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Osama’s first wife was his true love

Najwa bin Laden, slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s first wife, was his favourite because she was his only love match. The rest of Laden’s wives were arranged — women that he had never met before, says biographer Jean Sasson.

mumbai Updated: Jun 23, 2011 02:57 IST
Madhusree Chatterjee

Najwa bin Laden, slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s first wife, was his favourite because she was his only love match. The rest of Laden’s wives were arranged — women that he had never met before, says biographer Jean Sasson.

The US writer’s new book, Growing Up Bin Laden: Osama’s Wife and Son Take Us Inside Their Secret World, opens a door to the terror mastermind’s household and the inner world.

Najwa, Laden’s cousin, had to battle hardships all her life — especially in Afghanistan where she lived under the harshest of circumstances, Sasson told IANS.

The writer has co-authored the book with Najwa bin Laden and her son Omar bin Laden, who narrated their life stories to her in a series of interviews.

The book, hailed by the Sunday Times and Time magazine as “fascinating and thrilling”, stirred a controversy last week when the media reported on the former al Qaeda chief’s sex life quoting the writer.

“Their (Najwa’s and Osama’s) marriage was based on mutual affection and admiration. Her mother did not want Najwa to marry Osama because she did not want her daughter to travel to Saudi Arabia, far away from Syria. “But the 15-year-old Syrian girl was in love with her 17-year-old cousin Osama,” Sasson told IANS in an e-mail interview.

She said “life in Saudi Arabia also required a lot of adjustment for Najwa because she was used to living fairly free in Syria”.

The most difficult adjustments Najwa had to make was in her kitchen and as a mother.

“Her difficulties had to do with having one child after another. Moreover, Laden banned her from using electricity, gas stoves and those kind of things. She had to prepare meals for a large family on a little two-ring cooker (burners).

“When she went to Afghanistan, she ended up with a one-ring gas cooker. That was the time she longed for a two-ring cooker as that seemed the greatest of luxuries...,” Sasson said.

As a young woman “Najwa drew pictures and loved to ride horses (although she had to ride in private with the family only), played tennis, rode bicycle, but had to give up those things as bin Laden’s wife”. “I think Osama’s quiet manner impressed his wives, and the fact that he was very protective and never allowed anyone to get close to his wives. They really did live in purdah,” Sasson said. ians