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Turks and British

Although Kuwait was not officially part of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, it did pay taxes to the Turkish Vali (Governor) in Basra. However, the local elite enjoyed a large degree of autonomy. Fearing complete Turkish annexation, Kuwait agreed a protection treaty with Great Britain in 1899, allowing the country de facto autonomy.


Kuwait became independent on 19 June 1961 and joined both the United Nations and the Arab League a year later. Kuwait supported Arab countries during the Six Day War against Israel in 1967 and participated in the 1967 and 1973 oil embargoes. During the Cold War, Kuwait belonged to the group of non-aligned countries and maintained intensive diplomatic relations with both the West and the former Eastern Bloc countries.

However, the relationship with Iraq in particular has been decisive for Kuwait's modern history. The two countries were regularly at odds in the 20th century, with Kuwaiti sovereignty and common oil rights playing a key role. Accusations by Baghdad of Kuwait's overproduction of oil and an old territorial dispute eventually led to the Iraqi invasion on 2 August 1990. An international military coalition led by the United States drove out the Iraqi forces during "Operation Desert Storm" in February 1991. In September of that year, Kuwait and the United States signed a 10-year defence agreement, which was to provide a security guarantee for the Arab state. The post-war period is mainly characterised by the reconstruction of Kuwait and by the antagonism between modern and traditional conservative political forces.

21th century

In July 2003, both Islamists and pro-government candidates win at the expense of liberals. The emir, Sheikh Jaber, appointed Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah as prime minister. In January 2006, Emir Sheikh Jaber died and was succeeded by Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad. In March 2008, the emir dismissed the opposition-dominated parliament and called elections. In the May 2008 elections, the Islamists gained ground and won more than half of the seats. The emir appointed Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Ahmad as prime minister. In March 2009, the emir dissolved parliament after questions about corruption by the prime minister, his nephew Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

In May 2009, three women won seats in parliament for the first time. In October 2009, women were allowed to apply for passports without the consent of their husbands. In December, Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah survived a vote of no confidence over allegations of corruption. In February 2012, the Islamic opposition wins the parliamentary elections. A few months later, the emir blocked a transition to Islamic criminal law and in October 2012 dissolved parliament. In the July 2013 parliamentary elections, liberal candidates gained influence. From March 2015, Kuwait participates in the Saudi-led coalition that conducts airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. In November 2016, the opposition wins almost half of the parliamentary seats. Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah took over after the death of his half-brother Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah in September 2020.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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