Gaddafi's Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya

Gaddafi's Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya

Annick Cojean

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0802121721

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Gaddafi's Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya

Annick Cojean

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0802121721

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Soraya was just fifteen, a schoolgirl in the coastal town of Sirte, when she was given the honor of presenting a bouquet of flowers to Colonel Gaddafi, “the Guide,” on a visit he was making to her school the following week. This one meeting—a presentation of flowers, a pat on the head from Gaddafi—changed Soraya’s life forever. Soon afterwards, she was summoned to Bab al-Azizia, Gaddafi’s palatial compound near Tripoli, where she joined a number of young women who were violently abused, raped and degraded by Gaddafi. Heartwrenchingly tragic but ultimately redemptive, Soraya’s story is the first one of many that are just now beginning to be heard. But sex and rape remain the highest taboo in Libya, and women like Soraya (whose identity is protected by a pseudonym here) risk being disowned or even killed by their dishonored family members.

In Gaddafi’s Harem, an instant bestseller on publication in France, where it has already sold more than 100,000 copies in hardcover, Le Monde special correspondent Annick Cojean gives a voice to Soraya’s story, and supplements her investigation into Gaddafi’s abuses of power through interviews with people who knew Soraya, as well as with other women who were abused by Gaddafi.

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with a triumphant look. “Mabrouka says it’s all right for me to take you home to my family!” And she took me away for a few days to her place, or rather to her family’s home, where her mother and her little sister were waiting for her with a heaping plate of couscous. Three days later she was again given permission to take me out. Even though it was conditional, this freedom was incredible, and I didn’t know what to make of my jailers’ change of face. But the few hours outside of the

rich and powerful, of his ministers and generals, of chiefs of state and monarchs. He was prepared to pay the price. Any price. For him there were no limits whatsoever. But the new Libya isn’t ready to talk of this. Taboo! However, no one hesitates to pour scorn on Gaddafi and to demand that light be shed on his forty-two years of depravity and absolute power. They list the physical abuse of political prisoners, the atrocities committed against opponents, the tortures and murders of rebels.

it’s a place to be seen . . . But that was just it: how could I not dread the looks, questions, rumors that my absence must have aroused at previous family gatherings? I was growing anxious. And then, I was jealous as well, why not just admit it? The young bride would be a virgin, beautiful and respected, whereas I felt completely dried up. At the wedding, I acted restrained, tried not to be noticed. Mama was appalled that I didn’t want to wear a long dress. I preferred a pretty colored

Ruined.” She was at the lycée in Benghazi when some young soldiers only slightly older than she recruited her to join a revolutionary committee. This was in the late seventies, when Colonel Gaddafi’s Green Book had just been published. He’d insisted in its third part on the role and rights of women in Libyan society, calling upon them in the book and in speeches and other propaganda to “liberate themselves from their chains.” They must all, he said, serve the revolution and become the finest

the harem had ordered and would call Salma again to find out what the Guide needed. Powder, foundation, MAC Concealer? “It’s for a middle-aged man,” she’d specify to the salesman. “A gentleman like yourself.” The young man couldn’t have imagined in a million years that the beneficiary of these creams was Gaddafi, which made her interpreter laugh. She also would take the time to hang around in certain luxury stores, fancy restaurants, or cafés in order to find pretty women and start a

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