Libyan Rape Victim Faces Criminal Charges

I think Libya exists in an alternate reality, perhaps on the other side of Alice’s looking glass. Iman al-Obeidi, the woman who was dragged away by Libyan security forces after she told foreign journalists that she had been beaten and raped by 15 of Moammar Gaddafi’s men, has now been charged with slander.

Spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said charges had been brought against her by some of the militiamen she had accused. “It’s a legal case,” Ibrahim told reporters. “The boys she accused of rape are making a case against her because it’s a grave offence to accuse someone of a sexual crime.

See what I mean? It’s crazy-upside-down-land over there.

It was unclear whether she is still in custody. Ibrahim initially said she was free and safe but then seemed to qualify this, saying he was unsure whether she was currently under investigation.

He said later that Obeidi was refusing to undergo a medical examination and that this was making it difficult to investigate her complaint. Lawyers for the men she alleges raped her were using her refusal to question the truth of her story, he added.

I wouldn’t want to be examined by anyone associated with Gaddafi either. They’d probably discover she’s no longer a virgin and then say that’s a crime too.

Previous statements in Tripoli about Obeidi have proved to be incorrect. After the hotel incident Ibrahim, the government spokesman, said she was a prostitute who had been released and was staying with a sister in Tripoli.

But in an interview with al-Jazeera Arabic TV, broadcast on Monday, Obeidi’s parents said she was being held hostage at Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in the capital.

As far as I can tell al-Obeidi, a lawyer, is still missing, and so are three other women lawyers who allegedly were abducted along with her at the checkpoint in Tripoli.

Yesterday, Iman’s family held an engagement party for her in her absence.

as they attempted to show their love and support while hundreds of Benghazi women marched through the streets demanding her release Monday, in an unprecedented move.
Women who are raped have been villified, even beheaded or stoned to death, so the fact that Eman’s family is showing support is extremely significant.

Via black sista’s blog, another news outlet says it was actually a marriage ceremony.

Eman Al-Obeidi’s fiancee has spoken earlier on Al Jazeera saying that he was already engaged to her and that they have performed the marriage ceremony with the Shiekh. Although she was not present, and her whereabouts remain unknown, Eman’s fiancee and family arranged this ceremony in her honor.

He also stated that he was proud to be married to Eman. His name is Faraj Ghaithi. The families had an understanding that they will be married in the future.

Apparently her family wanted to restore her “honor” through this process.

An Islamic marriage ceremony can take place with representatives from both sides (from the bride and groom) to give their consent. It is understood that Eman has previously agreed to marry Faraj, and that there was an ‘understanding’ between the two families.

Here is a video of the ceremony/rally.


Expert Tells Guardian UK: “Japan may have lost race to save nuclear reactor”

Google photo of Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Ian Sample, science correspondent for the Guardian, writes:

Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling-water reactors at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima, told the Guardian workers at the site appeared to have “lost the race” to save the reactor, but said there was no danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe….

“The indications we have, from the reactor to radiation readings and the materials they are seeing, suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell,” Lahey said. “I hope I am wrong, but that is certainly what the evidence is pointing towards.”

The major concern when molten fuel breaches a containment vessel is that it reacts with the concrete floor of the drywell underneath, releasing radioactive gases into the surrounding area. At Fukushima, the drywell has been flooded with seawater, which will cool any molten fuel that escapes from the reactor and reduce the amount of radioactive gas released.

Lahey said: “It won’t come out as one big glob; it’ll come out like lava, and that is good because it’s easier to cool.”….

“The reason we are concerned is that they are detecting water outside the containment area that is highly radioactive and it can only have come from the reactor core,” Lahey added. “It’s not going to be anything like Chernobyl, where it went up with a big fire and steam explosion, but it’s not going to be good news for the environment.”

Last night, ABC News talked to physicist Michio Kaku.

“Apparently, there is a crack, a crack in the vessel by which radiation is escaping,” U.S. physicist Michio Kaku said. “This could mean that if the core begins to melt, we could have a steam explosion, a hydrogen gas explosion like Chernobyl.”

