Gulf war has left many homeless, nationless WAR IN THE GULF

March 14, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent

ON THE KUWAIT-IRAQ BORDER -- The misery of the war continues for some.


"For 39 years, Kuwait led me to feel this was my country. We made a life there. Now what? I cannot stay here. It is too difficult to live. And at my age, it is difficult for me to run."


Wajid Hudhud, 59, ran a successful jewelry store in Kuwait City. He had lived there for 39 years and by all accounts was a success: His oldest son is a civil engineer, one daughter is a doctor, a second son is studying gemology in the United States.

But like many Palestinians in Kuwait, he is denied citizenship and holds a passport from Jordan. Three weeks ago, the passport was due for renewal. Since the Iraqis were still in control, he traveled to Baghdad to the Jordanian Embassy.

Now he cannot get back to his home.

When Kuwait switched hands, the returning government quickly set up blockades at the border to prevent foreigners from returning.

Even if their home and family are in Kuwait, they are being prevented from coming back. Palestinians are held in particular suspicion, but all foreigners are being stopped.

Mr. Hudhud has been waiting for four days in a wretched, sand-swept camp of refugees on the border. He laid out his despair yesterday while nestled in the corner of a hovel made of pieces of tin, canvas and old boards, collected to give some protection from the scouring grit of a sandstorm.

The Red Cross does not have enough food. He depends on the generosity of passing GIs, who routinely empty their pockets of candy and hand over their military rations to refugees.

"I was sitting as a king in my home," he recalled. "If someone wanted to see me, they had to make an appointment. Suddenly I find myself sitting in the desert, eating sand, and I have become a beggar to get food from the American Army.

"For 39 years, Kuwait led me to feel this was my country. We made a life there. Everything I gained, I put into my shop. I sent my sons and daughters to the universities," he said. "Now what? I cannot stay here. It is too difficult to live. And at my age, it is difficult for me to run."

He does not know how he will see his wife again.

Abu Hadi, in charge of medical services in the Red Crescent tents set up beside the refugees, sees no likelihood of relief for Mr. Hudhud and the others.

About 600 refugees are at the camp; 50 to 100 more come daily, fleeing the civil war in Iraq, he said. Many are Egyptian or Iraqi. Many have homes in Kuwait. Nearly 40 percent are children. Few will be permitted into Kuwait, he said.

"It is a real disaster here," Mr. Hadi said of the makeshift camp. There is not enough food, water or shelter, he said. "I can give every two adults one Army MRE [ration] every day, and we try to give children 1 1/2 meals every day.

"Children are dehydrated. Many of them have diarrhea. The families are digging in the sand for protection because they are very cold at night," he said.

"This is big trouble. They may die here."


"I have lived in this country for 25 years. I did not do anything for the Iraqi troops. But do you think a Kuwaiti soldier will believe that?"


In a darkened living room in Kuwait City, a young engineer cautiously opens the door to admit a visitor. The shades are drawn, even though the daylight is but an oil-gray pall, and he inquires as to whether anyone had seen the visitor come.

He is Iraqi, and frightened. Inside the dim room is his extended family -- 15 in all -- who feel danger all around them. At any moment, said the man who called himself Paul, the family could be seized as enemies of the victorious Kuwaitis.

There are 180,000 people of Iraqi heritage living in Kuwait, according to Paul. Many, like his family, are Christian. Paul says he hears stories of Iraqis being arrested and tortured, though he acknowledges he knows of no incidents firsthand.

His family has stayed in their home and kept to themselves ever since the liberation, he said. They are desperate to leave the country but fear even leaving their apartment.

"Please help us," he pleaded. "We do not know who we can contact to get passage out."

Paul and his relatives were loath to give details of themselves, for fear that they will be discovered. Paul is 28.

The sign above the door says in English, "God Bless this Home," but they are willing to leave it behind.

"We have no chance to live in this country. We will go anywhere; we have family in Australia, Canada and America. They will support us."

The young children are kept inside. The family is running short of food but fears trying to get more. The elder of the family, 70, ventured out yesterday but was so frightened by a soldier at a checkpoint that he was humiliated and cried.

"We are not going outside. We are told by many people that it is not safe," Paul said. The government has said it is arresting only those "foreigners" who assisted Iraqi occupiers.

But at each checkpoint, where Paul would have to show his identification card that says "Iraqi," there is the potential for danger.

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