In the aftermath of September 11th Kola Boof raised more than eyebrows with the assertion that she and Osama Bin Laden were once lovers. Like the opinions the Sudanese native shares as an outspoken writer and poet, the affair remains controversial and questionable in many circles. In the following essay Boof revisits her days with “Somi” and invites us to consider the way in which her race has fueled suspicion about the relationship.
by Kola Boof
In 2002 when the London Guardian newspaper outed my forced sexual relationship with terrorist Osama Bin Laden, the American media initially had no problem with revelations that Somi kept an Egyptian-Sudanese mistress in Morocco in 1996. My birth name, Naima Bint Harith, summoned visions of an Arab-raised aristocrat who they assumed would look like Cher. When they found out I was not only Black—but looked fully Black—and that I’d been adopted and raised by Black Americans in the United States and returned as an adult to North Africa as a model-actress, they immediately announced that I was less attractive than Prince Charles’ mistress Camilla Parker Bowles or President Clinton’s mistress Monica Lewinsky and that it couldn’t possibly be true.
Though I was featured in a two-part interview with MSNBC where I was billed as “Former Mistress of Osama Bin Laden,” and not alleged-former mistress, and was allowed to tell my story in my own words—Peter Bergen, supposedly the world’s preeminent Bin Laden expert, insisted I was making up the story and other American experts claimed that the billionaire “bin ladin” family had an upper class etiquette that would not allow an “overtly religious non-sexual” Arab Muslim Osama to have a Black mistress (yet two of Somi’s twenty-five children are black and his Syrian grandmother would be considered a Black woman in the United States). Connie Chung and her producers at CNN asked my lawyer point blank, “Why would a man of Bin Laden’s wealth and stature have a Black mistress?”
Luckily, I had very good witnesses to my experience with Bin Laden. The Italian born Prince Fabrizzio Ruspoli (owner of La Maison Arabe, at that time a bed and breakfast in Morocco’s Medina where Osama kept me) and Ruspoli’s lover Phillipe were the ones who saved me and my children from being deported by telling the U.S. State Department the truth—that I had appeared to be unhappy living with Bin Laden and that I clearly wasn’t free to leave the estate without Somi’s guards. Prince Ruspoli and Phillipe, who have since renamed the hotel’s Orange Sponge cake after me, witnessed that I was the only female in Osama’s party and that I was being monitored at all times. I was housed for six months in the Winston Churchill Room (named so because it had been the room that Churchill always stayed in) and when Somi came to Morocco to hunt Snipe, he slept in my room. Still, for fear of losing business once La Maison Arabe became a hotel, Prince Ruspoli distanced himself from the story, refusing to comment other than to the U.S. State Department and admonished me to let it die and go on with my career as a Womanist Author.
I would have loved to have let it die! Especially since I wasn’t the one who revealed my relationship with Osama and had even originally tried to deny it (see London Guardian newspaper)—but the brutal disrespect by the Americans wouldn’t stop and led to a public confrontation with Peter Bergen—a showdown that left Bergen defeated.
Bergen, who’d earned millions writing the supposed facts about Osama, attacked me for years with such ferocity that I felt forced to write my autobiography, “Diary of a Lost Girl.” When the book was released, Bergen wrote that Bin Laden’s right hand man Ayman al Zawahiri had been imprisoned in Dagestan in 1996 (making it impossible for Zawahiri to attend a party in Morocco with Somi and myself). I blew Bergen out of the water with the fact that Ayman al Zawahiri had been arrested in December 1996 and not imprisoned until April 1997—clearly making the information in my book, the woman who shared Bin laden’s bed and inner circle, more accurate than Bergen’s, the White journalist who never knew my ex-boyfriend and has never been able to track him down.
Why am I revisiting this now?
Because as a Black Woman who tells the truth yet never seems to be set free by the truth—I’m tired of being told by my own little “Birthers Movement” that I’m a fraud who wasn’t born in Africa but rather Nebraska. I’m tired of being told by Americans both White and Black that because I’m cocoa-skinned, I’m automatically ugly and undesirable. For the record, I’m prettier than Camilla Parker Bowles, Monica Lewinsky and all four of Somi’s wives. I am a chocolate colored African woman living in America and I have never been without a man—I’m not bitter or alone. I am a beautiful intelligent outspoken Egyptian Sudanese American Sunni Egypto Gisi-Waaq Oromo chocolate womanist who never wanted it known that she’d been with our generation’s Hitler and has found that being “Hitler’s girlfriend” does not sell books or make one popular, in fact it’s done the opposite—almost ruined my career and caused my children irreparable grief.
Still, I am glad that I will not end up like impregnated twelve year old slave Sally Hemmings and so many other Black concubines—raped and erased beneath hundreds of years only to resurface with their dehumanization portrayed as a love story in a television mini-series. Rarely do African women victimized on African soil get to write their own truth. I, Kola Boof, stand by mine.
Kola Boof’s latest book, The Hot Part of the Bible, will be released by Akashic Books in July 2011.