Libyan police desperately tried to silence Eman al-Obeidi when she told journalists Gaddafi’s men had raped her. Here, she tells Jonathan Miller the full story and what happened to her afterwards.
When Eman al-Obeidi burst into a Libyan hotel filled with startled journalists and claimed she had been gang-raped by Gaddafi followers, security staff were desperate to silence her.
In front of the cameras she was bustled screaming into a car and driven away at speed.
In the weeks that followed, her whereabouts were unknown and her story was discredited by Libyan TV channels, who called her a traitor and a prostitute.
Obeidi finally escaped Libya to Qatar, where she met Channel 4 News Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller and was finally free to tell him the story of the rape, why she went to the hotel, and what happened to her afterwards.
EMAN AL-OBEIDI: I was kidnapped by Gaddafi’s people at a checkpoint.
Around 12 people in two cars took me. There were many people so I couldn’t get an accurate number but I think it was 12.
I had been kidnapped from a checkpoint, from a taxi. When I entered the car there was another woman in there who had also been kidnapped.
They took us to a place. It seemed like a big farm. When we went inside there was a third woman who had also been kidnapped. The kidnappers were firing guns – to scare us – and they were beating us.
I was resisting and they tied me up.
When I came to the hotel, I still had the scars on my body and I was showing them there. My hands and my legs were tied up, and for two days we didn’t get any food or water. I was not allowed to use the toilet.
They were raping me, one by one. One would finish and then another would come.
They tied my hands to stop me resisting while they raped me. They didn’t tie my legs because they were raping me.
I had bruises and wounds on my body and my legs – I got them when I was trying to resist.
They were suffocating me when they were raping me. At times I passed out from the suffocation. They tortured, beat me and pulled my hair. One by one they came to pull my hair.
During the attack they insulted people from the east.
I was asking them: “What did I do wrong?” I didn’t do anything, all I did wrong was to be from the east. That was clearly stated in my ID.
They told me: “Where are the men, the rebels, from the east?
“Let them come and see what we do to their women. Let them see how we rape their women, and humiliate them.”
They want to take revenge because I’m from the east. No more, no less… They were drunk.
JONATHAN MILLER INTERRUPTS I’m sorry if I asked the wrong question. I don’t want to…
EMAN AL-OBEIDI CONTINUES: They smelt like animals and they looked horrible. They didn’t have any humanity. They were kicking me while I was tied up. I was naked for two days. They took all my clothes so when I escaped I was naked. I went naked into the street, I had nothing to cover myself with.
They used weapons while having sex with me. Everything they did was bad. They kept saying: “We are the Gaddafis, we will stay in power.” They were swearing and using bad words. I can’t remember all the details due to the shock. I was just hearing voices and echoes.
I was insulting them, spitting at them and beating them. That is why I was the one who got tied up. I was aggressive with them.
But the other women didn’t resist – I think because they were younger than me. 18 years old. So they were not tied up. One of these girls helped me.
On the third day, in the morning, they (the kidnappers) went out and came back drunk. The faces were changing. I saw two new faces. There were a few who didn’t want me to see their faces when they were raping me.
But I knew one of them – Mansour Ibrahim Ali.
His dad is a minister, and he’s a high-ranking official. And a cousin on the father’s side to Gaddafi. A relative of Moussa Ibrahim.
But what hurts me most, more than anything else that happened to me, are the words spoken on the Libyan TV channels. They spoke badly about me, my family, and my reputation. Those words hurt me more than the beating.
They said I was a loose woman that sleeps around with people. Even a loose woman deserves humanity. They don’t have any feelings. For them, the only thing that matters is Gaddafi. The other people can go to hell and die.
I went to the hotel because when I was with the kidnappers, they told me that I wouldn’t leave alive and that they would kill me. I know that those people came from very powerful families.
Their fathers are high-ranking officials in the government. At that time Gaddafi was crazy and they would stop at nothing to kill me.
No-one will know what happened to me.
That’s why I decided to go to an international human rights organisation or a fact-finding committee to protect me.
When I didn’t find them, I went to the journalists.
I thought when the whole world knew what happened to me, they would not be able to hurt me.
I want to tell you about something else.
The Libyan state has a responsibility towards me, even if I am on the opposition side.
They may allege that I have been sent by the opposition or that I faked the story, but I have the right to be treated in a human way because I am a citizen.
They should take me to the hospital and bring doctors for me. They should take me to the hospital and admit me, not put me in a cell with no pillow or anything.
No food, no drinks.
I was interrogated for 72 hours. The investigators got tired, so they rested. But I had no rest. They keep interrogating me until the morning.
I was deprived of all citizen rights. I haven’t seen anything like it before. After everything I went through, they treat me like a criminal.
They were not satisfied with everything that happened to me so they went to the TV channels and spoke badly about me.
I want the whole world to see the truth – because they were lying about me.