History of Kuwait
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|History of Kuwait|
The country of Kuwait has a history which dates to ancient times.
- 1 Ancient history
- 2 The founding of Kuwait
- 3 Mubarak the Great
- 4 The Anglo-Ottoman convention
- 5 Post-Ottoman history
- 6 Independence
- 7 See also
- 8 Bibliography
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
Kuwait was historically the site of the Mesopotamian Ubaid period (ca. 6500 to 3800 BC). The earliest evidence for sailing has been found in Kuwait indicating that sailing was known by the Ubaid period.
Mesopotamians first settled in the Kuwaiti island of Failaka in 2000 B.C. Traders from the Sumerian city of Ur inhabited Failaka and ran a mercantile business. Failaka had many Mesopotamian-style buildings typical of those found in Iraq dating from around 2000 B.C. In 3rd century BC, Failaka was home to the Dilmun civilization. During the Dilmun era (from ca. 3000 BC), Failaka was known as "Agarum", the land of Enzak, a great god in the Dilmun civilization according to Sumerian cuneiform texts found on the island. As part of Dilmun, Failaka became a hub for the civilization from the end of the 3rd to the middle of the 1st millennium BC.
After the Dilmun civilization, Failaka was inhabited by the Kassites of Mesopotamia, and was formally under the control of the Kassite dynasty of Babylon. Studies indicate traces of human settlement can be found on Failaka dating back to as early as the end of the 3rd millennium BC, and extending until the 20th century AD. Many of the artifacts found in Falaika are linked to Mesopotamian civilizations and seem to show that Failaka was gradually drawn toward the civilization based in Antioch.
In 3rd century BC, the Ancient Greeks colonized the island, Failaka, on today's Kuwait coast under Alexander and named it Ikaros. Some believe the name came from an island off the Greek coast, where it is believed that the mythical Icarus was buried, which resembled Failaka. Others however believe it was named so due to its heat and the belief that it was close to the sun. Remains of the settlement include a large Hellenistic fort and two Greek temples.
Under Nebuchadnezzar II, Failaka was under Babylonian control. Cuneiform documents found in Failaka indicate the presence of Babylonians in the island's population. Babylonian Kings were present in Failaka during the Neo-Babylonian Empire period, Nabonidus had a governor in Failaka and Nebuchadnezzar II had a palace and temple in Falaika. Failaka also contained temples dedicated to the worship of Shamash, the Mesopotamian sun god in the Babylonian pantheon.
In 127 BC, the kingdom of Characene was founded around the Bay of Kuwait. Characene was centered in the region encompassing southern Mesopotamia (southern Iraq and Kuwait), including Failaka island. A busy Characene commercial station existed within Kuwait. Characene's capital was Charax Spasinou. The city of Charax was originally in the coast of the Persian Gulf in modern-day Kuwait. The city was an important port in the trade from Mesopotamia to India and provided port facilities for the great city of Susa, further up the Tigris River. Trajan, the Roman emperor, visited Charax in 116 AD, during his invasion of Parthia, and watched the ships leaving for India.
In 224 AD, Kuwait fell under the control of Sassanid Empire and came to be known as "Meshan". In 636 AD, the Battle of Chains between the Sassanid Empire and Rashidun Caliphate was fought in Kuwait near the town of Kazma. It was the first battle of the Rashidun Caliphate in which the Muslim army sought to extend its frontiers. As a result of the Rashidun victory in the seventh century, an early Islamic settlement known as Kazima or Kadhima was founded in Kuwait. Kuwait was controlled by the kingdom of Al-Hirah. During the early Islamic period, Kuwait was well known for being a fertile area. During the 7th century, Muslim armies were stationed in Kuwait due to its strategic location. Kuwait became a famous trading station by the 9th century.
The founding of Kuwait
Early migration and settlement
In 1521, Kuwait was under Portuguese control. In the late 16th century, the Portuguese built a defensive settlement in Kuwait. Kuwait was initially settled by the Bani Khalid clan, who built fishing village communities in present-day Kuwait Bay. The town of Kuwait was established in 1613, however the island of Failaka has been continually inhabited since antiquity. One of Kuwait's most prominent settlers came from Bani Utbah clan and asked the Bani Khalid clan for permission to settle in Kuwait. The Bani Utbah settlers gradually migrated in the early eighteenth century from Basra to the shores of the Persian Gulf. The tribe had originally migrated to Basra and settled there for many decades, they were prominent in Basra's trade market and owned over 300 ships involved in trade.
