The Last Voice from Kuwait

33 years ago on August 2nd 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Abduljabbar Mansoor Marafi, an amateur radio operator decided to stay behind with his family and that decision eventually led him to become the last voice from Kuwait.

I hadn’t heard of his story until very recently and since its the anniversary of the invasion I wanted to share it since I found it really interesting from a technology point of view, but also the bravery involved. Marafi had been operating a sophisticated Radio Bulletin Board System (RBBS) using a personal computer and amateur radio set equipment long time before the invasion. He had even setup backup power supply in case of power failure which turned out to also be useful during the invasion.

When Iraq invaded, Marafi refused to flee hoping he could help his country by staying in Kuwait. During the early days of the invasion, Marafie used his radio to keep people outside of Kuwait in the loop with what was happening here. He was basically blogging before blogging was even a thing. When Iraq start cutting off communication in Kuwait from the outside world, Marafi’s radio system became even more important.

The easiest way I can think of to describe Marafi’s bulletin board system is to imagine a very basic version of email. You would send a message to a specific radio call sign (Marafi’s was 9K2DZ), and when that person later connects to their bulletin board system, they would see what messages they had waiting for them. I’ve embedded a video below from YouTube demoing this.

News of Marafi’s bulletin service started spreading by word of mouth in Kuwait. Families began giving Marafi messages to send to their relatives abroad, and families abroad started contacting radio amateurs in the countries they lived in asking them to send messages to their relatives in Kuwait through Marafi’s bulletin board. In addition to helping transmit messages between families, Marafie also used his radio system to expose to the outside world the horrors that were being committed by the Iraqis in Kuwait.

When Iraqis found out news was leaking out of Kuwait they suspected it was due to radio amateurs since all other sort of communication had already been cut. The Iraqis then started interrogating Kuwaiti radio amateurs and confiscating their equipment, including Marafi’s. But Marafi was expecting that and had set up a complete radio setup behind a false wall in his basement. The setup outside that was confiscated was mostly broken or old equipment.

The full story of Abduljabbar Marafi and his radio system is too big to tell in all its detail but if you want to find out more you can google his call sign 9K2DZ. Sadly, Marafi passed away last November.

I’ve uploaded a PDF of an article taken from the September 1991 issue of Alam Al-Computer. I borrowed some of the information in this post from that article and it’s really interesting to read. You can download it here.

5 replies on “The Last Voice from Kuwait”

Such a good story! Always love reading these type of articles that give us a glimpse of what it was like during the invasion.

Yeah I found the whole RBBS thing so interesting. Back in 1995 I used to be part of a BBS but it was a dial up BBS, didn’t know a radio one existed.

This was quite a sophisticated setup for its time. Having lived through the Iraqi invasion as a kid, this brings back memories. I think more people should know of Marafi’s bravery and inginuity. Thanks for sharing his story, Mark.

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