Sunday, April 18, 2010

Inside the Kingdom by Carmen Bin Ladin

Having heard things about the treatment of women in Iraq, I wondered how Carmen Bin Ladin would describe Saudi Arabia and the Bin Laden family. Inside the Kingdom gives her account of her life there.

Carmen was raised in Switzerland by a Persian (Iranian) mother and a Swiss father. She met Yeslam Bin Ladin in Switzerland and together they attended college in Californina. Carmen tells how big a step it was to go from American freedom to the strictures imposed on women in Saudi Arabia. She talks about how women aren't encouraged to have opinions on much of anything and how difficult it was for her to hold a conversation with her mother- and sisters-in-law. Due to catastrophic events in the country, Yeslam started to have a quiet nervous breakdown. Carmen knew her own and the lives of her three girls would come under less and less freedom, so after a vacation in Geneva, she and the girls stayed. When called to Saudi Arabia to appear in divorce court, Carmen believed that her husband would have accused her of adultery for which the penalty is death. She hadn't gone back as of the writing of this book.

Just as interesting as her own story, one finds Osama Bin Ladin woven through the tale. One of the most eye-opening passages tells how Osama became a national hero when he went to Afghanistan with heavy equipment to help the Afghanis build bunkers and tunnels during the Russian invasion. It occurred to me, "No wonder he's so hard to find! He built all the hidey-holes himself!"

This book was an education for me. It's short and a quick read. You can find it in the Biography section.


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