05-08-2011 by L. S. Carbonell
Eman (Iman) al-Obeidy, who gained international fame on March 26, when she burst into the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli to tell foreign journalists how she had been detained, beaten and repeatedly raped by Qaddafi security forces, has escaped to Tunisia. She has detailed her journey from Tripoli in an exclusive interview with CNN.
She crossed into Tunisia on Thursday, at the border crossing at Dehiba (al-Dahibat, Dahibah), where Qaddafi forces have been shelling the Tunisian city while allegedly chasing rebels. There she was picked up by European diplomats who took her to Tunis. She appears to have been aided in her escape by a defecting Libyan army officer and his family. Her family in Tobruk, which is east of Benghazi and securely in rebel territory, received word that she is safe through coverage on television. Eman intends to remain in Tunis until she determines what she wants to do with her life. She was a post-graduate law student before her detention.
Surprisingly, she was interview in Tripoli last month by CNN. At that time, she explained how she was harassed for what she did in the hotel, “I usually get harassed when I have to show my identification card to government officials somewhere and they find out who I am and that I have put complaints forward against Qaddafi’s people. They humiliate me to the point where other people gather and start saying that it is shameful to treat a Libyan woman that way.”
Now that she is safe in Tunisia, it might be possible to get her to her hometown of Tobruk, where the port is open to marine traffic.
The fact that the defecting officer took a military vehicle for their escape is consistent with the allegations in Tripoli that only the military has gasoline. The international sanctions and the fact that the rebels hold the oil pipelines with Benghazi the only oil port that can still ship oil is resulting in severe gas shortages in Tripoli. Cars are being abandoned in mile-long lines to empty gas stations. Libyan state television blames the shortages on NATO, but the locals are openly blaming the regime. Adding to the regimes problems is the number of skilled people who fled when they could toward Benghazi or across the border into Tunisia. It is getting harder to keep municipal services functioning.
Foreign reporters are confined to two hotels in Tripoli and can only leave them under escort. A recent government-arranged tour of the city showed the extent of the hardships now being felt in the city – long lines outside bakeries, shuttered shops, abandoned cars. Small towns in Tunisia are reporting long lines of Libyan vehicles gassing up, and driving up gas prices in Tunisia, adding to the tensions along the border.
The shortages may be the best news in weeks for the rebels. Eventually, the regime has to run out of gas for their tanks and the civilian vehicles that they are using to elude the NATO bombers.
Lawyer and playwright Abdulbaset Abumzirig, who escape from Misrata on Friday, has described the conditions in that besieged city. “Morale is very, very high,” he said. There is “an incredible spirit of cohesion and cooperation. If you walk the streets, it looks like it’s normal. All the shops are open, even bakeries and restaurants, even though there is a slight danger of a shell hitting.” He escaped just an hour before the shelling which ignited four fuel storage tanks and set the whole fuel depot on fire. Without fuel, those shops and restaurants will close. The city has been operating on shallow well water for three months, since the Qaddafi regime cut off water and electricity to the city. Abumzirig said the people of Misrata are determined to stay in the city. His own wife and son are still there. He intends to return after his trip to Benghazi.
His description is consistent with a city in which Qaddafi’s ground troops and snipers have been driven out. Before the rebels pushed Qaddafi’s forces out, people were being routinely gunned down in the streets and life was extremely dangerous. It is believed that Qaddafi’s forces are bivouacked in the suburbs, which may or may not be abandoned. If it were possible to verify if there were still civilians in the suburbs, NATO could decide how best to deal with the tanks and rocket launchers Qaddafi’s forces are using.
President Obama’s National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon, in an interview on Fox News Sunday, admitted that Qaddafi is still in control, but said “Time will not be on Qaddafi’s side.”