So the nuke guy says it won’t be like Chernobyl, Kaku says it will. I guess we have no choice except to just wait and see.

FYI, here is an earlier interview with Kaku at KATU, Portland, Oregon.

Michio Kaku’s comments came after news that Japanese nuclear experts said they suspect there has been a possible breach at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex.

“This is huge. For the first time, they’re using that dreaded word, ‘breach,’ Kaku said during an interview at KATU’s studios. “Plutonium is the most toxic chemical known to science. A speck of plutonium, a millionth of a gram, could cause cancer.”

No matter how much Tepco and pro-nuke “experts” insist there is no danger to humans from the material that has escaped the plant, there simply is no safe level of plutonium.

The Tokyo Electric Company confirmed that AREVA-manufactured fuel assemblies containing plutonium have at least partially melted down when they said that plutonium was found on five separate sites on the reactor grounds, and they had matched the plutonium signature of fuel produced at AREVA’s La Hague facility. The fuel assemblies were first loaded in the reactor at Fukushima last September and were in Reactor 3 when the 14 meter tsunami overwhelmed the nuclear plant.

Despite the fact that plutonium is one of the most deadly substances in existence, TEPCO has insisted there is no health danger from the plutonium found on site. According to health experts, plutonium particles absorbed in the human body vastly increases the chance of dying from a fatal form of cancer.

The former DOE official said, “NNSA was warned this kind of event could happen and they chose to build the MOX plant anyway. Maybe what Japan is going through will wake up people who can call a halt to this.”


Tuesday Reads

Good morning, political junkies!! Let’s get right to the news.

President Obama gave a speech last night in which he made a pretty good case (IMO) for U.S. limited intervention in Libya. He stated that there were not going to be American boots on the ground and that the U.S. is essentially finished with its part of the operation–it will be up to the UK, France, and Italy to police the no-fly zone and to the Libyan people to depose Gaddafi and decide what comes next.

Surprisingly, Obama was a bit more animated than usual–actually emphasizing points with his voice and at times appearing almost passionate. At least the speech didn’t start to put me to sleep until the last several minutes.

Obama indicated that the U.S. will continue to support efforts to set up a functioning government in Libya, but that will be a non-military effort. If he stands strong with that, I think he’s finally done something I agree with and can support.

Obama also argued that just because we can’t intervene in every conflict doesn’t mean that we should never intervene at all. We have to choose our battles, and in the case of Libya we had a dictator who was using his military–and his air power to kill his own citizens indiscriminately. If he had managed to attack Benghazi he might have murdered hundreds of thousands of people.

Furthermore, Libyans had asked for our help, and our action was supported by other Arab countries and by the Arab League. For once the U.S. was doing something that most Arabs wanted us to do. If we had not acted, we would have seen an atrocity take place, and that would have encouraged dictators in other Arab countries to crack down violently on protesters.

Here is the full text of the speech, if you are interested. I do think Obama went on too long after making the case for Libya. The speech would have been much better if he had done that and then wrapped it up.

I must say, I do not understand the criticisms of this Libya policy that I’m seeing in the progosphere, and from some people here at Sky Dancing. Maybe I’m nuts, but I think the U.S. finally had a chance to do something good with its massive military power and at the same time we get some good PR in a part of the world that has long hated us–with justification because we have enabled most of the tyrants in the region. I’m glad Hillary was able to convince her boss to do the right thing.

I want to call attention to some very knowledgeable people who agree with my assessment–and we do appear to be in the minority.

Thomas Ricks was on Monday’s edition of NPR’s Talk of the Nation. He said that he was struck by how many people either aren’t listening to what Obama, Clinton, and Gates are saying or they are discounting it out of hand.

Ricks said that these three are saying that the U.S. goals in Libya have already been achieved. The rebel forces are knocking on the door of Tripoli, thanks to the no-fly zone and some strategic bombing by the coalition countries. As Obama said last night, it is now up to Libyans to decide what to do with Gaddafi. We aren’t going to try to take him out.

