Gaddafi's Harem (Paperback)

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"Near the end of Cojean's eye-opening account, it is briefly mentioned (later confirmed by a collaborator) that Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi's brutal sexual appetite craved "at least four a day," preferably virgins. If these witnesses are right, then the rough total of girls, women, boys, and young men who were raped by Gaddafi over his 40 year regime could be in the unfathomable range of 58,400. As young as twelve and sometimes even the daughters or wives of his subordinates or opponents, they were kidnapped, coerced, and blackmailed—they and their families' lives threatened or extinguished. They spent anywhere from an hour to a week to several years, or the whole of their young lives, at his beck and call. The childlike testimony that makes up most of this devastating, vital read describes with heartbreaking directness and simplicity the cruel, sadistic sexual monster that lived under the facade of a leader who claimed to be in favor of progressive freedoms for women. The idol of French journalists, Albert Londres, wrote "Our profession is not meant to please, nor to do harm; it is meant to put one's finger on the problem." Cojean's account does exactly that: it does not please or harm the reader; it succeeds in putting a finger —no, 58,400 fingers —on the problem. Yet it doesn't stop with one man. With generals and foot-soldiers having followed his example, the true number is likely far greater. And as the new Libya continues to adhere to a code of silence regarding the problem of what to do about victims of rape, the reader is left to wonder: what is the solution?"

— Stacie M. Williams


Soraya was just fifteen, a schoolgirl in the coastal town of Sirte, when she was given the honor of presenting a bouquet of flowers to Colonel Gaddafi, "the Guide," on a visit he was making to her school the following week. This one meeting--a presentation of flowers, a pat on the head from Gaddafi--changed Soraya's life forever. Soon afterwards, she was summoned to Bab al-Azizia, Gaddafi's palatial compound near Tripoli, where she joined a number of young women who were violently abused, raped and degraded by Gaddafi. Heartwrenchingly tragic but ultimately redemptive, Soraya's story is the first one of many that are just now beginning to be heard. But sex and rape remain the highest taboo in Libya, and women like Soraya (whose identity is protected by a pseudonym here) risk being disowned or even killed by their dishonored family members.

In Gaddafi's Harem, an instant bestseller on publication in France, where it has already sold more than 100,000 copies in hardcover, Le Monde special correspondent Annick Cojean gives a voice to Soraya's story, and supplements her investigation into Gaddafi's abuses of power through interviews with people who knew Soraya, as well as with other women who were abused by Gaddafi, and those who were involved with his regime, including a driver who ferried women to the compound, and Gaddafi's former Chief of Security. Gaddafi's Harem is an astonishing portrait of the essence of dictatorship: how power gone unchecked can wreak havoc on the most intensely personal level, as well as a document of great significance to the new Libya.

About the Author

Annick Cojean, special correspondent for Le Monde, is one of France's most widely admired journalists. She chairs the committee for the Prix Albert Londres, the French equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, and won the prize herself in 1996. She is the author of several books.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780802122827
ISBN-10: 0802122825
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Pages: 304
Language: English