Libyan Rape Victim Silenced

My stomach is churning from the latest news out of Libya.

According to the New York Times, a woman who tried to report being gang raped by 15 members of Qaddafi’s militia was dragged away screaming:

A Libyan woman burst into the hotel housing the foreign press in Tripoli on Saturday morning in an attempt to tell journalists that she had been raped and beaten by members of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s militia. After struggling for nearly an hour to resist removal by Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces, she was dragged away from the hotel screaming.

“They say that we are all Libyans and we are one people,” said the woman, who gave her name as Eman al-Obeidy, barging in during breakfast at the hotel dining room. “But look at what the Qaddafi men did to me.” She displayed a broad bruise on her face, a large scar on her upper thigh, several narrow and deep scratch marks lower on her leg, and marks that seemed to come from binding around her hands and feet.

She said she had been raped by 15 men. “I was tied up, and they defecated and urinated on me,” she said. “They violated my honor.”


There was a prolonged standoff behind the hotel as the security officials apparently restrained themselves because of the presence of so many journalists, but Ms. Obeidy was ultimately forced into a white car and taken away.

I have to applaud al-Obeidy for risking her life to speak out against the injustices committed against her, and likely against many others. And while I am pleased that her awful plight is being reported, her story highlights what so often baffles me: why are media reports of stories like these so interspersed? Gang rape, mass rape, politically motivated rapes happen EVERY DAY with mind-boggling frequency. And yet, it’s rarely explored by mainstream media outside of sensational one-off stories.

When will the media — and general public, for that matter — understand that widespread sexual violence against women is a matter of international security? When women are raped and violated, their families and communities also suffer, and regional safety and security become destabilized and threatened.

It’s very much a domino effect, especially when you consider the nauseating scale on which rape occurs in conflict-affected areas:

A woman is raped –>her honor and that of her family is decimated –> as a result, she is often ousted from her community –> the community then must absorb the loss of her contributions (i.e., economic, household, etc.) –> resources become stretched –> a community with reduced resources and members is more easily targeted.



Categories: Violence

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2 replies

  1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head regarding the importance of women to international security, and economic development, too. But I wonder, is more US media attention really a solution?

    I don’t think more reports of abuse will correlate to to the public caring more about the issue. There’s a diminishing margin of value in hearing more stories. In the worst case scenario, more frequent reports may even normalize the event and desensitize the general public (think about the average reaction to coverage about a car accident or an inner-city murder).

    To me, a grassroots movement spurred by the general public isn’t the answer. I think a better solution would be to focus on policy makers. Does the Security Council consider women’s security when judging intervention actions? Does the Pentagon? We already know that development organizations like the IMF and the UN Development Programme consider women’s rights a key to development. Our security organizations should do the same.

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