A personal account from a former sex slave of Muammar Gaddafi published in the New York Post today, sheds even more light on the strange and terrifying lifestyle of Libya’s former dictator.
Soraya was just 15 years old in April 2004 when she was handpicked by Gaddafi to become one of the many sex slaves in his harem.
French journalist Annick Cojean details Soraya’s life as a sex slave in a new book titled: ‘Gaddafi’s Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya’ due out this September from Grove Press.
Soraya first met Gaddafi when the dictator made a visit to her school and she was chosen to present him with a bouquet.
You can’t imagine the excitement,’ she said. ‘To see Gaddafi in person…His face had been known to me since I was born.’
Their first exchange was innocent. Her heart raced as she handed Gaddafi the flowers, knelt and kissed his hand. He tapped her head and then she left. She said she felt like she was on a cloud.
But that tap was more meaningful than Soraya could possibly comprehend. That tap meant that Gaddafi had chosen her to be his sex slave.
The following day three members of his Amazonian guard – an all-female group – arrived at her mother’s upscale salon and said that Gaddafi wanted to see Soraya.
Her mother reluctantly agreed, knowing she didn’t have a choice.
Soraya was whisked away in a speeding SUV to a remote outpost where she was taken into a tent to meet the dictator. He didn’t acknowledge her as he surfed the channels on his TV, but commanded the female guards to ‘get her ready.’
This included shaving her down, administering a blood test, measuring her for clothes, and changing her into a G-string and white slip.
When she was ready, Soraya was escorted into Gaddafi’s bedroom where he was waiting naked on the bed.
‘Turn around you whore!’ Gaddafi yelled at the young girl. ‘Whore’ would be the only name Soraya was ever called by the dictator. Then he yanked her hair and made her look into his eyes.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘I am your Papa – that’s what you’ll call me, isn’t it? But I am your brother as well, and soon I’ll be your lover. I’ll be all of that to you. Because you’re going to stay here and be with me forever. ‘
Soraya was confused. She was told that after she met with the dictator that she could go home. Being so young, she didn’t quite understand what the dictator wanted with her.
After that Soraya was held captive as a sex slave until Gaddafi’s demise. Along with his many other slaves, she lived in a windowless basement room stuffy with mold and sweat. Their single role in life was to fulfill Gaddafi’s sexual appetite, as he would have sex at least four times a day and it had to be with different women each time.
This came as quite a shock to Soraya who, like many other Libyans, thought of Gadaffi as a feminist in many ways.
He started the Amazonian Guard, the all-female regiment that protected him. He wrote ‘The Green Book’ which advocated for women’s rights and constantly criticized the West for their treatment of women.
One member of his female vice squad told the Associated Press in 2011 that Gaddafi opened opportunities for women to advance. ‘That’s why we cling to him; that’s why we love him. He gave us complete freedom as a woman to enter the police force, work as engineers, pilots, judges, lawyers. Anything.’
But the truth was that many of Gaddafi’s own Amazonian guard were used as sex slaves as well. He scoped out other potential slaves at weddings, schools and political summits. There was even a secret apartment at the University of Tripoli he used to rape students.
And his treatment of Soraya was far from feminist. After her first time with the dictator, she bled for 36 hours straight after. In a report published as the revolution, Gaddafi’s chef told The Times of India that many of his sex slaves suffered such serious injuries from intercourse that ‘they went immediately from his bedroom to the hospital.’
Soraya hated the way he ate garlic cloves for breakfast, chain-smoked, got drunk off of Johnnie Walker Black and was constantly high on cocaine.
‘He was repulsive and he was the president of my country,’ Soraya said.
But some women, especially foreigners, willingly engaged with Gaddafi. She was always surprised to see visiting women head to Gadaffi’s bedroom immaculately dressed carrying designer purses, and then emerge later with their lipstick smudged and hair undone.
His sex acts with her were gruesome. After years of sex slavery, she says Gaddafi completely deformed her body.
‘Because they had been pushed, crushed and bitten, my breasts were drooping and very painful,’ she said. ‘[I] had the chest of an old lady.’
One time he urinated on her and another time he raped her right after having sex with a slave infected with hepatitis.
In one instance she was brought into his bedroom while he was having sex with a young man while another man dressed like a woman was forced to dance. After he was finished he moved onto Soraya.
Outside of Libya no one really seemed to understand just how crazy the dictator was. Soraya recalls a visit from Tony Blair. Blair exited Gaddafi’s tent in a great mood and yelled ‘Hi, girls!’ to the people congregated outside, not knowing they were slaves.
Eventually Soraya gained some freedoms, like the ability to use a cellphone or take a brief trip home. Many of the sex slaves used these liberties as a way to escape, but most were eventually found and brought back.
Years of containment made Soraya relish the freedoms, so she never dared try to leave.
‘The few hours outside the compound gave me such a boost that I never asked any questions,’ Soraya said. ‘I wasn’t even thinking of escaping anymore. I was a long-forgotten girl without any sort of future.’
Then Tripoli fell in August 2011, and two months later Gaddafi was killed. The world was opened up to the atrocities Gaddafi had committed, and the weird lifestyle he kept. When revolutionaries took his palace they found tons of porn, a life-size poster of Jake Gyllenhaal and a photo album of pictures of Condoleezza Rice whom he called ‘my darling black African woman.’ They also found a labyrinth of underground tunnels where Soraya and other slaves were locked away.
Now Soraya lives in Tripoli, smoking three packs a day in her apartment, completely friendless and wondering if anyone will ever acknowledge what happened to her and others like her.
‘I didn’t dream it!’ she told Cojean. ‘You believe me, don’t you?’
The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Gaddafi four months before he died, but no one would step up to testify to rape.