Iman al-Obedi, the woman who told a hotel full of journalists last month that she'd been abducted and raped by Libyan militiamen, spoke with NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro on Monday. Garcia-Navarro snuck out of her hotel and found al-Obeidi at her Tripoli home; she is the first journalist to speak to al-Obeidi in person without Qaddafi forces supervising the conversation.
In her conversation with NPR, al-Obeidi gave a detailed account of her ordeal and its aftermath. She mentioned some things she'd talked about before--like the other woman being held in the soldiers' house, a girl of 16 who untied al-Obeidi and helped her escape. Al-Obeidi mentioned this other woman in an interview with CNN last week.
But she also told NPR that after she was untied, she still wasn't in the clear. Wrapped in only a tablecloth, she says, she climbed out a window, encountered two guards, and smashed their walkie-talkies with a piece of metal. She describes what happened next: "I told them to open the door for me, threatening them with the piece of metal. The guards were shocked to see a bleeding naked woman with wild hair holding a piece of metal. So they opened the gate for me and I just ran out."
Neighbors found her, clothed her, and offered to take her to the police, but al-Obeidi refused, saying she'd be the one to face criminal charges (which turned out to be prescient).
Al-Obeidi has evidently been living under informal house arrest since her release by the government, unable to go home to her family. She has also said that the government is telling conflicting stories in an attempt to discredit her. Spokespeople for the Libyan government have variously claimed that al-Obeidi is a prostitute or mentally impaired, or that she was drunk the day she burst into the Tripoli hotel. Yesterday, al-Obeidi added a new wrinkle to the story: she told NPR that the government is circulating a video of what they claim is al-Obeidi dancing suggestively, to portray her as an immoral woman. But, says Garcia-Navarro:
Iman, though, has two very distinctive physical characteristics — she only has nine fingers and she has scars on her stomach from an operation, both of which she displayed to us. The woman in the video has 10 fingers and none of the abdominal scarring.
Now, al-Obeidi is in Tripoli and can't leave. It's probably not much compensation, but al-Obeidi says many of the people in her neighborhood are sympathetic: "When I go outside, a lot of people say they're proud of me--even when I go to the courthouse. Sometimes I'll get into a taxi and the driver is so proud of me he won't even take money from me--he'll just give me a free ride."
But, she adds, "other drivers get freaked out and scared and tell me to get out of the car when they see me."