The Libyan woman has been missing since last week, when she was dragged away from a Tripoli hotel by Libyan officials after telling foreign journalists she had been gang-raped by forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Her family says al-Obeidy is still unaccounted for, despite assurances by the regime that she has been released.
Al-Obeidy's claims, bruises and screams were captured by reporters and broadcast around the world, saddling the Gadhafi regime with a disturbing symbol of its abuses and offering up a powerful rallying cry for the opposition, which is now calling the 26-year-old lawyer a hero and demanding her release.
Avaaz campaign director Stephanie Brancaforte said pushing for al-Obeidy's release is crucial because the world needs to send a message to Gadhafi's regime that violence against civilians will not be tolerated.
"It's emblematic of many of the atrocities committed against civilians in Libya," Brancaforte told AOL News in a phone interview from Germany today. "Al-Obeidy's case is particularly shocking. But sadly, violence against women has been a part of all of these uprisings," she said, referring to the recent revolutions across the Middle East.
On Thursday, al-Obeidy's mother, Aisha Ahmed, said she wasn't afraid of Gadhafi and wanted him dead. "If I were to see his face, I would strangle him," Ahmed said in an interview with CNN.
Ahmed, along with other family members, told the foreign press that al-Obeidy is believed to be held captive in Gadhafi's personal compound in Tripoli. And they say they have been offered bribes to recant their story and denounce her, but have refused them.
On March 25, al-Obeidy burst into the Rixos Hotel in tears and began to tell foreign reporters that she had been abducted, raped and beaten by 15 members of Gadhafhi's security forces.
As she tried to speak, The New York Times and other media outlets said men and women who appeared to be members of the hotel staff converged on her, calling her a traitor before joining with Libyan officials to violently drag al-Obeidy out of the hotel. During the confrontation, captured by a number of outlets, journalists who tried to protect her can be seen being roughly pushed aside by Libyan officials.
As she was thrown into a car, she could be heard screaming, "They're taking me to jail. If you don't see me tomorrow, then that's it."
Al-Obeidy's rape cannot be independently confirmed. But the disturbing scene in the Rixos Hotel cast a harsh light on the increasingly desperate tactics of the embattled Gadhafi regime and raised grave questions about whether Libyan forces are using rape as a tool of war.
Libyan doctors this week told Al-Jazeera that they are finding Viagra and condoms on the bodies of dead pro-Gadhafi soldiers, evidence, they believe, that rape is being used to suppress the rebellion. Rape has been used in other conflicts around the world as systematic weapon of war.
"This is her line of work," government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told foreign press this week, according to multiple reports. "She knows the boys for years. She goes out with them for business. She has a whole file of petty theft and prostitution."
Al-Obeidy's family has said that those are lies and that she was abducted along with three other women, all of whom are lawyers.