for the girl and she was actually she left Kuwait she wasn't there, so I asked one of our colleagues, he was a Palestinian I said Ahmad are youuuu, I am going to go and try to take the microfilm out from the main office which is you know, there nobody in the main office because the main office in KOC we did not go an nobody, we moved operation there, so that is you know, he said yes, I will come with you, I told him look this is risky, but we have to do it, you know, I said, yeah I know I know it’s kay, so I went and got some garbage bags…
Black bags and the the back door to the office was open, so we went into the office, the main office, and we went to the room where the microfilm is, but the microfilm room was locked, so what we do, we did is that there, isn't, that what the lower in the in the door itself, there is these aaa...
Vents, yeah, it's the vent for the for the circulation of the air so we open the vent and I went inside and I kept filling, and the keys to the safe, was in the drawer, I knew where the keys were, so I took the keys and I open the file room the safes I threw everything in to the bags and Ahmad took them and put them in the car, so we filled all the banks..
Were there Iraqis around or?
There were no Iraqis in the office.
That time, okay, we finished everything and, the, and we kept the safe open, so we took everything out kept the safe open because we didn't want them to break it.
You know, and we put back the vent, and we, with that laaast bag, we were going out when the Iraqi military, two military guys with another Palestinian who used to work with the Iraqis for some reason I don't know why, came in and they looked at us and said what is happening? Or something like this, and of course Ahmad was the one, because he is Palestinian and he's not a suspect. He said no we are here to take our own stuff from the office aaand you know, we are engineers who work here, and and the other Palestinian guy who was with the Iraqis knew him, soo this was a life-saving moment because Ahmad was Palestinian and they did not suspect him so we could easily go out put the thing in the car and I drove back to ask Faisal, now I have everything, I have all the files, the papers, all the microfilm, what do we do with this? He said I don't know you take care of it n I said, well, you know, I really don't know how to deal with it, you know, where do I keep it in the fridge?
What do I do? He said you deal with it, so I went home and I called my brother and I said look, we have all this material, we have to hide it somehow, he said alright aaa he looked we looked and then the only thing that could do is you know, I have a big cupboard which was built into the wall.
So we open this cupboard, and at the bottom we laid everything we put it and we build it back again, and it stayed there until liberation.
What was on the microfilms?
Everything about KOC, all the data, all, this was our archive.
It was KOC’s archive, so everything, all the material that aa you needed for everything, so I had it there and after liberation, so this house we did not have a basement.
And when the air strike started… we had to move because we had children in the house and so, and we had no basement, this was a, not a very safe for the kids, so we decided to leave the house and to move to another house in Qurain, but then I thought you know, we have all this material here.
I can’t just leave it, sooo I asked my brother again, I said look, do you have somebody we can bring to put in the house so that nobody, the Iraqis do not come in and so on, he said yeah, we have two guys from Somalia who work in the refinery, I'll get them to come and stay, we have to feed them, we have to give them everything, said yeah yeah I will do, so he brought them and they stayed in the house, we locked my room, but we give them one room and every day we'd go get them food give them water, they really didn't know the story but we just kept them in the house, and then one day I went to the house ten o'clock in the morning, the normal round to give him food and whatever only to find that the soil area the whole neighborhood, you know the street itself, the houses were all bombed by cluster bomb, aand our, the the entrance to our house was all in holes, the two houses in front of our house one was completely burned, the other ones completely holes everywhere, and, so, and when I wanted to go into the house, I saw a small yellow can with a parachute.
I really didn't know what was that so I picked it up, and I throw it in the garden and I continued, it didn't explode, I really didn't know this was a cluster bomb, we've never seen one before, okay? And I went in, I saw these two Somalis completely shaken I said, are you okay? Are you, they said yeah alhamdullah we are fine, but the water tank exploded, so now the water was running all the hatha and we have no water, but everything else is okay. I said, okay, we'll give, bring a tank and we’ll fill it for you so you don't have to worry, but please ya’ani, and then I went to check on the aa, because the another family was there in the house and I found that there, the mother had a big injury in her leg and their house was completely gone, so I was…
She was one of the neighbors?
Yeah, so I had to take her to the hospital, they stitched her wound and then I had to move them to another, to their daughter house in Yarmouk so that was… you know, that experience, so that cluster bomb that didn't explode in the afternoon some of the kids in another neighborhood heard about this and they came to seem to swatch, you know, the house burned and the cluster bomb and they found the silicon and when they picked it up they exploded.
Oh my God, and what a and...?
They died, one of them died and the other one cut his leg or whatever.
Oh my God!
Where were the, who had bombed this area?
So this was… It was somebody...
[Talking at the same time]
So this was January ya’ani when the airstrikes began.
Yes, yes, this was January, it was the end of January, aaa I really don't know why they bombed the area you know, we had many many times when the troops, the ally troops, they bomb randomly
And and and you know, it's not, it wasn't the only incident… but that was you know our own house was bombed.
So what, did your house actually get bombed?
Yeah, yeah with, it's our house, so they threw a cluster bomb…
And and this bomb this big bomb had hundred forty four smaller bombs and it explodes so, it catches whatever it catches.
So two houses in the front and two houses on this side those were devastated.
And burned and so on but these were completely, you know, with the holes on the on the..
Right, but the house itself was okay?
And so, an the an the and the cupboard with the archives everything was okay?
And the Somalis were there until the end.
They were alive, okay.
So after liberation, aaa I think like five six days after liberation, I told, aa we were operating from Ali Alqabandi’s room, house aa to manage the firefighting, so I said, you know, I have all the material at home, we need these files, soo, but I need a safe, we need to bring safe here to in order to put it in the safe.
And they, aa, you know, they brought a safe an I went home, I think the Somalis look I need your help, said what, said come, so I went there and I opened all the covered again, I dismantled it and here it's all the material and they were shocked, so got it put it back in bags and I took them back to KOC.
Wow, I didn't know that part of [laughs] your story of, that, saving the Kuwait Oil Company...
[Talking at the same time]
Oh I did many things during invasion, I had, I did many many things...
So I was, I moved a lot of money around for all the families, and people used to get a lot of money from the government outside and used to distribute it.
How would you get the money?
My brother Ali had the link with the people like Ali Alsalem and all the guys they used to get the money, we used to distribute it, I used to distribute all the food to the people, I hide a lot of the expats were in Ahmadi, took them out kept them in Dasmaa in Bnaid Algar in Alshaab and then when they were allowed to go we let them to go.
How would you, so when you would take them Alshaab or Bnaid Algar where were you taking them to?
