Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Yes, they probably were raped! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

“Gaddafi’s female bodyguards accuse him of rape”

As soon as this news story spread in the Western media, a series of criticisms and digital comments surfaced, mostly mocking or satirizing the news. Some traditional, responsible media outlets dealt with the news in a satirical manner, based on the assumption that the news was a joke, or another oddity accompanying the coverage of Muammar Gaddafi’s many peculiarities.

Advocates of this position justified their mockery on the basis of the logical that the ousted Libyan leader would not have entrusted his life to a group of women who would have hated him for sexually abusing them.

Therefore, this opinion considers the bodyguards’ allegation of rape to be illogical. This is precisely what happened when Eman al-Obeidi came out in front of a hotel full of journalists to account for the crimes committed against her. Many doubted her story on the grounds that what had happened to Eman was “illogical”.

Why would a rape victim publicly account her suffering in this manner?

When a western reporter verified that Gaddafi’s gangs had been carrying out systematic rapes in Libya, many in the Arab media turned their camera lenses and pens away from the subject, or at best did not give it much attention.

Any war or crisis or revolution can hardly expect to grab the interests of readers unless the reports of this include graphic details of the accompanying horror and cruelty. Often this [horror and cruelty] takes the limelight, except that is when it comes to cases of women or girls being raped.

People were embarrassed to talk about the numerous cases of rape that took place during the era of Saddam Hussein; a form of abuse adopted by Uday Hussein and which he carried out systematically.

Have we also forgotten the widespread incidents of sexual harassment that took place in Egypt?

Rape is one of the tools of war and a weapon in the hands of any authoritarian regime, whether religious or military. But what happens to the women who file complaints of rape or sexual assault?

In the majority of cases, whispers are heard saying that the women are responsible for what happened to them because of what they wear, or they are accused of “asking for it” in the first place, or even of making the story up.

However once a girl or woman has made this claim, her story is then put on trial and surrounded by uncertainty. The problem is that women in our society are led to believe that the act of speaking out about their ordeal is more severe and traumatic than the rape itself.

The Arab media also does not help to encourage women to overcome this fear, under the pretext that it understands and adheres to the traditions and customs of our society, which prefers to keep such matters under wraps.

Fear of talking about this subject and ignoring the news means the road to justice for rape victims is long, and cannot be reached as easily or quickly as we might hope. However this is certainly something that will not be achieved through silence or ignoring the issue.

We live in countries where the judicial system and the community are often unsympathetic to the victim. This Arab Spring will be incomplete if we continue to view injustice against women as a “dishonor” that must be covered up.

Yes, it is likely that Gaddafi’s female bodyguards were raped. Rape has no logic, reason or justification. It will be of no benefit for us to run away from the issue or ignore it.

We must listen to the stories of all women and girls who have suffered this terrible ordeal, so as not to further compound their tragedy.