On Saturday, Libyan woman Eman al-Obeidy walked into a hotel in Tripoli, Libya, populated by foreign journalists in order to let the world know that Col. Moammar Qaddafi’s military forces had beaten and raped her. What followed was a violent scuffle, as al-Obeidy was forcibly removed by Qaddafi’s men, despite the protests and protections of international media. It was a violent and graphic reminder that women and girls often face specific and harrowing abuse in times of war and conflict.
According to reports, al-Obeidy barged into the breakfast room at the Hotel Rixos, where journalists had been staying at the behest of Qaddafi’s regime, and breathlessly told members of the media that she had been repeatedly raped and violated by 15 of Qaddafi’s men. “They say that we are all Libyans and we are one people,” she said. “But look at what the Qaddafi men did to me,” pointing to a bruise on her face, a scar on her thy and scratch marks on her leg. “I was tied up, and they defecated and urinated on me. They violated my honor.” Al-Obeidy stressed that the real story of the struggle in Libya wasn’t being told. “There is no media coverage outside,” she said. “They swore at me and they filmed me. I was alone. There was whiskey. I was tied up. I am not scared of anything. I will be locked up immediately after this.” She added: “Look at my face. Look at my back.”
As al-Obeidy was speaking to the assembled media, several members of Qaddafi’s forces burst in and forcibly removed her. One security officer pulled out a revolver. Two members of the hotel staff threatened el-Obeidy and members of the media with knives, shouting, “Why are you doing this? You are a traitor!” Moussa Ibrahim, a representative for the government claimed, “She is drunk, she is suffering from mental problems She is refusing cooperation. She might be a mental patient. I insisted even if she does not know what is good for her, she should have a lawyer. The prosecutor thinks this is an ordinary criminal case of rape.” One member of the media, Charles Clover of the Financial Times, was thrown in a van and driven to the border, because Libyan officials felt his reports were “inaccurate.”
Al-Obeidy’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Ibrahim claimed that “her safety is of course guaranteed,” and that authorities were investigating her accusations. [NYT]