First wife Najwa was Osama's only love match: Biographer

The American 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, Osama'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, a long way 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, Osama 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 Osama's wife".

She was a "secret photographer although Osama gave her mixed messages on that; sometimes telling her that she could take photographs of the children and family, and at other times, telling her no", the author said.

Their early life was stable despite moving often until arriving in Afghanistan in 1996, according to the biographer.

"She had to live on a mountaintop in a stone hut and then in a former Russian military base that had no electricity (not that Osama would have allowed her to use it). But the amazing thing is that she kept calm and tried to keep the best home for her children," Sasson said.

The writer describes life for the family on the Tora Bora mountains through insights provided by Osama's son Omar.

The roads to Tora Bora mountain were unpaved and Osama's son "could not imagine that their lives would come to this".

His cousins were relaxing in fine homes and attending the best of schools - here he was, son of a wealthy Bin Laden, living in a lawless land, wheezing for air in a small Toyota truck, surrounded by Afghan warriors, "on his way to help his father claim a hut as the family home - a hut that he did not have a washroom".

"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.

The writer is best known for her best-selling work, "Princess", a trilogy on the lives of women in the royal homes of Saudi Arabia, and the "Rape of Kuwait"- both of which earned her death threats.

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