Libya: Women Against Fundamentalism statement on Al-Obedi


WAF is deeply concerned about the fate of Iman Al Obeidi, the Libyan woman who tried to expose rape as a war crime by telling her own story and that of her friends to the international press in the Rixos Hotel, Tripoli, on March 26th 2011. Since then she has been detained and then slandered on Libyan TV, and various contradictory stories have been told about her to the international press. She is now herself accused of slander.

We are pleased at the prompt press releases of 28th March by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Also prompt were the Libyan Interim National Council statement of 27th March, and the women's marches of support in Benghazi and Tobruk on the same day. She has been adopted as an unlikely but brilliant icon of the Libyan opposition forces. But they are powerless to free her.

The international press, whose Tripoli breakfasts were interrupted by Al Obeidi, and who watched as she was bundled away by Government minders with the help of hotel staff, have been persistent in the first few days in pressing the authorities about her fate.

But the media so often has to move on to the next sensational story, leaving Iman in danger of being forgotten. That is why press releases from the human rights organisations are not enough. She must be adopted as a prisoner of conscience: the woman who has risked her life and freedom in order to expose the use of rape in this war.

She is not the only source of this story: the website Libya 17th February 2011 reported on February 23rd that the Al Zawiye Street Hospital in Tripoli saw 'many rape victims' admitted the night before. Al Jazeera English reported on 27th March from Ajdabiya that several doctors said they saw 'Viagra and condoms in the uniform pockets of dead pro-Ghaddafi fighters', suggesting that 'rape is used as a weapon of war'; they also said they treated many rape survivors from among the pro-democracy supporters.

Iman is a symbol of the defiant breaking of silence about rape; her mother said on television that she was 'not ashamed but proud' of her daughter. It is her huge achievement to have begun to turn the concepts of shame and 'honour' against the perpetrators. She must not be forgotten: her life depends on it.

We call on all global feminist and human rights organisations to use their resources to demand her release, now. We call on the UN and the International Criminal Court to investigate rape as a war crime in Libya.

[A useful catalogue of news about this issue is the facebook page FREE IMAN AL OBEIDI]