In a very conservative Moslem society such as predominates in Libya, women who have been raped face many stigmas leading to shame, rejection, ostracization and total abandonment, so even coming forward to complain that you have been raped is an extremely courageous act, if not an exercise in self-destruction. But in Libya now, since protests against the Gaddafi regime began on February 17th, around three hundred women or more HAVE come forward so far, only one directly and openly to the media, but some 295 in response to a confidential questionnaire handed out by Libyan psychologist Dr. Seham Sergewa asking if they have been gang-raped by Gaddafi forces. Dr Sergewa handed out this questionnaire after a number of other Libyan women had previously confided the same thing to her.
Sergewa's findings are independent of other reports that have surfaced in recent months that serve to corroborate her charges of rape. Captured Gaddafi soldiers and militiamen have also admitted that they had been ordered to rape women as a form of punishment and humiliation against rebels, some even providing video footage captured on their cell-phones according to a BBC report. This was reported on by al Jazeera initially two months ago in this video report:
Since then, charges of rape and evidence of it have only increased. Of course about that same time we had the dramatic live-on-TV incident of a distraught Libyan post-graduate law student, Iman al-Obeidi, bursting into the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, where all the international media are being more or less "sequestered", screaming bloody-murder at the top of her lungs that she had just been gang-raped for the previous two days by 15 Libyan security men, before Libyan security brutally dragged her off, even pummeling some of the journalists and photographers trying to protect her. She has, fortunately, recently been smuggled out of Libya by defecting Libyan military officers, who took her across the Tunisian border. She now is being protected in Qatar. Here is a video of this internationally viewed incident:
And recently there was this report filed by BBC News correspondent Andrew Harding on May 23rd, recounting how two Libyan soldiers claimed they were forced to rape women in Misrata: CLICK HERE
If hundreds of victimized women have come forward thus far, then there are likely many, many more who have not done so out of fear, just as has been discovered in war zones like Kivu Province in the DR Congo, where armies and militias routinely rape women by the thousands monthly, if not weekly, acts likewise too stigmatizing for most to report.
That Gaddafi could order and encourage this is also not any kind of stretch of the imagination. Those who have bothered to trace and study the history of some of the recruits and graduates of the Colonel's infamous World Revolutionary Center (WRC) once centered near Benghaz, men such as Gaddafi protege Charles Taylor, armed, trained and directed by him and who is now undergoing the final stages of trial for eleven crimes against humanity in the Hague, as well as Gaddafi recruit (and colleague of Taylor), Foday Sankoh, the founder of Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone, know that both these men used mass rape as a weapon of war. Did Gadddafi have this technique taught at the WRC, did he enourage it in the field, or did he just turn a blind eye to the reality of mass rape, mutilation and murder by these two individuals' "armies"?
According to Douglas Farah of Foreign Policy , he was more than just a blind benefactor:
Qaddafi recruited Liberia's Charles Taylor, a war criminal now standing trial for crimes against humanity, including the abduction of children for combat, systematic rape, and mass murder. Another Qaddafi recruit, Foday Sankoh of Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF), would be standing trial in the same court for similar crimes had he not died of natural causes.
Sankoh, an illiterate corporal, formed the RUF under Taylor's auspices and together they pioneered their signature atrocity in the 1990s -- the amputation of the arms and legs of men, women, and children as part of a scorched-earth campaign designed to take over the region's rich diamond fields. Their atrocities were backed by Qaddafi, who routinely met with Taylor and his closest associates to review the progress of the conflicts and supply weapons. Qaddafi continued sending arms to Taylor even as the latter was being forced from office in 2003. (source)
Returning now to Dr. Seham Sergew's claims about Libyan women being subjected to this same hideous tool of war, following is her video interview with CNN and then an excerpt from a related article by the Independent UK :
BENGHAZI, Libya -- At first, the responses to the questionnaire about the trauma of the war in Libya were predictable, if tragic: 10,000 people suffering post-traumatic stress, 4,000 children with psychological problems. Then came the unexpected: 259 the video states 295) women said they had been raped by militiamen loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.
Dr. Seham Sergewa had been working with children traumatized by the fighting in Libya but soon found herself being approached by troubled mothers who felt they could trust her with their dark secret.