Women & Revolution: What Does Media Coverage Mean for Eman al-Obeidy?

I had originally been intending to write about a NYTs article entitled After Rape Report in Libya, Woman Sees Benefit in Publicity.  This article details the plight of Eman al-Obeidy [or Iman al-Obeidi] and examines her experience through the lens of media exposure.  Despite my reservations, I thought that increased publicity for Eman al-Obeidy would help to ensure her safety and raise greater awareness of the human rights violations occurring in Libya.  This morning that notion was shattered when I came across a post on CNN journalist Nic Robertson’s Facebook fan page entitled,

READ this CNN article: “Qatari expulsion of alleged Libyan rape victim upsets U.S.

Eman al-Obeidy. Photo from CNN

In light of this article, I find it hard to argue that global publicity is helping the case of Eman al-Obeidy.  Its true that many people, governments and organizations are actively lobbying for her free passage.  But in spite of this collective pressure, her safety and freedom have yet to be secured.

On Thursday, after previously offering her sanctuary, the government of Qatar sent Eman and her family back to Libya citing her “expired visa” as justification for their actions.  This occurred despite the fact that Eman al-Obeidy was protected under refuge status according to the UN High Commission on Refugees.  According to the UNHCR this would negate the need for a visa.

It seems that during the time that Eman al-Obeidy was being held by authorities in Doha, both she and her family members were kept against their will and beaten.  During this time Qatari officials told Eman that Libyan rebel leaders were pressuring them to deport Eman and her family to rebel held Benghazi.

This leads me to wonder, to what extent has the publicity received by Eman al-Obeidy actually helped her case?  True, a multitude of government and supranational agencies are working to secure the safe passage of Eman and her family.  Additionally, on the individual level, people across the globe have expressed their collective shock and horror at the trials endured by Eman and her family.  Nevertheless, we as a global community have been unable to protect her from bodily harm and deportation.

Rebel authorities in Libya have stated that Eman al-Obeidy and her family are free to move about the country and leave whenever they wish.  I hope that this is case, but as time goes on my reservations unfortunately grow.   In the increasingly likely case that she will not be allowed to leave Benghazi, I hope that this media coverage can eventually be transformed into an effective political tool which international authorities can use to secure her release.  In the mean time it seems that the best that we can do as individuals is continue to write and speak out in support of Eman.

UPDATE: Within seconds of publishing this article I saw that Eman al-Obeidy is being flown out of Libya to the US as we speak.  You can read the AP announcement here.  This is great news, all of us at WIPA are ecstatic to hear that Eman and hopefully the rest of her family will now be safe from deportation and physical harm.

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