n their own words, Osama Bin Laden’s first wife Najwa and son Omar share the astonishing story of the man they knew–or thought they knew. Growing Up Bin Laden tells the story of a young girl who married her gentle and kindly first-cousin, enjoying a happy early marriage with the groom of her choice. But as world events thrust her husband into a frenzy of militant activities, his once pleasing behaviour is altered; and Najwa and her innocent children’s lives become a maze of escaping from one country to another. Osama’s fourth-born son, Omar–who wanted nothing but his father’s love, describes his early years, life with his father in Afghanistan and his eventual escape to Saudi Arabia. Together, their powerful story as mother and son give us an extraordinary view of a man hated by so many, yet both loved and feared by his family, including: Osama’s disapproval of modern conveniences, including electricity and medicine Osama’s plan to toughen up his sons by taking them into the desert without food or water Omar’s horror at the murder of a boy his own age by members of a jihadist group living among them in the Sudan What happened in the bin Laden home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on the morning of September 11, 2001; Omar’s surprise phone call from his mother who escaped from Afghanistan only two days before the New York terrorist attack.
"A compelling look at the intimate family life of a notorious man, as told by his wife and son." * Booklist * "Despite her neutrality, her story is still an indictment -- showing us a terrorist leader who is embarrassed easily, obsessed with a long-dead father, terrified of women, and who thinks of his children as nothing more than cannon fodder." * New York Post * "Despite her neutrality, her story is still an indictment -- showing us a terrorist leader who is embarrassed easily, obsessed with a long-dead father, terrified of women, and who thinks of his children as nothing more than cannon fodder." * New York Post * "A compelling look at the intimate family life of a notorious man, as told by his wife and son." * Booklist * "Always interesting and highly readable, this is recommended for the many people who will wish to learn more about this man." * Library Journal * "The psychological portrait of the world's most wanted man is all the more devastating for being written by two people who apparently once revered him." * Culture (supplement to the Sunday Times) * "The psychological portrait of the world's most wanted man is all the more devastating for being written by two people who apparently once revered him." * Culture (supplement to the Sunday Times) * "Lifts the lid on the secretive life of the world's most wanted man... It is certainly fascinating, if deeply unnerving, to read such vivid first-hand accounts about life within Osama bin Laden's family." * Daily Mail * "The most intimate portrait yet of the al Qa'eda leader." * The National * "Fascinating" * The Sunday Times * "The thrill of being a fly on the wall of the bin Laden family." * Time Magazine * "Their accounts cannot be subject to normal verification. Even so, they have been woven into a fascinating narrative by an American writer, Jean Sasson" * Catholic Herald * "this thoughtful, well-researched book" * The Good Book Guide * "Always interesting and highly readable, this is recommended for the many people who will wish to learn more about this man." * Library Journal *
Jean's first book THE RAPE OF KUWAIT, based on her eye witness reporting on the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops, was an immediate bestseller. Shortly thereafter she became a full-time writer. Her next three books, PRINCESS, PRINCESS SULTANA'S DAUGHTERS, and PRINCESS SULTANA'S CIRCLE, became international sensations as they were the first books to bring to the western world the shocking stories about life for women in Saudi Arabia. Jean is also the author of MAYADA, DAUGHTER OF IRAQ, about the prison experiences of an Iraqi journalist praised by Saddam Hussein; LOVE IN A TORN LAND: The True Story of a Freedom Fighter's Escape from Iraqi Vengeance which tells the story of a beautiful Kurdish woman; GROWING UP BIN LADEN: Osama's Wife and Son Take Us into Their Secret World; and FOR THE LOVE OF A SON: One Afghan Woman's Quest for Her Stolen Child. Her work has been featured in People, Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New York Post, The Sunday London Times, The Guardian, CNN, FOX, NBC, and many other news organizations.
A Note from Author Jean Sasson
Why do I care so much about the plight of women of the world? The answer is simple: because I can't help it.
I grew up in the United States, in a tiny town down South. In my daily experience, women enjoyed full freedom to do as they pleased. During those early years, it was beyond my imagining that women might be discriminated against.
