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Engineer in Kuwait hopes to see missing cousin again

Name: Fahad Dousari

Age: 25

Home town: Kuwait City

Job: engineer at Kuwait Oil Company, Burgan Oil Field, the second largest oil field in the world.


BURGAN OIL FIELD, Kuwait—Fahad Dousari remembers the fires, how the afternoon sky turned black with oily smoke.

He remembers walking through Kuwait City and being stopped at gunpoint by Iraqi soldiers, terrified and dehumanized.

And he remembers his cousin, Khaled Dousari, and how they used to play basketball and soccer together. "He was tall, and he is serious," Fahad says, unconsciously mixing the past and present tenses, unsure exactly how to refer to him. "I don't know if he's dead or alive."

Khaled Dousari is believed to be one of 605 Kuwaiti prisoners of war who allegedly were taken during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait from Aug. 2, 1990, to Feb. 26, 1991, and have been held in Iraq for more than 10 years.

Iraqi officials deny the charges.

"Some people say he's still there in Iraq," says Fahad Dousari, 25. "We have some sources in Iraq, people who came out of Iraq, and they told us he is still there, but we haven't heard anything from him."

"Some of them were taken because they were military personnel," says Fawaz Bourisly, a media researcher for the Kuwait Ministry of Information. "Some were taken from the mosques in the night. Some were taken from their homes. Some were accused of working with the Kuwaiti resistance, so they took them. Some of them, they didn't disclose. Most of them were working with the Kuwaiti resistance."

There is an intense campaign to free them in Kuwait. Signs are posted throughout Kuwait City—"Help us to free our POWS"—and public service announcements are on radio stations.

"We hope he is still alive," Dousari says. "Maybe, they are using them as cards to negotiate."

Fahad Dousari was a teen-ager when Iraq invaded Kuwait. "I remember the whole war," he says. "How they destroyed Kuwait. How they treated us. They didn't have human decency."

After staying in Kuwait for two months during Iraqi occupation, Dousari and his family escaped to Saudi Arabia.

His cousin stayed.

Khaled Dousari, who is 37 if he's alive, was a member of the Kuwaiti military. "He was in the marines, but he was taken as a civilian," Dousari says.

When Dousari and his family returned after the war, their house was still standing, but their possessions were gone. "Everything was stolen," he says. "The furniture. Pictures. It was totally clean. Maybe they need some money."

"Thank God, the most important thing was that we had a country. You can live in a tent; you can live anywhere, if you have a country."

Dousari studied for five years in the United States, graduating with an electrical engineering degree from California State University in Los Angeles. For the past 2 { years, he has worked as an engineer for the state-owned Kuwait Oil Company at Burgan Oil Field, the second largest oil field in the world, which produces 1.2 million barrels a day. "It's a good job," he says.

But they are preparing for war, implementing safety precautions in case Iraq tries to destroy the oil fields again with a missile or terrorist attack.

In 1992, as allied forces drove Iraq out of Kuwait, Iraq set the Burgan Oil Field on fire.

At one point, 700 wells burned in Kuwait, leaving the sky pitch black during the day.

A couple of miles from Dousari's office, the destruction remains at a wasteland called Gathering Center No. 14. The ground is scorched black for hundreds of yards. Huge oil storage containers are crushed and crippled from the intense heat from the fire. A maze of crumpled, twisted, broken pipes rises into the air.

But on the edge of Gathering Center No.14, where the black ground turns into rocky sand, yellow dandelions have popped up.

"Nobody wants war," Dousari says. "We just want to get rid of Saddam Hussein. That's what we want."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

ILLUSTRATIONS (from KRT Illustration Bank, 202-383-6064): faces+ Fahad