Here’s what Ricks wrote on his blog after his appearance on Meet the Press with Gates and Clinton:

I was on Meet the Press yesterday, following Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates. I was struck at how frequently they emphasized the short-term, limited nature of the U.S. action in Libya, and how they used the past tense to discuss it:

Gates: “I think that the no fly zone aspect of the mission has been accomplished.”

Clinton: “I think we’ve prevented a great humanitarian disaster.”

Gates: “we see our commitment of resources actually beginning to — to decline.”

Gates: “in terms of the military commitment, the president has put some very strict limitations in terms of what we are prepared to do.”

Gates: “I don’t think it’s [Libya] a vital interest for the United States. But we clearly have interests there. And it’s a part of the region, which is a vital interest for the United States.”

I also was struck at how much more assertive Clinton seemed than Gates. A friend of mine calls this “State’s War.”

Ricks also blogged about his take on Obama’s speech: Obama on Libya: Watch out, Saudi Arabia

What we saw in the NDU speech was a logical defense of what the president has ordered the military to do and an exposition of what the limits of the action will be. The cost of inaction threatened to be greater than the cost of action, but now we have done our part. Next role for the U.S. military is best supporting actor, providing electronic jammers, combat search and rescue, logistics and intelligence. That was all necessary, and pretty much as expected.

But I was most struck by the last few minutes of the speech, when Obama sought to put the Libyan intervention in the context of the regional Arab uprising. He firmly embraced the forces of change, saying that history is on their side, not on the side of the oppressors. In doing so he deftly evoked two moments in our own history-first, explicitly, the American Revolution, and second, more slyly, abolitionism, with a reference to “the North Star,” which happened to be the name of Frederick Douglass’s newspaper. If you think that was unintentional, read this.

Hmmm…I totally missed that. Follow me below the fold…

Read the rest of this entry »


I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more

Have you noticed that the rhetoric from a lot of Republican men on women is just over-the-top misogynistic these days?  Just what I needed for bedtime reading(via tweet from facebook/FDL friend Suzanne TwoTon) or why I’m glad I don’t live in Montana if this what the men are like:

Some comments a Kalispell legislator made last week about the value of pregnant cattle in relation to a bill about pregnant women have caused a stir.

When speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee about HB 167 (which would criminalize the death of an unborn child), Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, noted the value of a cow increases if the cow is pregnant.

That comment didn’t go over well with two women from Planned Parenthood of Montana and the state chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Lindsay Love and Julianna Crowley complained about Regier’s comments.

“Putting women in the same category as animals is inherently disrespectful,” the women said in a letter. “The comparison to livestock is even more degrading because farm animals are property and are managed as commodities for farms and corporations.”

The women said that Regier’s “antics are just one more example of the misogyny and anti-women rhetoric that floods the hallways of the Montana Legislature this session.”

Maybe it’s just the  roid rage from what they’ve been pushing into my IV drip, but I doubt it.  I wonder if they shoot lame men the way they shoot lame horses too.


Where is Iman al-Obeidi?

Iman al-Obeidi

The Libyan government claims she has been released and is staying with her sister in Tripoli. But al-Obeidi’s parents say she is still being held in Gaddafi’s private residence. Her mother also says that al-Obeidi has been offered a bribe to change her story.

The mother of Eman al-Obaidi said she received a call from an unidentified person purportedly representing the regime, the parents told Al Jazeera news.

The caller asked the family to tell Ms al-Obaidi to change the rape claim in return for her freedom and benefits, including a house or money, according to the victim’s mother.

According to the UK Telegraph,

Aisha Ahmad, who lives in the rebel-held eastern town of Tobruk, told The Washington Post she had passed on the request to her daughter, who had rejected it.

“I am very happy, very proud,” said Mrs Ahmed.

Iman al-Obaidi, a 26-year-old law student in Tobruk, was held last week after she burst into a Tripoli hotel where foreign journalists are staying and told them of the attack.

