The Life of an al-Qaida Wife

We all know "Married to the Mob"--now it's time for Married to the Jihad. This is a very bizarre article, in the truth is stranger than fiction department, particularly in its depiction of the wives' approval of their children becoming fighters. It consists of interviews with two women, Maha and Zaynab, Canadian mother and daughter married to al Qaeda fighters. The teaser:

They may be rich, cultivated and beautiful; but when the West steps up its 'war on terror', their husbands and sons are in the firing line. Jan McGirk meets some remarkable women.

A couple of tidbits:

Abdurahman and Omar were captured by the Americans and imprisoned at Guantanamo. Abdurahman, who liked to posture around the bazaar, swigging from an imported bottle of tabasco sauce to impress his buddies, has blamed greedy Kabul acquaintances for "selling" him to the Americans for a bounty. Omar, who was only 15 at the time, hunkered down with some fleeing Arab fighters in Khost, eastern Afghanistan, until American troops attacked the hideout. Despite being described by his mother as the most sensitive of the brothers, he is reported to have killed an American medic during the gunfight before taking a bullet himself, in the eye. He was soon whisked off to Guantanamo, where he was not allowed to speak with his incarcerated brother and where he remains under interrogation.

Maha describes how proud she is of her martyr husband, now dead. As to her teenage son:

Abdul Karim was also cornered and besieged that day. Described by his mother as a dreamy boy with a taste for Harry Potter and Matrix DVDs, he had been exploring the fields surrounding their new hide-out with a 16-year-old Arab friend, looking for hazards. They had left their weapons behind so as not to arouse the locals' suspicions, only to be ambushed by Pakistani soldiers lying in wait.

Abdul Karim was struck by a bullet that ripped through his spleen, liver and kidney and nicked his spinal cord. He later told his sister Zaynab that no water or first aid was offered to the bleeding boys for at least three hours, while Cobra helicopters attacked his father and comrades in the house. Pakistan army sources say the ensuing battle raged for 12 hours, and left nine foreign fighters dead. They showed Abdul Karim a photograph of his father's charred corpse while he lay recovering in a military cot. Now being held incognito in a basement somewhere near Islamabad, he is paralysed from the waist down.

Maha and Zaynab say it took them five months to find Abdul.

After repeated appeals to the Canadian High Commission and government authorities in Islamabad, the women were finally allowed to see the wounded boy. Last month, Maha and Zaynab were driven in a circuitous route to an unnumbered residence where 10 Pakistani secret police stood guard. They were led down to a subterranean room where Abdul Karim lay on a mattress on the floor, jaundiced and thin. He managed a wan grin. "I'm OK, I'm OK," he told his mother and sister. Mustering all of his warrior's stamina, he scooted on his forearms and boosted himself on to a low couch.

They all chatted away in English. "Usually, when I want to be ill-mannered, I speak English, because it has all the nastiest phrases," Zaynab says. "But we use English among the family, too. We are so proud of Abdul Karim," Zaynab continues. "He seemed cheerful and is coping well with his injuries."

Maha also knows two of Osama bin Laden's wives, from her charity work. (We are not making this up, it's in the article.)

"Osama has one wife who was very well-educated - a PhD in child education and psychology. She was the most practical Arab woman I ever met," Maha recalls. At jumble sales supporting the orphanages run by the Khadr family, this wife would pay twice the asking price for second-hand garments. But Bin Laden's senior wife, one of his Saudi cousins, often seems distracted. Just four years younger than Osama, she had been a delicate 13-year-old beauty when the family married her off to the billionaire bridegroom. Today, Maha says, she hankers after her palatial lifestyle, and resents her exiled existence in cramped quarters with no servants, no ice-cubes, and no way out. "She was bitter about Osama having all these other wives," recalls Maha.

There's even a description of post-9/11 Osama family life:

While Bin Laden travelled and plotted in perpetual hiding, his veiled wives were left to enforce his strict rules on his family. Their children were forbidden such symbols of decadence as chilled water, computer games and American soft drinks. They weren't even allowed electricity. The boys were, however, allowed to play volleyball with their father at weekends, and to go hunting. And a child who memorised the Koran could expect to be rewarded with a pony.

Financially, they seem to be doing just okay.

Maha adds: "Most Arabs in al-Qa'ida are seriously rich. But we pay Canadian tax every year and know how to clean our own houses."

There is one son, Abdurahman, her eldest, of whom Maha is ashamed. Read why:

To Maha and Zaynab's horror, he now seems to be wearying with the family business of jihad. Earlier this month, he appeared on a television documentary after passing a polygraph test. He claimed that the CIA had coaxed him to spy on al-Qa'ida members in Bosnia in exchange for his release from Guantanamo Bay. On camera, he denounced his family as al-Qa'ida members and confessed that his father had groomed him to be a "loser", a suicide-bomber.

Maha and Zaynab claim to be baffled by Abdurahman's "ugly lies". He has, says Zaynab scornfully: "... always kept bad company. He lies, he cheats, and lies some more. Now he is wacko. He is addicted to things that thrill the brain. He told us the 9/11 planes were like some stunt out of a Jackie Chan video. He is no longer part of this family, because we do not work for our enemies."

Zaynab was asked if she'd go back to Canada, home of her maternal grandparents:

Not likely. "I cannot imagine myself in Toronto," Zaynab says, "when my life here is like the nightly news. I would like a little safety. But I will not bow down and say sorry for what I believe in. I won't veil the truth."

We don't know if anything in the article is true, but it's quite a tale.

< California Wants More Time From Rehabilitated Woman | Cross Burning in Washington >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort: