The fight against terrorism in Saudi Arabia is taken very seriously and hundreds of terrorists have been caught. Last March 113 members of sleeper cells were arrested. The Saudi media at the time did not focus much on who these people were, until June 3rd when the head of Al Qaeda in Yemen, Saeed Al Shihri threatened to assassinate members of the royal family and government officials if Heila Al Qusayer was not freed.
Heila is a 36 year old Saudi woman from a respectable and upper middle class family from the Qaseem region. In March she was apprehended by the Saudi secret services at the home of another terrorist. However the government has a policy of respecting the privacy of women terrorists so not much was known about her before the Qaeda demands. But when Al Shihri showed how desperate Al Qaeda is for her release, people became curious.
Heila grew up in Qasseem and obtained a BA degree in geography. During her time in college something drew her into extremism and she eventually ended up married to an influential extremist who also was much older than her. Her first husband, Abdulkareem Al Humaid, is a former ARAMCO employee. He quit his job and lived a life of complete extremist Puritanism, no electricity, cars or any other modern invention. It’s rumoured that he didn’t even use paper money. Due to his preaching of Islamic fundamentalism he was arrested and imprisoned to this day. From prison, he divorced Heila and advised a former student of his, Mohammed Al Wakael to marry her. They married and during her pregnancy with her now 5 year old daughter, Al Wakael was shot down by the Saudi Special Forces. Since his death Heila’s activities intensified. She would go around proselytizing Al Qaeda’s version of Islam. She managed to collect substantial sums of money under the pretense of building mosques and helping orphans. She is documented to have transferred 650,000 dollars to Al Qaeda. She uses women to recruit men to the cause. The terrorist’s home that she was found in was actually a moderate Muslim who was changed by Heila after she became close to his wife. Sixty Qaeda members took orders from her and she arranged safe houses for hiding.
The use of women to recruit men has become a noticeable trend. Three factors are creating this phenomenon; the enormous percentage of unemployed women who are a product of our borderline extremist education system, their access to the internet and the fact that 83% of all Saudis are under the age of 39. Although they might not be out fighting and bombing, they are doing something just as sinister by spreading the ideology online and recruiting the men in their families. Before Heila, this was going on relatively undetected and even those that are caught are treated as victims rather than as perpetrators.
A point made by Ms. Hessa Al Sheikh in her widely read article. She is unimpressed by how these terrorist women are portrayed in the media. As an example she gives Sheikh Al Swailim’s interview regarding Heila. Sheikh Al Swailim is on the counseling committee. He meets with caught terrorists and tries to convince them that their ideology is wrong. When he was asked about Heila he referred to her as “sister Heila, a very simple woman who was stressed and revengeful after the killing of her second husband”. Sheikh Al Swailim went on to say that he found her quite “rational” in her argument and that the “poor woman” is “uneducated” and here Ms. Hessa Al Sheikh points out how could she be uneducated when she has a BA?
Sheikh Al Swailim claims that Heila only after a 90 minute conversation became remorseful and Ms. Hessa Al Sheikh remarks that’s not counseling, that’s magic! And then she moves on to Prof. Al Saeedi, who was on the same show that sheikh Al Swailim was on, he is of the view that Heila is not important but only an “exploited” woman who the media is using to draw our attention away from Gaza and the flotilla. Another guest on that show, Sheikh Al Maliki, had the audacity to claim that some of these terrorists are actually agents from the West and that they are working under the umbrella of foreign countries and embassies to defeat our country.
Fortunately some good did come out of the capture of Heila Al Qusayer. She provided the government sensitive information about Al Qaeda and just by being, she shows us how big a threat women of her mindset are. Now the Ministry of Islamic Affairs is looking into regulating those that call themselves dayia (Islamic missionary), a title that Heila used to get access to social circles.
On a lighter note, one of the articles I read on Heila’s capture had a commenter asking how was she identified and that he hoped that they did not resort to uncovering her face. As if that was all that mattered, that a Muslim woman’s face remains covered!