Kuwaitis Remember Gulf War POWs

It's been more than 12 years, and the families of 600 Kuwaitis are still waiting to hear what happened to their loved ones.

"We want to know if they are dead or alive," said Abdul Hameed Al-Attar, whose son was taken away by Iraqi troops. "If they are dead we need their corpses. If they are alive, we need to know the situation."

Fahad Al-Sayyar, who was taken prisoner by the Iraqis but later returned to Kuwait, recounted grim conditions he and thousands of his countrymen endured while they were held by Saddam’s forces in captivity.

"For us, there was no medical treatment — no food, no water, no place to sleep."

Sayyar, a prominent lawyer, was among those thrown in jail when Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait in August of 1990. The men were treated as criminals and sent to Baghdad. Many of them were tortured.

"I said to the officer, ‘How can I talk while my hands are tied behind my back? We are covered, and six people were beating me,'" Sayyar recounted in an interview at the Kuwait POW center, which memorializes the 7,000 Kuwaitis captured as well as the 600 men who have yet to return.

But Al-Sayyar was luckier than 13 of his fellow prisoners, who were executed.

"One, he put a gun here," he said, gesturing to the side of his head. "One shot to the head, and his brains came out the other side."

Sayyar recalled another Kuwaiti who returned to his cell after a torture session, his flesh black from electric shocks.

"He couldn’t hold a cigarette in his fingers, so we put it in his mouth. … His arms were useless. Electricity, fire, they used head-crushing to force them, nail-cutting, just to make them talk."

Perhaps because of his experience in captivity, Sayyar said he supports a war against Saddam.

"They will free 10 million Iraqis who can’t speak inside Iraq," he said. "It is humanity’s job. I ask for help from a human who can help against people who are not human. You can't deal with Iraqi system, but war."

The 7,000 men taken away represented some 10 percent of Kuwait’s native male population. Based on documents and eyewitness reports, Kuwait believes a total of 605 POWs, including 35 women, remain in Iraqi prisons, a violation of their human rights, international law and at least two U.N. resolutions.

"This country was raped, looted. No other country was raped like Kuwait," said Attar. Among those arrested was his son, an engineer, for allegedly resisting the occupation.

"I see his picture all the time — I dream about him. He is my oldest son. To me he is very good, very emotional, very kind," said Attar.

Najat Sayid Ridha said she prays for the safe return of all Kuwaiti prisoners, not only her missing husband. She said she also prays for another war against Iraq.

But this time, she hopes the United States finishes the job so her son, who sleeps in his father’s clothes, doesn’t have to.

"One night he said, ‘I want to go to Bagdad to kill Saddam and bring my father home. Please wake me up in the morning, I need to go.’ The next morning he said ‘Why didn't you wake me?’ I said, 'If America could not kill Saddam, how can you?'"

And while the world debates another invasion, many Muslims, including thousands in Kuwait, already have an answer.

"I would like to cut him to pieces, it is not enough for me to see him killed," said Najat. "I want to see him cut to pieces, like he did to others."