Grove Press £16.99
Book review: Gaddafi's Harem, By Annick Cojean (trs by Marjolijn de Jager)
Sunday 29 September 2013
Muammar Gaddafi’s political excesses have been well documented. His sexual crimes are only now coming to light. By sharing his victims’ stories, Annick Cojean, a reporter for Le Monde, opens the floodgates. Her account of a sex-obsessed tyrant exposes the full extent of Gaddafi’s brutality.
In Libya, rape is taboo and Cojean found very few people who would talk to her. But despite the risks to herself, 22-year-old Soraya was willing to talk; she felt a desperate need to testify against the man who would never be put on trial or have to account for his crimes. Soraya was barely 15 when she was forced to join Gaddafi’s harem. She was surprised to be chosen to present “The Guide” with a bouquet when he visited her school. Gaddafi placed his hand on her head, meaning: “That’s the one I want!” They came for her the next day.
On Soraya’s first encounter, Gaddafi received her naked. Soraya was terrified but he grabbed her, saying: “Don’t be afraid. I am your Papa … I am your brother as well, and soon I’ll be your lover. I’ll be all of that to you. Because you are going to stay here and be with me forever.” Soraya endured five years living in the basement of his vast residence near Tripoli, Bab al-Azizia. Gaddafi repeatedly raped her until she bled, urinated on her, forced her to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and snort cocaine. She was forced to watch porn so as to better serve him in bed. Sometimes other girls or men were raped in front of her.
Cojean found only a handful of other women prepared to testify to similar abuse, but their stories add to the legitimacy of Soraya’s account. One of Gaddafi’s former bodyguards was raped and humiliated by him for almost 30 years. Khadija lived in the same basement as Soraya and was enlisted to seduce dignitaries so that they could be blackmailed. Houda, also a schoolgirl, was raped by Gaddafi – she was told her compliance would free her imprisoned brother.
It’s hard not to weep at the cruelty one man inflicted on so many. During her investigation, Cojean discovered that Soraya is “one of those victims that Libyan society doesn’t want to hear about … whose dishonor and humiliation reflect on the whole family and the entire nation”.
Her persistence and Soraya’s courage have been rewarded. The fact that Cojean’s book has been translated into Arabic and is now freely available in Libya offers a small ray of hope for the future safeguarding of women’s rights in that troubled nation.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Students heading off to 'charity challenge' grounded at Gatwick after travel firm goes bust
- 2 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 4 When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
- 5 Like Jennifer Aniston, I am no less of a woman because I am childless
Great British Bake Off 2014: Diana Beard quits after falling ill
Friends reunion: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox perform mini sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Strictly Come Dancing v X Factor: Simon Cowell blasts BBC over scheduling war
Doctor Who series 8: Ofcom will not investigate lesbian kiss
Burning Man Festival 2014: Thousands gather in Nevada's Black Rock Desert a day late after rain postponed official start
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
- < Previous
- Next >