Al-Qurain Martyrs Museum – Qurain, Kuwait - Atlas Obscura

In the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion in 1990, several cells of popular resistance arose throughout Kuwait. One of these groups was formed by 31 young men who took a collective oath to defend their native land. They called themselves the Al-Messilah Group. 

First, the group collected all the weapons they could get their hands on, including buying them from Iraqi soldiers who were desperate for cash to buy food and water. Second, Al-Messilah began carrying out urban guerrilla activities. Between the end of 1990 and the beginning of 1991, they bombed Iraqi military targets and sniped Iraqi soldiers. 

When security became tighter, the group decided to relocate to Al-Qurain, about 12 miles south of Kuwait City, due to the small presence of Iraqi troops in the area. Al-Messilah Group went underground for some time, but when the U.S.-led coalition announced its plans to liberate Kuwait, Iraqi operations became more and more ruthless, and the resistance decided to restart its activities.

On February 24, 1991, Al-Messilah, housed in a private house in Al-Qurain, was readying itself to support the liberation troops. At 8 a.m., 19 members of the group were in the building when an Iraqi contingent approached. A soldier knocked at the door, and, receiving no answer, jumped over the fence and attempted to break into the house. It was standard procedure that if people were found, they would be imprisoned, and if people were not found, the building would be ransacked. Al-Messilah Group could either surrender or fight, and they chose the latter.

A member of Al-Messilah Group shot the soldier dead. Another Iraqi official was shot at and injured. The contingent retreated in a hurry, but in a short time, Iraqi forces surrounded the mansion, and a bloody battle ensued. The battle lasted 10 hours, during which Al-Messilah Group is said to have killed hundreds of troops. At about 6 a.m. Iraqi troops managed to overpower the Kuwait fighters and entered the building, but their reconnaissance was made difficult by the darkness and the amount of rubble piled up everywhere. Buried under the rubble, undetected, were seven members of Al-Messilah Group, injured but alive. Of the 19 members who were trapped in the house, only they survived.

In the aftermath of the liberation, the Kuwaiti government turned this semi-destroyed house into a national museum, the Al-Qurain Martyrs Museum. The rubble was cleared, but holes pockmark all the walls of the building, both in and outside. Sections of the floors and walls have collapsed, and destruction can be seen everywhere. Across from the museum is one of the Iraqi tanks used in the battle.

Two exhibition rooms were opened on the ground floor. On display are the weapons used by Al-Messilah Group and the ammunition used by Iraqi forces, alongside documents related to the battle. One of these documents is an official order found in an Iraqi vehicle instructing troops to “burn and destroy all homes on which there were slogans hostile to our leadership.” 

Know Before You Go

Al-Qurain Martyrs Museum is located in the densely populated town of Al-Qurain, about 12 miles (20 km) south of Kuwait City. Public transport can take you to Al-Qurain from Kuwait City, but you are likely to be dropped on King Fahed Bin Abdul Aziz Road. The museum is about half a mile (1 km) from there.

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May 8, 2019

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