Since Iman al-Obeidi burst into the hotel housing foreign journalists in Tripoli and accused pro-Gaddafi militiamen of gang-raping her, she says many people on the streets of the capital have recognized her and praised her bravery. Even cab drivers have refused to take her money to offer their support.
Recounting her story in graphic detail for the first time alone with two female reporters, al-Obeidi claimed she was brutalized for two days and wept as she recalled the ordeal. She said she was repeatedly raped by 15 different men one of them a cousin of Gaddafi who were drinking alcohol that they sometimes poured in her eyes and in her vagina. She said she was sodomized with a Kalashnikov rifle.
Al-Obeidi spoke to reporters from The Associated Press and National Public Radio from her home. It was a rare interview without Libyan government minders, who keep almost constant watch over the dozens of foreign journalists the regime has invited in to cover its side of the uprising against Gaddafi’s 42-year rule of this North African Arab country.
Al-Obeidi, 28, came to the attention of the world’s press when she burst into the Rixos hotel in Tripoli on March 26 and told scores of foreign correspondents that she had just escaped from a gang rape by drunken Gaddafi militiamen.
Visibly distraught, she claimed they had tied her up and defecated and urinated on her and showed reporters scratches on her face and a bloodied thigh.
As she tried to tell her story that first day, government minders inside the hotel attacked her in a chaotic scene where journalists tried to jump in and protect her, and ended up getting punched themselves and having their equipment smashed by the minders.
Al-Obeidi said after that, she was detained for three days when she was beaten and left to lie on the floor with no food or drink, then released. Since then, she has been living with a friend in a modest apartment that her sister pays for. Agencies