I will be up front and state that I am less likely to believe anything that comes from the organization known as Human Rights Watch, and that this is based upon the ideology of the members of that group. I do not trust them with the truth. I will also state that I do not consider Amnesty International to be the best organization in human rights matters since they are very selective when it comes to people’s human rights being abused. However, sometimes Amnesty International gets it right.
However, there is another group, one that I have not heard of until now, the Physicians for Human Rights. They have just released a report on the abuses that took place in Misrata during the occupation by Gadhafi forces, and during the siege of Misrata. Some of the report is not pretty, but I will be up front in stating that there are people in Misrata, as well as elswhre in Libya that are not so tolerant of those old tribal traditions such as honour killings when female members of the family have been raped in times of war.
The PHR managed to reach Misrata in June and they were able to interview the people of Misrata who told them some very harrowing stories of children being used as human shields. The children were placed atop of the tanks with the express intention of having those children killed if NATO struck. Charming!! There were other abuses that have been detailed in the report, but I want to mention the subject of the rape of women and girls in Misrata because it had some tragic consequences.
In one family the three daughters were raped by Daffy goons, and the father of the family slit the throats of the girls because of what he perceived as a dishonouring of his family name. It is very hard for us to accept this horrible tradition that is endemic in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. I think that this is a very sad outcome. However, the people of Libya should not be judged because of the actions of that one father, rather we need to take heed of one of the sheiks in the region who is against these honour killings and thinks that these women and girls should be seen as being brave. I hope that his ideas catch on in Libya because there have been a lot of rapes.
Most people are aware of the high profile accusation made by Iman al-Obeidi when she burst into the Rixos Hotel to tell her story of rape to the foreign journalists. The woman was dragged from the hotel and placed in prison, but eventually she was released, and then she escaped Libya via Tunisia. Imani al-Obeidi was slandered by Moussa Ibrahim who claimed that she was a prostitute who liked to party with men, but this was not true. Fortunately for Imani, her family stood by her when she made the rape allegations, and her father supported her during the whole fuss. Imani al-Obeidi is now a refugee living in the USA.
There are more allegations of rape, and they directly involve members of the Gadhafi family as well as high ranking members of the Khamis brigade as well as of the women’s militia. The papers are full of the story of 19 year old Nisreen, who was trained as a sniper, and was forced to kill 11 people before she managed to escape. Yes, Nisreen ended up as a captive of the Gadhafi regime. Her friend who joined at the same time was killed by a bullet to the head, placed there by a bodyguard of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. Nisreen has detailed her life in the women’s militia, including how she was raped by senior members of the brigade. Nisreen’s story is not isolated, and there are more stories coming to light in Tripoli.
The Physicians for Human Rights Report also details the evidence of rapes, and many other human rights abuses, but they did not place any focus on accusations made against opposition forces. This has not stopped them warning the NTC that they need to make sure that anyone who might be guilty of such crimes should end up in a position of power.