In journalism parlance, securing an impressive interview is called a "get," and Martin Chulov got one. In an article for the Guardian that he writes is the first time Osama bin Laden's mother has spoken out, Chulov explains that Saudi Arabia's new leadership is a contributing factor in how he came face-to-face with her: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the interview. Chulov sets the stage, describing Alia Ghanem as sitting in a room in her Jiddah mansion, a product of the family's storied wealth and indicative of their position in the country, one that results in their "movements and engagements remain[ing] closely monitored." Chulov sees a motivation in granting the interview: being able to "demonstrate that an outcast—not [a Saudi] agent—was responsible for 9/11."
The space is peppered with photographs of her firstborn, and she's flanked by her two surviving sons and the second husband who raised bin Laden from the age of 3. She says the change came later, at university in Jiddah. "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. ... 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." When she leaves the room to rest, one of her sons cautions that "she remains in denial about Osama" and continues to assign blame elsewhere. She last saw her son in Afghanistan in 1999 and "never got to know the jihadist side" of him, he says. Read the full piece, which touches on the rise of bin Laden's youngest son. (Read more Osama bin Laden stories.)