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Libya: Woman tells of her rape ordeal at the hands of Gaddafi's men

Publish Date: 12 Apr 2011
Source: Mail Online
By: Daily Mail reporter

Captive: Iman Al-Obeidi says following her rape ordeal she is now being stopped from leaving Tripoli. Photo/AP.
Scuffle: Sky News reporter Lisa Holland, bottom left, and FT journalist Charles Clover, back, attempt to protect al-Obeidi as she is threatened by government minders while trying to tell her story. Photo/AP.
Intimidation: A Libyan government official grabs al-Obeidi as she reveals details of her attack to journalists. Photo/AP.

A Libyan woman who publicly accused pro-Gaddafi militiamen of gang-raping her has, for the first time, revealed the horrifying details of her alleged attack .

Iman al-Obeidi claimed she was forced into a militia car at a checkpoint, driven to a 'palace' and brutalised by 15 drunk men over a two-day period.

After bursting into a hotel full of foreign journalists to reveal her ordeal more than two weeks ago, the 28-year-old has been charged with slander by the Libyan government and she claims the regime is refusing to allow her to leave Tripoli to return to her family.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim confirmed al-Obeidi had been raped but alleged she was a prostitute with a criminal record of petty crime and indecency.

However Al-Obeidi, who says she was a law graduate before the attack, vehemently denies Ibrahim's claims.

She said that she was tied naked and left on the floor while a total of 15 drunk men took turns to attack her - sometimes three at a time. She alleged the men choked her, covered her head while they raped her and kicked her when they finished.
Still bearing scars and bruises, al-Obeidi claimed her attackers had been drinking alcohol, which they poured into her eyes, nose, mouth and other parts of her body.

She also said she was subjected to a brutal attack with a Kalashnikov rifle and that one of her attackers was a cousin of Gaddafi.

Al-Obediei said she was returning home from a friend's house on the evening of March 24 when her taxi was stopped at a checkpoint and she was forced to climb into the militia's car when they discovered her ID card showed she was from the rebel-held east.

She said: 'There were a number of militiamen in the Toyota and another girl they had captured and stuffed on the floor of the car under their feet.'

She claims the two were taken to a large property, which looked like a palace, where her two-day rape and torture ordeal took place.

Al-Obeidi added: 'I kept fighting back. I hit back a lot and I kept fighting. They eventually tied my arms and legs together.' 

She said that she was tied naked and left on the floor while a total of 15 drunk men took turns to attack her - sometimes three at a time. She alleged the men choked her, covered her head while they raped her and kicked her when they finished.

'My neck turned blue from being strangled,' she said. 

Al-Obeidi controversially claimed that one of her attackers was a cousin of Gaddafi and the son of a government minister. She said she recognised him because she and her sister knew his family.

It wasn't until the third day of her captivity that al-Obeidi was able to escape when another captured girl helped cut the rope from her legs.

She said she jumped out of a window and ran, naked and hysterical, towards the gate threatening the African guards with a metal rod.

She added: 'I could see fear in their faces when they looked at me — my hair was wild, I was naked and screaming.

'I ran down the side of the house screaming and crying and the [rapists'] car was chasing me.

'Neighbours started to come out to look and they protected me.'

Women in the neighbourhood brought her clothes and paid for her taxi. But when they asked if she wanted to go to a police station she refused, adding: 'I didn't go because that's not where I would find justice.'

She instead went straight to the Rixos hotel in Tripoli where she knew the foreign journalists were staying.  

Al-Obeidi defied government minders to storm into the hotel on March 26 so she could tell her ordeal to the foreign press - and the television pictures of her outburst were shown around the world.

Journalists were forced to protect al-Obeidi as Libyan government minders tried to silence her with physical force, with some calling her 'a dog'. Journalists ended up being punched themselves and their equipment was  smashed by the minders. 

Iman al-Obeidi was then arrested and charged with slander following her claims.

Since her outburst, al-Obeidi said people on the streets had praised her bravery, with some cab drivers refusing to take her money and, in the rebel-held east, she has been hailed a hero for speaking out in the face of extreme intimidation.

She said: 'Many people — young men and women — come up to me in the street when they know I am Iman al-Obeidi and tell me they admire my courage. 

In the east of Libya, she has been held up as a symbol of the brutality of Gaddafi's regime. Women in Benghazi have marched through the city carrying her picture, while local papers have published coverage of her story.

One eastern paper ran a front-page story about a man who offered to marry al-Obeidi and dispatched a group of friends and relatives to discuss the matter with her parents in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Al-Obeidi was able to tell her story to two female journalists - alone and away from the Libyan government minders who have kept an almost constant watch over the foreign press.

The woman said after her arrest at the hotel she was detained for three days and was beaten, left to lie on the floor without food or drink before being released. 

Now al-Obeidi said the only thing she wants is to return to her family in opposition-controlled eastern Libya. However the regime is refusing to let her leave Tripoi, she claimed.

'They are trying to punish me, as if I am some sort of enemy and so I am scared and I want to just go home,' she said.

Copyright © Associated Newspapers Ltd 2011