There is no dignity without freedom and no freedom without honour.

- Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah


Sheikh Saad Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah
The Unforgettable Liberation Hero



By The Ambassadors Research Foundation Staff



Sir Winston Churchill, is the leader of the United Kingdom during World War II. He led Britain to victory against the Axis powers.

President Charles de Gaulle
is a general and statesman who liberated France in World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic and served as its first President.

Mohandas Gandhi
  is a major political and spiritual leader of India and is the hero of  the Indian independence movement.

President Nelson Mandela, is an anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress. He became a symbol of freedom and equality, and helped lead the transition to multi-racial democracy in South Africa.


The International Educators Without Borders and The Ambassadors Research Foundation are preparing a book about liberation heroes. His Highness Sheik Saad Al-Sabah who passed away on Tuesday, May 13, 2008, will be profiled in this book as a prominent figure in the modern history of Kuwait . He is considered a liberation hero, like Sir Winston Churchill, President Charles de Gaulle, Mohandas Gandhi, and President Nelson Mandela.

The Emiri Diwan mourned Sheik Saad and said "he had faithfully served his country and made sacrifices for it and was thus beloved and occupied a special place in the hearts of all citizens." Kuwait announced three days of mourning for the 14th Emir in the Al-Sabah ruling dynasty. On the day of the death of his cousin Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, Sheikh Saad assumed the position of Emir for a short-lived period. Due to his ill health, he could stay only nine days in office in January 2006. Flags throughout the country flew at half-mast in remembrance and reverence of its loss. He was much loved and cherished by his people for his caring and concern for their well being and for keeping his office open to all citizens.

Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, statesman was born in 1930 and held many prominent positions in his country's government including Deputy Chief of Police 1959-61, Chief 1961; Minister of the Interior 1962-78, and of Defence 1964-78; Prime Minister 1978-2003; Crown Prince 1978-2006; Military Governor 1991-92; Emir of Kuwait 2006; married (three daughters and one son); died Kuwait City 13 May 2008. Sheikh Saad's life can be divided into three stages; before the invasion, during the invasion and following the liberation. He held much power and authority for a 25-year period until 2003. The years of struggle, especially during the Iraqi invasion and the aftermath, may have adversely affected his health.


Stage One: Before the Iraqi Invasion in August 1990

Sheikh Saad was born in 1930, and is the eldest son of the late Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Abdullah al-Salim al-Sabah. He was 8 years old when the rich oil field of Burqan was discovered in February 28, 1938, it was the beginning for the small nation and quickly changed the destiny of the country. He left Kuwait in 1951 to go to the UK to study public security, police force and political science at the Hendon Police Academy in England.. He graduated in 1954 and returned home to be appointed to the Department of General Security and then climbed the ladder to become the Minister of Interior. In January 17, 1962, the first Kuwaiti government was formed and Sheikh Saad was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs. In 1964 he was appointed Minister of Defense along with his responsibilities in Internal Affairs. Sheikh Saad served as the President of the Police and Public Service Department, also served as the Minister of Interior and Minister of defence. On February 16, 1978 he was chosen as Prime Minister and shortly afterwards he was proclaimed Crown Prince. He held this position until July 2003.

The friendship of Yasser Arafat with Sheikh Saad was sealed in 1970 when Arafat was trapped with his men during the fighting that broke out between Palestinian and Jordanian forces. To end the conflict, Sheikh Saad had become part of the negotiating committee when he discovered Arafat's life was in danger he was able to go to him and risk his own life, he got him out wearing one of his own clothes. In 1986, he began suffering from an illness for which he had to go to London for treatment. On his return he was showered with strong demonstrations of affection. This spontaneous reaction from his people made him even more humble and eager to do what he could to help them. He also made sure to leave one day a week, on Mondays, when anyone with a concern has access to his office.


Sheikh Saad in his youth

Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed with Sheikh Saad:
Relatives and friends

Sheikh Saad with the martyr Sheikh
Fahd Al-Ahmed at the Kuwaiti Cup final


Sheik Saad, the Kuwaiti Prime Minister, with his Cabinet Ministers in 1977


A famous pedigree painting of the Emirs of Kuwait dating back to Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah "The Great" down to Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed (bottom right) with his Crown Prince Sheikh Saad (bottom left).


Stage Two: During the Iraqi Invasion (August 1990-February 1991)

The night of the 2nd of August 1990, Sheikh Saad was feeling uneasy and tense. Just after midnight, the telephone rang, it was from his army chief of staff telling him that the Iraqis had crossed the frontier. He left home at once, went to the Emir's residence at the same time he rang Sheikh Jaber urging him to get ready saying "Your Highness, we are coming now to fetch you" He was convinced that Sheikh Jaber was in grave danger and that if captured, the future of his capture, his country would be in a severe predicament. Sheikh Saad persuaded then Emir Sheikh Jaber to flee the country. Shortly after their departure, the palace was attacked by Iraqi forces. Sheikh Saad and Sheikh Jaber remained in neighbouring Saudi Arabia during the Iraqi occupation and the subsequent Gulf War. During this time, both Sheikh Jaber and Sheikh Saad met with dignitaries and world leaders including a high-profile meeting with US president George H. W. Bush in which plans for the liberation of Kuwait were organized. Sheikh Saad was instrumental in building a coalition of 34 countries that participated in the liberation of Kuwait, as well as strengthening the resolve of Kuwaitis in exile and fomenting world public opinion in support of the campaign. Surprisingly, Saddam Hussein had created a front among several countries by splitting the Arab countries by winning the support of PLO leader Yassir Arafat, Jordanian King Hussein, and both Yemeni and Sudanese leaders!

