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Gaddafi's Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,634 ratings  ·  206 reviews
In 2011, Annick Cojean, senior reporter at Le Monde and special correspondent for Tripoli, wrote a shock article, titled 'Gaddafi's sexual slave', which told the story of Soraya, a twenty-two-year old Libyan woman who had been kidnapped and held captive since the age of 15. Soraya was a schoolgirl in the coastal town of Sirte, when she was given the honour of presenting a ...more
Kindle Edition, 306 pages
Published October 3rd 2013 by Grove Press (first published 2012)
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 ·  1,634 ratings  ·  206 reviews


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Evan
This is not an easy book to read, but it is a book that needs to be read nonetheless. The atrocities committed by Gaddafi, both public and secret, need to be publicly aired so that the nation of Libya can begin rebuilding its cultural and social history. Although a taboo subject, the sexual crimes that were perpetrated by the ruler and his followers cannot be forgotten or simply swept under the rug, as many would prefer.
It is quite interesting to see how religion and culture can even shape peop
...more
Louise
Political prisoners who have been beaten, humiliated, staved and chained are given a welcome back to society. Not so for Gaddafi’s sex slaves – and slaves they were. Upon release, none were feted, some were killed by their own families, all were labeled whores. This is the case of the women in Gaddafi's Harem.

This powerful content needs a better book. I recognize that there are loses in translation as it goes from Arabic to French to English and I recognize the need to disguise the identity of t
...more
Alisinny
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very disturbing yet an important document of the Gaddafi years in Libya. The bravery of this young woman and the savagery and cowardice of her countrymen is painful to read, I can only imagine what she herself must feel.
This story is an indictment of a brutal dictator and the system of men and women who facilitated his systematic rape and torture of young women and men (many of them still children really) and a society which despite ridding themselves of Gaddafi himself, continue t
...more
Liz Simmons
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the opposite of a light read. French journalist Annick Cojean writes an important but hard to read account of the extensive system of sexual abuse /sexual slavery that existed in Libya under the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. About the first half of the book (and in my opinion the most engrossing) is a firsthand account of one of Gaddafi's "girls." Soraya's story is brutal but it turns out, not uncommon. At the age of 15 she was "selected" from her school to present a bouquet of flowers to G ...more
Thiago S.
Dec 11, 2015 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: perverts, disturbed people
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wytzia Raspe
Dec 05, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
French journalist Annick Cojean met some girls who according to her lived in the palace of the Libyan dictator as sex-slaves. I read her newspaper article first and when she wrote the book I was interested in a glimpse into the real life of this dictator. What a disappointing book. It tells nothing more then her newspaper article and gives no description or background at all. And it is very badly written. A total waste of money.
Bassem Aly
Well, after all I am not sure it was a real book with real content !
It is something unbelievable, May be it categorized under a science-fiction book rather than being a political book which tell real stories !
I can not understand or accept the fact that there was a man like the mentioned one in this book Mummar Qaddaffi !!
How a human creature can be like the mentioned one with all this sexual-mania ?! and how was such a sluttish regime like the Libyan one able to stand all these years ?! and bei
...more
Annisa
Jan 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It is not an amazing book.

First, the flow of the story felt more as fiction rather than testimony or documentary,
particularly on Soraya's story that takes half of the book.
The second part is much better, although, somehow, I feel it is not ordered well enough.

Somehow, the fiction impression that I got makes me want to read its French version
, since probably the writer uses more expressions and more dramatical words than those she used here.

Second,
The writer also missed to emphasize and to concl
...more
Rowena
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Deeply disturbing book and utterly shocking, especially for the fact that such a public figure can get away with such horrendous crimes for forty odd years. The story itself tends to be repetitive and once one account by one witness is read you essentially don't really need to read the rest. Certain facts seem implausible and it would have been more credible if the author had checked her facts before writing certain things down which make her story dubious. For example, I know for a fact that ab ...more
Sportyrod
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libya
I can never understand the dilemma of what you are supposed to do if you are raped in a place where the law requires women to be virgins until marriage. Reporting it is a death sentence. A husband would reject you. Both family and society would also reject you. This appears to create an opportunistic situation for sexual predators.

