On Saturday, Iman al-Obaidi stunned journalists when she burst into a room where they were having breakfast ,yelling and begging them to listen to her story. The 26-year-old said she had been raped and beaten by 15 government militiamen after being detained at a checkpoint entering Tripoli because she comes from Benghazi, the center of the revolt against Moammar Gaddafi’s regime. But before she could finish her story, security guards, government handlers and hotel employees overpowered her, attacked journalists trying to help her and whisked her off in a car.
The shocking confrontation, captured on video cameras, has become a rallying point for activists in Libya. Her story is now being backed up by her parents who have come to their daughter’s defense, even as her whereabouts remain uncertain.
Libya’s deputy foreign minister Khalid Kaim told Sky News that five people have been arrested as part of a criminal investigation and Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said that Obaidi was at home with her sister and brother-in-law, The Post’s Tara Bahrampour and Liz Sly report from Benghazi, but her parents could not confirm the information, highlighting how hard it is to get accurate information in Libya at this time.
Obaidi’s mother told Bahrampour and Sly that she was very happy and proud of her daughter’s actions and that government officials had tried to bribe her into changing her story.
Government officials had originally accused Obaidi of being a prostitute and said the rape occurred in the line of business. Obaidi’s father, however, took to video to declare his daughter was a lawyer. The following video reportedly shows Obaidi’s father draped in a Libyan flag saying that his daughter was raped by Gaddafi’s forces, and showing a photograph of Obaidi at her university graduation. Translation of the video comes from Nadia al-Sheikh via NPR’s Andy Carvin:
Large crowds of women have begun staging demonstrations in Bengahzi in Obaidi’s honor.