So I had a group, so one day I was at the office and I, this guy in Mohammad Najem Allah yerhama he has died, he was talking to Ahmad Alrayes an he said Ahmad I can't do anything, Ahmad was telling him I can't do anything, so I said Mohammad what is the story? He said well, we have these expats in Ahmadi and they are like sitting ducks because the sooner or later the Iraqis will come and take them, and they're very afraid we need to get them out of Ahmadi and hide them, I said I can help you with this, he said okay, how? Said I'll handle it, where is the, who's the, their group leader? And he took me to a house where there was this British guy, I said how many people? He said we’re about twenty with children and so on, I said okay I'll handle it… I went to my friend Iqbal Naibary’s house and I told her Iqbal where is your brother Essa? Because I know you know the best place to hide these people is either in Dieeya you know these kind, so I need houses for these guys, I need to hide these people, so can I talk to Essa? And said to Essa there are twenty people you need to move them from Ahmadi and hide them in the city, do you have the guts to do so? Number one, number two you have places because we need to feed them, keep them. He said yes I will definitely do so I'll get my to my friends. So the two friends he brought wahid esma Nasser Alasfour the other one kan Hisham Akbar esma fa the, we sat together and we planned it, said okay I'll take you to the house in Ahmadi, you bring two cars and we will bring abayas…
We will paint the head of the children and so on, and we take them out, and it worked so we went there with big cars we took them and took them out, the last couple it's always the last couple [laughs] the last couple Nasser said I will go get them because there are only two people, Mr. Sherid and his wife, and we give her abaya, we did everything we did with them we did with the others, the others escaped these two when Nasser was coming out from Ahmadi the checkpoint, they suspected aaa… the two and they said haa where are you going? What is this? And they caught him.
So they took him, and to SAS hotel for interrogation.
The, the, Nasser or the the...
All of them, okay.
So Nasser's story was you guys and told us that if there are expats we need to take them to SAS, I am taking them to SAS, they said okay follow us to SAS so when he went to SAS he was interrogated for almost five six hours and that night we were in panic, because if Nasser talks then there are so many people involved, and this operation that would have really been killed by the Iraqis, because the, if you hide an expat then, so we needed to change the places, we need to hide the other people, so to hide this whole operation that was a horrible night, I tell you, until Nasser came back tab’aan Nasser never talked or anything, he just kept his story, he's a fabulous guy, there are many people like that in Kuwait that their story is never told. And they were kept with the, so those two people they were they taken by the Iraqis.
Do you remember their name?
This one Mr. Sheridan and his wife.
He worked for KOC?
Sooo [pause] so things like, that a lot of things like that small things, you know, when the Iraqi said when they said aaa we want we want you to go to two million we said we can't because we don't have the files.
They said okay go get the files from Iraq, so they asked Musaab, asked me Sarah would you go go to Iraq to bring the files? I said yes, and we were planning to go to get the files. So, you know…
Did you go or?
No, eventually we did not because it was all ya’ani it was a lie.
It was a lie. They never I mean you produce two million what you do with it? You can't export it, you can’t do anything with it, soo [sighs] and to prepare a daily report for the government every day about everything that happens in the field, this was part of the job I used to do as well.
Were you going out to the field during this time?
Not many, not much the only big time that I still is when they started to explode the wells that's when I went to the field and I saw them exploding the wells.
Did you know, I'm going to come right back to that but did you know before that, that they had been...?
That they had been preparing the wells?
First week, the first week.
How did you know?
The first week, they didn't allow anyone to go to the field.
So they stop people coming in, but we had people who could actually go in and they saw them putting all this ammunition and this was reported to the government.
Yeah, from the first week they came with a plan and ironically, soo they had a big plan called, khitat altakhreeb almoaajal, esimha chethi, khitat altakhreeb almoaajal big files, six files.
And it is so ironic that I found those files, after, after liberation if you remember Near Mutlaa there were many cars with the damage and so on, so my brother Ali, was going to North Kuwait and, he saw one of these Jeeps that were toppled and this strike somehow he felt curious about, something got his attention, and he went, and oh, yeah, it's all these files about, the files that the Iraqis was trying to take to Iraq.
They were taken out of Kuwait?
Yeah, they wanted to take it out of Kuwait, so he took all these files and he brought them home when I looked at them I said my God, hai khitat altakhreeb almoaajal all the details of, the things that the Iraqis including all the names of the officers where they live in Iraq, you know, the passwords they used to go around in the field, all the issues they had, lack of, they didn't have enough wire and with the names of the wells and all the type of mission, and the design and, and all, everything to do with that.
And where are those files?
I gave them to Musaab Alyaseen after liberation because there was this center, and Musaab says he gave it to the center for, I don't know where Musaab took them.
Here in Kuwait?
The center for aa umm.
I think so.
Research and studies of, on Kuwait, yeah.
That's what Musaab says but I don't know, I didn't follow up, but I found those files and I mark them and I…
Wow, that is, such a coincidence too.
It’s aaa yeah yeah, those files came into my own hands with every single name.
So when you first realized or knew what they were planning for the oil fields that they were, you know, putting out ammunition getting the, what did you feel like what was your reaction?
It was, you know, immediately in my imagination, I could imagine a scenario where you had all these fires, and it's a red sky and it's all fire is like walking into hell, this is the kind of imagination and there was actually a couple of times, where we lived that exact scenario when they blew, the Allies through, blew the manifold in Ahmadi and it caught fire and this manifold, the tanks were full, with oil, and the the the fire kept creeping towards Ahmadi flow, fire flow it was a scary night all the all the fire brigades in Kuwait were involved in trying to put out this fire because it would have burned Ahmadi, the whole thing. So we have imagination of this huge fire moving and this is… this was the fear continuous fear that if the Iraqis actually do this, it's like flaring the whole country, but the shock when they actually started exploding the wells, when I went to the fields because I saw, I heard the explosion and I see the smoke going into there.
This was in January or February?
Okay, close to the liberation?
Yes, it was around fifteenth or sixteenth of February, so actually I took my mother in the car and I went to Ah, to Magwaa field and it’s a complete different picture than what I had in mind, in my imagination, because, the I smoke, the amount of smoke that was generated by the explosions was, made all the wells look like small candles.
Huuuuge smoke, so the picture that I had in my mind was completely different, it was a red picture but what I saw was a complete black picture.
What was your initial reaction when you…?
I could not, aa I was frozen, in that moment on the road when I was watching this, I froze in the middle of the road, and I stopped, my car, I could not drive and then an Iraqi Jeep came next to my car and was doing this ya’ani what are you doing in the middle of the field at this time? And I said well if I were I stopped, and this guy aaa, you know catches us whatever then, I mean it's gone, that was the last day so I had to U-turn around him like that and go, now an my car was a Chevrolet so it's much faster it’s American and his car was an old aa Soviet Jeep, so I knew he could not catch me, I went out from Magwaa Road into Aldhahar and I went into the Dhahar City itself, I hide in a place because I thought..
Was he following you?
I thought I imagined he was following me for a while and then I lost him, so I hide there for about, maybe half an hour, in, in between the houses and then I left there and went to Qurain from a different road, so that…
And your mom was with you?
What was her reaction?
But of course they were very afraid of the situation, but, I mean she was supportive, I know, I didn't, I don't know why she came with me, but she did.
Now, of course you knew ya’ani like you said before you knew each well, well like almost like a human ya’ani were you anticipating at that point ya’ani the level or what were your… What was in your mind in terms of what the potential damage was going to be? I mean had you really started to think about that? You know, how how how would you how would we be able to put out the fires?
It's not only the fires Farah, when we were living there, we were devastated really because every day you see the Iraqis damaging one thing or the other.
