Ayman Zawahiri – Come On Down!

¡¡You’re the next contestant on Who Wants to be a Martyr?!!

Portrait du “docteur” Zawahiri, le successeur potentiel de Ben Laden http://lemde.fr/jWKbaC


Le Monde

Anyway, Doctor, for as long as you are still around and in-line to head the Al-Qaeda organization – and keep in mind that two of your operatives have already been killed recently in Yemen by unmanned drones (link in Danish) – let’s take a look at this examination of your background, thoughtfully provided by Le Monde.

Firstly, for this visual age of ours it’s important to have a “grip & grin”-type photo together with the predecessor, as a token that he at least regarded the subject as a decent jihadi sort of fellow. Check! (True: there’s no “grip” in the picture provided here, and for that matter also very little “grin”; I think those things are probably un-Islamic.) In good newspaper-style, though, author Cécile Hennion cuts right to the essentials of why Zawahiri is the best bet to succeed Osama Bin Laden in her very first paragraph:

“Doctor” Zawahiri, with an Egyptian degree in surgery, is considered the ideologist of Al-Qaeda and the “brain” behind the September 11, 2001 attacks. He has for a long time been Osama Bin Laden’s principal lieutenant and personal doctor.

Curious, then, that he wasn’t present at that Abottabad compound during that deadly raid last Monday morning (local Punjabi time). Nonetheless, he suffers no shortage of terrorist bona fides. For instance, after Osama Bin Laden came back to his native Saudi Arabia a hero from fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, but then had to flee the country due to his anti-regime agitation, it was initially only the House of Saud that he swore to lead a jihad against. Zawahiri, who first met him in Afghanistan, convinced him to widen his target to all “apostate regimes of the Muslim world.” The Doctor was also behind the fatwa of the late 1990s which declared that it was the responsibility of all good Muslims to kill Americans and their allies.

Fundamentally, though, where Bin Laden himself was Saudi, Zawahiri is Egyptian, having been born in 1951 in a Cairo suburb to a family of the “high bourgeoisie.” And it’s in Egypt that he started becoming all fanatical and everything. He was close to Sayyid Qutb, the leading radical Islamist thinker and founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, who spent most of his time in prison from the time he (Qutb, that is) was 48, in 1954, until he was finally hanged by the Egyptian authorities, after a proper show-trial, in 1966.

Apparently the 15-year-old Ayman Zawahiri was present at his trial and execution. That would be embittering enough, but what really drove him off the deep end was his own period in Egyptian jails, from his arrest in 1981 in the wake of the Sadat assassination (in which his Islamic Jihad organization was certainly involved) until 1984 – maybe only three years but replete with torture and other abuse. Once he was out, he got himself promptly out of the country, and thereafter never ceasing to plot the overthrow of Egyptian leaders, in particular Hosni Mubarak, who barely escaped an assassination attempt set up by Zawahiri’s men on a visit to Addis Ababa in 1995.

Of course, we now know that a people’s revolution, led mostly by the young and employing peaceful protests and non-violent resistance, would do the job of toppling Mubarak for him in early 2011, to the point where the ex-Egyptian president might soon be on trial for his very life. That’s one irony here. Another is the rocket-propelled supercharging applied to Zawahiri’s terroristic motivations by the three years he spent being tortured in Egyptian jails. Anyone here remember a place called Guantánamo?

An additional interesting note: A blurb at the bottom lets us know that the essential bits of this piece were actually published already in the Le Monde issue of 9 September 2009, so that that article was just slightly re-worked to reflect recent developments and published again today. This news-recycling must surely reflect the Green Movement’s growing influence in Europe!

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