A French journalist comes to Libya and interviews some of the people who were part of Gaddafi’s inner circle. Some by choice, many not.

The first story we hear is of a
...more
tinabel
The first half of this biography-cum-history is Soraya’s story – told in the first person, she tells us of her tragic kidnapping by Gaddafi’s men and ‘Amazonian’ bodyguards and subsequent sexual enslavement at the young age of fourteen.

Though much shocked me throughout the novel, perhaps one of the more surprising elements (since I was not overly educated on his reign and downfall prior to reading) was that Gaddafi advocated for women’s rights in Libya, a country with a Muslim majority. Ironica
...more
Cheryl
Respected French journalist, Annick Cojean, was in Libya shortly after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. Cojean was writing an article for Le Monde about the role of women in the Libyan revolution. She found it curious that no women appeared in any films, photographs, or reports dealing with the ouster of Gaddafi. While in Tripoli, she was approached by a young woman who, at great risk to herself, told Cojean her story. Cojean was shocked and overwhelmed by the account, and she followed up on it by i ...more
Tayri
Oct 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book, showing two worlds that were taking place in one country, two contradictory worlds, the suffering of women, the lavish expenditures and throwing of money away , while the real Populations is benefitting little of, the book showed what the real psycho character of the assissinated dictator was like , and the real face of Libya of today!
Emily Dawley
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disturbing, eye-opening and sad that the masses of women brutalized by this disgusting man have never been able to get justice for the horrors they were forced to endure. The culture of secrecy and use of rape as political weapon is terrifying.
Nicko D
Mar 14, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Great story for a newspaper, but absulutely no for a book!
Alicia
Apr 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
it's a very important story to tell, I started off reading this book without knowing too much of Gaddafi. But it's not surprising that a dictator basically did whatever he wanted in his country.

It's evident that stuff was lost in translation, it's not the easiest read and a lot of stuff is repetitive.

My main issues with the book:
1. The lack of description of the surroundings. It would lend even more credibility to Soraya if she'd presented more details of her encounters with different people. A
...more
Vijai
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very depressing book for me. Having finished this yesterday, I have had very little motivation to go work out, write or do just about anything else. How could I? After I read Soroya's story and the other women like her?

A heart wrenching book that could leave one feeling very angry, sad and worried.

Angry with all the fucked up families of these women. Here is your daughter coming to your home with bruises and blood all over her clothes and you are worried about the honour of your sons
...more
Bob Schnell
The Arab/Islamic world has always been more than a bit mysterious and misunderstood by the Western world and Americans in particular. Other than Kipling tales and Hollywood stereotypes, my first glimmer of understanding came from Sir Richard Burton and his adventures in going undercover to really experience Arab culture first-hand. The latest eye-opener was this book, an expose of Gaddafi's use of rape as a political and miltary weapon in a society that blames the victim and hides such crimes fo ...more
Holly
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A disturbing book written sensitively and openly that exposes Gaddafi's persecution of women through sex. This book gives a voice to the rape, brutality and perversion that was emblematic of Gaddafi's reign in Libya. His maniacal demands took away the souls of so many people he systematically targeted and debased. While publicly stating his support for women, in private he treated women (and mere girls...as well as men and his own family members) to a private hell that they may never recover fro ...more
Marti
This was one depressing read. I always thought Gadhafi was an evil buffoon, but in addition to blowing up airplanes he seemed to treat the whole country of Libya as his own personal brothel (even selecting his victims from middle schools). Although inmates of the Presidential Dungeon were allowed brief trips outside the gates of the palace, anyone who tried to leave was generally coerced back (usually by threatening the families). It also seems as though the entire country knew about his atrocit ...more
jeand99
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power, corrupts absolutely. The 42 year reign of Muammar Gaddafi (1942-2011) in Libya proves this 'fact' one more time. He was sex-obsessed and committed an endliss list of sexual crimes. No woman or man was safe in his country. Rape for 'fun'. Rape for punishing. Rape for lust. Rape for manipulation. Children. Teens. Woman. He even raped the woman and daughters of his generals. And if he had to the generals themselves too.

