We Have All Failed Iman al-Obeidy

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

It was an act of shocking courage: a young Libyan woman, a lawyer by training, burst into a hotel in Tripoli and yelled out that she had been gang-raped by Qaddafi forces. The hotel was full of Western reporters having breakfast, and almost immediately, she was carried away to an unknown location. According to the report in CNN:

The 29-year-old law school graduate burst into a Tripoli hotel last month to tell her story to journalists. Authorities rushed her away from the hotel, but she is no longer in custody. Still, she told CNN’s "AC360" Tuesday she fears for her safety in Tripoli, which she called a "large prison." She said authorities had taken her passport and were not letting her cross into Tunisia.


Al-Obeidy said she spent 72 hours under interrogation after being dragged away from the Tripoli hotel where she tried to tell journalists about her alleged abuse. She has said the public statements from a state TV anchor and government officials, who initially called her mentally ill, drunk and a prostitute, have ruined her reputation.

We have all failed Iman al-Obeidy. And there are more than one "we" here. First, we in the West have failed her. For far too long, we in the West have accepted – and overtly supported – brutal dictators, especially in the Muslim World, who decimated their own people in the quest to remain in power. And for what? "Stability" and a steady stream of oil.

While I understand the need to secure the prime source of energy that fuels our way of life, yet, had we supported Democracy rather than Dictatorship, we would have had both real stability and our oil. They were never mutually exclusive. Sadly, however, we did not do that, and thus, we failed Iman al-Obeidy. While it is shocking to behold what happened to Iman al-Obeidy, it is without doubt that there are many, many more Iman al-Obeidys all across the Middle East. And we have failed all of them.

Another "we" that has failed Iman al-Obeidy is the Muslim "we." Her faith community has failed her as well. Aisha Ahmad, al-Obeidy’s mother, told CNN:

I want [President] Obama and all the Western world to get involved and bring me back my daughter. Just bring her back to me. I would like to tell the mothers all over the world, and the Arab world, that if something happens to someone, they need to speak out. They just need to speak out.

Yet, I really feel that it should never have come to the West having to bomb Libya. The Muslim World should have acted to save their LIbyan brothers and sisters, Iman al-Obeidy among them, from the brutality of their leaders. The Quran says:

And if two factions among the believers should fight, then make settlement between the two. But if one of them oppresses the other, then fight against the one that oppresses until it returns to the ordinance of God. And if it returns, then make settlement between them in justice and act justly. Indeed, God loves those who act justly (49:9)

How can what Qadhaffi has done be anything but oppression, of the worst kind? How could it be that the Muslim World sat by, silently, while he was slaughtering his own people, for the "crime" of protesting against him? How could it be that the Muslims did not send a helping hand to their fellow Muslims who were suffering in Libya? Yes, there were protests in some places in the world, especially here in the United States. But, Muslim governments did nothing while there was mass murder committed before their eyes.

Yes, we have all failed Iman al-Obeidy.

You know, many Muslims are so quick to blame "the West," or "the Christians," or "the Jews," or any other "the…" for their dire predicaments. They are so quick to protest the injustices committed against them by those other than they, which is their right to do. Yet, many evils committed against Muslims are at the hands of fellow Muslims themselves. Case in point: Darfur. Remember Darfur? Where Muslims killed fellow Muslims; Muslims raped fellow Muslims; Muslims destroyed mosques and desecrated copies of the Quran. And what was the response of the Muslim world?

Deafening silence.

I do not excuse any injustice committed upon the Muslim world by the West. But, I do not give a free pass to injustice committed against Muslims by Muslims. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. The Muslim world should have acted to stop Qaddafi from his madness. But, it didn’t, and the West stepped in. Yes, it may be because Libya has oil. But, the West did it nonetheless, and it stopped the Libyan regime from committing even more mass slaughter. And for that, I have nothing about which to be angry at all.

Hearing Iman al-Obeidy’s story hurt me to the core of my being. It was horrific what happened to her, and I am so sorry for what has happened to her. I pray that the Lord gives her strength, comfort, and peace. I pray that the Lord gives her family comfort in this horrific time. I pray that the people responsible for the inhuman crime committed against her are brought to swift justice. And I pray that the light of justice, freedom, and dignity shines over the Middle East once and for all.


One thought on “We Have All Failed Iman al-Obeidy

  1. Yes, Dr. Hasaballa, this comes at a very good time and every word is truth. May Allah forgive and help us to do better and May He Almighty grant ease for our sister Iman and that she be removed from pain and oppression, that she be secure and in peace. Allah forgive us.
    I wanted to pass these awards on to you. Just to let you know once more that your work is loved and appreciated. Please see

    Jazak Allah Khair

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