Nurse Nayirah: Wikis


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Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ (Arabic: نيره الصباح‎), called "Nurse Nayirah" in the media, was a fifteen-year-old Kuwaiti girl, who alleged that she had witnessed the murder of infant children in Kuwait, in verbal testimony to the U.S. Congress, in the run up to the 1991 Gulf War.[1] Her testimony, which had been regarded as credible at the time, has since come to be regarded as wartime propaganda.[2] The public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, which was in the employ of Citizens for a Free Kuwait, had arranged the testimony.[1]



Fifteen-year old Nayirah, who gave testimony anonymously, testified before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990 that she was a refugee volunteering in the maternity ward of Al Adan hospital in Kuwait City, and that during the Iraqi occupation she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers killing Kuwaiti infants in an incubator room: “They took the babies out of the incubator, took the incubators, and left the babies to die on the cold floor,” she testified.[3] The testimony came at a crucial time for the Bush administration, which was pressing for military action to eject Iraq from Kuwait. Nayirah's story was widely publicized, and Amnesty International at first seemed to corroborate the report. The story helped build domestic support for the Persian Gulf War.[1]

Nayirah was later disclosed to be Nayirah al-Sabah, daughter of Saud bin Nasir Al-Sabah, Kuwaiti ambassador to the USA. She was demonstrated to have connections to the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, which was at that time working for Citizens for a Free Kuwait.[1] The latter activist group was organized by the exiled Kuwaiti government, to gain support for the Kuwaiti cause.[1]

The Congressional Human Rights Caucus, of which Congressman Tom Lantos was co-chairman, had been responsible for hosting Nurse Nayirah, and thereby popularizing her allegations. When the girl's account was later challenged by independent human rights monitors,[4] Lantos replied, "The notion that any of the witnesses brought to the caucus through the Kuwaiti Embassy would not be credible did not cross my mind... I have no basis for assuming that her story is not true, but the point goes beyond that. If one hypothesizes that the woman's story is fictitious from A to Z, that in no way diminishes the avalanche of human rights violations."[4] Nevertheless, the senior Republican on the Human Rights Caucus, John Edward Porter, responded to the revelations "by saying that if he had known the girl was the ambassador's daughter, he would not have allowed her to testify."[5]

Lantos and John R. MacArthur, the foremost critic of the Nayirah issue, each had op-eds features in The New York Times, in which each accused the other of distortion.[6] MacArthur suggested that Lantos may have materially benefited from his having accommodated Hill & Knowlton, the public relations firm associated with Nayirah.[1] MacArthur also suggested that Lauri Fitz-Pegado, who was then in the employ of Hill & Knowlton, coached Nayirah as to what to say at the hearing.[7] Fitz-Pegado also prepared Iraq-invasion testimony for the United Nations which was later discredited, and later promoted a book about the rescue of PFC Jessica Lynch during the 2003 Iraq War.


In 1992, the human rights organization Middle East Watch published the results of their investigation of the incubator story. Its director, Andrew Whitley, told the press, "While it is true that the Iraqis targeted hospitals, there is no truth to the charge which was central to the war propaganda effort that they stole incubators and callously removed babies allowing them to die on the floor. The stories were manufactured from germs of truth by people outside the country who should have known better." One investigator, Aziz Abu-Hamad, interviewed doctors in the hospital where Nayirah claimed she witnessed Iraqi soldiers pull 15 infants from incubators and leave them to die. The Independent reported, "The doctors told him the maternity ward had 25 to 30 incubators. None was taken by the Iraqis, and no babies were taken from them."[5]

In order to respond to these charges, the Kuwaiti government hired Kroll Associates to undertake an independent investigation of the incubator story. The Kroll investigation lasted nine weeks and conducted over 250 interviews. The interviews with Nayirah revealed that her original testimony was wildly distorted at best; she told Kroll that she had actually only seen one baby outside its incubator for "no more than a moment." She also told Kroll that she was never a volunteer at the hospital and had in fact "only stopped by for a few minutes."[8]

In popular culture

The 2002 HBO movie Live From Baghdad included several scenes dealing with the incubator allegations, without presenting the story as unquestioned truth. In that movie, several characters try to determine the accuracy or inaccuracy of the story, but are unable to draw any conclusions. After the final credits, a note stated that the incubator allegations were never substantiated.[9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Deception on Capitol Hill, The New York Times. January 15, 1992
  2. ^ See, for example, Michael Kunczik, "Transnational Public Relations by Foreign Governments, in Krishnamurthy Sriramesh and Dejan Verčič, eds., The Global Public Relations Handbook: Theory, Research, and Practice (Laurence Erlbaum Associates, 2003).
  3. ^ Nayirah's testimony and some quotations, YouTube
  4. ^ a b CONGRESSMAN SAYS GIRL WAS CREDIBLE, The New York Times. January 12, 1992
  5. ^ a b Leonard Doyle, "Iraqi Baby Atrocity is Revealed as Myth," The Independent (12 January 1992) p. 11.
  6. ^ Kuwaiti Gave Consistent Account of Atrocities, The New York Times. January 27, 1992
  7. ^ Kuwaiti Gave Consistent Account of Atrocities; Retracted Testimony, The New York Times. January 27, 1992
  8. ^ Ted Rowse, "[ Kuwaitgate - killing of Kuwaiti babies by Iraqi soldiers exaggerated," Washington Monthly (September 1992).
  9. ^ Live From Baghdad HBO: Related articles.

External links

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