Early political and economic development
Kuwait became a major center of trade and commerce following the late 17th century. Kuwait's economy was based on intercontinental trade, the pearl industry, shipbuilding and fishing. By the mid 18th century, Kuwait had already established itself as a major trading route from the Gulf to Aleppo. Kuwait's location allowed it to benefit from the caravan trade to Aleppo and Baghdad, Shatt al-Arab trade, and from smuggling trade into Ottoman territory that high tariffs encouraged. The settlers became linked to this trading network that included trade in horses, wood, spices, coffee, dates and especially pearls. Kuwait was located within close sail of the pearl banks that stretched down the Persian Gulf coast. In the summer, boats sailed for pearls; in the winter, they turned to entrepôt trade.
Kuwait controlled the main trade route from India to the Mediterranean. Shipbuilding was a major industry in Kuwait. Vessels made in Kuwait carried the majority of trade from India to the Red Sea and Mediterranean ports. Before the advent of Japanese artificial pearls, most of the world's luxury pearls were extracted by Kuwaiti pearl divers from Kuwait's large pearl banks, each year hundreds of pearling ships such as sambuks left Kuwait for trade. The pearl industry was a lucrative business before the Great Depression. By 1760, in addition to pearling and fishing, a fleet of over 1,000 dhow ships traded out of Kuwait.
During the Persian invasion of Basra between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait. In addition, many of Basra's leading merchant families moved to Kuwait. Kuwait's economy greatly benefited from the Persian invasion because most of Basra's trade was diverted to Kuwait. The East India Company shifted its office, stores and employees to Kuwait.
Kuwait became wealthy due to Basra's instability. After the Persians withdrew from Basra, Kuwait continued to attract trade away from Basra, due to Kuwait City's relative security, autonomy and relative low customs duties. The flight of many of Basra's leading merchants to Kuwait continued to play a major role in the commercial stagnation of Basra's trade well into the 1850s.
Kuwait was part of the Ottoman Empire and was governed by Basra, and as a result, tensions occasionally broke out between Kuwait and the empire. These tensions peaked when, in 1896, Sheikh Mubārak Al-Sabāh assassinated his brother, the emir Muhammad Al-Sabāh, over Mubārak's deep suspicion that Iraq wanted to annex Kuwait.
Early political environment
Trade became the basis of the economy and the settlers developed new political and social arrangements to organize life in a settled economy. Trade became tightly and hierarchically organized. Pearl divers were distinguished occupationally from ropepullers, captains, and merchants. The proceeds from the pearling industry were divided on the basis of occupation; at the top, a stratum of merchants, the core of which composed of the early settlers, became the elite.
Kuwait's merchants had the most political power and influence in Kuwait before the 1930s. Sabah family rule remained limited until well into the 1930s because the merchants, owing to their financial power, were the primary sources of income in Kuwait. Many of the merchants migrated from Basra to Kuwait to continue trade. One of the well known merchants, Hussain Al-Roumi, was known as the leader in sea trade throughout the region, sustaining the economy for decades before the discovery of oil. The financial influence of the merchants came from their control of trade and imports, duties on which sustained the Shaikh. Because wealth was imbedded in movable property, refuge was tolerated by neighbouring Shaikhs, and Britain intervened only when important interests were at stake, secession was an effective merchant tactic. A large secession could reduce the area's economic and military power and create a refuge for future dissidents.
Al Sabah became Kuwait's monarchy in 1938. One tradition has it that political power went to the Sabahs as part of an explicit agreement in 1890, the heads of the merchant class agreed to give the Sabahs preeminence in government and military affairs, subject to consultation. The merchants held a council and elected a representative to go to Basra to explain their peaceful intent to the Ottomans. The man chosen was a Sabah, Sabah I bin Jaber. Sabah diplomacy may have also been important with neighbouring tribes, especially as Bani Khalid power declined. This selection is usually dated to 1756.
In 1762, Sabah I died and was succeeded by his youngest son, Abdullah. Shortly after Sabah's death, in 1766, the al-Khalifa and, soon after, the al-Jalahima, left Kuwait en masse for Zubara in Qatar. Domestically, the al-Khalifa and al-Jalahima had been among the top contenders for power. Their emigration left the Sabahs in undisputed control, and by the end of Abdullah I's long rule (1762–1812), Sabah rule was secure, and the political hierarchy in Kuwait was well established, the merchants deferring to direct orders from the Shaikh. By the 19th century, not only was the ruling Sabah much stronger than a desert Shaikh but also capable of naming his son successor. This influence was not just internal but enabled the al-Sabah to conduct foreign diplomacy. They soon established good relations with the British East India Company in 1775.