The roads, the buildings, the offices, the fields, rank sacking everything, so every day you felt okay, how are we going to recover from this whole thing? And this big imagination of this fire and the consequences something that kept hanging, the biggest fear was if they were exploded the wells how would you treat, how would you come out of it? Because it's a, you know, in our profession to handle one well was a big job.
Let alone if you had like eight hundred wells. So the the the element of fear was great and there, but then you just raised to the job and when actually deliberation we just had to go and do what we had to do.
So how, so the first wells were being detonated from on the fifteenth sixteenth of February, had you started planning or working towards, you know a plan for how to extinguish the fires and what the worst case…?
Yes, this was, we we started this actually before.
We, during Invasion, we the last few weeks in in in January, we were working on a plan to for the recovery, for after the comeback, we never I expected that they would explode all the wells, but we thought we will have some few wells on fire, and so we had two plans, one, how do we recover? An how do we go back to production?
And, but in under no circumstance, I'm, not in our wildest imagination we thought that they would actually put fire to all these wells and to damage and burn all the facilities. I don't think anyone expected that scenario. It's the most vicious scenario you can think of, you know, so no plan whatsoever would have been made for this worst-case scenario.
It was a true worst case scenario that you just simply couldn't plan for.
Partial Transcript: Until the first week, into after liberation that's when we sat down said, okay, so how do we handle this? And we created four survey teams, to go and survey the fields and have a like a stock, what do we have? What is damaged? What da da da…
Had you realized at that point that eight-hundred, it was eight-hundred wells that have been detonated…?
Seven-hundred thirty-five yeah.
So that was the majority?
And when, when did you…?
Know? That’s when we did the survey.
That’s when you knew.
So we had four survey teams.
I had the, I was the head of the North Kuwait survey team and Eisa Bu Yabis was Magwaa, Mohammad Abdulwahab was Burgaan, I know, there was a fourth guy forgot who was for West Kuwait, so we accomplished the report for North Kuwait it was eighty-five percent damage and everything and Magwaa was done, but then we sat and put the list of priorities, how do you actually tackle this firefighting, and the priorities were all, the first was the wells on the roads and near the cities and so on, so the crucial ones that created the biggest damage, and then slowly going into, so originally the government had contracts with like I think three firefighting teams from the US but then we had to just expand and expand and expand we ended with tweny-eight .
So who were the, do you member who the three original ones were?
Yeah, it was Boots and Coots, Wild Well, and Red Adair.
Okay. And how did they, do you, were you involved in that process or do or how...?
This was done by the government outside.
During, so what, during in the like in the lead-up to...
They had made contact and contact [talking at the same time].
They had lots of contracts, they had a big project called alouda project and under alouda was many facets many things, electricity…
Water ports, airports, oil and you know, everything everything they they they almost had contracts for everything prepared, but I think the scale was something that was not expected.
Umm. So, how did the umm, you said there were twenty-eight companies that are, eventually came?
So some companies had two teams.
Some companies had one team.
And each team would be responsible for how many?
How was it, what was the…?
It was by, just as it goes. So for example our team we took West Kuwait, we took the Om Qudair field, and we did...
Who was your team?
The Kuwaiti team.
You were, the Kuwaiti team, you were head of the Kuwaiti team?
No, Eisa Bu Yabis was the head.
I was his Deputy.
Soo our team did West Kuwait and then we move to Burgaan and in Burgaan you go to a well and then you move and there was no process per say for choosing the wells or which team does what, it was just spontaneous and whoever can do anything, we just gonna do it.
Was there any central… who was…?
Aaa, Saoud Alnashmi was the Central Command, he was the head and he had an American gentleman who helped him, had two he had, I forgot his name, the American gentleman and Abdullah Baroun, Abdullah Baroun managed all the International Teams, aand, I forgot his name this other guy, aa he managed the American and the Western teams.
Do you remember what, so, how many were American? What other countries were represented among the teams?
Yeah, we had the Chinese team the Iranian team the Romanian team Hungarian team Russian team aa, English French, French no, we did not have a French team, aaand umm then Canadian teams we had I think couple from Canada, the US we had like three, four, aa there was one from Latin America, I forgot was it Argentina or Peru or somebody, but do, we have, there is some documentation on all of this.
Yeah, yeah, lots of documentation.
And was, all, were all these different teams using their own techniques?
It was the same technique, it’s water, using water jets with high pressure to control the wells and then kept the wells by pumping see, you know, mud into the wells and then just cutting them, so almost the same technique.
Is the same tech, there was something I had heard something about the Hungarian team I think?
Yeah, they came with this innovation of the two make engines...
Sitting on the K72 aa, aaam aam, tank, with the water and the water and the powder jets, yeah.
They created it.
Was that, did that, was that more effective or was it the same?
Well, you see one of the issues aa with the, well it's a good it's a nice technology, but the issue here is that you have to use water, a lot of water.
So it's not the question, like you blow the candle, but if it is if the the area around it is not cold enough it will come back, so the issue here is that you need to use a lot of water to cool things and then this technology, but you know, if you cool it down so much putting the water is much easier for the fires much easier.
So yeah, it is it was nice, it was sophisticated, I really liked it, it moved by remote control but didn't do much.
That the circumstances.
So were you out there every day in the field during...?
Every day every night, we worked for like continuously like seven, eight months in the fields.
Can you describe like a typical day?
Typical day you'll get up like four o'clock in the morning, you, you remember those days the initial days we had no electricity, nothing, we had no clothes we had no nothing to, life was not easy that time, yeah? for like three four months until we had electricity into the houses and so on, we didn't have oil we didn't have we didn't have gas we didn't have electricity.
And this was because of the oil fires or also because…?
Because the power plants were damaged, aand…
Were damaged, this was when the Iraqis were leaving they bombed the power plant?
Yeah, sooo it was very tough period but anyway, they started early in the morning and I would go originally in the first few months, I was in the office in Ahmadi, initially in Ali Alqabandi’s house and then we moved to the training center, and in the office, we would work at the plans for two things, one the firefighting and the second was for starting production from the intact wells because we had like hundred tweny wells that were not on fire, so we needed to put them through a facility to be able to produce again because we need to export again because you needed revenue, needed to operate the refinery, because we needed petrol and gasoline and all. So two plans we were working on, the first one with the firefighting orig, initially I was supporting the firefighters with information and knowledge of the fields and the wells and so on, so every night at six o'clock we had a meeting, six pm we had a meeting with all the firefighters and they would come up with their questions and plans for the next day, so orig, initially I was doing that and then we started our own firefighting team and that meant we, for like a month, we were preparing our material, equipment and someone choosing location, preparing location in Om Gdair and so on, and then, started the fire fighting, start early in the morning, go into the fields, you dro, we drove to the fields and we drove through smoke, and you know, cluster bombs, minefields, you name it, and we want to the to the field, and then we started the fire fighting process, now... Our our team was a little bit different because we, during the night, so when we camped in Om Gdair, during the night we would prepare locations and take the water to the location and fill the tanks and so on, and operation will start in the morning. So we used to work really really long hours and we had very little rest, so then we said okay, let's put a small cabin and just stay there because driving into West Kuwait with this darkness and the smoke, and was not so easy, so I spent I think maybe ten days sleeping in the field when we were doing Om Gdair.
