Iman al-Obeidi has been the focus of intense media attention since she burst into a Tripoli hotel to tell reporters she was raped by Gadhafi's thugs, but access to her has been limited by the Libyan government, until now. Obeidi appeared to speak freely in an interview with CNN last week, but the piece was filmed with Saadi Gadhafi, the dictator's son, present. Yesterday NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro conducted the first uncensored interview with Obeidi after sneaking out of her guarded hotel with another female reporter and visiting her in her home.
While speaking to the reporters in shorts and a striped t-shirt, Obeidi said she's been inside for the past few days and only goes out occasionally because she's recognized in the streets of Tripoli. Obeidi shared the story of her rape in more graphic detail than she has before, saying that after she and another women were taken from a checkpoint, she was raped repeatedly by groups of three men at a time over the course of three days.
There were other women in the room with her at the compound, but she was the only one who had her arms and legs tied because she was fighting back. She says she recognized one of her rapists as the son of a government minister:
I knew him when he was raping [me]. And my sister used to work for his father, and I told him that we know your family, and he didn't care. He shrugged it off and said, "Do what you want." He told me, "You're not even going to get out of here. You'll die."
She added, "Every time he would try to rape me, I would push him away with my legs, and he would scratch my thighs from both sides to force me," and showed reporters the fading scars on her legs.
After many of the men had passed out drunk, she convinced another woman to untie her. She stayed behind because she was too scared to try to escape. Obeidi wrapped herself in a transparent tablecloth and jumped out of a window, but she still had to make her way out of the compound. She says:
There were two small rooms next to the gate. I opened the first one - it was a type of storage. I opened the next one and there were two African guards sleeping. I grabbed a big piece of metal, destroyed their walkie-talkies. The two guards started freaking out and screaming hysterically. I told them to open the door for me, threatening them with the piece of metal. The guards were shocked to see a bleeding naked woman with wild hair holding a piece of metal. So they opened the gate for me and I just ran out.
Eventually she made her way to a neighborhood. A guard chased her in a jeep and tried to lure her back into the car, but neighbors protected her and gave her an Abaya. Rather than heading home or to a hospital, she went directly to the hotel and staged the now-famous incident. She explains:
Some of the neighbors put me in a car and wanted to take me to the police, but I refused. I knew that if I go to the police they'll arrest me, they won't arrest the rapists. So the neighbors agreed. They put me in a taxi, paid the fare, and I told the taxi driver to take me to the hotel [where the journalists are staying]. I had heard about these "truth commissions," so I had to come and see the journalists because I didn't want my case to be buried.
Obeidi has been going to court most days and trying to follow up on her case. She was an unemployed graduate student before the incident, and says she's too scared to apply for jobs. For now, she just wants the Gadhafi family to allow her to go to her family's home in the east. "I don't even think long-term or future," she says. "[I] live day by day. My main goal is to get to my family."