Kuwait in February, a Month of National Celebrations
By: Mariam Alyakoob / Arab America Contributing Writer
If you have ever visited Kuwait in February, you will have noticed that the country seems to be in celebration, and the colors of the Kuwaiti flag can be seen in every corner, even being projected in the skyscrapers of Kuwait City. This is because Kuwait’s two biggest holidays, Kuwait National Day and Kuwait Liberation Day, are commemorated in February.
During these celebrations, Kuwaitis across the country are celebrating the most important moments of the country’s history. Many Kuwaitis are given days off in order to celebrate National Day and Liberation Day. In order to understand why these days are so important, we must first take a look at Kuwaiti history.
Kuwait National Day
Kuwait was founded as a small fishing village in 1613. According to the Embassy of the State of Kuwait, the name Kuwait comes from the word ‘Kut’ or ‘Kout’, which in the dialect of southern Iraq, translates to a ‘fort near water’. Eventually, the name ‘Kut’ transformed into the name for modern-day ‘Kuwait’. Kuwait began with a small population, but by the beginning of the 18th century, members of the Banu Utub migrated to Kuwait adding to the population. The Banu Utab is a subset of the illustrious Anizeh tribe who lived throughout the Arabian Peninsula and the levant.
By 1756, Kuwait became a Sheikhdom when inhabitants appointed a member of the Al Sabah family as their leader, or Sheikh, of Kuwait. The Al Sabah family is still the ruling family of Kuwait to this day. Throughout the Al Sabah family’s rule, Kuwait developed into an important trading community due to the route’s strategic location near the Persian Gulf.
In 1899, Kuwait signed a treaty with Great Britain to officially become a British protectorate. This was done because the Ottoman empire threatened to annex Kuwait. On June 19 of 1961, Kuwait was recognized as an independent country by Great Britain and thus gained its independence. This is a tremendous moment in Kuwaiti history and is commemorated greatly by Kuwaitis. Although the official date of the independence took place in June, the date was changed to February in order to avoid the extreme summer weather.
Kuwait Liberation Day
Kuwait Liberation Day commemorates the end of the 1990 Gulf War, in which Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait and forcefully occupied the country for seven months.
During the summer of 1990, tensions between Iraq and Kuwait increased, when Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait of stealing oil from the Al-Rumaylah oil field, which is located in southern Iraq near the Kuwaiti border. Despite Saddam assuring Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak that he would not invade Kuwait, on August 2nd, Iraqi military troops invaded the country. Saddam annexed Kuwait and declared that Kuwait would be the 19th province of Iraq, thus gaining control of 20% of the world’s oil reserves.
After the United Nations Security Council denounced the invasion, the US led- offensive known as Operation Desert Storm took place on January 16th of 1991. In the upcoming six weeks that followed, allied forces from 32 nations formed an international coalition against Iraq’s military occupation of Kuwait.
By the end of February, Kuwait was liberated. Thus February 26th is celebrated in Kuwait as their Liberation Day in order to celebrate the end of military occupation and Kuwaiti freedom.
Check out Arab America’s blog here!