Osama bin Laden may be dead and his Abbottabad compound destroyed but his wives are made-to-be reality TV stars. The terrorist leader's three wives and eight of his 20 children are currently being held under house arrest in Islamabad for illegally entering the country. Call us facetious, but if you've been following this ill-tempered lot of people, you'd realize they have all the trappings of cable TV gold.
Last night, bin Laden's oldest wife Khairiah, 62, and his youngest wife Amal, 29, had to be restrained from attacking each other for the second time in a week, reports The Sun's chief foreign correspondent Nick Parker. The flare up happened just days after a widely-cited scuffle in which Pakistani security officials had to separate the two wives in a fight triggered from Amal's suspicions that Khairiah betrayed bin Laden and leaked his whereabouts to U.S. officials. "The brawling pair ... had to be pulled apart by shocked troops [who] were under strict instructions never to leave oldest missus Khairiah alone with youngest Amal— in case one of them kills the other."
If that sort of soap opera subplot isn't enough to light up TV sets, the wives' bitterly-coarse language surely is. During Thursday's fight, a Pakistani official told The Sun that Amal accused Khairiah of being "the real killer of bin Laden" for giving away bin Laden's location. In return Khairiah accused Amal of "sticking to Osama like a prostitute who wanted sex 24 hours a day."
It's the sort of dysfunctional family dynamics that make the Osbournes look tame, and there's more where that came from. Two weeks ago, retired Pakistani Army brigadier Shaukat Qadir put together the most comprehensive account yet of the bin Laden's family life in the days before bin Laden was caught. From the bits leaking out from the still unpublished report, The New York Times Declan Walsh reported that a "poisonous mistrust between Bin Laden's wives" existed and The Associated Press said tensions went downhill when bin Laden's oldest wife arrived at the compound in early 2011.
"There was already bad blood between Khairiah, who married bin Laden in the late 1980s, and Amal because of bin Laden's favoritism for the younger Yemeni woman," reported the news service. Outside of the incessant cat-fighting there was also, apparently, romance. In the cramped household, bin laden shared a room with his youngest Yemeni wife Amal. "Osama loved me the most. We used to talk about romance - other things apart from Al Qaeda things," she said in recently released transcripts from ISI interviews.
The tensions weren't confined to the ladies either. Bin laden's son Khalid was immediately suspicious of Khairiah and repeatedly asked why she had come to the compound. She eventually told him, somewhat creepily, "I have one final duty to perform for my husband." That was enough to trigger anxieties in Khalid and he immediately told his dad that she "intended to betray him."
It's quite the sordid, self-destructive charade, especially considering that no evidence exists that Khairiah had any role in bin laden's death. (U.S. and Pakistani accounts maintain that bin Laden was found when his courier inadvertently led the CIA to the compound.) Regardless, the family is down-on-its luck and may be desperate enough for a small screen drama. Do it, Bravo!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.