Surrounded by the fires?
Of course, by everything. Aand, so and you know when we put our first well, we came back to Ahmadi because KOC made a dinner for us and they said we will make you a dinner every well you put off.
[Laughs] Do you remember when the first well you put out was?
Om Gdair five, it was in August. Yeah, it was in August.
Was that the first of all the wells?
No no no, our team.
You team, had any other teams put out…
Yeah yeah, the first well we closed, we didn't put off because it had a valve it was not on fire, it wasn in North Kuwait.
When we did the survey for North Kuwait we found that well, Ruthateen eighty-three.
That it was not on fire?
Wasn't on fire, so I asked one of my team to close the valve and he got a wrench and he did close the valve, but in this process he completely soaked with oil because you have to go under the well and close it. Aaa so this was the first well in North Kuwait, but aa the other firefighting teams started with Ahmadi because like I said priority was near the road, near this, so they started with Ahmadi, it started early March.
Early March, I think the tenth of March eighth of March that was the first time we put off, a well on fire.
You remember which, which team it was, that put that out?
I think it was Red Adair.
Umm, was he himself here? Red Adair was here?
Yeah yeah yeah, absolutely, everybody was here.
And you met him and the rest of the team?
Of course, the first day he arrived in Ahmadi I was there.
Umm, what was he like?
An old man.
[Laughs] an old man from Texas.
[Laughs] umhm, so where were all the different international teams living?
Well, you know the, the guesthouse in Ahmadi was renovated.
And they were kept there in the guesthouses and you know, the area around Ahmadi.
So how many would you say total? Firefighting all of this…
So by the end of the firefighting…
I can tell you the build-up.
This was the largest civilian air lift the history of mankind, because we had to lift a lot of material equipment, we have to move in people for all the drivers services, you know, everything.
To bring them in.
Of course, because we had the here in Kuwait, so I think towards the end of the firefighting the last few things, because it was not only firefighting, a firefighting, rehabilitation, production, da da da da, many things right? I believe it was around eighteen-thousand people.
That were lifted into Kuwait to do this operation.
So imagine the size of the operation.
And who was managing that the airlift, and all of the logistics?
Bechtel, Bechtel they had a contract with Kuwait under alta… under alouda.
So alouda was a Bechtel-KOC kind of project?
So they managed, and they did a good job I can tell you.
Umm, and so all of these were living in Ahmadi?
Almost. Ahmadi and camps and…
And all over the place.
I can tell you, but you know the seniors for example, the firefighters...
They were all...
So among all of these eighteen-thousand, so how many were actual firefighters? Like the ones out in the fields doing what you were doing?
The firefighters probably three-hundred...
Wow, that's quite a small number.
Oh I mean the, the Red Adair the main team had four people, but they had assistance and things like that.
But they, the brains...
Like four people.
So you mentioned that first… well that your team put out...
How did that feel? Were you, ya’ani you were there right?
Yeah, of course.
So, can you describe, sort of that day? And that that first well putting it out?
Well, you see we chose that well because it is so far from Ahmadi.
We didn't want anyone to be around when we do the firefighting because this team was not a professional team, this was the first operation they do, so we didn't want people to watch us learn it basically, okay? so that's why we went and chose Om Gdair, And the, the second reason we chose Om Gdair is because for the last three years before that time, I was working in Om Gdair and I knew this field very very well.
Aand I knew how to control them easily in the wells. The issue with Om Gdair two main, are three main issues, from a risk point of view, one, it has the largest minefield, because it's in the border with Saudi and the Iraqis have to lay them up a 120 million mines in this area, and secondly, Om Gdair has very soft sand, so any cluster bombs that were thrown not exploded would actually be there, and that was additional risk, and third element in Om Gdair was the fluids that come out of the wells had H2S.
Which is what?
Which is a poisonous gas.
Some Fields have this gas.
Okay, but naturally there.
Yeah, sulfide, hydrogen sulfide gas, which is really poisonous, very small concentrations can kill people, sooo if you had a well that actually is just gushing and not on fire, is a much bigger risk than the wells on fire and when you actually put off the fire it's a riskier period than when you have the fire, and see...
For this gas to be…
Yeah, so when you put off the well...
You have to be very careful, because this gas makes you initially drowsy and then kills you, so when you put off the well the flow continues, when the fire goes off the well f, flows and that's when it is risky, because this gas kills.
Otherwise it's burning off with the fire.
Yeah, yes, exactly, so that's why we needed to be extra careful how do we manage our work in Om Gdair, so we understood, realize the risks so when we prepared our location, the first location, normally we bring the EOD guys to clear up the door, the the the road and the location.
From the mines?
EOD stands for?
Ordinance… clearance, I forgot.
Okay, and that was from Kuwait or...
No no, it was a, teams from various places of the world…
Yeah, so they would come to clear the mines.
So they clear the road for you.
And the location, and that's so you drive, when you drive you only have to drive on that, you cannot go this way that way and, in the location, but for us, we knew even if they do so it would not be cleared because of specifically Om Gdair and Managish area, the nature of the land, so what we did we brought two bulldozers, and we drove the bulldozers on the track itself all the way to the field and then on to the location and then even the location we did this ourselves.
Who was driving the bulldozers?
Aa shisma Allah yithkira bil khair aaa I think one of them was Haidar Firman, and the other one Abdulqader Alkanderi was driven, driving sometimes, and then we had Yaqoub Alkanderi driving at, another one so yeah some…
So they were driving the bulldozers over the path cleared in case there might be…
But that was also putting themselves, there, there's...
The bulldozer is a, is a heavy heavy metal, and yes you know, in this process the bulldozer was jumping sometimes…
Because of the explosion, the bulldozer was actually jumping.
But no, no injuries? No one has ever…
No no alhamdellah this whole operation went over when we finished, no injuries, nobody was hurt, nothing. So we clear the location went to them set the tanks, and we had to get the water, we did not have water, so we had to go and find one water well, which was there but another pump into the water well, pump water all the way to the location, fill the tanks, so we did everything ourselves, delaying the pipeline welding all, preparing the location, once we finish the… Once we finished preparing the location it was like aa midnight, the first day, and at midnight I said ummm, should we try it with the well? Okay, so midnight nobody is there let’s try it, so we put off the well, the wa, we know we started with the water to try you know jets and so on, and the one the well went off at like half an hour.
And then, there were no lights [laughs] which we forgot.
So we had to actually put all the lights in, and I told you, so we had, it's very important that you work in this area against the wind.
Because of that H2S thing.
So by morning, we hooked up the stinger, the sting into the well and by ten o'clock we controlled that well, and that’s…
And the gas hadn’t leaked.
It was leaking, I mean...
But it wasn't affecting…
No, it wasn't affecting...
We were soaked.
All of us.
The oil, yeah, I remember that day when I came back home, my mother was really scared, I need to wash these clothes because I did not have clothes.
