- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Libyan rebels say condoms and Viagra found on soldiers loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi are proof of a campaign of rape waged by the Libyan dictator to terrorize male and female opponents.

Hospitals are dealing with an increase in the number of cases of sexual assault, said rebels and doctors interviewed by The Washington Times since the start of the uprising last month.

A doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for his safety, said Viagra and condoms had been found in the clothes of pro-Gadhafi soldiers killed in battle and those captured alive.

Almost all of the victims of sexual assault have told doctors that they were attacked by the regime’s soldiers.

A resident of Benghazi, who is close to the rebels, said Viagra and condoms were found on each of the soldiers captured last week when Gadhafi loyalists advanced to the outskirts of the rebel stronghold in the east.

Before they were seized, the soldiers taunted residents over a bullhorn, said the Benghazi resident who asked not to be identified.

“They were talking on the mic and saying, ‘Tell your women to get out of the houses naked if you don’t want us to kill you,’ ” he added.

Residents of the capital, Tripoli, and Ajdabiya, a city in the east, made similar claims.

It is rare for rape victims, especially in traditional Arab society, to discuss their ordeals. This has made it difficult for rebels and human rights groups to provide accurate estimates about the number of assaults.

“We have heard allegations of sexual assault and rape by Gadhafi’s forces, but we do not yet have confirmed cases. We consider the allegations worthy of investigation,” said Fred Abrahams, a special adviser at Human Rights Watch in New York.

Nadya Khalife, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said in a phone interview with The Times from Beirut that fear is an impediment to a better understanding of the extent of the assaults.

The Libyan government Tuesday showed how they respond to claims of rape by announcing that a woman who declared she was sexually assaulted by Gadhafi loyalists will face criminal charges.

The woman, who identified herself as Iman al-Obeidi, burst into a Tripoli hotel lobby full of foreign journalists Saturday and accused Gadhafi loyalists of gang rape.

Iman al-Obeidi took a great risk to tell her story, one that in Libya can carry a lot of shame,” Ms. Khalife said.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the woman will face criminal charges, as well as a lawsuit from the men she accused.

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