Osama BinLadin Hajji (in Arabic: الحجّي بن لادن سامة) was born on the 10th March 1957 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was the eldest son of Ladin Bin Muhammad, a wealthy Saudi businessman involved in construction known for being the constructor of several of the palaces of King Said al-Saud during the 1950’s and later involved in many public works during the rule of his successor, King Faisal I al-Saud. Later he would also become Minister of Public Works, between 1972 and 1975.
Osama was raised in a moderate Muslim family tending to be quite liberal if compared to the mainstream Wahhabi tendency of Saudi Arabia. But even so Osama was sent to a religious school in 1968 as he tended to be undisciplined, rebel and questioning all the time subjects as faith or family. After three years at school he was expelled making his father to feel quite ashamed.
With age Osama proved to be intelligent, cult, good speaker and with the rise of Ladin bin Muhammad to government met some of his father’s political colleagues who were well impressed with him although considering Osama as an enfant terrible.
In early 1975 he entered on the King Faisal University, in Riyadh, but not on the course his father wanted (Economics and Business Administration). Osama started Medicine and Ladin started to think his eldest son could never inherit as proper administrator the construction empire he had built.
Osama stayed shortly at Medicine as King Faisal I al-Saud was deposed by radical Moslem on March 1975 and all family was forced to flee for exile in Egypt to escape to the following persecutions.
In Egypt Ladin was able to rebuild his company thanks to the millions he was able to bring there so as to his secret account in the Somer Islands. As for Osama he entered on Medicine at the University of Cairo where he restarted his course.
There he met Abdullah Azzam, an Egyptian student who would soon become his best friend. With Azzam Osama shared his interest about politics and religion and they became inseparable.
Pilgrimage to Mecca
Not a brilliant Medicine student Osama’s staying at the University of Cairo tended to last long until in 1980 he announced he wanted to make his pilgrimage to Mecca. Ladin thought that finally his son was becoming responsible and decided join all family in pilgrimage. Aeroscraft tickets were bought but Osama took his and exchanged it for two camels leaving his father much angry.
Together with Azzam Osama started the long camel trip from Cairo to Mecca. It was a trip full of adventure which he described in detail in his notebook. But also witnessed a reality much different of what he was used to see in a large city like Cairo: widespread poverty, an enormous influence of the clergy over the populace, narrow minded and superstitious people and repression from authorities.
Was in a village of the Bedouin Free State they witnessed the stoning to death of an adulterous woman which left both pilgrims in shock. They could hardly believe what they were seeing and this made them much critical to religion.
When they finally arrived to Mecca they found a much politicized environment at the Holy City. Everyone was talking about Saddaam Hussayn regime in Iraaq and the following war against Persia so as about the russian invasion to the Moghul National Realm. There were also lots of recruiters of soldiers to fight in those two wars. Osama understood that all what he saw during his Hajj was something which should change his behavior. Instead of just talking he understood that was time to act. So Osama and Azzam joined a militia which would leave to fight the Russians and defending Islam from invaders.
With his pilgrimage completed Osama joined then to his name the noun Hajji and soon left to the Moghul National Realm.
In the Moghul National Realm
The militia they joined was a heterogeneous group of men from several countries: average people, Moslem intellectuals and former soldiers. They all stayed firstly at a training camp in the area free from russian occupation which was commanded by iraaqi mujahideen. The relation between Osama, Azzam and the iraaqi leadership was often problematic as the iraaqi were much conservative about religion.
After several weeks of training the volunteers started their guerrilla fighting against the Russians. Osama proved to be brave on combat which caused admiration and respect so as made him arise in the ranks. But the differences between him and the mujahideen militia leaders were still strong and growing.
Afraid he was going to be assassinated Osama split the militia together with twenty close associates in the beginning of 1984 and they kept the fighting by their own financed by Osama’s wealth.
With the end of war on that same year they went to hide at the mountains as their small militia tended to be seen as violating the religious principles. Composed mostly by former university students they all shared the idea that Islam should change in reaction to the highly growing fundamentalist tendency represented by the saudi and iraaqi regimes so as the average conservative Moslem regimes, including in the Moghul National Realm.
During the next years they stayed in hide at the mountains not far from the border with Kaxmir. Their number grown as every time Osama returned shortly to Egypt to bring money also comes back to the mountain base with more sympathizers. Also with weapons and books.