- The assassination of Muhammad Bin Sabah
Although Kuwait was nominally governed from Basra, the Kuwaitis had traditionally maintained a relative degree of autonomous status. In the 1870s, Ottoman officials were reasserting their presence in the Persian Gulf, with a military intervention in 1871—which was not effectively pursued—where family rivalries in Kuwait were breeding chaos. The Ottomans were bankrupt and when the European banks took control of the Ottoman budget in 1881, additional income was required from Kuwait and the Arabian peninsula. Midhat Pasha, the governor of Iraq, demanded that Kuwait submit to Ottoman rule. The al-Sabah found diplomatic allies in the British Foreign Office. However, under Abdullah II Al-Sabah, Kuwait pursued a general pro-Ottoman foreign policy, formally taking the title of Ottoman provincial governor, this relationship with the Ottoman Empire did result in Ottoman interference with Kuwaiti laws and selection or rulers. In May 1896, Shaikh Muhammad Al-Sabah was assassinated by his half-brother, Mubarak, who, in early 1897, was recognized, by the Ottoman sultan, as the qaimmaqam (provincial sub-governor) of Kuwait.
Mubarak the Great
Mubarak's seizure of the throne via murder left his brother's former allies as a threat to his rule, especially as his opponents gained the backing of the Ottomans. In July, Mubarak invited the British to deploy gunboats along the Kuwaiti coast. Britain saw Mubarak's desire for an alliance as an opportunity to counteract German influence in the region and so agreed. This led to what is known as the First Kuwaiti Crisis, in which the Ottomans demanded that the British stop interfering with their empire. In the end, the Ottoman Empire backed down, rather than go to war.
In January 1899, Mubarak signed an agreement with the British which pledged that Kuwait would never cede any territory nor receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent. In essence, this policy gave Britain control of Kuwait's foreign policy. The treaty also gave Britain responsibility for Kuwait's national security. In return, Britain agreed to grant an annual subsidy of 15,000 Indian rupees (£1,500) to the ruling family. In 1911, Mubarak raised taxes. Therefore, three wealthy business men Ibrahim Al-Mudhaf, Helal Al-Mutairi, and Shamlan Ali bin Saif Al-Roumi (brother of Hussain Ali bin Saif Al-Roumi), led a protest against Mubarak by making Bahrain their main trade point, which negatively affected the Kuwaiti economy. However, Mubarak went to Bahrain and apologized for raising taxes and the three business men returned to Kuwait. In 1915, Mubarak the Great died and was succeeded by his son Jaber II Al-Sabah, who reigned for just over one year until his death in early 1917. His brother Sheikh Salim Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah succeeded him.
The Anglo-Ottoman convention
Despite the Kuwaiti government's desire to either be independent or under British rule, in the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, the British concurred with the Ottoman Empire in defining Kuwait as an autonomous caza of the Ottoman Empire and that the Shaikhs of Kuwait were not independent leaders, but rather qaimmaqams (provincial sub-governors) of the Ottoman government.
The convention ruled that Shaikh Mubarak had authority over an area extending out to a radius of 80 km, from the capital. This region was marked by a red circle and included the islands of Auhah, Bubiyan, Failaka, Kubbar, Mashian, and Warba. A green circle designated an area extending out an additional 100 km, in radius, within which the qaimmaqam was authorized to collect tribute and taxes from the natives.
The Border War with Najd
After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was defeated and the British invalidated the Anglo-Ottoman Convention, declaring Kuwait to be an independent sheikhdom under British protectorate. The power vacuum left by the fall of the Ottomans sharpened conflict between Kuwait and Najd. Shaikh Salim Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah insisted that Kuwait was in full control of all territory out to a radius of 140 km from the capital; however, the ruler of Najd, Abdul Aziz ibn Abdul Rahman ibn Saud, argued, in September 1920, that the borders of Kuwait did not extend past the walls of the capital. ibn Saud noted that the Convention had never been ratified and that Kuwait was not effectively in control of the disputed territory.
In May 1921 ibn Saud's Wahhabi Bedouins of Nejd attacked a Kuwaiti detachment in southern Kuwait, forcing its retreat. In October they raided Jahra, 40 km from the capital battles occurred in which the Kuwaitis were mostly victorious. In response, the British deployed gunboats, armored cars and aircraft. The Bedouins withdrew.
The Uqair protocol
In response to the various Bedouin raids, the British High Commissioner in Baghdad, Sir Percy Cox, imposed the Uqair Protocol of 1922 which defined the boundaries between Iraq, Kuwait and Nejd. On 1 April 1923, Shaikh Ahmad al-Sabah wrote the British Political Agent in Kuwait, Major John More, "I still do not know what the border between Iraq and Kuwait is, I shall be glad if you will kindly give me this information." More, upon learning that al-Sabah claimed the outer green line of the Anglo-Ottoman Convention (4 April), would relay the information to Sir Percy.
On 19 April, Sir Percy stated that the British government recognized the outer line of the Convention as the border between Iraq and Kuwait. This decision limited Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf at 58 km of mostly marshy and swampy coastline. As this would make it difficult for Iraq to become a naval power (the territory did not include any deepwater harbours), the Iraqi King Faisal I (whom the British installed as a puppet king in Iraq) did not agree to the plan. However, as his country was under British mandate, he had little say in the matter. Iraq and Kuwait would formally ratify the border in August. The border was re-recognized in 1932.
