Eman al-Obeidi who lives in the United States cannot escape her past.
It may take years for her to stop being referred to as “that” Libyan woman who, a year ago, stormed into a press conference in Tripoli and charged Muammar Qaddafi’s troops of gang raping her – thus becoming a face of the uprising.
Since that day, Obeidi’s journey has seen her travel to Qatar, Europe and eventually the U.S. where she was granted asylum but she remains a person of interest, one that can’t escape labels.
Qaddafi loyalists said she was a prostitute, a drunk. Some Libyans called her a hero for speaking out while others said she had shamed her people. Newsweek cited her as one of the world’s 150 bravest women. U.S. Secretary of State’s interest in her case is widely believed to be behind Obeidi getting the asylum.
In an interview on Monday with CNN, Obeidi recounted the horrors of her assault – she counts 12 assailants who raped her, even using a Kalashnikov to sodomize her – and of her escape.
And of storming the hotel in Tripoli where she knew human rights investigators were staying. She told CNN she wanted them to see what had happened to her.
In a cruel twist of fate, Obeidi was labeled a traitor and her family too watched their daughter’s character assassination. But they never doubted her.
Her father received a phone call from a man asking that Obeidi retract her story in exchange for money reports CNN.
Obeidi may have endured a tough life under Qaddafi but after the rape, she was determined to leave Libya.
She traveled with a former army officer and his family into Tunisia before arriving in Qatar where the then opposition National Transitional Council was based. However, she did not feel comfortable becoming a political face of the group and after not getting the support she hoped, she was supposed to head to Romania to a refugee camp at the United Nations but found herself back in Libya, having been deported by Qatar.
It was only in July last year that Obeidi landed in the U.S. as an asylum.
Of her initial time in the U.S. she told CNN “There is nothing easy; you have to work.”
The agency helping her settle in spoke of Obeidi’s difficulty in adjusting.
“There’s always something going on. She expects things. She has a sense of entitlement,” her case manager, Majid Shalaan said. After Clinton intervened, “she thought she would be queen.”
However, he feels that she will eventually find her way.
Obeidi tells CNN that she saw Qaddafi’s body stored in a meat locker but did not rejoice, wishing instead that he had faced charges for his crimes.