t took a video going “viral” of a Libyan woman being dragged from a Tripoli hotel -- shouting that she’d been raped for two days by 15 men -- to put a face and name to a weapon of war that dates back at least to the founding of ancient Rome.
Defying social norms that can turn rape victims into outcasts, Iman al-Obeidi went public with her story. Her allegations of torture at the hands of soldiers loyal to Muammar Qaddafi spread fast via Facebook and Twitter.
“Iman is publicly hailed as a hero in Benghazi, and there are discussions about changing attitudes,” Arafat Jamal, the United Nations refugee agency’s co-coordinator for Libya, said in an interview from Benghazi.
The worldwide attention given to Obeidi’s plight helped secure the 29-year-old law graduate safe passage to Romania and shine a spotlight on a horror that dates back to the earliest armies and continues in war zones such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Congo, at least 121 women were raped over a period of three days as government troops pillaged their village, the UN human rights office said last week. The UN estimates that about 15,000 women and girls a year are victims of rape in the Congo conflict.