Complaining in Libya? Tricky ... mos
...more
Mohammed Rashid
Feb 15, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Haven't read this book and won't read it anyway; just a short question to the author of this bullshit: Where were you before the NATO-plotted 17th February so-called revolution?! How much did the NATO(or Qatar) pay you to write this book?!! Unbelievable, those money-sucking idiots were the first to benefits from Colonel Qaddafi's wealth and Libya's oil boom and now for a bunch of Qatari rials they are ready to do anything to be fed in Doha and housed by al-Jazeera. Unbelievable just unbelievable ...more
Maureen Grigsby
Sep 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Appalling! It is just horrific to think what happens to many women in countries that have no respect for women. This book makes it frighteningly understandable why we haven't heard more on this subject.
Jennifer
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Started off interesting, though very disturbing, and I was more thoroughly disturbed once I googled what Gaddafi looked like. After a while, though, the writing devolves into being very vague, repetitive and boring, which is kind of an amazing feat given the subject matter.
Helena Sheibler
We all knew the guy was insane but wow. That said, I'm uncertain about this book. I believe the events described within but there's a lurid quality that cheapens the narrative. Perhaps it's a bad translation.
Bina Rai
Dec 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another disturbing book reflecting on the corrupt and schizophrenic profile of a dictator. A man who supposedly ruled a country but beneath it all was basically a sex predator and an addict. The story behind all the glitz and glamour that was projected.
Maria
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Gaddafi's Harem" is a deeply difficult read about Libya's dictator and tyrant, Muammar Gaddafi, where the reader excruciatingly experiences the real face of the megalomaniac that governed the country for 42 long and painful years. The setting is mostly at Bab al-Azizia, the residence of the dictator, which long symbolized the absolute power of this buffoon. Like most dictators, Gaddafi had to be the center of the world and he steadily ruined Libyan society, psychologically transforming and dest ...more
Gsmyles
The first part of this book is interesting and horrifying. The idea that Gaddafi was a nymphomaniac that kidnapped young girls to rape and keep against their will as a harem of sex slaves was heartbreaking and appalling. To know he was so deranged and raped 3-5 new kills per day over his 40 year reign makes me want to throw up. The other more than depressing fact that Libyan families then wouldn't accept their raped children back is more than I can tolerate. That was even more infuriating-- the ...more
Laura Jayne Tricker
Brutal and heartbreaking. It’s so hard to understand Gaddafi and how his evil conduct went in for so long and even after the revolution in Libya women are still going through turmoil and unjust circumstances “the struggle of our mothers and our grandmothers to be allowed to get an education, to get works, be respected. The energy we gave to our studies so we could triumph over discrimination and freely practice our professions. And then that complete commitment to the revolution from the first d ...more
Hasan Adeel
The book illustrates the atrocities that were carried out by Muammar Gaddafi to fulfill his sexual desires. In half of the book, a story of a 15 year old girl Suraya is narrated which at some point seems to be an exaggeration of the things that would have happened to her in reality. Some stories of other rape victims have also been added further to prove the point that Muammar Gaddafi was a sex freak and all he wanted from his life were sexual pleasures. He used to order abduction of pretty scho ...more
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Annick Cojean, foreign correspondent for Le Monde, is one of France's most widely admired journalists. She chairs the committee for the Prix Albert Londres, having won the prize herself in 1996, and has published a number of books.

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“Who would dream of bringing charges against the devil when you are in hell?” 0 likes
“So many Libyans felt they’d been avenged by this symbolic gesture. Before his appointment with death, the rapist was raped.” 0 likes
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