Osama Bin Laden's mother breaks 17-year silence on her son
It's been nearly 17 years since 9/11, and still the name Osama Bin Laden brings a distinct pang of hatred and anger into the hearts of all those who were affected by the tragedy. The former leader of Al-Qaeda was of course killed by a US special ops unit in 2011, but his horrific legacy still lives on.
More prominently, though, Bin Laden is remembered by his family - many of whom still have a great deal of influence in Saudi Arabian society. And perhaps it's because so much time has passed since his death, or maybe it's because she's felt a burning desire to speak out for so long, but finally, after a lifetime of silence, Alia Ghanem (Bin Laden's mother) has spoken to the media for the first time.
In an interview with The Guardian, Ghanem gave details about her life and how it changed after her son's fall from grace.
"My life was very difficult because he was so far away from me," she said, recalling a time when her son was still a major part of her life. "He was a very good kid and he loved me so much."
And Ghanem refuses to say that her son was always an extremist. Instead, she insists, he was "brainwashed" as a young man.
"The people at university changed him. He became a different man," she said;
"He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s. You can call it a cult. They got money for their cause. I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much."
Hassan, one of Bin Laden's half-brothers, concurred with this account.
"Everyone who met him in the early days respected him," he explained. "At the start, we were very proud of him. Even the Saudi government would treat him in a very noble, respectful way. And then came Osama the mujahid."
And, like his mother, he has some conflicting viewpoints on his brother.
"I am very proud of him in the sense that he was my oldest brother. He taught me a lot. But I don’t think I’m very proud of him as a man. He reached superstardom on a global stage, and it was all for nothing."
When asked how she felt when her son had become a jihadist, however, Ghanem changed her tone.
"We were extremely upset. I did not want any of this to happen," she said. "Why would he throw it all away like that?"
Another of Bin Laden's brothers, Ahmad, later explained that his mother had never come to terms with the fact that her son was responsible for one of the single-largest massacres in history.
"She loved him so much and refuses to blame him," he said. "Instead, she blames those around him. She only knows the good boy side, the side we all saw. She never got to know the jihadist side."
And despite our utter contempt for Bin Laden and all those who aided him, if her statements in this interview are to be taken as sincere, it appears that his mother never saw the change in her son coming - nor did she have much power to stop it.
To us, he will always be a figure of pure evil. To Alia Ghanem, though, Bin Laden is also her son.