Where is Iman al-Obeidi?Posted: March 28, 2011 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, Libya, Violence against women, Women's Rights | Tags: Benghazi, Charles Clover, gang rape, Human Rights, Iman al Obeidi, journalists, Libya, Moammar Gaddafi, rape, Women's Rights 21 Comments
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.
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.