“Film me, film me, show the whole world what they did to me,” Miss Obaidi had screamed, as she was dragged off by security guards.

Musa Ibrahim, the Libyan government’s spokesman, said Miss Obaidi has been freed, “but the prosecution is still questioning her to determine the circumstances (of her claim).”

So if government agents are questioning her, are they doing it at Gaddafi’s palace or in her sister’s home? Is the sister al-Obeidi is supposedly staying with the same sister her was used by the Libyan government to smear her? <a href="“>From the Guardian story:

…a man claiming to be her cousin told Reuters that Obeidi was targeted by authorities after taking part in a protest in the west of the country during the initial days of the uprising against Gaddafi.

Wadad Omar said his cousin worked for a tourism company in Tripoli and was detained along with three other women who took part in the protest as they returned to the Libyan capital.

The government also used Obeidi’s sister to denounce her publicly, Omar said: “(Obeidi’s) sister went on television to say her sister is crazy. Muammar wants to prove to the world that she is insane. She (the sister) is certainly under pressure from the government.”

If it is the same sister, how can we be sure that al-Obeidi wants to be with her or that she is safe from further attacks or even torture?

There are reports that either four or five men have been arrested in the case, one of them the “son of a high-ranking official.”

Today protesters in Benghazi organized a rally in support of Iman al-Obeidi.

Following disturbing pictures of Ayman Al Abidi that hit the TV airwaves in Benghazi almost 24 hours after the alleged incident, there was outrage in this rebel capital. Men and women held a rally in support of her and marched towards the courthouse in Benghazi. “We are very sad for this and no will accept what happened,” said a Libyan protestor.Many people in Libya are concerned about her situation and they say that is just a glimpse of what they’ve been facing for decades.

Al-Jazeera reported:

Several doctors say they have found Viagra tablets and condoms in the pockets of dead pro-Gaddafi fighters, alleging that they were using rape as a weapon of war.

They say they have been treating female rape survivors who were allied with pro-democracy forces.

At the Financial Times, Charles Clover, one of the journalists who tried to help Iman al-Obeidi and was knocked down and kicked by Libyan security men for his trouble, writes about his experience:

Ms Obeidi said she had been arrested at a checkpoint on Salahidin Street in Tripoli “because I am from Benghazi”, and then held and repeatedly raped by 15 soldiers over two days.

Hearing the disturbance, a group of waiters and waitresses came over and tried at first to soothe her, then, when that did not work, to shut her up.

Suddenly a melee broke out between journalists and hotel staff. A group of athletic leather-jacketed men barrelled in and began throwing us around the room, chasing Ms Obeidi around the restaurant and finally putting a coat over her head. Many of the journalists at the Rixos jumped into the fray, trying to protect her, but it was a battle we were certain to lose.

Cameras were smashed and one journalist was punched in the face. I ended up wrestling for my Dictaphone, getting thrown down and kicked.

Clover has been told that he is “no longer welcome in Libya,” but he believes that the incident in which he was a bit player is a real tipping point.

All the careful efforts of the Libyan government to nurture their parallel reality were demolished that day. The hired mobs, the theatrical set pieces designed for foreign press consumption, and the alleged civilian casualties of the allied air campaign for which we have been shown little evidence – they all came crashing down, because of one woman’s bravery and desperation.

The questions remains: where is Iman al-Obeidi now? According to Anderson Cooper,

A group of lawyers and human rights activists tried to approach her sister’s house Monday, but were blocked by security forces. Al-Obeidy’s sister’s mobile phone has apparently been turned off, a source with the Lebanese opposition in Tripoli told CNN. And no one has seen the sister since the incident at the hotel.

Journalists and human rights activists much continue their demands to talk to al-Obeidi. She must not be disappeared by Gaddafi’s storm troopers. She is a living symbol of what Libyan rebels are fighting for–freedom of movement and association, freedom to speak truth to power, freedom to control one’s own body.

