Palestinian expulsion from Kuwait

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Palestinian refugees from Kuwait
Total Palestinian refugees fled from Kuwait: 150,000-200,000
Total refugees in 1991: 200,000
Regions with significant populations:  Jordan

 State of Palestine

Languages: Arabic
Religions: Sunni Islam

The Palestinian expulsion from Kuwait took place during and after the Gulf War. There were 400,000 Palestinians in Kuwait before the Gulf War. During the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait,[1] 200,000 Palestinians voluntarily fled Kuwait due to various reasons (fear or persecution,[1] food shortages, medical care difficulties, financial shortages, fear of arrest and mistreatment at roadblocks by Iraqis).[2][1][3] After the Gulf War in 1991, nearly 200,000 Palestinians fled Kuwait, partly due to economic burdens, regulations on residence and fear of abuse by Kuwaiti security forces.[4][5][6] The policy which partly led to this exodus was a response to the alignment of PLO leader Yasser Arafat with Saddam Hussein.

Only in 2004, the political situation between Kuwaiti and Palestinian leadership improved with official apology of Mahmud Abbas on PLO support of the Iraqi invasion in 1991. In 2012, the official Palestinian embassy in Kuwait was re-opened.[7]

The Palestinians who fled Kuwait were Jordanian citizens.[8] In 2012, 80,000 Palestinians lived in Kuwait.[7]


Before the Gulf War, Palestinians numbered 400,000 of Kuwait's total population of 2 million.[9]

Palestinians arrived in Kuwait in three different phases, 1948, 1967 and 1975. In the 1980s, Arabs constituted the bulk of labor force.


More than 200,000 Palestinians 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.[2] The Iraqi education ministry in Kuwait fired 3000 Palestinians in September 1990,[2] and the dismissals of Palestinians from other sectors continued throughout October.[2] The Iraqis also put pressure on the PLO office in Kuwait,[2] which had refused to organize any Palestinian demonstrations and rallies in support of Iraq.[2] The only Palestinian demonstration in Kuwait during the Iraqi occupation was actually a pro-Kuwait demonstration, with the Palestinian inhabitants of the Hawalli district waving photos of the Emir.[2]

Kuwait's lack of support for Palestinians after the Gulf War was a response to the alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. Palestinians began leaving Kuwait during one week in March 1991, following Kuwait's liberation from Iraqi occupation. On March 14, 1991, only 200,000 Palestinians were still residing in Kuwait, out of initial 400,000.[10]

In total, nearly 200,000 Palestinians left Kuwait after the Gulf War.


The Palestinians who fled Kuwait were generally Jordanian citizens.[8] They were formally recognized as Jordanians of Palestinian origin.[8] In 2012, there were 80,000 Palestinians living in Kuwait.[7]

In 2004, Kuwait allegedly put off a planned visit by Mahmoud Abbas, then the number two PLO official after Arafat.[11] Palestinian officials denied reports that this was because he would not apologize for Arafat's support for the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.[11] However, on December 12, 2004, Abbas, now the Palestinian leader, apologized for the PLO's support of Saddam Hussein during the invasion.[12] On the first visit to Kuwait by a top Palestinian official since the invasion by Iraq, Abbas said: "I say we yes, we apologize over our stand towards Kuwait."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Palestinian Diaspora". p. 67. During autumn 1990 more than half of the Palestinians in Kuwait fled as a result of fear or persecution. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "The PLO in Kuwait". May 8, 1991. But in September and October 1990, large numbers of Palestinians began to leave. In addition to the fear of arrest, and their mistreatment at roadblocks by Iraqis, food shortages were becoming serious and medical care difficult. Kuwaitis and Palestinians alike were penniless. They were forced to sell their cars and electrical appliances at improvised markets to anyone who had cash, even to Iraqi civilians coming from Iraq to buy on the cheap. Thus by December 1990, Kuwait's Palestinian population had dwindled from a pre-invasion strength of 350,000 to approximately 150,000. 
  3. ^ "History of Palestine". p. 100. 
  4. ^ "Encyclopedia of the Palestinians". pp. 289–290. 
  5. ^ "The Palestinian Diaspora". p. 67. Regulations on residence were considerably tightened and the general environment of insecurity triggered a continuous Palestinian exodus. 
  6. ^ "Kuwait: Building the Rule of Law: Human Rights in Kuwait". p. 35. There was a great exodus of Palestinians from Kuwait during July and August, partly attributable to fear of abusive actions by the Kuwaiti security forces, but also brought about by economic necessity. 
  7. ^ a b c "Palestinians Open Kuwaiti Embassy". Al Monitor. 23 May 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Yann Le Troquer and Rozenn Hommery al-Oudat (Spring 1999). "From Kuwait to Jordan: The Palestinians' Third Exodus". Journal of Palestine Studies. pp. 37–51. 
  9. ^ Journal of Palestinian Studies: Palestinians in Kuwait (1991) by Anne M Lesch.
  10. ^ AFTER THE WAR: Kuwait; Palestinians in Kuwait Face Suspicion and Probable Exile - New York Times
  11. ^ a b Palestine apology to Kuwait - Telegraph
  12. ^ Abbas apology to Kuwait over Iraq, BBC News, December 12, 2004