During that period, Sheikh Jaber and Sheik Saad, organized a public conference in Jeddah for all Kuwaitis on the 15 of October, 1990 to train a Kuwaiti military to liberate the country. Sheikh Saad played a major role in liberating Kuwait from Saddam’s regime. He refused to compromise with any of Iraq’s ministers, and with the head of the PLO, Yassir Arafat. He announced that he will discuss nothing but liberating Kuwait from the Iraqi regime.

Sheikh Saad at the Kuwaiti military training camps in
 Saudi Arabia during the Iraqi occupation

Sheikh Saad with US President George H.W. Bush in 1990
 during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait


Stage Three: Liberation and Rebuilding Kuwait (after February 1991)

On the 4th of March 1991, both the Emir Sheikh Jaber and his Crown Prince Sheikh Saad returned to their country, which had been destroyed by the occupying Iraqi force. Sheikh Saad entered Kuwait airspace and his plane became immersed in the thick strata of acrid smoke rising from the burning oil. The whole countryside, the land, vegetation and houses were covered in black. He started dealing with the situation--with the burning oil fields, landmines, with a crushed infrastructure, of all vital commodities. As many as 732 oilfields were in flames, and Sheikh Saad had to do an effort to rebuild what had been destroyed and bring the country back to life.  A young women engineer from Kuwait was included with the teams responsible for extinguishing the fires in the oilfields. The work that experts predicted would have lasted two years was completed in just 7 months. Shortly after the liberation, Sheikh Saad briefly assumed the position of Military Governor of Kuwait from 1991 to 1992. He also served as Prime Minister of Kuwait, after which that role was given to Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

For three months after the liberation, Sheikh Saad served as martial law governor. But the ruling family came under pressure to honour their commitment to allow the return of democracy. Sheikh Saad formed a new government, but the relationship with parliament was difficult from the first day, and the continuing tussle between the government and ruling family on the one side, and parliament on the other, has caused numerous political crises in Kuwait ever since. The development of these crises coincided with a sharp deterioration in Sheikh Saad's health, forcing him to spend long periods having treatment abroad.

In 2006, Kuwait suffered its most serious political crisis--the death of Sheikh Jaber, 13th Emir of Kuwait, which prompted lengthy and heated discussions within the ruling family about the succession. Many senior family members felt Sheikh Saad was too ill to rule. But his close family and other members of his branch of the Sabah clan insisted that the constitution should be honoured. Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah served as Emir of Kuwait for less than 10 days in 2006 until his rule was cut short by ill-health. As a result, Kuwaitis had to endure the painful and undignified sight of Sheikh Saad taking office while confined to a wheelchair, hardly able to speak or shake hands. Nine days later a special sitting of parliament heard a report on his health. After that, all 49 MPs and 16 cabinet ministers present agreed that he was unfit to rule.

However, for years he was a prominent figure in the ruling Sabah family, a man who witnessed the full course of his country's modern history. He was one of the kindest and gentlest of senior Kuwaitis, admired and respected by his people. While holding the title of Crown Prince for many years, Sheikh Saad never showed a driving ambition to be head of state, with all the surrounding pomp. He was born in an era when Kuwait was a poor backwater in the Gulf, and Kuwaitis led simple lives. A tall and dignified man, he was happier with the lifestyle of the pre-oil wealth Kuwait than with that of the brash modern world.


Sheikh Saad with Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed during a traditional Ardah dance following the liberation of Kuwait



Sheikh Saad at the center of the team of the Kuwait Oil Company following the extinguishment of the last oilfield which were ignited by Saddam Hussein.



Sheik Jaber, Sheik Saad, and Sheik Sabah (right-left), after the liberation of Kuwait.


Sheik Saad's Final Journey

Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad became the 15th Emir of Kuwait, ensuring utmost care would be provided to the retired wheel-chaired "Father Emir" Sheikh Saad, whose last journey was to India. Upon his return to Kuwait International Airport, Emir Sheikh Sabah and all the Royal family welcomed him. Shortly after his return to his country, Sheikh Saad died on the Mat 13, at age 78, at around 7pm and was buried in Sulaibikhat cemetery with a final state and public funeral attended by all officials, dignitaries and members of the public. The country and the region observed a period of sorrow for the loss of the unforgettable liberation hero.

The Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed receiving Sheikh Saad at Kuwait airport upon his return from India, a short period prior to his death


Mourners pray over the casket of Sheikh Saad in Sulaibikhat Cemetery.


Sheikh Sabah and the Royal family at the funeral of the Father Emir.

The 13th, 14th and 15th Emirs of Kuwait


Prof. Talaat I. Farag MD, FRCP(E), FACP, FACMG, is a former adjunct professor, Dalhousie University, Canada. Founder and director, The Ambassadors Research Foundation. Email: