UN: give space to Libyan woman who claimed rape

AP News
Posted: Jun 08, 2011 8:10 AM
UN: give space to Libyan woman who claimed rape

The U.N. refugee agency on Wednesday appealed for privacy for a Libyan woman who claims she was raped by Moammar Gadhafi's troops.

Iman al-Obeidi, 29, made headlines around the world in March when she rushed into Libya's Rixos Hotel and told foreign reporters she had been gang-raped by Libyan troops who detained her at a checkpoint in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

Since then, al-Obeidi's ordeal has taken her to Tunisia, Qatar, Malta and now Romania, and her sister says al-Obeidi's ultimate goal is to start a new life in the United States.

Machiel Salomons, representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Romania, refused to confirm where al-Obeidi would resettle. He said she arrived Monday at a U.N. refugee transit center in western Romania and urged respect for her "space and privacy" so she can "begin the process of recovery from traumatic events."

The Rixos Hotel in Tripoli is where all foreign correspondents are forced to stay while covering the government-held part of Libya amid a civil war between Gadhafi's forces and rebels.

When Iman al-Obeidi rushed into the hotel and shouted out her story in March, she was dragged away by Libya government minders. She disappeared for several days, then turned up in Tunisia and later Qatar. She was rarely heard from until Thursday, when she was suddenly expelled from Qatar and ended up in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya.

Al-Obeidi traveled to Romania from Malta, was accompanied by UNHCR staff throughout her journey. Salomons declined to say how al-Obeidi left Qatar and Qatar gave no explanation for the expulsion.

The refugee transit center in the city of Timisoara is a temporary haven for refugees awaiting resettlement to a third country. Refugees can remain there for a maximum of six months.

Al-Obeidi has said she was targeted by Gadhafi's troops because she is from Benghazi. Her claim of rape could not be independently verified.

The Associated Press identifies only rape victims who volunteer their names.