London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Najwa al-Ghanem, the first wife of Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, confirmed that she greatly misses her six children who have been detained in Iran for more than eight and a half years. In a telephone interview conducted with Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday, Najwa al-Ghanem also revealed that she is in poor health, and that she prays to God night and day for the reunion of her family and the return of her six children and eleven grandchildren who she has not seen since they first went to Iran.
Najwa al-Ghanem appealed to the Iranian authorities to complete the good deed of looking after her children since 2001 by quickly facilitating their return to the family.
Najwa told Asharq Al-Awsat of the feelings of joy that she felt when she learned that her six children were alive and well in Iran and described this as being the result of “a blessing thanks alone to God Almighty, and [our] prayers that He keep them from harm. God has responded to us because they [the children] are innocent of any allegations.”
Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday published an interview with Najwa al-Ghanem’s son Omar Bin Laden in which he revealed that six of his siblings and his father’s wife (Umm Hamzah) have been present in Iran since 2001. He also confirmed that his sister Iman has sought refuge in the Saudi embassy in Tehran after she escaped from her guards.
Osama Bin Laden’s first wife told Asharq Al-Awsat “my children Saad, Othman, Mohamed, Fatima, and Bakr, and their wives and children, in addition to Mrs. Khayriyah (Umm Hamza) the wife of Bin Laden are being detained in a residential complex.” As for her daughter Iman, Najwa al-Ghanem said that she is being hosted by the Saudi embassy in Tehran. She told Asharq Al-Awsat that she phones her daughter and checks up on her via the Saudi Arabian embassy’s internal communications, and that she lives honorably in a special room in the embassy until –God willing – she can leave and travel to Saudi Arabia or Syria or any other neighboring country.
Najwa al-Ghanem expressed her thanks to the Iranian authorities for taking care of her six children during the previous years and keeping them safe. She said that due to the long absence of any news about them she believed that they had come to harm or died, but the telephone call from Iman to her brother Abdullah, before she sought refuge in the Saudi embassy in Tehran, gave her new hope. She confirmed that none of her children have anything whatsoever to do with suspicions of terrorism, and they lived in Afghanistan with their father because they are his family.
Najwa al-Ghanem also commended the embassy of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Tehran. She told Asharq Al-Awsat “God knows that they have done very well, we are in their debt, those in the embassy have treated my daughter with love and respect and honor, they have treated her like their own daughter. We wish them all the best and may God bless them, and their efforts to return her [Iman] to the bosom of her family, and their good deeds on the Day of Judgment, God willing.
An official in the Saudi embassy who wished to remain anonymous refused to comment on the details of Iman’s life in the Saudi embassy in Iran, saying only that one could confirm her wellbeing from her siblings and mother who check up on her on a daily basis, and communication between them is not interrupted. The official also pointed out that talking to the media may damage the mediation efforts that are being made with the Iranian authorities [for the return of the Saudi citizens].
For his part, Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden’s fourth son told Asharq Al-Awsat that he had no idea that his brothers and sisters were alive until they contacted him in November and informed him that they had fled Afghanistan prior to the September 11 attacks, walking to the Iranian border. They were then transferred to a [residential] compound surrounded by fences outside of Tehran where the guards informed them that they were not allowed to leave for their own safety. He said “the time has come for the children of Bin Laden to return to their good and pure homeland and their beloved Saudi Arabia rather than this dispersion [of family members] that we are experiencing today.”
Omar Bin Laden also said that his relatives “live a good life as much as possible in Iran today, cooking food and watching television and reading. They are infrequently allowed outside on shopping trips.” He thanked the Iranian authorities for taking good care of his siblings, and added “The Iranian government did not know what to do with this large group of people that nobody wants, they therefore looked after their safety. Therefore we owe them a lot of gratitude, and we thank Iran from the bottom of our hearts.” Omar Bin Laden now hopes that his family will be allowed to leave Iran and reunite with his mother or reunite with the family in Saudi Arabia, and his brother and sister in Syria, or join him and his wife in Qatar.
The group that is present in Iran includes one of Osama Bin Laden’s wives, six of his children, and eleven of his grandchildren, all of whom have been living in a [residential] compound outside of Tehran under strict security measures for the past eight years.
The US and Afghan forces launched a large-scale attack on the Tora Bora mountains in 2001 to hunt down the Saudi born Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden has never been found, and it is believed that he is still hiding out in the mountainous border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Najwa married her cousin Osama Bin Laden when she was 15 years old and he was 17 years old. She bore him 6 sons and 4 daughters. Osama Bin Laden’s first wife also revealed new details about the character of America’s Most Wanted man, revealing details about his private, his relationship with his wives and children, and his hobbies, in a special book published in London two months ago.
Najwa said that her husband is a “frugal father who banned his children from having toys and banned his wives from using modern tools in the house, but he loved nature and cultivating flowers. He [also] spoke English fluently and he loved fast cars.”
In this book, Bin Laden’s first wife, and his fourth son Omar, gave a unique perspective on the personal life of the Al Qaeda leader at the time of the September 11 attacks on America.