Whoa! Iman Al-Obeidi Married? Plus, A Video From Her Mother

I’ve been wading through the conflicting stories about Iman al-Obeidi, 25, the Libyan woman who broke away from confinement to tell Western journalists and the world what Moammar Khaddafy and his followers are capable of.  About a couple of hours or so ago, I just saw some incredible video at a website run by a group calling itself the Libyan Youth Movement, dedicated to “Freedom. Democracy. Regime Change.”

Apparently, Iman (or Eman) al-Obeidi, generally believed to be still in government custody, was married in Tobruk, Libya to a man who now claimed to be her husband. Here’s the footage. The entire community came out to celebrate her.

Context (text only changed for spelling and grammar):

Eman Al-Obeidi’s fiancé has spoken earlier on Al Jazeera saying that he was already engaged to her and that they have performed the marriage ceremony with the Sheikh. Although she was not present, and her whereabouts remain unknown, Eman’s fiancé and family arranged this ceremony in her honor […]

He also stated that he was proud to be married to Eman. His name is Faraj Ghaithi. The families had an understanding that they will be married in the future.

Below is a video of the celebrations that took place. The women are chanting “Oh Eman oh Eman, we put your picture in the square.” They are showing that they support her.

Flashing the cars’ taillights and honking the horn indicate a joyous occasion. This tradition takes place during weddings in many Arab countries.


An Islamic marriage ceremony can take place with representatives from both sides (from the bride and groom) to give their consent. It is understood that Eman has previously agreed to marry Faraj, and that there was an ‘understanding’ between the two families.

Whether she is married or not, and consenting or not, it is apparent that al-Obeidi’s family, community and city have taken the step of rescuing her honor by marrying her to a man generally acknowledged to be good and decent and would protect her good name.  It is as if the rapes had never occurred in their eyes.  In the state of marriage, Al-Obeidi’s status is raised to that of a national heroine who fought against the Khaddafy regime. They acknowledge the dirt and infamy that was done to this woman, and they consider her a martyr to the cause.

I know that many of us in the West would recoil at the prospect of being forcibly married to a man that we did not know, did not like, and did not choose. Especially if one had first been raped and abused.  I do not know or cannot confirm all the details of what has happened here. The website says that an English version of the video will be available soon. But I cannot criticize what her people are trying to do here within their own culture. The alternative in another place and time–shame, degradation, ostracism–would be much, much worse.  In a culture that is both secular and religious in which virginity, commitment and honor are highly regarded, they know what really happened to her.  Her degradation by Khaddafy has become their degradation by Khaddafy.

Another point-of-view: that it was not a marriage being celebrated–but an engagement party.

Her family held an engagement party for her as they attempted to show their love and support while hundreds of Benghazi women marched through the streets demanding her release Monday, in an unprecedented move.

Women who are raped have been villified, even beheaded or stoned to death, so the fact that Eman’s family is showing support is extremely significant.

The Libyan government has changed their story regarding Eman repeatedly, at first calling her a drunk, then a prostitute, mentally ill, and a thief. She is, in fact, a law student, according to her friends and family.

According to All Voices, al-Obeidi is going to be charged with slander against the men who allegedly raped her. However, she was not the only one who had been kidnapped by Khaddafy’s forces. Two or three other women law students were rounded up with al-Obeidi, along with her brother-in-law, at the time her car was stopped at a government checkpoint. Their whereabouts, along with those of al-Obeidi’s, are not known, although there is a report that the brother-in-law may have been killed.

A cousin, Wadad Omar told Al-Aan, an Arabic news channel, that she had been already arrested for taking part in an anti-government protest in the western city of Zawiyah during the early days of the Libyan uprising, and speculated that this may have been a pretext for government forces to kidnap her.

Her parents, though, believe that she is being held at Khaddafy’s compound in Bab Al-Aziziya. They were interviewed by Aljazeera after the regime announced that she had been freed into the custody of relatives. Below is a video of her mother, Aisha Ahmad. Sorry about the tiny English subtitles:

This is what Time Magazine said this morning:

Since being escorted from the hotel by Gaddafi‘s security officials, al-Obeidi has disappeared from public view. The government claims she is free, but no one has heard from her. “They called us from Bab al-Aziziya,” Ahmed said, referring to authorities in Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli. “They told us she is there.” But no one in Tobruk has heard from her since. “We don’t know what they did to her. We can’t find her. We fear the worst,” al-Obeidi’s sister Marwa, 21, said, tearing up.

Marwa rejected the government’s original accusation that al-Obeidi was a prostitute. “We come from a good family,” she said. “We study at university. Is this the type of people who engage in such horrible acts?” The hysterical woman who has captured the world’s attention hardly resembled the calm-looking girl in the family’s photo album. Ahmed showed a visitor a picture of al-Obeidi wearing heavy makeup gazing pensively as her long hair hugged her cheeks.

Al-Obeidi (who is called Imam Atik Salih by her family) graduated from Zawiyah University’s law school two years ago and had been interning at a Tripoli law firm. She had been living in the capital for the past year with her other sister, Amal, whose husband Salih Hamid al-Aguri had been driving the car the day al-Obeidi was arrested. The government claims that Iman has been released to Amal and Aguri, but her mother in Tobruk has not heard from her daughters in Tripoli. Communications between the eastern and western halves of Libya have been extremely difficult since the uprising began in mid-February.

The website Stinque is reporting that doctors in Eastern Egypt have been finding Viagra capsules and used condoms in the pockets of dead Libyan soldiers, proof that rape is being used as an instrument of terror among Libyan women. This Aljazeera report can be found here.

Despite all of these wildly divergent accounts of what has happened to al-Obeidi, I hold out hope that this woman (and her companions) are alive, but according to all we know about Khaddafy’s murderous ways and henchpeople, she cannot live and denounce him for who and what he is.

~ by blksista on March 29, 2011.

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