Carmen Bin Laden
By The Ambassadors Staff
Carmen Bin Laden is half Swiss and half Iranian, and was married for 14 years to Yeslam Bin Laden, a younger half-brother of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the 10th son of the family patriarch, Sheikh Mohamed. Yeslam is seen as a Westernized leader of the Binladin Group, a highly successful holding company. For 9 years, Carmen Bin Laden was part of the Bin Laden clan and was Osama's former sister-in-law. During this time, she lived in Saudi Arabia with the extended Bin Laden clan between 1976 and 1985. She married Yeslam, when they were students in California, and had their first child there. She played tennis, and dressed her daughter in t-shirts and shorts. Today, she lives in Switzerland.
Yeslam Bin Ladin
In 1985, the Bin Ladins relocated to Geneva, where they had a third daughter. There, Yeslam became more and more controlling, as a result the marriage crumbled and Carmen left her husband in 1988, and asked for divorce in 1994. She was finally divorced after 15 years in January 2006. Yeslam now has cut-off all the contact with his daughters. He said, "they are not the Saudi daughters he thought he should have." Yeslam and Osama Bin Ladin's father Sheikh Mohammed was the founder of an amazingly powerful Bin Laden Organization, and himself had 22 wives.
In 2004, Carmen released her book entitled Inside
the Kingdom: My life in Saudi Arabia, which was published and reprinted
by Warner Books Inc., New York. In her book, she discusses the laws, as seen
from the women's quarters in the religious Saudi culture, which few Westerners
have seen. Her book, when released in February 2004 in
France, became an instant bestseller. The book received wide-ranging reviews
from the western press, with the New York Times calling it "a fiery case against
the oppression and fanaticism that dominates much of Saudi society" and
endorsing her conclusion that "the Saudis are the Taliban, in luxury.'" The
International Herald Tribune described it as the "[c]hronicles of a
married life in a puritanical, male-dominated community where 'women are no more
than house pets."
Osama Bin Laden's former sister-in-law provides a penetrating, unusually intimate look into Saudi society and the Bin Laden family's role within it, as well as the treatment of Saudi women. Her story takes us inside the Bin Laden family and one of the most powerful, secretive, and repressed kingdoms in the world. From secret Saudi lesbian trysts, a husband who ordered her to have abortions, and the magical power of the name bin Laden within the Saudi luxury class, Carmen weaves a compelling story few have documented with such an eye for perversity. In one account, she mentioned that one day, she found herself with a group of wives, who included a timid young woman called Najwah who was one of Osama's wives. She was trying to spoon-feed their baby with water in the stifling heat. The infant was too small to take water from a spoon, and Carmen urged her to use a bottle, but Nagwah refused because Osama had decreed that rubber-nipples were un-Islamic. The baby was in terrible distress, but none of the women dared intervene. She tells of how Osama was admired by his family and others in the Kingdom. His was a noble cause. "Osama was a warrior -- a Saudi hero," she exclaims. When Carmen met Osama for the first time, she was almost unimpressed: "He was not strikingly different from the other brothers -- just younger, and more reserved." But then there's this: "When Osama stepped into the room, you felt it." It's one of many lines in "Inside the Kingdom" that leaves us desperate for more.
Today Carmen's three daughter lead lives far removed from that which she describes in her book. Her 29-year old daughter Najia began her own business and the youngest, Noor, is in college. The eldest, Wafah is perhaps the most famous of the femme fatale Bin Ladins. The 32 year old American citizen earned two law degrees (including a masters from Columbia University), and travels between Geneva and London. An aspiring singer-songwriter who is rumoured to be working with Madonna's producers, Wafah took up modeling in a highly-publicized move. She was recently quoted in Men's magazine GQ saying "it isn't easy being the sexy Bin Ladin!" She recently changed her last name to Dufour, her mother's maiden name.
Carmen Bin Ladin in her home in Switzerland.
Carmen's daughter Wafah Bin Ladin
Wafah Bin Ladin raised eyebrows and pulses in the Kingdom and outside for her provocative modeling poses.