Jump to content

Palestinian exodus from Kuwait (1990–91)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Palestinian exodus from Kuwait took place during and after the Gulf War. There were approximately 357,000 Palestinians living in Kuwait before the country was invaded by neighbouring Iraq on 2 August 1990.[1] On August 10, 20 Arab League countries at an emergency summit in Cairo drafted a final statement that condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and supported the UN resolutions. Twelve Arab states supported the use of force while the remaining eight, including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), rejected a military solution to the Iraqi invasion.[2] According to the Washington Post, classified U.S. reports indicated that then PLO leader Yasser Arafat pressed then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to make his withdrawal from Kuwait conditional on the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, and on August 12, Saddam announced his offer to conditionally withdraw.[3] The Kuwaiti government policy which led to this exodus was a response to the position taken by the PLO.

After Operation Desert Storm, which saw Iraqi forces defeated and pushed out of Kuwait by a United States-led coalition, more than 287,000 Palestinians were forced to leave Kuwait in March 1991 by the government and fear of abuse by Kuwaiti security forces.[1][4][5]

In 2004, the political situation between the Palestinian leadership and Kuwait improved with the issuance of an official apology by Mahmoud Abbas for the PLO's support of the Iraqi occupation. In 2012, the official Palestinian embassy in Kuwait was re-opened,[6] and some 80,000 Palestinians were living in the state.[6]


Before the Gulf War, the Palestinian population in Kuwait was 357,000,[1] comprising roughly 18 percent of Kuwait's total population, which was approximately 2 million people at the time.[7]

These Palestinian nationals had come to Kuwait in three different phases: 1948 (First Arab–Israeli War and Nakba), 1967 (Third Arab–Israeli War) and 1973 (Fourth Arab–Israeli War).


During Iraqi occupation[edit]

During the subsequent Iraqi military occupation of the country, some Palestinians fled due to various reasons such as fear of persecution,[8] food and medical care shortages, financial difficulties, and fear of arrest or mistreatment at roadblocks by Iraqi troops.[8][9]

March 1991 exodus[edit]

Kuwait's campaign against the Palestinians was a response to the alignment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait.[10] On March 14, 1991, 200,000 Palestinians were still residing in Kuwait, out of the initial 400,000.[11] Palestinians were forced to leave Kuwait during one week in March 1991, following Kuwait's liberation from Iraqi occupation. During a single week in March, the Palestinian population of Kuwait had almost entirely been deported out the country. Kuwaitis said that Palestinians leaving the country could move to Jordan, since most Palestinians held Jordanian passports.[11] According to the New York Times, Kuwaitis said the anger against Palestinians was such that there was little chance that those who had left during the seven-month occupation could ever return and relatively few of those remaining will be able to stay.[11]


Some of the Palestinians who were expelled from Kuwait were Jordanian citizens.[12]

In 2004, Kuwait put off a planned visit by Mahmoud Abbas, then the number-two PLO official after leader Yasser Arafat.[13] Palestinian officials initially denied reports that this was due to the PLO's refusal to apologize over its support of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.[13] However, on 12 December 2004, Abbas, now the leader of the PLO, apologized for the Palestinian leadership's support of Iraq and Saddam Hussein during the invasion and occupation.[14] On the first visit to Kuwait by a top Palestinian official since the 1990 invasion, Abbas stated: "I say we yes, we apologize over our stand towards Kuwait."[13]

In 2012, it was reported there were 80,000 Palestinians living in Kuwait.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lesch, Ann M. (2005). "Kuwait". In Mattar, Philip (ed.). Encyclopedia of the Palestinians (Rev. ed.). New York: Facts on File. pp. 289–290. ISBN 0-8160-5764-8. Retrieved 3 January 2024 – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ "Arafat's costly Gulf War choice". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  3. ^ Anderson, Jack; Atta, Dale Van (26 August 1990). "WHY ARAFAT BACKED SADDAM". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  4. ^ Schulz, Helena Lindholm (2005). The Palestinian Diaspora. Routledge. p. 6 7. ISBN 9781134496686. Regulations on residence were considerably tightened and the general environment of insecurity triggered a continuous Palestinian exodus.
  5. ^ Hicks, Neil (1992). Kuwait: Building the Rule of Law: Human Rights in Kuwait. Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. p. 35. ISBN 9780934143493. 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.
  6. ^ a b c Hatuqa, Dalia (15 April 2013). "Palestinians Reopen Embassy In Kuwait After Two Decades". Al-Monitor. Archived from the original on 22 May 2022. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  7. ^ Journal of Palestine Studies: Palestinians in Kuwait (1991) by Ann M. Lesch.
  8. ^ a b Schulz, Helena Lindholm (2005). The Palestinian Diaspora. Routledge. p. 67. ISBN 9781134496686. During autumn 1990 more than half of the Palestinians in Kuwait fled as a result of fear or persecution
  9. ^ Islamkotob. "History of Palestine". p. 100.
  10. ^ Hockstader, Lee (10 February 1998). "PLO Leaders Mute Support For Saddam This Time". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 27 August 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2023.
  11. ^ a b c Ibrahim, Youssef M. (14 March 1991). "AFTER THE WAR: Kuwait; Palestinians in Kuwait Face Suspicion and Probable Exile". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2 January 2022.
  12. ^ Yann Le Troquer and Rozenn Hommery al-Oudat (Spring 1999). "From Kuwait to Jordan: The Palestinians' Third Exodus". Journal of Palestine Studies. 28 (3): 37–51. doi:10.2307/2538306. JSTOR 2538306.
  13. ^ a b c "Palestine apology to Kuwait". www.telegraph.co.uk. 12 December 2004.
  14. ^ Abbas apology to Kuwait over Iraq Archived 2018-10-19 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News, December 12, 2004