By Guy Walters Oct 24, The horror started with the lightest of touches. As the year-old schoolgirl held out the bouquet to the year-old man, he took her free hand and kissed it gently. The man was Muammar Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya who had seized power 35 years before.
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Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Gaddafi's Harem by Annick Cojean. Marjolijn De Jager Translation. In , Annick Cojean, senior reporter at Le Monde and special correspondent for Tripoli, wrote a shock article, titled 'Gaddafi's sexual slave', which told the story of Soraya, a twenty-two-year old Libyan woman who had been kidnapped and held captive since the age of Soraya was a schoolgirl in the coastal town of Sirte, when she was given the honour of presenting a In , Annick Cojean, senior reporter at Le Monde and special correspondent for Tripoli, wrote a shock article, titled 'Gaddafi's sexual slave', which told the story of Soraya, a twenty-two-year old Libyan woman who had been kidnapped and held captive since the age of Soraya was a schoolgirl in the coastal town of Sirte, when she was given the honour of presenting a bouquet of flowers to Colonel Gaddafi, the Guide, on a visit he was making 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.
In , Cojean returned to Libya to continue her investigation. Her book, Gaddafi's Harem, takes Soraya as its starting point to recount the fates of so many other women.
She has gone to remarkable lengths - rape is the highest taboo in Libya - to collect these women's stories. Heartwrenchingly tragic but ultimately redemptive, Soraya's story is the first of many that are just now beginning to be heard. In Gaddafi's Harem, 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 other women who were abused by Gaddafi, and those who were involved with his regime, including a driver who ferried women to the compound, and Gaddafi's former Chief of Security.
Gaddafi's Harem is an astonishing portrait of the essence of dictatorship: how power gone unchecked can wreak havoc on the most intensely personal level, as well as a document of great significance to the new Libya. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. Published October 3rd by Grove Press first published More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about Gaddafi's Harem , please sign up. See all 3 questions about Gaddafi's Harem…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Oct 21, Evan rated it really liked it Shelves: strongwomen , investigativejournalism , adult-non-fiction , women , history , scanned-books.
This is not an easy book to read, but it is a book that needs to be read nonetheless. The atrocities committed by Gaddafi, both public and secret, need to be publicly aired so that the nation of Libya can begin rebuilding its cultural and social history. Although a taboo subject, the sexual crimes that were perpetrated by the ruler and his followers cannot be forgotten or simply swept under the rug, as many would prefer.
It is quite interesting to see how religion and culture can even shape peop This is not an easy book to read, but it is a book that needs to be read nonetheless. It is quite interesting to see how religion and culture can even shape people's reactions to these types of atrocities; blaming the women and feeling that a sense of shame is reflected upon the family, instead of on the abusers.
The saddest reality is that not much seems to have changed in the country regarding the equality of women. Until women are given a place at the same table as the men who get to make decisions concerning their lives, there will never be equality. View 1 comment. Jan 07, Louise rated it it was amazing Shelves: middle-east , biography , women-s-issues. Political prisoners who have been beaten, humiliated, staved and chained are given a welcome back to society.
Upon release, none were feted, some were killed by their own families, all were labeled whores. This is the case of the women in Gaddafi's Harem. This powerful content needs a better book. I recognize that there are loses in translation as it goes from Arabic to French to English and I recognize the need to disguise the identity of t Political prisoners who have been beaten, humiliated, staved and chained are given a welcome back to society.
I recognize that there are loses in translation as it goes from Arabic to French to English and I recognize the need to disguise the identity of those who agreed to be interviewed. The problems are that the stories are only sketches and that smaller points take space that should have been given to the larger issues.
The first third of the book is the experience of Soyara. While history should have specifics about how the women of Bab al-Azizia were treated, I was glad that bedroom parts were general. The result is significant: when Gaddafi was finished with Soyara, she was often bruised, bleeding and sometimes needed medical help.
The space devoted to Soyara; however, is an example of the need for perspective in this book. How did they relate to each other and to providers such as Mabrouka? What did they share of their experiences in words, gestures, attitudes? There is little mention of the men who were raped, did they live in the Bab al-Azizia basement too?.
