Children assaulted in Libya


A disturbing report released by a British aid organization puts the spotlight on children being subjected to sexual assault during the conflict between pro and anti Muammar Qaddafi forces.

Save the Children reported that it interviewed nearly 300 children, some as young as eight, in six relief camps in Benghazi and heard stories of rape and murder “committed within the last four weeks in Ras Lanuf, Ajdabyia and Misrata,” the organization said.

Michael Mahrt, who conducted the survey, said children spoke of “soldiers” committing the crimes but could not ascertain which side they represented.

Mr. Mahrt quoted one instance in which mothers who had fled the fighting reported on four or five teenage girls in Ajdabyia who were kidnapped and raped for four days.

An eight-year-old girl was reportedly assaulted in front of her siblings, also in Ajdabyia.

While the reports were unconfirmed, Mr. Mahrt said they “were consistent.”

“The stories are similar that we get across these camps. I am completely confident that this happened,” he told Reuters.

Children also reported watching their fathers being murdered and mothers being raped before being beaten themselves.

Mr. Mahrt also said, “Some children were displaying signs of physical and emotional distress: being withdrawn, refusing to play and waking up crying in the night.”

The charity has called on “the international community to ensure that all parties respect children's right to be protected from violence and abuse.”

Save the Children has said it is increasing “its child protection work in Benghazi, training social workers to provide youngsters with psycho-social support.”

Muna Khan of Al Arabiya can be reached at: [email protected])