I didn't have much material, because I used to wear like these coveralls, I cut them I co… I stitch them, and they have special made for me. Sooo my mom, would take my clothes soak them in petrol to clean them, wash them, dry them, and it has, we had no electricity,
So it was all done by hand.
And how would, and then you'd have, so the oil would just be all on your...?
How difficult was it to get off?
Well, you wash it you wash it you wash it, but it stays, I think it stayed for a long time, maybe like months after we [talking at the same time] you know, you still smell it.
You’d smell it?
Yeah on your body.
Was there any risk or were you informed in any way of health issues or what from the smoke or the oil?
[Sighs] Farah, at that moment nothing mattered, but to get this thing over with because… No Kuwaiti would have been able to live in Kuwait, aaand everyone suffered so much, we needed to just get over with the job.
So no health consideration, even if there were, you know, if we knew that, you know, this will affect our lungs, this will affect our body, our, it really didn't matter, we just wanted to work and finish this job as soon as possible because Kuwait was dark, completely dark.
So when you were at the well fields, you said by morning, was it still dark or would there would there be light when you're in the daytime in the field?
No it was dark.
It was always dark.
It was always dark until the end of August.
Almost, August… October...
It started to...
It started when the number of wells started to get smaller, and aaa started the sun started to come back to Kuwait.
So that, after you've, you were saying before you started to say that the after the day you capped the first well at KOC they hosted a dinner?
Yeah they hosted a dinner and they said we will host a dinner for everyone you cap, and the next day we capped one more well, so they had a dinner…
Third day we, four, and then after the fourth night there was no more dinner and we just continuing.
So you started by that point you are capping a well a day?
Almost yeah, and one sometime we did like three wells per day.
Wow, and each time it's the same thing, you’ve to clear the path, you..
Correct, and because our team we were about twenty-eight, twenty-nine people, so we divided the team in order for some who were prepare the land and prepared, and, you know, everything and then people who actually will do the firefight, so it was a continuous…
Day and night kind of operation.
And so what was your particular task?
You're managing the...
No, everything because in kind of this work in the field, like I told you, from my previous expertise…
In being a field engineer, you don't sit and say okay this is my piece of work…
I'll do only this, umm, it's never like that.
So everyone was doing...
Everything, you know, I was after, in the jet I was preparing an putting the lines, I was in the actual capping, I, I was involved in everything.
And then you know there, there have been, at the time I know there were films being made.
And there were the filmmakers who are out there is the famous, the fires of Kuwait which you're in and the different ones. Do you remember that? Among, in terms of these filmmakers who had started…
Who would come out immediately?
Yes, they came and, originally, initially when we were among there I refused to go into any of these films, and I refused any interviews.
I said, I said look, I'm busy…
I don't have no time for you, okay? You wanna go do your bit I want to do my thing, work, I have no time for TV and media and so on, but then they insisted and KOC insisted, and they felt they wanted to do this and so we received some instructions and…
Umm, were there a lot of different films, or cameraman or things that were out there?
Yeah, lots of them.
I mean some we know, we've seen their work but some we don't know.
Umm, and photographers too, right?
Photographers, filmmakers, journalists, all kind of media.
Umm, so they would have to get permission from KOC to be out there, or anyone could go out to the field?
I really don't know how that process worked, but yeah there were many many, KOC has a media department so probably they would have coordinated with them.
So do you remember when, so how many, at first how many wells would you say your team had capped, all altogether during the...
Including the largest wells in Kuwait.
And these were all in, aaa in the same area?
First we did Om Gdair we finished, we did thirty-two wells in Om Gdair…
Then we came to Burgaan, and we did about ten wells in Burgan.
Which one was the largest?
And we did the last well as well.
You did the last well?
That was the...
The one with the celebration.
Sixth of November.
Sixth of November, was that the one that the Emir was there also?
Okay, yeah, and that was where? Which one?
Burgan. Burgaan one-one-six I think, one-one-six? One-one-eight.
It's amazing that you still remember the numbers.
So you were describing before, you know, when you were saying about… the way you describe the wells like, or like yourself being a doctor, and you them so well each one is, is very distinct, each one has its own characteristics, a, was that, did you went as, when the wells were detonated and you'd see them burning on fire, did you have much sort of like a more personal or emotional reaction to the…
Ooh, huge emotional reaction.
Can you describe?
Because, I mean these wells were like my friends, aaand aa… I felt horrible, I felt… it was like, you know, killing my friends, and ummm, very angry, with the Iraqis, really angry and I think… aa, you know since the first day of liberation, I had not a minute of, just sitting and thinking, okay? And if it wasn't for that continuous continuous exhausting work that I did, I would have been a psychopath because it really meant a lot to me, those wells, some of them we drilled, some of them, I definitely worked on every single one of them. Soo, yeah, it was horrible, but I think the success of, capping the success of everything that we did helped, therapy, it was like a therapy for all the damage caused by the Iraqi invasion and watching the Iraqis damaging everything in Kuwait, on purpose, and and stealing Kuwait and a, and and, you know everything that they did here.
Could you describe that day? The last well was capped, that November sixth.
It was a glorious day, yeah, because the weather was beautiful, and the sun was so clear, fresh air in the fields… it's such a big thing really.
People don't realize, you don't realize it until until you lose it and then you get it back and then you appreciate it. So it was a fantastic day we had this biiig celebration everybody was there, every international mediaaa, the Emir, the, you know, all the Kuwaiti dignitaries in Kuwait, and we put this nice show putting the well off, so yeah, it was a fantastic day, the sixth of November nineteen-ninety-one.
And then did you get a chance to rest a bit after that?
Partial Transcript: No, [sighs] because then we had to work hard to put all those wells back to production.
And we actually did that by ninety-three.
So two years continuous work, trying to bring production back to the two million barrels a day.
So it, when did, when did the first well start to produce again?
Yes, b because we had like I said, we had a hundred-tweny-three wells which were not on fire, in Magwaa in Ahmadi area, so we rehabilitated, Bechtel rehabilitated GC-22, GC-10 and we hooked all those wells diverted them to the GC and we started production… In June, nineteen-ninety-one.
And how many barrels were by that point?
We achieved 250,000 barrels.
Okay... And so then after November when the wells were capped, they were continuously, gradually...
The issue was not the wells as much as it was the facilities themselves.
The damage in the facilities and to, to actually operate manually the facilities and you know back then they did a fabulous job people, I don't know if they give them any kind of big credit, but they did a fabulous job in trying to bring back production as quickly as possible and rehabilitating the facilities were damaged.
So was it a gradual steady increase up to two million barrels?
And by ninety-three...
It had reached full production.
Farah, I don't know if the world actually, recognize, the amount of the skills in engineering execution construction that were put to work, and management, that was put to work in order to, bring production back put off the fires. I don't, I don't think anyone understands or have a proper appreciation of the amount of work that went into this, it was massive, two million barrels production is not an easy thing to have that disaster in your hand, it's a huge thing but for Kuwait to manage that operation successfully in record time under, all scenarios… demonstrates and extraordinary, ability in management, contracting, execution, monitoring every aspect of the job and this is the kind of Kuwait, Kuwaitis and Kuwait that you have that people tend to forget.
