A Gadhafi sex slave talks of her ordeal


Annick Cojean

“Le Monde” met a young Libyan in Tripoli, who spoke of how she was abducted at age 15 and shut up for five years. Raped, beaten, she eventually escaped. Here is her story.

TRIPOLI, Le Monde SPECIAL ENVOY – She is 22 years old, she is as beautiful as the dawn, and she is broken. Sometimes she laughs, oh, for just a few seconds, and a childlike spark lights her face which was marred by life. “How old do you think I am?” She said, removing her sunglasses. She waits, paints a faint smile on her face, and whispers: “I, I feel like 40 years old.” And it seems so old to her. 

She looks away, grabs a piece of black cloth to nervously cover her face while tears appear in her sad eyes. “Muammar Gaddafi has ravaged my life.” She wants to say everything. She thinks it’s dangerous, but she agrees to speak in a meeting which lasted several hours at a hotel in Tripoli. She knows she is confused and will lack words to describe the world of perversion which she was living in.

But she must speak.  Heavy memories clutter her mind. “Dirty memories,” she says, which give you nightmares. “I might say no one, ever, has known or can imagine what I have experienced. No one.” She shakes her head in despair. “When I saw Gadhafi’s corpse exposed to the crowd I felt a brief moment of pleasure. Then I felt a bad taste in my mouth.” She wanted him to live. To be captured and tried by an international tribunal. All these months she had thought of nothing else. “I was preparing to confront him and look him in the eye to ask him: Why? Why did you do this to me? Why did you rape me? Why did you beat me, drug me, insult me? Why did you teach me about alcohol and smoking opium? Why did you steal my life?”

She was 9 years old when her family, originally from the east, moved to Sirte, the birthplace of Colonel Gaddafi. She was 15 in 2004, when she was chosen among the girls in her high school to offer a bouquet to the “Guide” visiting the school where he had cousins. “It was a great honor. I called him “Dad Muammar” and I had goose bumps.” The colonel put his hand on her shoulder and stroked her hair slowly; a sign to one of his bodyguards meaning: ” I want that one,” she later learned.

The next day, three women in uniform, dedicated to the service of the dictator – Salma, Mabrouka and Feiza – came to her mother’s salon. “Muammar wants to see you. He wants to give you gifts.” The girl – let’s call her Safia – follows willingly. “How could I suspect that something was wrong? He was the hero; the Prince of Sirte.”

She was led into the desert, where the caravan of Colonel, aged 62, was set-up for a hunting trip. He greets her quickly, eyes piercing. He asks about her family, the origins of her father, mother, their financial means. Then he asked her coldly to stay and live with him. The girl was taken aback. “You’ll have everything you want, houses, cars …” She panics, shakes her head, and asks to be taken to her family, she wants to study. “I’ll take care of everything”, he says. “You’ll be safe, I assure you, your father will understand” . And then he called for Mabrouka to take charge of the teenager.

In the following hours, Safia, frightened, was equipped with underwear and “sexy outfits”. She was tought to dance, to strip on the sound of music, and “other duties”. She sobs, asks to return home to her parent. Mabrouka smiles. Returning to normal life is no longer an option.

On the first three nights, Safia danced alone in front of Gaddafi. He listened to the tape of a musician “whom he later ordered to be killed.” He looked at her, did not touch her. He simply said : “You will be my bitch.” The caravan came back to Sirte with Safia in the baggage.

And on the evening of his return to the palace, he raped her. She struggled. He beat her up, pulled her hair. She tried to flee. Mabrouka and Salma intervened to strike her. “He continued doing so in the following days. I became his sex slave. He raped me for five years.”

She quickly finds herself in Tripoli, in the cave of Bab Al-Azizia, the area protected by three super-walls where, in different buildings, lived the master of Libya, his family, employees, and Elite troops. At first, Safia shared a small room in the master’s residence with another girl from Benghazi who was also kidnapped but one day managed to escape. On the same level, in tiny rooms, twenty girls permanently resided, most aged between 18 and 19 years, usually recruited by the same three emissaries. These three women were brutal, ubiquitous, domineering in this harem, where girls, posing as bodyguards, were personally available to the colonel. Most only stayed a few months before disappearing once the master was tired of them. The girls had minimal contact among each other, and any personal conversation was prohibited.

Safia was the youngest and spent her time in her room watching television. She was denied a notebook and pencil.  She spent hours sitting in front of her mirror, to talk out loud and to cry. She had always be ready, day and night, in case the Colonel called. The apartments at the top floor were for him. At first he would ring frequently. Then he left her alone and selected others chosen by his “amazons” and sometimes willing – some said they willingly “offered themselves to Guide” – but most were prisoners. He continued to claim her at least two or three times a week. Still violent, sadistic. She had bruises, bites and a breast torn. It was hemorrhaging. Gala, a Ukrainian nurse, was her “only friend”. She did weekly blood tests on young women.

Festivals were held regularly with Italian, Belgian, and African models, or stars of Egyptian films appreciated by the sons of the Colonel and other dignitaries. Dinners, dances, music, “orgies”. Gaddafi showed himself as generous. Safia remembers seeing bags – she said “Samsonites” – full of Euros and Dollars. “He gave to foreigners, never to the Libyans.”  Safia did not take part in these celebrations, “I was too afraid that he would ask me to do a striptease.” Two African leaders also happily were offered female “bodyguards”. “For Muammar, they were mere sex objects, and after getting tired of one he could move to the other.

The colonel, she said, also had many male sexual partners.

His wife and other family members living in other buildings of Bab Al-Azizia were aware of the habits of the dictator. “But his daughters did not want to see him with other women. He would meet them on Friday in his other home near the airport.” In the jacuzzi installed in his room, from which he used his computer, he would request games and massage. He would order Safia to smoke, drink “Black Label” and to take cocaine. She hated it. The second time she took “an overdose” and found herself at the hospital in Bab Al-Azizia. He took cocaine all the time. “He was constantly using cocaine and never slept.”

He took her in June 2007 on an official tour of two weeks in Africa: Mali, Guinea-Conakry, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana. He made her wear a khaki uniform and presented her as a bodyguard, which she was not, even though Mabrouka had taught her to recharge, disassemble, clean and use a Kalashnikov. “The blue uniforms were reserved for the trained guards while the khakis were generally a joke!” One evening in the Ivory Coast, she used lipstick to make him believe that she has her period so that he would leave her alone. He became enraged, and beat her up. She wanted to escape. Mabrouka said: “No matter where you hide, Muammar will find you and kill you.”

Safia’s parents were quickly made aware of the fate of their daughter. Her mother was able to come and see her once in the palace. Safia could sometimes be reached by telephone, but the conversation was listened to. She was warned that if the parents complained, they would kill them. The father was so ashamed that he wanted nothing to do with his daughter. Yet it is he who would arrange the flight of his daughter. Tired of seeing her depressed, Gaddafi authorized her three times to have her make a short visit to her family in a palace car. At the fourth visit, in 2009, disguised as an old woman, she managed to leave the house, and, with help at the airport, to fly to France.

A year passed before her returning to Libya, to hide, to oppose her mother who wanted to marry her very quickly to an old widower cousin, to flee to Tunisia, to marry in secret in April 2011, hoping to leave with her young husband to Malta or Italy. The war would separate them, he was seriously injured and she has not heard from him for several months.

She smokes and she cries often. She feels “torn.” She would like to testify in court but she is afraid that many Libyans would still condemn her. “A woman is always guilty.” Her life is in danger, “Gaddafi still has faithful followers.” She does not know where to find peace.

Translated from French: Le Monde

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