February 7, 2004

Carmen bin Ladin. Why not change your last name, if you're living in Geneva and estranged from Osama bin Laden's brother? (She does use the brother's spelling of the name.) For one thing, she has a memoir to sell, "Inside the Kingdom," and the name gets your attention. Marlise Simons writes in today's NYT:
[T]he book oozes frustration and anger and, it would seem, enough detail to upset much of her extended family and the Saudi elite. ... Her unabashed conclusion: "The Saudis are the Taliban, in luxury."
"Mrs. bin Ladin," as the Times calls her, noting that she's "in her late 40's" and "[h]er clothes are tight, very tight," tells of meeting Osama bin Laden for the first time:
[H]e came by looking for his brother, Yeslam. As soon as her brother-in-law saw her, she recalled, he turned his head and angrily waved her away. "My face was not covered by a veil," she said. "He couldn't bear it and walked off."
She describes Osama's cruelty to his own infant son:
Abdallah was practically dehydrated in the 100 degree heat and the baby was howling, too small to take water by spoon.

But he could not be given water from a bottle because "Osama had some dogmatic idea about not allowing the baby a rubber teat," said Mrs. bin Ladin, who protested. "The child's mother, the grandmother and none of the other women dared to intervene."
She tells of the privileged women of Saudi Arabia, who "did nothing, read nothing, and were like pets kept by their husbands," who seemed as if they were "under an anesthetic," and who sought some measure of freedom by faking illnesses that required treatment abroad to deceive men into giving them permission to travel.

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