After a week of fear and uncertainty surrounding her fate, Libya’s Eman al-Obeidi has finally been released. Al-Obeidi was dragged from a Tripoli hotel by security forces on March 26 after she cried out to a group of international reporters that she had been raped and beaten by 15 pro-government militiamen over a two-day period. Her location and safety had been in question ever since, prompting an international demand for the Libyan government to prove her safety.
In interviews with CNN yesterday and today, al-Obeidi described what transpired while she was in custody over the past week. She says she underwent a 72-hour interrogation and a constant stream of harassment and mental abuse, ending in a medical examination to “prove” she had been raped.
She has since been with family in Tripoli, though it’s unclear from the CNN interviews where she’s currently staying, but she has essentially been under house arrest. Every time she leaves the house, she says, officials harass her and take her to the police station, but finally release her because she has not been convicted of a crime.
Not yet, at least. Four of the men accused of raping and beating al-Obeidi are suing her for slander. Government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said al-Obeidi faces court action because “in Islam [it] is very serious when you accuse someone of a sexual crime. She named the accused publicly and now they are suing her.”
Indeed, sexual crimes are serious crimes. And al-Obeidi, after two days of alleged sexual, verbal and psychological assault, bravely attempted to report those serious crimes to those who would listen. Her reward was a second ordeal of abuse and humiliation–and now, house arrest and a lawsuit.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and this year’s focus is “speaking up to prevent sexual violence in our neighborhoods, communities, workplaces and schools.” Let’s make sure al-Obeidi is not the only one speaking up for her rights.