And KOC was sort of the command center?
Was managing this whole...
Yes KOC, KPC on the background it was merely KOC.
Who was the, the head of KOC at that time after the war?
The beginning it was Abdulmalik Elgarabally, but it wasn't Abdulmalik who was running this show it was Khalid Leflaij, Khalid Leflaij aaa, supported by aa Bu Hani, Eljazzaf, Faisal Jassim, aand Ahmad Elarbeed aa, I mean… then there was a guy for contracting Ahmed Elawadhi, Abdullah Baroon, you know some some serious talent.
That exist in Kuwait, this is the training, this is the kind of training KOC gives.
Which unfortunately is not utilized in Kuwait, you know, see, in the, because of the way this management in the oil sector, so for example in Saudi Aramco, the government when they have project they want to execute in a best way for most efficient they give it to Aramco, even if it wasn't, has nothing to do with the oil sector because of the skill sets that the people in the oil sector have, but in Kuwait it's never appreciated it's never, aa, it's never given…
Why do you think that is? Is it just that people don't really know or aren't aware?
Yeah yeah, so the training you get in KOC is unparalleled.
Or we used to get in KOC, I don't know now.
The training you get in KOC the discipline, the training… Was unparalleled, the oil sector in general.
But KOC because it's the oldest oil company here, you know, it's nineteen-thirty-six, so they have structured, everything is very very structured.
So once oil production was coming back, did you go back to what you were doing before on the field? Taking care of the wells?
No, after, after we finished the firefighting I was made head of the petroleum department, the department I used to work for, and for, until we, and this was responsible for putting all those wells back to production together with the drilling department...
So two departments involved in the operation
Partial Transcript: and ninety-three we finished that process so then I was moved to planning department, I was the head of resources management and I stayed there until ni, two-thousand year two-thousand almost, end of ninety-nine.
But so by that point now you are more, you’re in management?
So you are not in the fields anymore?
I was in planning and management, no.
I wasn't in the fields, but I was the head of the core team for North Kuwait which was responsible for putting all the development plans for North Kuwait that, so you see… I always enjoyed the fieldwork I wish today, even today if I get a job as a field engineer again and go just do field work.
So how, I was gonna ask you in a, with that a, is obviously very different because now you're mainly in matt, you know, in the office doing that kind of, work, was it very, you know, did you miss being out in the field?
Oh big time.
[People talking in the background]
Big Time, so I was aa, that's why you, even when I started Kuwait energy, I would go to the fields.
Umm, yeah yeah.
I'm a fish out of water out of…
When you think about it, that's my habitat.
That's where I belong.
Since you were a little girl in the…
Since I was a child.
That’s where I belong, and I just look for the opportunity to go back to the fields, because that's where I I belong really.
I told you I was born in Magwaa.
In the oil field, yeah, and I think you know, KOC should be, when I die I would love to be buried in the oil fields.
But unfortunately, they don't have a cemetery in the oil field.
La, so what was, so in the nineties now, so now you're working with KOC, you said till ninety… eight? You said or when did you say?
Till two thousand, and during that period, umm, well I guess if we can backtrack a little bit to to,
Partial Transcript: so you are engaged at the time of the invasion.
And your husband, you fiancé left back to Bahrain?
Yeah he was in Bahrain.
I still remember on the, our our engagement anniversary was on the twelfth of December, sooo in the twelfth of December aa, or the day before actually we drove all the way to Baghdad because we had no mobiles, nothing so we went to Alrasheed hotel and I called him from there, I said look it is our anniversary, I know I know.
Ohh this was during the, during the... invasion?
You drove to Baghdad?
To call him?
To call him, to call him, to call my brothers who were in the US..
My sister was in Bahrain again, and we had a lot of family outside we really had no communication with the family.
So who did you go with?
My mother, my brother, and my friend Shafiqa.
We went too...
To Baghdad, we stayed at the hotel, and we called everybody all the night we were calling calling calling.
I think we stayed one night in Baghdad and then we drove back… so when I called him, he said Sarah why don't you come out? Every, all the Kuwaitis are out, from here, why are you staying in? I said Habeeb, I love you a lot, you know that, but I tell you I love Kuwait more.
An I will not leave Kuwait, it's my duty to be here this time, and aa, and look if we are liberated everything is fine, if we are not, you just move on.
If I, if I get killed or something during this thing, just move on, he said what are you talking about? I said I'm telling you, said you drove all the way from Kuwait to Baghdad to tell me this? [Laughs] so okay, I'm just telling you some serious facts here we don't know how this will end, I am hundred percent sure that this will end in favor of Kuwait, aand but I will stay there until… my country needs me, and I will stay in Kuwait.
And he lived in, he had lived, been living in Kuwait?
No no no, he was there for the weekend.
He just came for the weekend.
Oh I see, so how, did you, had you met in Kuwait or Bahrain?
He's my cousin, he's a cousin.
He's a cousin, yeah, know I first time I met him in Kuwait he came to see us in Kuwait and...
[Laughs] So he was only in here for the weekend when the Invasion happened, I see, okay. So then after the liberation you got...
So in June we were supposed to get married in October, in August that year, aa in aa two thousand...
We were supposed to get married in October, but then after liberation, in June, I can, the twenty-second of June, I know, we were preparing for the firefighting equipment and we just started the production.
Aaa, the putting back the wells, the oil production, so I asked aaa I I took a leave of about ten days I went to Bahrain we got married we went to Holland for a week and then I came back, back to the fields.
[Both laugh] [Talking at the same time]
Yeah, and then once I came back we were, we started the firefighting operation.
So you went to, you got married in Bahrain?
Married in Bahrain and trip to Holland.
So your trip to Holland for your honeymoon was the first time you'd been out since the liberation happened?
How did that feel? Being out of Kuwait?
Aaa, I, when I arrived, so there was this special flight that goes from Kuwait cause there were still commercial flights were not there, so we had to take some permissions whatever to fly back out, when I arrived in Bahrain, I still remember, in the arrival section, inside near where the bags, you collect your bags, it's not because we had bags, yeah I did have a bag, I did have a bag but the interesting thing was, Habeeb managed my, with my sister Ascia, managed to get in because he knew people and he was waiting for us there and when I saw him, when he hugged me I hug him, but aaa I don't, we were crying like hell, aa, I still that, l remember that and you know people were looking at us [laughs] yeah, yeah but then I couldn't stay out a long time, I had to go back, I had to come back but you know, my mind wasn't completely rested, we've gone through so much, in the invasion, after the invasion with the firefighting with everything that was happening. So yes, yes, we did go for a honeymoon of one week, but aa your mind was not, I was not truly enjoying this because my mind wasn't there.
Still occupied with everything that we need to do here, I was a small engineer in the company, I was still a small engineer, yeah?
But I carried much… weight on my shoulders, because of my own initiatives.
It wasn't like somebody told me to do this or that, no, I led teams, nobody asked me to lead. I did things nobody asked me to do. Yeah, it's that spontaneous kind of nature of doing things because they were needed and...
And you were still, how old were you, in the in the invasion?
[Both said thirty-two]
That's incredibly young, too.