Yes, I know women are not treated equally in Arab cultures. Guess what? We aren’t treated equally here either. We need to stand up and fight for our rights just as this “lone, brave woman,” — as Charles Clover referred to her — fought for hers. And we must stand with her now and demand that she be freed and returned to her family.


Scientists Ordered Not to Talk about Dophin Deaths in the Gulf of Mexico

From Huffpo Green, via National Wildlife blog:

BILOXI, Mississippi — The U.S. government is keeping a tight lid on its probe into scores of unexplained dolphin deaths along the Gulf Coast, possibly connected to last year’s BP oil spill, causing tension with some independent marine scientists.

Wildlife biologists contracted by the National Marine Fisheries Service to document spikes in dolphin mortality and to collect specimens and tissue samples for the agency were quietly ordered late last month to keep their findings confidential.

The gag order was contained in an agency letter informing outside scientists that its review of the dolphin die-off, classified as an “unusual mortality event (UME),” had been folded into a federal criminal investigation launched last summer into the oil spill.

A number of scientists said they have been personally rebuked by federal officials for “speaking out of turn” to the media about efforts to determine the cause of some 200 dolphin deaths this year, and about 90 others last year, in the Gulf.

On top of that, scientists are being kept in the dark about results of tests on the specimens they have collected and given to the government. That can’t be a good thing.

This is an open thread.


Monday: Hillary, Gerry, and No Limits

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears during a pre-taping of "Face the Nation" to discuss the latest developments in Libya, Syria and the Middle East, in Washington March 26, 2011. (Reuters)

Hey all. Wonk the Vote here filling in with some Monday Reads for Kat while she rests up. Get well soon, Kat! We’re all thinking of you and sending you healing thoughts.

Alright news junkies, let’s get this morning roundup started.

Hillary on the Sunday Shows

  • Yesterday Hillary did a bunch of joint interviews with Robert Gates on the Sunday morning shows, basically doing all the leg work for Obama’s speech tonight. If you missed the Clinton-Gates interviews and would like to judge for yourself, Stacy at SecyClintonBlog has all the transcripts and videos up here.
  • I’ll let the headlines do the summarizing:

NYT: Clinton and Gates Defend Mission in Libya.

Huffpo/AP: Clinton, Gates: Libya Operation Could Last Months.

David Gregory: Clinton and Gates try to clarify U.S. involvement in Libya.

CBS News: Clinton: No military action in Syria for now.

Jake Tapper’s Political Punch: Clinton Cites Rwanda, Bosnia in Rationale for Libya Intervention. From the link:

In an interview with ABC News’ Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper on “This Week,” Clinton said that the United Nations-backed military intervention in Libya “is a watershed moment in international decision making. We learned a lot in the 1990s. We saw what happened in Rwanda. It took a long time in the Balkans, in Kosovo to deal with a tyrant. But I think in what has happened since March 1st, and we’re not even done with the month, demonstrates really remarkable leadership.”

[…]

In an interview on “This Week” in December, 2007, Clinton told George Stephanopoulos that she urged President Clinton to intervene in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide there.Then-Senator Clinton said, “I believe that our government failed. … I think that for me it was one of the most poignant and difficult experiences when I met with Rwandan refugees in Kampala, Uganda, shortly after the genocide ended and I personally apologized to women whose arms had been hacked off who had seen their husbands and children murdered before their very eyes and were at the bottom of piles of bodies, and then when I was able to go to Rwanda and be part of expressing our deep regrets because we didn’t speak out adequately enough and we certainly didn’t take action,” she told Stephanopoulos.

Hillary, on the passing of Gerry:

  • At the end of the Clinton-Gates appearance on Meet the Press, David Gregory played the “Ms. Ferraro, could you push the nuclear button” clip and asked Hillary to react to it. Here’s what Hill had to say (scroll to the end to find this in the transcript at the link):

SECRETARY CLINTON: It just makes me smile because she was an extraordinary pioneer, she was a path-breaker, she was everything that – now the commentators will say an icon, a legend. But she was down to earth, she was just as personal a friend as you could have, she was one of my fiercest defenders and most staunch supporters, she had a great family that she cherished and stood up for in every way.

