Muammar Qaddafi might have physically disappeared but his specter will apparently keep haunting a lot of Libyans for some time to come. One such person is Safiya, a woman who alleges that the former Libyan leader had been raping her for five whole years and who has finally decided to tell her story.
“Qaddafi destroyed my life.” That is how Safiya, who is not yet 22, began her story as told to Le Monde correspondent in Tripoli.
“I wish he were not dead so he could be tried for all the crimes he committed in cold blood against Libyan women.”
Safiya felt a mixture of happiness and bitterness at the sight of Qaddafi’s lifeless body in a fridge in Misrata; she was happy he was gone yet bitter because there were many questions she wanted to ask him.
“I wanted to ask him why he did all that to me, why he took me from my parents, why he violated my honor and destroyed my youth.”
Safiya then narrated how her tragedy. She was 15 years old when her family moved to the coastal city of Sirte, Qaddafi’s birthplace.
“There I was chosen by the manager of the institute where I was studying to hand a bunch of flowers to Qaddafi who was going to pay us a visit.”
To be chosen for such a mission was a source of pride for Safiya for she had labeled the Libyan leader “Father Muammar” and she loved him more than she did her parents.
“When I gave him the flowers, he smiled at me and patted my hair and shoulder in what I later understood was a sign to his personal guards.”
The sign, Safiya explained, meant “I want this girl for me.” The next day, three of Qaddafi’s female guards, who were there during the visit, went to meet Safiya’s mother and told her the Colonel wanted to see her daughter to offer her a gift.
“I was then taken in car to a desert spot where Qaddafi had erected his tent for hunting and relaxation.”
When she arrived at the tent, Qaddafi asked her about her family and her social status then told her that he would convince her parents that she should stay with him and that she would have a luxurious life with him.
“After that, one of his female guards handed me clothes that were very revealing and started teaching me how to dance. I spent three whole nights dancing in the tent and after that Qaddafi bluntly told me that I would become his permanent mistress.”
Safiya then moved with Qaddafi to his main headquarters, Bab al-Azizia, in the capital Tripoli which is where he started raping her on regular basis.
“He brutally raped me and for five whole years I was his sex slave.”
Safiya shared a room with another Libyan girl from Benghazi, a minor like her, who was also taken from her family to be one of the colonel’s mistresses.
Over time, Safiya found out that it wasn’t only her and her roommate and that there were dozens of young girls who were brought to the place by force to satisfy Qaddafi’s “perverted sexual fantasies,” as she put it.
“Even boys were not spared.”
During the years she spent in Bab al-Azizia, Safiya bore witness to the regular orgies Qaddafi used to hold to honor African heads of state and which were usually attended by supermodels from Africa and Europe, especially Italy and Belgium.
“Those women would leave with bags full of money, but he never gave any money to the Libyan girls he enslaved.”
As for Safiya’s family, they were aware of what was happening to their daughter, but were forced to remain silent.
“They could have lost their lives had they said anything.”
In 2009, Safiya managed to escape after disguising herself as an old woman then secretly flew to France. She was only able to return after the eruption of the Libyan revolution and the fall of Qaddafi’s regime.
“Even though he is now dead, my family and I are still haunted by those horrible memories of rape and captivity.”
Safiya said she is willing to testify in court provided she can conceal her identity.
“I cannot take the consequences of revealing my identity in the conservative Libyan society.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)