Yeah, but anyway some people, this this should be, the research for, finding out do you, are you born as a leader or you are made as a leader, I think it's a combination, you must have some genes to allow you to develop your… leadership.
Partial Transcript: Um, so you stayed at Kuwait Oil Company till two-thousand, and where did you go from there?
I went to Kufpec because, since ninety-four, I was involved in this Kuwait project trying to involve international companies to come to Ku, and work in Kuwait, because you know, after we achieve two million barrels in ninety-three we started so what's next? We have this huge momentum going on a huge amount of work, we have devastated fields, so what do we do now? What is our next objective? And that's when we started, that's why I want to move to planning because that's when we put the first strategic plan for KOC, we evaluated everything that we have and the strategic plan was led by Ahmed Alarbeed, was one of the finest strategic thinkers that you can meet. So Ahmad created this steering committee for the strategy and I was a member of that committee and I led the resources development group in in in the strategy, so we looked at all the results of Kuwait, how would you develop these reserves which was a, should be developed now, should be developed later, what technologies would need, how many people, how many expertise, how much money, all of that all aspects of strategy, so we developed the strategy it finished by nineteen-ninety-five, aand in that strategy we said okay we'll go for three million barrels a day but in order to go to three million we could not do it on our own because some of the fields that need to be developed needed help, until today they need help.
Because of the damage that they sustained or just...
No, no, it's simply because of their nature.
The nature of these fields. Sooo, they are more, difficult to manage, so we proposed to involve international oil companies and we created a core team to develop all the studies the physical models the structure everything, and I was the head of this core team, now unfortunately this project became a very political project it was called Kuwait project, aaand the minister took it to the parliament and it became very political, a big political headache, I'm not good with politics, I'm very straightforward person who can deal with technical issues with issues, not with politics, so by ninety-nine, I said it's enough, I can't do this anymore, and…
What was the issue? Was it because in terms of contracts or what was...?
Yeah, you know, so for Kuwait, you know in Kuwait, when it comes to these big projects you have a million expert, and they, some of them are influential enough to kill projects it happened with Kuwait project, it kept, happened with Kdow the Dow project, it's happening, now I hope doesn't happen with the merger of the Kuwait Finance house with KFH, aa KFH with aa United, every big significant project, you find these people who know nothing about nothing come up with these big stories about corruption and trying to kill projects, and it's happened over and over and over and I just wonder when Kuwait will wake up…
to see that this group of supposedly opposition, is actually a very corrupt group that do not want to see this country progress, whose interest and whose interest is to stop these mega economic projects for Kuwait, and this was one of these projects the Kuwait project, was one of these significant projects that would have transformed Kuwait oil sector, but look where we are.
So it was never, it never got...
No, went into the parliament several times and they attacked Shaikh Saud Allah yerhama he was leading this and, mess, a big mess.
Umm, so two-thousand you left?
Yes I, I had enough, I left to Kufpec, I was originally manager planning there.
Kuwait Foreign Petroleum, it's the KOC, KPC has two main interties one is domestic one is international and this is the international pace.
Basically it does what KOC does but internationally, aand I worked there until tow-thousand-five.
So originally I was manager planning and then I became business development and I, we plan we, again in Kufpec we developed the first strategic plan to transform the business, aaand aa… it's my belief that government is really, not good in running business, no matter what business it is, and Kufpec is a very good example, because government cannot capture opportunities, it cannot compete internationally it can do things companies can do.
So what, Kufpec is obviously government, but what was it, so what exactly was, when you say was an internationally? But what was it?
So what they have is they go into a certain countries they acquire assets, produce oil...
And export oil and stuff like that, and this is a market where you have to compete with others to get assets, but if you are government you cannot, you are not successful at competing. And they spend a lot of effort, money in developing Kufpec, so in tow-thousand-five I thought mmm this is not good business for, for a company and I was not adding value,
Partial Transcript: so I decided to leave and create my own venture, so I created Kuwait Energy and…
And what was the objective behind Kuwait Energy? What was your main goal?
The main objective was to create an independent oil and gas company in the Middle East.
And why is that? Because there is no independent oil and gas sector in this part of the world.
They're all government.
Yeah, all government, the government has monopoly on this sector in all countries, Kuwait, Saudi you know, mainly Kuwait Saudi, everybody else has involvement from International companies, so the objective here is, to create an independent oil and gas company that haaas very strong base in the Middle East and can operate in the Middle East and can help the governments to develop the oil assets. Now I will just give you one comparison, think about two countries the US and Saudi, okay? Today each one of them produce about ten million barrels, almost, more or less, okay? In Saudi it’s produced by one company called Aramco very good company efficient company Aramco hires 55,000 people.
Aaand it's one single company. In the US this ten million is produced by fifty, sixty thousand companies…
Hiring two to three million people… think about the significance of this to the macroeconomic picture, so why would you as government create only one company, give it all the monopoly, you don't know if it is running efficiently or not you assume things, I'm saying Aramco is very efficient I'm not saying it's not efficient but you really cannot measure it, you don't know what is happening, same story with KOC… same story with Kuwait…
Exactly, how would I know the cost per barrel in KOC is it real or not, is it correct or not, is. you have no metrics of measurement, and it's not an efficient system, to have one company monopolizing everything, this monopoly, so if you go anywhere in the world today you have huuuge sector, it's all by independence, think about the Shale Revolution in the US, do you think the government did? It or the majors did it? No it started with these small independents that created the, neutralized the technology to develop the shale and so on, and grow.
But in that sort of context, was it difficult to actually get Kuwait Energy licensed, approved, I mean since KOC always has been the dominant…
Kuwait Energy doesn't operate in Kuwait.
It's not, aah, where does it…?
The idea started is that you create a company develop a track record, because we believe, I believe with time people will wake up say this is wrong you need to change small fields should be managed by smaller companies and they will allow other companies to come and operate in Kuwait and Saudi and so on, and in Iraq as a matter of fact because when we started Iraq was still a monopoly of national campaigns.
Yeah, so where did Kuwait Energy operate from?
Egypt, Yemen, Oman, and Iraq we have assets...
You have assets there in those countries, okay, but where is the company registered? Like where is its…?
It’s a Jersey entity it was started as a Kuwaiti company but we moved to Jersey.
Now it is a Jersey company.
Okay, is it, so private independent oil companies in Kuwait don't and can't exist?
KOC has the monopoly…
No, yes until now.
I think the system sooner or later, it has to change it's not sustainable I think once oil stre loses strategic importance then the government will...
You know, find alternative way of actually conducting this business but as long as it is the main source of income for Kuwait... they will really hang to it because that's control.
So Kuwait Energy was doing what Kufpec was supposed to be doing?
And umm, you, were Kuwait, you were with Kuwait Energy for… twelve…
Until aa last December.
I was there, aa soo, many things happened in the company but and outside the company so I joined the higher counsel I became board trustee, so I needed to dedicate more time to these bigger issues of Kuwait as well, but in the company itself we try to list the company in the stock exchange in the UK but we could not, so the shareholders were not very happy because we could not, you know, find the liquidity for the shareholders and they wanted to change the board to bring in, people who represented the shareholders, but the model we created the company was an independent model so I disagreed with a lot of the things they were trying to do and I chose to live.