But from a young age, I noticed mankind's occasional unthinking mistreatment of other animals. Such cruelty broke my heart, and I took aggressive action to aid animals in need. Mischievous boys who thought it amusing to tie a bag of rocks to a cat's tail soon learned to avoid me. I cared for a number of animals of my own, including some rather eccentric ones, such as a pet chicken named Prissy that I taught to walk on a lead. Another pet chicken, named Ducky, accompanied me like my little shadow and brought me endless joy. I had a number of cats and, when I grew older, I got my first doggie, a black cocker spaniel named, yes, Blackie! Others - Frisky, Doby, and a Peke named Goo Boo - soon followed.
As I grew older, it seemed that all the homeless dogs and cats in my little town "knew" to gather in our yard, sensing that I could not turn a single one away.
An impulse to save needy animals carried on throughout my entire life, and I was willing to pursue eccentric efforts to save a chained or otherwise mistreated animal. After I moved to Saudi Arabia, our villa in a Saudi neighborhood quickly filled with abandoned dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and even ducks!
Friends who stayed overnight in our home were often confronted with the challenge of sharing their bed with a couple of affectionate cats, of being roused in the morning by songs from caged birds, or of arranging their evening ablutions alongside a surprise in the guest bathroom: a bathtub filled with ducks!
Some people say that my heightened sensitivity is a blessing, while others stamp it a curse. I endorse the "blessing" tag and exult that I've been the joyful "mother" of 31 cats and dogs, the "foster mom" of many others until I could find an appropriate home, as well as the caretaker of too many birds to count. A few years ago a friend from the days of Saudi laughingly confided that my nickname was "The Bird Woman of Riyadh," a title unknown to me during my 12 years of living in the desert kingdom.
In Saudi Arabia, I worked as the Administrative Coordinator of Medical Affairs at The King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre. Most hospital reports crossed my desk prior to being presented to my boss who was the head of the hospital. Therefore, I was privy to the details of many human tragedies. But the reports that haunted me most were the stories of women who had been brutally mistreated. And, more often than not, it seems, their injuries had been inflicted by the very men who were supposed to protect them. Many Saudi men, of course, were wholly kind to the females in their family. But when the occasional man lashed out at a wife or daughter with cruelty or brutality, the women of the family had nowhere to turn for help. The man's word was absolute law and no outside organization would dare interfere. A woman's helplesness in such a situation is heartrending and nearly unsolvable.
I saw sadness almost every day that I worked at the hospital, most of it associated with women's issues. Unfortunately, there was little I could do - for I, too, was a disenfranchised woman, in a country not my own.
But I met several Saudi women who desperately plotted for change. One was a Saudi princess, a woman the world now knows as Princess Sultana Al-Saud. Understanding her culture well, she described that nothing would crack Saudi men's determination to maintain the status quo...nothing, that is, short of worldwide indignation. For this reason, the princess was fierce in her belief that the story of Saudi women must be told. Most importantly, she wanted her own life experiences to be the story that inflamed the world.
For years we discussed this possibility, but after my book THE RAPE OF KUWAIT lent me the clout of a bestseller, we knew the time was right to expose the tragedies that afflict so many women on this earth. By then, we were both mature women who understood that discrimination against women is not limited to Saudi Arabia or to the Middle East, but is a worldwide problem, aggrieving women in Western nations, too. But first we would tell HER story.
Storytelling is powerful. A powerful book or movie can inform and inflame. That is why I think it is wonderful that so many books are now being written about the plight of women worldwide. I support all authors who make this important subject their life's work.
I am proud that PRINCESS was the first book to be written about the life of a Saudi Arabian woman, because Saudi life for females is completely unique and cannot compare with any other Middle Eastern country, or for that matter, any country in the world.
After PRINCESS, I shared other, very powerful stories. After traveling to Iraq in July 1998, I wrote about Mayada Al-Askari in MAYADA, DAUGHTER OF IRAQ. Later I shared the story of Joanna's great adventure, the story of a Kurdish woman's escape from Northern Iraq in the book LOVE IN A TORN LAND. Soon came the compelling story of Osama's wife and son, called: GROWING UP BIN LADEN. My latest account is FOR THE LOVE OF A SON: ONE AFGHAN WOMAN'S QUEST FOR HER STOLEN CHILD, a story that will make you weep and make you laugh. Such exuberance is typical of so many lives, lives laced with good and with bad. And who would deny the importance of any story that details the life of a woman who challenges an unjust system? Such stories are criticized only by those who care nothing about the status of women.
I hope that you learn about women of the world, and that you, too, work to ensure that every human being - male or female - has the right to lead a life of dignity.