Libya rape woman ‘fears for her life’
Iman al-Obeidi says she has been released from detention but is receiving death threats from Gaddafi loyalists
- Associated Press
- guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 5 April 2011 08.30 BST
- Article history
A Libyan woman, who was bundled out of a hotel in Tripoli after claiming she had been repeatedly raped by government militia, told CNN she has been released from detention but is receiving death threats from Muammar Gaddafi loyalists.
The US news channel said it was confident the woman interviewed was Iman al-Obeidi, who made international headlines in March when she was dragged from the Rixos hotel by government agents after alleging she was raped by 15 men.
The CNN interviewer Anderson Cooper said the network was satisfied the woman he spoke to via telephone was the 29-year-old lawyer after days of research and from the testimony of several people who had talked with her at the hotel. She spoke in Arabic through a female translator, but was not shown on camera.
Her story was consistent with the account Obeidi gave at the hotel. She told CNN: “There is no safe place for me in Tripoli. All my phones are monitored, even this phone I am speaking on right now is monitored. And I am monitored. Yesterday I was kidnapped by a car and they beat me in the street, then brought me here after I was dragged around. Yes, yes, I want to leave Tripoli. In the middle of the night I get nightmares, and I feel threats 24 hours a day. They are constantly threatening me with death.”
The woman said after the uproar at the Rixos, Gaddafi’s militamen gave her clean clothes and took her to a Libyan TV station to have her broadcast a recantation of her story, but she refused to do so.
“The TV station has no credibility and I was fearing the consequences,” she told CNN. “Behind the camera, I was facing 15 Kalashnikovs.”
On Sunday and Monday, Obeidi had telephone interviews with two TV channels. A government official said she had an agreement not to talk to reporters, but was blocked from getting to the reporters’ hotel again on Sunday.
The last time Obeidi, who is from eastern Libya, which is in rebel hands, was seen was when she was removed from the hotel.
She said Gaddafi loyalists had abducted her from a taxi at a checkpoint, repeatedly raped her and held her captive for two days. “Of course they had my hands tied behind me and they had my legs tied and they would hit me when I was tied, and they would bite me, and they would pour alcohol in my eyes so I would not be able to see,” she told CNN.
“One of them, when my hands were still tied and before he raped me, sodomised me with his Kalashnikov rifle. They said: ‘Let the men from eastern Libya come and see how we treat their women, and how we rape them, and abuse them.'” She said she escaped after she being untied by another captive, a 16-year-old girl.
The woman who spoke to CNN claimed she was detained and beaten when she tried to reach reporters in the hotel a second time on Sunday. She said she had been prevented from leaving the country at the Tunisian border, west of Tripoli, and returned to the capital.
On Sunday a Qatar-based Libyan dissident network played a phone interview where a woman claiming to be Obeidi said Libyan authorities had declined her request to join her parents in Tobruk, a port city near the Egyptian border, which is also under rebel control.
A government spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said Obeidi had made a deal with the attorney general not to speak to reporters so as not to compromise her case, and he was aware she was trying to reach media on Sunday. “She broke her agreement with the attorney general by trying to speak to the media and was taken away,” Ibrahim said.
He added that he did not know what happened to Obeidi after she was removed from the hotel.
Afaf Youssef, a woman the government says is Obeidi’s lawyer, told claims her client is refusing to speak to reporters because her case is under investigation.
Youssef said she was one of two lawyers taking up the criminal case against the men. She also denied government claims that Obeidi was a prostitute.
Her rape claim could not be independently verified.