Kuwait was recognized as a separate province from Iraq and given autonomy under Ottoman suzerainty in the draft Anglo-Ottoman Convention, however this was not signed before the outbreak of the first World War. The border was revisited by a memorandum sent by the British high commissioner for Iraq in 1923, which became the basis for Kuwait's northern border. In Iraq's 1932 application to the League of Nations it included information about its borders, including its border with Kuwait, where it accepted the boundary established in 1923.
The 1920s and 30s saw the collapse of the sea and pearl industry and with it Kuwait's economy. This is attributed to the invention of the artificial cultivation of pearls.
The discovery of oil in Kuwait, in 1938, revolutionized Kuwait's economy and made it a valuable asset to Britain. In 1941 on the same day as the German invasion of Russia (22 June) the British took total control over Iraq and Kuwait (the British and Russians would invade the neighboring Iran in September of that year).
By early 1961, the British had withdrawn their special court system, which handled the cases of foreigners resident in Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti Government began to exercise legal jurisdiction under new laws drawn up by an Egyptian jurist. On 19 June 1961, Kuwait became fully independent following an exchange of notes with the United Kingdom.
When Kuwait became independent in 1961, Iraq claimed Kuwait, under the rationale that Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire subject to Iraqi suzerainty. Iraq appeared to be mobilizing for a military invasion and on 27 June 1961 the emir of Kuwait requested assistance from the Saudi Arabian and British Governments. Britain rapidly deployed troops, aircraft and ships to the area (Operation Vantage). In 1963, after Iraqi prime minister Abd al-Karim Qasim had been killed in a coup, Iraq reaffirmed its acceptance of Kuwaiti sovereignty and the boundary it had agreed to in 1913 and 1932, in the "Agreed Minutes between the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Iraq Regarding the Restoration of Friendly Relations, Recognition, and Related Matters." In the 1960s and 1970s however there were still periodic border clashes.
In December 1969, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement dividing the Neutral Zone (now called the Divided Zone) and demarcating a new international boundary. Both countries share equally the Divided Zone's petroleum, onshore and offshore.
The invasion and rebuilding of Kuwait
In the 1980s Kuwait, fearful of Iran after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, supported Iraq in the Iran–Iraq War. Kuwait sent large sums of money to Iraq, amounting to approximately $5 bn. As a consequence of this Iran attacked Kuwait's oil tankers and Kuwait was forced to seek protection from the United States, which sent warships to the Persian Gulf.
The Invasion of Kuwait and annexation by Iraq took place on 2 August 1990. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's primary justifications included a charge that Kuwaiti territory was in fact an Iraqi province, and that annexation was retaliation for "economic warfare" Kuwait had waged through slant drilling into Iraq's oil supplies. However, the initial casus belli was claimed to be support for a Kuwaiti rebellion. The monarchy was deposed and an Iraqi-backed puppet leader named Alaa Hussein Ali was installed as head of the "Provisional Government of Free Kuwait." Iraq annexed Kuwait on 8 August. The war was traumatic to the Kuwaiti population. The underground resistance was punished by summary executions and torture. Almost all Kuwaitis at the time lost some family member. In addition, half the population, both native and foreign-born fled.
U.S. President George H.W. Bush condemned the invasion, and led efforts to drive out the Iraqi forces. Authorized by the United Nations Security Council, an American-led coalition of 34 nations fought the First Persian Gulf War to reinstate the Kuwaiti Emir. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a U.S.-led United Nations (UN) coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that completely removed Iraqi forces from Kuwait in four days. After liberation, the UN, under Security Council Resolution 687, demarcated the Iraq-Kuwait boundary on the basis of the 1932 and the 1963 agreements between the two states. In November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait, which had been further spelled out in Security Council Resolutions 773 (1992) and 833 (1993).
A 1990 Palestinian exodus from Kuwait took place during and after the Gulf War. During the Gulf War, more than 200,000 Palestinians voluntarily fled Kuwait during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait due to harassment and intimidation by Iraqi security forces, in addition to getting fired from work by Iraqi authority figures in Kuwait. After the Gulf War, the Kuwaiti authorities forcibly pressured nearly 200,000 Palestinians to leave Kuwait in 1991. Kuwait's policy, which led to this exodus, was a response to alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with the dictator Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait.
Prior to the exodus, Palestinians numbered 400,000 (30%) of Kuwait's population of 2.2 million. The Palestinians who fled Kuwait were Jordanian citizens. In 2013, there were 280,000 Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin in Kuwait. In 2012, 80,000 Palestinians (without Jordanian citizenship) lived in Kuwait. In total, there are 360,000 Palestinians in Kuwait as of 2012-2013.
Sabah IV became the Emir of Kuwait in January 2006
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