Saturday, 16 April 2011

Iman al-Obaidi and rape victims in Libya

Several weeks ago (March 26th) we all saw a drama unfolding on our TV's.  A woman rushed into a hotel in Tripoli, where a group of foreign journalists were staying and having breakfast and told of her torture and gang rape at the hands of 15 of Gaddafi's Militia.  It was a frantic and frightening scene leaving many wondering what had happened to her.  Many thought she would disappear never to be seen again, and little has been reported of  the case that shocked much of the world, at least on our TV's.


Iman al-Obaidi was released into the care of her sister and on April 3rd gave a telephone interview on Libya TV. She told of her kidnapping, of her ordeal, and of her escape. She spoke of the 16 year old girl, also held along with other women. She spoke of her arrest and detention after the scene at the hotel, and the subsequent demands from officials that she change her story to reflect that it was the rebels that held her and not Gaddafi's men. They have offered an apartment and money.  She refused.  Officials are going to great lengths to discredit her and her story, with the official line that she is a prostitute. Adding to the drama, her perpetrators intend to sue her.

This is not a lone incident  in Libya.  Many victims of rape are placed in "social rehabilitation" centres allegedly for their own protection and to protect them from "honour" killings for which rape would bring shame to the families honour. But why would rape victims need rehabilitation? Why should rape victims feel punished rather than helped?

Whether or not you believe the story, or the circumstances is not part of the debate.  I read an article where a journalist (male), cautioned care when reading stories like these as they are part of campaign on part of foreign Psyops (Psychological Operations)  to try and sway public opinion and create outrage. Whilst I understand the reason for the article, it angered me, as it belittled the plight of any woman who had suffered at the hands of a rapist.  This woman had not been raped by one man, but by 15.  Without going into details she suffered a horrific experience and one that I would not expect any woman to endure in a civilised society. No woman deserves to be raped and no woman deserves to be smeared for speaking the truth.

Women are being raped the world over.  A woman raped in Libya (or in any country) deserves the same treatment as a woman raped in the UK or in any country that respects human rights. Iman al-Obaidi is not alone in Libya, but she is one lone voice speaking out about the atrocities that women face in her country.

I wonder what will happen to her when the foreign TV camera's and journalists leave and we've all but forgotten she existed. I wonder what will  happen to her then...but it won't matter because we'll have forgotten all about the brave woman who risked her life to let the west see how women are treated by their male counterparts in countries where your voice is stifled.

Avaaz (meaning voice) highlights campaigns, and has been organised to "organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want".  If there is one thing you can do from the comfort of your chair, then please join Avaaz, sign the petition and let victims the world over, have a voice.




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