The somewhat cumbersomely-named Kuwait House of National Memorial Museum is a memorial to the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the ensuing Gulf War.
The museum is probably not for the faint-hearted.
It’s been 20 years, so a quick recap: On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, claiming it was a part of the old Ottoman province of Basra and thus belonged to Iraq. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and tanks came at night and Kuwait City was air-bombed. Looting immediately began; banks were robbed and people terrorised. Barrels of oil were dumped in the Gulf and oil wells set on fire. Kuwaitis were taken as prisoners of war. Others fled to neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Some got lost in the desert and were never heard of again. Five days after the invasion, US troops were sent to Saudi Arabia. An international coalition to oppose Saddam Hussein was forged, comprising 34 countries and in January 1991 the Gulf War was on.
Step by step, in all its horror, this is all recreated, using models and sound effects. Walking along dark passageways, you see and hear guns blasting, helicopters whirring overhead, people screaming, oil wells burning. After a while, I was convinced I could actually smell the burning oil as well.
After showing proper appreciation to the coalition forces (most countries have their own section), the museum goes on to present Saddam Hussein’s atrocities in Northern Iraq. A very disturbing photo exhibition shows torture centres at Iraqi police stations and young children killed by poisoned gas.
As a finale are photos of Saddam Hussein’s capture and incarceration. In one, his two sons lie on tables; blue sheets covering only the middle of their bleeding corpses. Accused of murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, and various financial crimes, Udai and Qusay Hussein were probably bad news. Still, this photo bothers me a great deal. The brothers were killed during a US raid on their house. So was Qusay’s 14-year-old son Mustapha.
The National Memorial Museum obviously shows only one side of the story. Still, this monument to our fairly recent history is very evocative. And definitely worth experiencing.
Written and contributed by Anne-Sophie Redisch