The militia soon started a guerrilla against the moghul regime in order to fight what they considered “a primitive and oppressive regime”. But they often weren’t well received by the conservative mountain villagers.
Osama used to spend his free time reading and writing his memories. Beside the Koran he had books by authors such as Karl Marx, Seoirse Bearnárd Ó Sé, Ion Lemmon, Seoirse Fferreir among others. All these books helped to shape his ideals, combining libertarian ideals to Islam.
This combination made appear a truly eclectic sect of which Osama was the spiritual and military leader. Osama started to be known by his followers as Sheikh Osama or simply Shin (ﺵ), the first Arabic letter of the word sheikh.
Ideologically it defended the union between the Shiite and the Sunni, the end of the clergy (as they considered them as mass manipulators) in order to each Moslem shouldn’t have intermediates with Allah, democracy and fighting against religious fundamentalism, theocracy and sharia law, including by violent means. Also Koran was starting to be rewritten and modernized in order to adapt it to present day. Later it would also embrace parts of the ecotopist ideology.
In 1988 Osama founded al-Itihad (The Union) as a military organization based on his political and religious ideologies. By this time he already had more than one thousand armed followers and the moghul regime started to be quite worried about their growing power so as about their subversive ideals.
The Moghul army was sent in full strength in July 1989 to the remote mountain area where Osama and his organization were based and this forced them to evacuate. They crossed the border and installed in a remote area of Kaxmir where a new base was built in harsh conditions. But as soon Kaxmir army reacted they were forced once again to retreat during 1990.
By that time Osama was already known throughout the Moslem countries. Seeing al-Itihad as a “liberation movement” the provocative president of Libya, Ahmad Qadhdhafi, offered them political exile and they were able to leave Kaxmir.
During the staying in Libya Osama was able to meet personally Qadhdhafi who got a certain interest about his ideas and supplied al-Itihad with weapons, funds and permitted to build a training camp in the south of the country. But in time the relationship between them deteriorated and a new retreat seemed to be urgent.
The Islamic Revolution in Sanjak (May 1991) was Osama’s perfect excuse to leave Libya as “the offensive of the obscurantist was in march and was time once again to act”, according to Osama’s own words. Osama also later described Qadhdhafi “as dangerous as Sheik Hussayn [the president of Iraaq] or as Omar al-Wahhab [the Grand Mufti and spiritual leader of Saudi Arabia]”.
In the Balkans
Osama and the al-Itihad left Libya on June 1991 with the purpose of stopping the recently occurred Islamic Revolution in Sanjak. They entered through Bulgaria, by the same ways used by the weapons smugglers.
Guerrilla was fought against the Holy Army of Sanjak so as selective killings were made against sanjaki military and clerics. Often were used snipers and bombings but the effect wasn’t as good as expected. Beside the sanjaki and the foreign mujahedeen knew better the battlefield. After two months of failure Osama was forced to retreat crossing the bulgarian border and entering in Albania, where another islamic revolution had just failed. During the retreat Abdullah Azzam lost a leg due to a landmine. Azzam received medical treatment in Albania and left the fighting. He would later become the publisher of Osama’s books.
Also during their fight in Sanjak Osama was interviewed for the first time by Al-Jazarya Television which was a great chance to make his movement achieve international notoriety. But that notoriety also made him the most wanted man in all Muslim world as fatwas were issued against him by clerics from Saudi Arabia and Iraaq, and in Moghul National Realm government proclaimed that the religious agitator Osama binLadin, if he ever entered the nation, was to be arrested immediately and executed without trial for his crimes against religion.
In Albania Osama was well received by moderate regime although it kept a certain public distance to avoid trouble with conservative Moslem. Soon he understood that shouldn’t stay there for long and a new destination and fight was chosen: Al-Basra.
At the Basri Rebellion
Osama and his group left Albania to join the fight of the Basri. For him the basri rebels were fighting his own war, against the iraaqi fundamentalists. Al-Basra had declared independence in the wake of the Gulf War where Iraaq was defeated by an international coalition which freed Kuwayt. For Osama it was the fight between radical oppressors, the iraaqi, against a Muslim people who wanted to be free.
Osama led his guerrilla force over the battlefield so had used terrorist methods against the iraaqi forces. As in Sanjak bombing attacks and selective killings of iraaqi military were made. Several high iraaqi ranks were shot or bombed, sometimes in large scale synchronized attacks where several bombs exploded at the same time in different places or exploded at the passage of the running away troops.