The security needs explaining: one day one is held captive and on another able to walk out. Gaddafi used sex to control and thumb his nose at Libyans. Harming a daughter or wife in a culture obsessed with female chastity was a powerful weapon. The girl or woman is blamed and the family shunned and ruined.
The family may kill the woman to show their solidarity with the community. This particular weapon had nothing to do with Libya, and all to do with Gaddafi. In foreign affairs, he could best foreign leaders with unseen yet obvious trysts with wives, daughters and appointees.
He had people devoted to looking for women. He gave speeches at a university where he had a secret boudoir aside a gynecology room. He had his regime sponsor beauty pageants and shopping trips for young girls. He seems to beat up only the Libyan women. There seems to be no interest in education, trade, agriculture or any other government endeavor.
There must be more consideration of these victims in post-liberated Libya. Gaddafi's inclination to abuse was abetted by the cultural view of women and it appears homosexuals too that keeps their mistreatment out of sight. Can this be common in other countries where women have few rights?
Has this been an historical norm that has prompted the custom of veiling? I will be interested in the reaction of Libyans. What will happen to the profiled women if and when their identity is discovered? Will Libyans see the role of women, who began their revolution, with new eyes?
View all 4 comments. This book is very disturbing yet an important document of the Gaddafi years in Libya. The bravery of this young woman and the savagery and cowardice of her countrymen is painful to read, I can only imagine what she herself must feel.
This story is an indictment of a brutal dictator and the system of men and women who facilitated his systematic rape and torture of young women and men many of them still children really and a society which despite ridding themselves of Gaddafi himself, continue t This book is very disturbing yet an important document of the Gaddafi years in Libya.
This story is an indictment of a brutal dictator and the system of men and women who facilitated his systematic rape and torture of young women and men many of them still children really and a society which despite ridding themselves of Gaddafi himself, continue to ignore the victims of his violent crimes. Any society which covers up crimes against its most vulnerable citizens rather than confront them and assist the victims to heal is continuing in the perpetuation of the original crime.
Until a society truly values it's women and children it is going to continue to perpetuate brutal crime. The sense of outrage is palpable in this book, perhaps because so many of those who should be outraged would prefer to not know or acknowledge this sad history.
I came away from this book feeling like I wanted to know there would be some outcome for young women like this. However the feeling I was left with was rather hopeless. An important historic and social document which deserves wide acknowledgement. Unfortunately I found the translation from the original french very clunky and ponderous. I had hoped Le Monde would have authorised a more readable English version.
Oct 24, Liz Simmons rated it really liked it Shelves: books-i-read-in This is the opposite of a light read.
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Note: This segment contains content that may not be appropriate for younger listeners. When Moammar Gaddafi was killed by Libyan rebels in , his obituaries featured a litany of the atrocities committed in his 42 year rule. But hardly a word was said about his harem: women and men who were kept trapped for Gaddafi to rape when he pleased. That world has now been brought to light through the story of one of the young woman who was in the harem.
Gaddafi's Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya
Soraya was taken to a luxurious desert encampment, measured for clothes, asked her bra size, shaved, and adorned with makeup. This was the first sexual encounter she had with a man who would torment her for almost seven years. Her book is a disturbing and important portrait of the horrors that can occur in any dictatorship—abuses of power on the most intimate level. It is the weakest—the poor, the women, the children—who suffer the most. The details are shockingly graphic and the stories horrifying, made even more so by the victim-shaming that has silenced the women in the aftermath. She also elucidates the astounding challenges still faced by women who have been abused and enslaved under his regime, shedding light on an aspect of the dictatorship often hidden or dismissed, even within Libya. Gripping, deeply disturbing, and compulsively readable.
The terrible truth about Gaddafi’s harem
When the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed in October , no one was in any doubt about the horrors he had inflicted on opponents. Thousands had been imprisoned, tortured or murdered during his year regime. But few knew of his other poisonous legacy - the rape and imprisonment of hundreds if not thousands of young women to fulfil his sexual fantasies. Annick Cojean is an award-winning French journalist who noticed, covering the downfall of Gaddafi for Le Monde, how few women were vocal in the revolution. She heard stories of girls being abducted by Gaddafi and used for sex, sometimes for a day, sometimes kept for years.