200 March to Seek Release of Kuwaitis Jailed in Iraq : Human rights: Letters pleading their case are presented at the U.S. and British embassies.

From United Press International

About 200 people, mostly women and children, presented letters to the U.S. and British embassies Friday asking for help in securing the release of thousands of Kuwaitis still held as prisoners in Iraq.

In one of the biggest demonstration’s since Kuwait was liberated three weeks ago, they paraded about a mile from the American to the British embassy, carrying simple yet poignant signs.

“Please Mr. Bush, Bring My Daddy Home,” read one held by a teen-age girl. A gray-haired woman’s sign read, “I Want My Son Back.” Two men walked with a sheet bearing the words, “Where Are Our Brothers and Sisters?”

Many voiced frustration with their own government’s inability to obtain the release of the prisoners who are believed to number upwards of 14,000. They include soldiers and civilians, men, women and children.

“I say the government has been incompetent,” said Fatima Essa, who says 15 of her relatives--sons, nephews, uncles, cousins--are among the missing. “I don’t know if they even have really tried.”


Ali Alsayegh, 39, an adviser with the Kuwaiti Investment Authority and an organizer of the march, said 37 of his relatives are being held in Iraq.

Insisting that the Kuwaiti government should have demanded the release of all prisoners before agreeing to a permanent cease-fire, he said, “Our government trusted someone (Saddam Hussein) who can’t be trusted.”

A teen-age girl said softly, “I think our government is doing the best it can, but it needs help.” She held a picture of President Bush.

In the letters to the U.S. and British embassies, the demonstrators wrote: “The war is not over. We want our POWs as soon as possible. Please help us.”

A similar letter was delivered to the U.S. Embassy for delivery to Javier Perez de Cuellar, secretary general of the United Nations. Another such letter will be sent to the French Embassy later this week, organizers said.

Only about 1,200 Kuwaiti prisoners have been released, all either by Iraqi soldiers who deserted or by anti-Hussein forces who liberated prisons in and around the Iraqi city of Basra.

POWs are just one of several issues that the Kuwaiti people are upset about now that their government is back. There are also complaints about the lack of running water and electricity and demands for more democracy in the emirate.

Earlier this week, a dozen people abruptly canceled their planned protest march about the water and electricity when Kuwaiti soldiers questioned their intentions as a group of Western reporters watched.

There was no attempt to interfere with Friday’s demonstration, which was covered by a few dozen reporters, photographers and television crews.

“This is a good development,” said Tarik Dvaij, 25, a member of one of several pro-democracy groups. “It makes people realize that they can challenge things. It makes people think.”