Libya: Iman al-Obeidi 'raped by Gaddafi troops' flees to Tunisia

The Guardian

Iman al-Obeidi, the Libyan woman who claimed she was raped by Muammar Gaddafi's soldiers, has reportedly fled to Tunisia with the help of a defecting military officer. Obeidi, who drew worldwide attention when she burst into a Tripoli hotel to describe to foreign journalists her alleged ordeal at the hands of 15 men, has been given refuge in Tunis by western officials. Obeidi told CNN she had entered Tunisia with a refugee document and was considering her next move. She claimed her court case against the soldiers – who she said had seized her at a checkpoint near Tripoli – had barely progressed.

After passing numerous checkpoints disguised in a veil that hid her face except one eye, Obeidi passed the Dehebi crossing on Thursday without trouble. Obeidi's story of being brutalised by 15 drunken men over two days – some of whom she claims were close to Gaddafi's inner circle – has become a rallying call for revolution.

Her ordeal has been seized upon by members of the revolutionary council in Benghazi. She was dragged away from reporters at the Rixos hotel on 26 March after she started angrily detailing her alleged attack.

Government officials promptly labelled Obeidi a prostitute and suggested she may have been a provocateur sent by rebels from eastern Libya, from where part of her family reportedly hails.

It is rare in Libyan society for a woman to go public with a claim of rape, which is widely seen as dishonouring the victim and her family, rather than the attacker.

Obeidi was initially jailed, but was freed under an order from Gaddafi's son Saadi, and had since been with her family in Tripoli. The vicious standoff between Gaddafi loyalists in west Libya and western-backed rebels in the east shows little sign of ending.

Nato jets have been largely absent from the skies since Wednesday.

Several regime targets were hit over the weekend in the western mountains, where rebels maintain their only anti-government foothold in the west of the country. In Tripoli, some queues for fuel stretch for several miles.

Bread too is in drastically short supply with bakers fled to their native Egypt when fighting erupted in mid-February yet to return.

The economic siege of the capital is clearly taking a toll, with many stores in the old city remaining closed and almost all construction sites having ground to a halt.