And she went before many women to a political height that is very, very difficult still, and she navigated it with great grace and grit, and I think we owe her a lot. And I’ll certainly think about her every day, and thanks for asking me to reflect on it briefly, because she was a wonderful person.

“Gerry Ferraro was one of a kind — tough, brilliant, and never afraid to speak her mind or stand up for what she believed in — a New York icon and a true American original. She was a champion for women and children and for the idea that there should be no limits on what every American can achieve. The daughter of an Italian immigrant family, she rose to become the first woman ever nominated to the national ticket by a major political party. She paved the way for a generation of female leaders and put the first cracks in America’s political glass ceiling. She believed passionately that politics and public service was about making a difference for the people she represented as a congresswoman and Ambassador.

For us, Gerry was above all a friend and companion. From the rough-and-tumble of political campaigns to the important work of international diplomacy, we were honored to have her by our side. She was a tireless voice for human rights and helped lead the American delegation to the landmark Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Through it all, she was a loyal friend, trusted confidante, and valued colleague.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Gerry’s husband John, her children and grandchildren, and their entire family.”

(Note the use of Hillary’s trademark “No Limits” in the statement. There’s no higher compliment from Hill than that.)

Remembering Gerry from Queens

  • If you haven’t read Stacy’s tribute to Geraldine Ferraro yet, it’s by far my favorite. I was barely three years old when Mondale picked Ferraro. Stacy’s post gave me a sense of “meeting” Ferraro in the way that she was introduced to many of you in 1984.

Hillary Clinton’s State Department

Europe

Gulf of Mexico

Louisiana officials were confounded last weekend when a thin oil slick washed up on around 30 miles of Gulf shoreline. Initial tests sought to determine whether it might have been residual oil left over from last April’s massive Deepwater Horizon spill, but it turns out that yet another offshore drilling accident may have occurred. Tests matched the oil with crude that Houston-based Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners had reported spilling from one of its wells. The latest accident comes at a bad time for federal regulators, who have just approved four new permits for deepwater drilling in the Gulf — not to mention Gulf fishermen and residents.

MENA region

First, from NY Mag’s roundup… Five Men [allegedly] Arrested in Connection to Libyan Rape Allegations.

LA Times… Libyan woman who alleged rape remains missing:

The whereabouts of a woman who was taken away by security officials while making allegations of rape to Western journalists are unknown. A government official says she is a prostitute and that an inquiry is underway.

Nicholas Kristof, via twitter:

The heroic Libyan woman #EmanalObeidi turns out to be a law graduate, age 29, seized at checkpoint http://bit.ly/fNp4Nf

  • Speaking of Nick Kristof, he has an important piece out about the battle for human rights in Egypt…what Kristof calls Freedom’s Painful Price. He calls attention to the torture, humiliation, and degradation that the women protesters of Egypt are facing…the horrifying circumstance of virginity tests and calling women prostitutes to scare them into silence and submission. Kristof concludes:

The lesson may be that revolution is not a moment but a process, a gritty contest of wills that unfolds painstakingly long after the celebrations have died and the television lights have dimmed.

Previewing Obama’s Week-Late, Leadership-Short Speech Tonight

The speech from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., will be his first major attempt to explain his thinking.

He offered a preview in his weekly address on Saturday, saying that the U.S. should not and cannot intervene every time there is a crisis somewhere in the world.

But Obama said, “When someone like Gadhafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region, and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives — then it’s in our national interest to act.”

President Obama plans a Monday evening address with an increasingly common goal, to sell the American public on an increasingly unpopular war. But while those previous speeches were about the decade-long Afghan War, the Monday speech will be about the new war in Libya.

[…]

President Obama’s effort to sell the American public on support for a third major war will be complicated by admissions from top officials that the new war isn’t even a vital American interest in their eyes.

So what’s on your blogging list today?