Husain Al-Jasem attempts to keep his days busy with calls to colleagues in Europe and meetings with business associates in Southern California. In between, he and his family earnestly watch Cable News Network in their Fullerton apartment for developments in the Persian Gulf that could allow them to return home to Kuwait.
Al-Jasem’s wife, Adleh, tries to keep their 11-year-old daughter, Wadha, busy with picture and coloring books.
But no matter how hard they try to keep a semblance of normalcy in their lives, the Al-Jasems said, life as exiled Kuwaitis is difficult, even with promises of financial support from their government in exile.
“The uncertainty of the future and nothing to do is what make it so difficult to cope,” said Husain Al-Jasem. “Living right out of our suitcases because we don’t have anything else is especially difficult on my family.”
Husain Al-Jasem, 46, was in London for a series of business meetings with European companies when Iraq’s forces overwhelmed his tiny Gulf nation in a lightning invasion Aug. 2. His wife, their two younger sons and Wadha were in Orange County visiting another son, Wa’el, a mechanical engineering student at Cal State Fullerton.
“In the beginning I couldn’t believe it, then I felt disgust and humiliation,” said Husain Al-Jasem.
He flew to Orange County immediately and moved his family from a hotel in Anaheim to The Homestead apartment complex in Fullerton in anticipation of an indefinite stay in the United States.
The Al-Jasems are no ordinary exiles, and their two-bedroom rental is a far cry from their opulent lifestyle in Kuwait, where they had servants at their beck and call.
As vice chairman of Petrochemical Industries Co. KSC, he has negotiated business deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars. His company is part of the vast international network of government-owned subsidiaries that make up the Kuwait Petroleum Corp., which is among the 10 biggest oil companies in the world.
The Al-Jasems are no strangers to Southern California. They lived in Los Angeles for six years when Husain was senior vice president of Santa Fe International Corp., an oil and gas explorations and development subsidiary of Kuwait Petroleum in Alhambra. The family moved back to Kuwait last August when he was assigned to the No. 2 spot at Petrochemical Industries, the petrochemical manufacturing subsidiary of Kuwait Petroleum.
After settling his family in Fullerton, Husain Al-Jasem flew back to London and met with banking and government officials to find a way to let his company continue functioning in spite of the Iraqi takeover.
Through agreements between Western governments and the Kuwait government in exile in Saudi Arabia, Husain’s company is able to conduct some business by telephone through Petrochemical Industries’ affiliate companies in London and in other parts of the United States.
“I still continue to be an employee of Kuwait Petroleum Corp., but we’re functioning outside Kuwait,” Husain said.
Husain and his wife have arranged for their children to attend local public schools. But while they settle in for an indefinite stay here, the family worries constantly about relatives in Kuwait.
“We’ve been trying to reach our relatives and colleagues in Kuwait through our offices in London and other parts of the world but we’re not getting through,” Husain Al-Jasem.