Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jehan Rajab

Exactly twenty years ago, Jehan Rajab was living in occupied Kuwait, and keeping a diary of her experiences. She wrote this in the entry marked by today's date, January 26:
The sound of the heavy guns resounded off the walls of the buildings around us and swelled to an ear-splitting stridency; and then it was over. There was dead silence for a second and we all stared around at each other grinning delightedly, even at the soldiers. We were alive and for the moment that was wonderful.
The passage was published in her book Invasion Kuwait: An English Woman's Tale, which I just finished reading. It's a vivid account of Kuwait during the occupation.

The chapter starting with the air war and ending with a free Kuwait is presented as a day-by-day account from her 1991 diary. The following entry is also from January 26th:
We could see that the black rain had made a fearful mess of all the buildings in Kuwait. It had streaked all the walls and tiles like dirty tears and even Saluki [the desert dog] had turned from being a pale champagne colour to a dirty grey.
Mrs. Rajab is the co-director of the Tareq Rajab Museum, which provides one of the most harrowing episodes of the memoir. She writes about her efforts to hide the mass of antiquities from official looting. Day after day, she lived in fear of the house to house searches, which might reveal the hidden treasure, and often ended in execution.

On February 20th, six days before the liberation, the Iraqi army finally arrived to tear through the house. I will leave the description of this search for you to discover. She writes it with agonizing eloquence.

Invasion Kuwait is a profound record of a dark moment in history. I highly recommend it. Thanks to my cousin, Fate, for introducing me to the museum, which led me to the book.

The picture of Jehan Rajab above is from the Kuwait: Class of 1990 collection on

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