Eman al-Obeidy, the woman whose saga of abuse, gang-rape and unlawful detention at the hands of pro-Gaddafi militiamen in Tripoli continues to evolve, has finally surfaced. The Libyan government repeatedly insisted that she had been freed, but there was no sign of her in the media, and her family said they had not seen her either and worried for her safety.
As it turns out, she was eventually released from government custody after being dragged out of the Rixos Hotel, full of foreign journalists, March 26. However, she has been captured and beaten at least three times since then. Still, she is determined to tell her story.
"I knew that they could imprison me, and that no one would ever know my story, and even when they were hitting me and trying to cover my face so I would not tell people the truth, I was not afraid," she told Anderson Cooper Monday night via telephone. "I have reached the end of my tolerance for this as a human."
NPR reached her by phone Monday as well, in Tripoli, where she said she had been trying to speak with media, but was unable to get to the hotel where they stayed.
"They treat me as a terrorist every time I go out," she said through a translator. "The car stops me and it's filled with armed civilians who beat me, and take me to the security forces."
Security forces always apologize and let her go, and say they can't stop the pro-Gaddafi civilians from plucking her from the streets. She said that she has done all she can to testify, but the police have not been to the place where she was detained and gang-raped for two days, nor have they asked her to identify her attackers.
"Even the lawyers who are supposedly working for me want me to change my testimony," she said.
Government officials have reportedly called al-Obeidy's home and offered money and other bribes for her to change her story, and have called her a drunk, mentally unstable, and a prostitute in press conferences.
"They have distorted my image in front of Libya and the world," said al-Obeidy. "They have slandered me."
"I fear for my life and my family's life. Yesterday, I was beaten so hard, I can't leave my bed today," she said.
"There is no law, this is a country of no law. This is a country of gangs."
In her Monday interview with Cooper, al-Obeidy revealed more disturbing details about her ordeal. She said she was not allowed to eat or drink or use a bathroom while she was detained last month, and her hands and feet were untied only when the men would rape her and sodomize her with their guns. Another 16-year-old girl was imprisoned with her, and she untied al-Obeidy one night, but was too afraid to escape herself.
She said, "Our humanity has been taken from us."