Partial Transcript: So you left?
Yeah, I left it, I left Kuwait Energy last December.
Okay, and since then you've been, you mentioned you joined the higher counsel or your...
Yeah it's in last September I joined the higher council of planning in Kuwait and I've been working very closely with the council and the policy committee and economic committee and in the vision committee, and there's plenty of work to be done there to various aspects of Kuwait, and same thing I'm a member of the board trustee for the development of the Hareer territory.
Up North, again that's a...
Partial Transcript: I wanna go back a little bit, because you mentioned before when we talked about the work you were doing before the invasion as the first woman in the field and so on and you said you never you know it wasn't until after the liberation that you… that people noticed for instance, can you describe like when you first started, when you first started getting that attention?
Attention, yeah I still, I still remember one time one of the journalists came to us and in in in Om Gdair field and I was working with the fields and so on and he took pictures I did not, with, there was no interview as such but… he asked some questions and I that's the time I said look I don't have time for you, we go, but he took lots of pictures and the next day I was on the front page a big picture of me and the field.
Of, in Kuwait?
Aa, so he’s a Kuwaiti journalist?
Kuwaiti journalist, it was Alwatan newspaper.
And that when people found out, ooh we have a woman in the field, and you know, that time my clothes were all [laughs] not really… a lot of patches of oil so that's when got attention and people started to come and see, what is this, and like I said for a while I said look guys I have no time I don't want to do any interviews I am not interested but towards… you know I think after, towards the end of aaa mid-September or so, when we could actually we already got our hands really, we're able to do things much easier so that's when I started to give interviews and I became famous immediately because, people never thought that there was a woman doing this kind of work aa and firefighting you know and in Kuwait, but aaa, and, and for a long time… people will want to call and see, you know, an so on and talk about the experience, and KOC for the first time they appreciated, the skill, I think, that's why I was promoted and I became..
What was your parents’ reaction when they saw you on the cover of Alwatan?
My mother she was so proud of me, my father was dead, but my mother she was so proud of me you see… I have this huge attachment, you know some people have attachment to their mother and some to their father, so my attachment is always has been with my mother and she would wait for me every night, she wouldn't sleep until I come home, and sometimes I would tell her look tonight I'm not coming, so she wouldn't wait for me but she would wait until one, two pm when I arrive sometimes because she wanted to wash my clothes, she wanted to prepare things for me for the morning, aaand I would come tired exhausted and all, she will say mom how many wells you control today? And how was it? And she would want to listen and to understand the kind of things, but this made her very very proud really, and aa, yeah she made her pride, she used to brag in front of her friends.
So when people started calling and you're getting this attention in the media and so on, I mean, do you remember how you felt? Like how it made, your reaction to it?
Aaa you know, nothing in my whole history made any difference to me as a person, really.
I think people who know me, who knew me then who know me now, it's the same person… never changed, the character didn't change the...
I have my own philosophy about these things you know, you are here in transit in life and you have just to do what is best, try to keep a good reputation a good legacy behind and that's it.
Which you have. [Laughs]
Partial Transcript: So if there is something, I mean do you feel like there might be anything that I didn't ask or didn't know to ask or anything that you feel is missing that you'd want to share from your experiences?
I think we talked a lot about many of the things so… you know what, what I think the women need to do bel Kuwait, you see, we fought a lot, our generation, fought a lot to get the political rights, to be part of genuinely contribute to things in a serious way to improve our, case and to get what we deserve, but I think we stopped, fighting and as a result you see now today we have one MP here one minister here, we don't have that same, the position that Kuwaiti women deserve in decision-making circles.
And as a result their causes is never really fought for… my generation we are tired we worked so hard we did a lot of things so that then, but the younger generation is really not picking it up, and when I see the way these girls follow these fashionistas and they care about makeup and food and stupid things in life and not the real things, it makes me feel bad because you know, this is not really what we fought for.
This is not what we want for Kuwaiti women, this is not sustainable, they have to think about the sustainability, they have to think about how can we improve this society.
And it and genuinely it lies with women.
Doesn't lie with men it lies with women, women have the one, they are the ones who can really transform Kuwait but they are not doing anything about it… and this is bad.
I know at Kuwait Energy you did quite a few programs and things for women's empowerment and projects like that right? With, in Kuwait, because we also worked on one with you...
Umm, how did you start to get involved in those kinds of initiatives?
Well, I, you know, I've always been involved in the initiative for a woman empowerment and you know for, I'm a huge supporter, one of the things Farah I I think it's very important, you know, so women because they are more emotional little bit more emotional than men, they take positions aand there is this element when for example I don't like how Farah dress, they go and say oh Farah, umm she doesn't dress nice, no no, and they do it in groups they don't know the impact this has, that it doesn't affect only Farah…
it doesn’t effect on that person, but it gives a stereotype for all, so one of the things women really need to do is no matter how bad is the person or you should always defend them you should always protect them and you should always try to shine, make the woman shine no matter where they are no matter who they are this is one thing that we really don't know how to do, men do it all the time, it's a technique which we need to educate people and an an especially women, because there is a huge responsibility on them for the the the transformation of Kuwait, Kuwait needs to transform, it's not a country as a country were not sustainable.
Umm, in the planning are you still involved with the, with the energy sector in the oil or is it mainly focus on general economic?
No, I focus on aa other stuff but I'm coming to oil now, aa I have one initiative but aa, government reform, economic reform, education reform, health reform, those all aspects of..
Part of the vision tweny thirty-five.
And are you optimistic with this vision? Do you feel like this could be...
I've always been an optimistic person.
Aaand, I’m somebody who never gives up, so yes people say you know what they say Sarah you are living in the La La Land..
Sarah in the La La Land, I say well, as long as I breathe, I'll try.
I'll never stop trying, and maybe one two things will work, so.
Do you have kids? Sorry I didn't I…
You have three, how old are they?
Tweny, tweny-one, twenty-four.
So they're all post, yeah they are post invasion, obviously, you were married after the invasion.
Oh yeah, it's ninety-three ninety-six, and ninety-eight.
Okay, and are they…
They are all studying.
There are all studying now, anyone going in your footsteps in engineering?
No, not really.
What are they studying?
Aa, my eldest he’s psychology he's studying psychology, my daughter she is biology aand she wants to do Public Health.
Okay, oh well.
And aa my youngest is international relations, but they are not, they are, none of them is as hard-working as me, none of them is the way I want them to be, so I have to push them out.
Yeah, [giggles] well they have a good, a good role model to follow.
Yeah, I mean… you know as a parent you try your best, until a certain age you have a lot of influence but after that age, no, it's their friends influence the street influence, the fashionista’s influence, this that influence so it's really not easy to control, and especially at this Aage an time.
You cannot push them.
Yeah, it’s different.
It’s very different.
Yeah, well wonderful, thank you that was really a wonderful interview and I thank you for your time and for sharing all these stories.
My pleasure Farah, anytime and I really wish luck for your project and…
This archive and hopefully someday somebody will make use of it.
Yes we hope so, thank you.