His strategies caught once again the attention of international media and he was several times interviewed by foreign journalists. Sheikh Osama or Shin became a well known name throughout Muslim world and he took the chance to spread his ideas through television, especially through Al-Jazarya which was often accused of spreading subversion.
Meanwhile Abdullah Azzam published Osama’s first book in 1992, “The Camel Diaries”, which were in fact the memoirs written during their pilgrimage to Mecca twelve years before. The book sold well in some moderate Muslim countries while in others was simply censored.
Osama’s troops also started to attack within Iraaq during 1992. They often attacked oil industry facilities in order to make Iraaq weaker. They were more and more daring as they penetrated deeper in Iraaq to perpetrate their attacks and spread propaganda and lies. The far they went was Al-Kut, just about 160 km east from Baghdaad, on July 1995.
The fall of Saddaam Hussayn’s theocratic regime became a major purpose and Osama was able to meet iraaqi dissidents both in Al-Basra so as inside Iraaq from 1996 on. Among iraaqi regime eliminating Osama became also a major purpose and the secret police widely used informers to trace him inside and outside the country.
Also in 1996 Azzam published Osama’s second book, “The New Islam”, on which he described in detail his political and religious points of views. Only in the most liberal Muslim countries such book was briefly sold as violent demonstrations made by the conservative occurred and soon after governments intervened close the publishers to end the publication and calm down the people. Just few thousands of exemplars survived, mostly in the hands of college students and intellectuals. Such demonstrations attracted once again international attentions and more interviews were made with Osama giving him more and more visibility.
Finally iraaqi secret police located Osama, on March 2000. They were able to infiltrate an informer within al-Itihad, disguised as a college teacher from Syria. Later this one followed the troops in their attacks against Iraaq and also in time was able to win a certain trust from Osama.
Last Osama’s appearance on television was on September 2001 when on an interview he condemned the attacks of that month against the World Trade Towers, in New Amsterdam. He considered that religious fundamentalism wasn’t a threat just to Muslim countries. It was threatening the whole world.
On early October 2001 iraaqi military forces were notified by the infiltrated element of the location of Osama. A commando, led personally by Osama, was near Nasiriyah (east Iraaq, not far from basri border). The iraaqi forces were able to encircle Osama’s commando about 20 km south from Nasiriyah. With artillery and air bombings the whole commando was decimated.
The iraaqi national television announced the death of Osama on the 8th October 2001 and few days later showed images of the dead commando forces. What was identified as Osama’s corpse was shown as a war trophy and was widely used by iraaqi propaganda during the last years of the theocratic regime.
Osama BinLadin remains as one of the most controversial religious leaders of late 20th century and used to describe himself as “a devout Muslim and free thinker”. There is no consensus about his figure. His sympathizers, mostly leftist Muslim intellectuals, see him as an idealist, a freedom fighter, a religious reformer or even a martyr. His life and death originated a cult of personality and all sorts of legends. Some doubt he really died and consider the images shown by iraaqi television were a propagandistic forgery. In fact after his alleged death, on the 8th October 2001, images showing Osama or speeches were broadcasted but it’s possible all were made before.
It was told Osama’s corpse was amputated and his head cut off. These remains are supposed to have been sent to Saddaam Hussayn who later had sent it as a gift to Omar al-Wahhab, the spiritual leader of Saudi Arabia. Nothing of this was ever confirmed.
All these doubts and legends made grow a strong cult of personality among leftist Moslem and at university circles throughout Muslim world. During late 1990’s an anonymous artist portrayed Osama and this image became widely reproduced and an icon for leftist Moslem.
Unlike leftists, moderate conservative see Osama as a subversive element and for fundamentalists he was a dangerous heretic agitator.
Historians consider Osama and his campaigns as a response to the growing radicalism among the Moslem since the 1970’s. In fact theocracies arose and islamic revolutions occurred since in 1975 the reformist saudi king Faisal I al-Saud was deposed by radicals.
It’s unknown how far Osama’s ideals’ influence among the ordinary people goes. It seems these are much stronger among intellectual and university circles, which mean a minority among all Moslem. But from this minority might come some of the future Muslim world leaders so Osama’s ideals might just be starting to be spread.