Woman Breaks Through Gaddafi's Wall Of Silence, Shares Rape Allegation
The woman, who identified herself as Eman al-Obeidy, frantically told her story of brutal, sustained rape by 15 of Gaddafi's militia members. CNN's cameras were rolling throughout the impromptu press conference, which made al-Obeidy one of the first people to speak against Gaddafi on camera despite attempted interventions by the dictator's forces.
Journalists were assaulted in the resulting melee and al-Obeidy was tackled and covered with a black bag. Camera equipment was destroyed as the journalists' handlers tried to prevent word of the woman's allegations from being broadcast. They failed:
She spoke in English and said she was from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and had been picked up by Gadhafi's men at a checkpoint east of Tripoli.
She sobbed and said she was held against her will for two days and raped by 15 men.
"Look at what Gadhafi's brigades did to me," she said. "My honor was violated by them."
She showed the journalists how she had been tied at her wrists and ankles. She had visible rope burns.
"We are all Libyans," the woman said. "Why don't you treat us the same?"
The regime initially claimed al-Obeidy was mentally ill, but later the story was revised to indicate she is a prostitute, another unsubstantiated claim. The AP reported Sunday that authorities had released al- Obeidy and taken action against some of the alleged rapists:
"The government says four men were interrogated in the case, including the son of a high-ranking police officer. Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim alleged that the woman was a prostitute who refused to accept medical examination, and that she is now with her sister in the Libyan capital."
Journalists at the hotel Saturday were visibly disturbed by al-Obeidy's story and Gaddafi loyalists' violent efforts to silence her. Several on the scene looked on feebly as the woman was arrested, helpless guests of the regime.
The woman's mother, contacted by the Washington Post, said she was very proud of her daughter for speaking out, and alleged the government had offered bribes in an attempt to keep the story secret.