Wednesday, March 30, 2011

News Flash: “Libyan Woman Struggles to Tell Media of Her Rape”

In war, rape is often used a tactic to control, scare and threaten. There are many accounts of men being raped by other men in war, but the use of rape against the female population in war is more often and widely spread. Throughout history there are many documented accounts of mass rapes of women by soldiers, mercenaries and civilian men. The rape of Nanking, the genocide in Rwanda, and the Bosnian War are just a few of the most famous examples for rape being used as a war tactic. Today, this disgusting strategy for domination continues. On Saturday March 26, 2011 a Libyan woman struggled to tell her horrific story of rape to western reporters. She managed to get into the Rixos Hotel in Libya, where many reporters are staying, but was later dragged out by Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces.
The Libyan woman’s name is Eman al-Obeidy. There is little known about her, other than the few things that she managed to tell reporters. She told reporters, she was raped by fifteen different men and that, “I was tied up, and they defecated and urinated on me” (Kirkpatrick 1). She said that she was a native of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Qaddafi militia held her for two days before she managed to escape. Obeidy was tortured by these men, and says that she is not the only one. She yelled that her friends were still being held. It is terrifying to imagine what horrors these men are inflicting on those Obeidy left behind.
Obeidy went to the Rixos hotel specifically looking for news reporters because she believes, “there is no media coverage outside” (Kirkpatrick 1). This could be an example of the Libyan government trying to control the press. This is another tactic often used in war. In war torn areas journalists are often at risk of violence, or are not allowed to go to certain places. Governments do want their despicable practices to be exposed to the world. Charles Clover of The Financial Times tried to help Obeidy when security forces were trying to her to leave. He was treated roughly, and later told to leave—the Libyan government claimed that his reports were inaccurate. It can be assumed, however; that the inaccuracy was not in his reports; rather they lay in how the Libyan government treats their civilians.
Obeidy struggled with security forces for almost an hour. This clip shows part of her struggle: According to The New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick, Libyan forces treated her better than they would have if reporters had not been present. If a woman being forcibly dragged away is considered an example of less force, one wonders what goes on where journalists are not allowed to go. Both Libyan security forces and restaurant staff tried to apprehend Obeidy. In the video, one waitress throws a coat over her head, while another waiter tries to push the press back. Weapons were reportedly brandished about—a knife and a revolver were brought out when trying to control Obeidy. No one was seriously injured, but one wonders if that would be the case if not for the western reporters? Would anyone even know her story?
Eventually, Obeidy was forced into a white car and driven away. According to Musa Ibrahim, a Libyan government spokesman, “she appeared to be drunk and mentally ill” (Kirkpatrick 2). It is clear that the Libyan government is trying to discredit Obeidy’s account of the horrors inflicted on her by their militia. Discrediting rape victims is another common tactic used against women and men. While this case occurred in Libya during a time of war, discrediting rape victims is tried throughout the world. In the United States, rape victims are often accused of lying. Many a defendant has stated, “She wanted it.” One would hope that the rape victims would be believed before the rape defendants, but sadly this is not always the case. Who knows what explanations Obeidy’s rapists told themselves? Rape is never justified.
The fate of Obeidy is not known. Khalid Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, said that she would be “treated in accordance with the law” (Kirkpatrick 2). If the government controls the militiamen who raped and tortured Obeidy, it does not reflect well on what she is going through at the hands of the government now.
Eman al-Obeidy is one of many rape victims. She suffered at the hands of her government, the same government sworn to protect her rights. Rape is used in war to intimidate. Obeidy says that she has no fear now; she only wants her story told so that other can know what is occurring in Libya. Her cry for help is not for herself; it is for the innocent living in Libya in this time of fear. The brutality of the Libyan government is a reminder of the cruelty that humans will inflict on other humans in order to stay in power. Obeidy’s bravery is not wasted, however, her story of terror appeared all over the news. Hopefully, this abuse will not be treated lightly, and she will not join the ranks of the millions of women raped and then forgotten in war.

Kirkpatrick, David D. “Libyan Woman Stuggles to Tell Media of Her Rape.” The New York Times. 26 March 2011.

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