Blast from the Past: The 1990 Gulf War

Wikipedia Image for the Gulf War
Wikipedia Image for the Gulf War

My school is closed. We spend all day at home. The windows are crossed with tape, covered with plastic (as a preparation of the unfortunate event of window glasses breaking). My favorite pastimes are playing games on computer, watching Baba play the game and being very impressed the only way a child is impressed by her father, or watching cartoons on television. I remember glimpses of CNN as my parents watch the news.

As I read history, I know that this war is between Iraq and Kuwait, with Saudi Arabia being part of the coalition of American Allies fighting against Iraq. For the young me, none of this actually mattered.

We hear the piercing warning siren a number of times. I have seen the siren on top of many buildings. There are 3 stages of the siren: Approaching Danger, Danger,All clear. The same siren is also played on national television multiple times a day. We also have gas masks, one is funny with a trunk like an elephant. At this age, war doesn’t mean anything evil, it is holiday for us and the gas mask is just fun.

Some people have filled there bath tubs with water, as a safety measure in case some chemical is released in the atmosphere. People observe reactions of animal to the approaching danger. Dogs bark furiously just before the approaching danger siren rings. It becomes kind of a pre-precaution.

The other day we were out for something when the danger siren echoed the city. The traffic stopped.  A patriot missile has just hit a scud missile in air. The night sky lights up with the explosion. To my young eye, it is a beautiful sight, like fireworks; to the cautious adult’s eye, it was life saved, a moment of thanks to the Almighty. Who fired what is not important, neither to me who enjoys the firework, nor to those who thank Allah for being saved.

There are refugees too. I don’t know where they come from. I just know that seeing so many adults in a school at this time of the evening does not mean anything good. One of them tries to distract my young mind by showing me a name on the whiteboard. It’s my name, but it’s spelled some other way, it must be someone else. I hope all of them went back to their homes soon.

War is always war. And it affects everyone who is directly or indirectly involved. What I didn’t understand back then, I realize now. The 5 month long school vacation was not to be cherished. The war leaves many lives changed forever. Even though Riyadh was not directly affected like the two countries who were actually on war, but there was fear in the air. And only Allah knows, how many of the children facing that war in those years live their adulthood with the same fear.

I remember the war period as some adventure, because I observed the war in protection from my home, and spent some of that time in Makkah, as we went there to be away from the tensions of the world. But there are many who have horrifying details of being directly in the line of fire. Wars scar people for life , they did then, they do now.


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