Kuwait marks 60 years of independence from Britain

In 1899, Kuwait came under British control, became British protectorate after World War I

Kuwait City: On June 19, 1961, Kuwait gained independence from the British after being under their rule for 62 years. Back in 1899, the ruler of Kuwait, Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah, signed an agreement granting Britain the right to make Kuwait its protectorate.

Kuwait and Britain have a long, shared history, which has influenced Kuwait’s modern political and social scene. Although it broke free of the UK 60 years ago, Kuwait has still maintained a friendly relationship with Britain, which is its ally.

British protectorate

Sheikh Mubarak, the seventh ruler of Kuwait, turned to the British for help as he feared growing aggression from the Ottoman empire.

The agreement mainly gave the British control of Kuwait’s foreign relations, stipulated that Kuwait does not seek any other representative of other powers and stated that Kuwait cannot forgo its territory without the approval of the British government.

Meanwhile, Kuwait continued to be ruled by the Al Sabah family. Although a protectorate of the British, during that time, Kuwait’s local affairs remained in the hands of Kuwaitis, everything from politics to trade.

Era of Abdullah Al Salem

In 1950, Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem became the 11th ruler of Kuwait and eventually became the first Emir once Kuwait gained its independence.

Abdullah Al Salem had a huge impact on Kuwait as he steered it towards becoming a modern state and turned Kuwait into the Middle East’s first welfare state, thus enhancing the standard of living.

Everything from health care and education to housing and employment were enhanced under his reign, which were provided not only to Kuwaitis but to residents as well.

In terms of foreign policy, Abdullah Al Salem strengthened ties with other Arab countries. Whilst still trying to maintain ties with the British, he also maintained alliances with Arab nationalists, especially during the 1956 Suez Crisis. In 1957, he decided to boycott the import of Israeli goods in an effort to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.

From mandate to sovereignty

Although Kuwait was their protectorate, the British faced resistance during the rule of Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem, due to the fact that the ruling family and government tried to hinder the UK’s ambitions of controlling Kuwait’s internal affairs.

With growing cries for full freedom, the Kuwaiti people wanted an end to the British protectorate.

By then Abdullah Al Salem understood that it was important, at that period more than ever, that Kuwait gained its full independence and complete sovereignty.

Then on June 19, 1961 Abdullah Al Salem signed an independence treaty with Britain, in the presence of Sir George Middleton, Britain’s Chief Political Resident in the Gulf.