For most of us, age five meant kindergarten, Saturday morning cartoons, breakfast cereal and probably learning to hold our own against the rest of our fellow siblings. Very few ever fall onto the world stage. But no matter how brief the stay, you become ‘that person’ forevermore.
Stuart Lockwood of Great Britain was one of those rare five-year olds. He found himself center stage just before war broke out in the Gulf region.
By August 12th, 1990 Saddam Hussein had already attacked and invaded Kuwait. But that was the date in which Saddam demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli people from their homes in Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. Also, concerning Kuwait, he demanded that Iraq and Iran exit that country at the same time to insure Iran wouldn’t be left to take over. The Iraqis had annexed Kuwait, but even from the beginning officials in the US demanded Iraq pull their forces from that land. Furthermore, US troops had established themselves in Saudi Arabia due to the Iraqi invasion. Saddam wanted those troops to leave but would allow Arabian countries to replace them, but only if those troops did not include Egyptians. Hussein then insisted that they freeze all sanctions made against his country, along with returning relations to a more normal level. The US did not comply out of concern that any concessions to this dictator would only empower Iraq within the region for possibly many generations.
After being denied what he wanted, Hussein canceled travel visas for Westerners still in the country, leaving them prisoners in Iraq. Then on August 23rd, Hussein did something still considered repugnant to this day. He put the hostages on display via their state-run television. With a pleasant smile, Hussein picked young Stuart Lockwood out of the crowd and beckoned him forward. Through an interpreter, Hussein said, “We hope your presence as guests here will not be for too long. Your presence here, and in other places, is meant to prevent the scourge of war.”
Saddam attempted to gather Stuart into his lap, but on the video, Stuart folds his arms and stares at the ground.
In an interview with the Guardian in July of 2015, Stuart Lockwood recalled the events of that day.
To Stuart, he was just one of several children in the meeting area, but Hussein picked him out and wanted the boy to step forward. Stuart said, “…My dad stood at the back of the room with me and didn’t want me to go up to him; he had his hand on my shoulder and was squeezing it tightly. My mum said, “Derek, you need to let him go.” It was at that point that I had to go up to the front with Saddam.”
Stuart reports being terrified by all of the well-armed soldiers. He honestly didn’t know much about Hussein except that he had to be a very important man. After all, his picture was everywhere.
From the same interview, Mr. Lockwood remarked, “Through his interpreter, he started asking me stupid questions like, “Did you have milk with your breakfast?” Then he tried to get me to sit on his lap. I crossed my arms and shied away…” ((https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jun/05/thats-me-picture-stuart-lockwood-saddam-hussein-iraq)
Stuart gives a great deal of credit to the Reverend Jesse Jackson who was instrumental in the release of the hostages. Women and children were sent home first, however, a few days before Christmas of that year, his father came home. According to Stuart, he couldn’t have asked for a better present.
Today, Lockwood works as a PE teacher at a school in the UK. He still has students come up to him and ask, “Is it true you were kidnapped by Osama Bin Laden?”
To which Stuart explains…they’ve got the wrong guy.