“We are all Eman Al-Obeidy”: women of east Libya speak out

Libyan women’s activists, Amany Mufta Ismail and Nebras Attias, explain in their own words their reaction to the story of Eman Al-Obeidy.

“She is a logo for us… She is a Libyan logo for us,” explains 22-year-old Amany Mufta Ismail, a women’s organizer in the Eastern Libyan city of Dirna. In recent months, Al-Obeidy, a 29-year-old Libyan law student, directed the world’s attention to the treatment of women under Libyan President Muamarr Gaddafi’s security forces, but also to the chilling reality faced by women in times of war. Earlier this week, CNN confirmed that Al-Obeidy had in fact escaped to Tunisia days earlier, with the assistance of defecting military officers.

In late March, the battered Al-Obeidy approached international reporters in a Tripoli hotel in order to tell her story of alleged detention, torture, and gang rape at the hands of Gaddafi’s security forces. She was quickly and violently detained, only to be subsequently slandered by government officials who called her sanity, sobriety, and integrity into question.

“How she could come to this hotel and say to the journalists that the militias of Gaddafi attacked her… It’s really a miracle,” reflects 27-year-old Nebras Attia community organizer in Dirna, Libya.

Since her first contact with journalists at the Tripoli hotel, Al-Obeidy has participated in several high-profile interviews with CNN, NPR, and the Associated Press. Though the Gaddafi government no longer denies her sexual assault, they have continued to attack her credibility and kept her under house arrest in Tripoli.

“She was there to complete her studying, to work there, to help build our society, and they treated her so badly,” states Amany Ismail, a 22-year-old women’s activist from the town of Dirna in rebel-held East Libya. “[in response to Gaddafi’s claims] Come on! She was not [mentally ill or intoxicated] because we heard about her and the other girls, and even children! We didn’t say anything because of our tradition, but when she said that on the TV, we all went out to say ‘No’ to Gaddafi.”

Libyan women’s activists, Amany Mufta Ismail and Nebras Attias, explain in their own words their reaction to the story of Eman Al-Obeidy.

Anna Therese Day is a freelance journalist covering the democratic upheavals throughout the Arab world. You can follow her on the ground via Twitter at @AnnaOfArabia.

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