Rape and Bravery in the Libyan War

by Emilie Branch

On Saturday morning, a woman named Eman al-Obeidy broke into the Libyan hotel reserved for members of the press  to tell journalists that she had been raped by members of Quaddafi’s militia. The journalists rushed to al-Obeidy, trying to interview, photograph, and eventually protect her. The scene quickly turned into a mini-war with al-Obeidy at the center. The waiters of the hotel, who are actually part of Quaddafi’s security, grabbed knives from the table and attacked the woman. The press had been invited to stay by Quaddafi himself, and are confined to the hotel but allowed out on official outings.

In spite of the scuffle, al-Obeidy was able to explain the gravity of her situation. “Look at what the Quaddafi men did to me.” She showed her bruises—a large mark on her face, a scar on her upper thigh, scratches on her lower leg, and welts from being tied up by her hands and feet.  She had been raped by 15 men, saying, “I was tied up, and they defecated and urinated on me. They violated my honor.” Eman al-Obeidy is not the only woman prisoner, and she pleaded for friends as she recounted the atrocity. “They are still there, they are still there. As soon as I leave here, they are going to take me to jail.”

It’s impossible not to admire Eman’s courage. She was stopped by military outside of Tripoli and held for two days because she is a native of rebel stronghold Benghazi. She managed to escape to the hotel, where she specifically asked to speak to The New York Times and Reuters, exclaiming, “There is no media coverage outside.” Michael Georgy of Reuters was able to get a very brief interview. He reports she told him, “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. Look at my face. Look at my back.”  Eman al-Obeidy was dragged from the hotel by security, kicking and screaming. A government spokesman said that Obeidy is in custody of Libyan police detectives and that her case is being investigated to the full extent of the law. He ensured that she would be able to meet with journalists again. Five men, including the son of a high ranked official, were arrested on Sunday for crimes against Obeidy. 

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