A new documentary by the BBC reveals for the first time former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s rape chambers, where – after kidnapping girls and boys from their schools – they were tortured, raped and made to watch pornography.
"Some were only 14," remembered one teacher at a Tripoli school, where one of the chambers existed. "They would simply take the girl they wanted. They had no conscience, no morals, not an iota of mercy, even though she was a mere child."
The documentary, “Mad Dog – Gadhafi's Secret World,” which airs on the BBC program Storyville on February 3, interviews eye witnesses and survivors who recount horrific moments in Gaddafi’s warped world.
Witnesses testify how Gaddafi and body guards would regularly visit schools, where his victims would be chosen. A pat on the head of an innocent child would mean abduction later by Gaddafi’s guards. The child would then be brought to one of his chambers – preserved as they were and shown for the first time in the documentary – where they would undergo gynecological tests for sexually transmitted diseases before being taken to the dictator to be raped.
"The women would first be raped by the dictator then passed on, like used objects, to one of his sons and eventually to high-ranking officials for more abuse," said Seham Sergewa, a Benghazi-based psychologist who interviewed victims for the International Criminal Court.
Those that survived were often drafted into Gaddafi’s female corps of private body guards, where they were made to endure the abuse for years.
One such guard recounted how the girls were forced to witness the execution of Gaddafi’s enemies. "Early one morning, we were taken to a closed hall," one former guard recalled. "We were to witness the murder of 17 students. We were not allowed to scream. We were made to cheer and shout. To act as though we were delighted by this display. Inside I was crying. They shot them all, one by one."
Some of the girls were held for years, while others – those with gaping injuries — were left to die in parking garages or garbage dumps.
"One just disappeared and they never found her again, despite her father and brothers searching for her. Another was found three months later, cut, raped and lying in the middle of a park. She had been left for dead," said a teacher at a Tripoli school.
Those who managed to escape were often rejected by their families, as women who have been raped are considered by many Muslims to have “dishonored” their families.
Gaddafi’s harem also included young boys. "He was terribly sexually deviant," testified Gaddafi’s former chief of protocol Nuri Al Mismari. "Young boys and so on. He had his own boys. They used to be called the 'services group.’ "
While filming the documentary, the BBC discovered that Gaddafi – who was the dictator of Libya for 42 years –had employed a personal hit squad based in Cuba to kill his enemies, many of whom were kept by the dictator in his freezer after their deaths so that Gaddafi could view their bodies.
"He would visit his victims. It was as though they were some sort of macabre souvenirs,” said Baha Kikhia, whose husband, a foreign minister was killed by Gaddafi and whose body was one of those found a freezer after Gaddafi’s demise. “Something that he could look at and touch to remind himself of his omnipotence. Some had been there as long as 25 years. "
Gaddafi was shot and killed by Libyan rebels in 2011, after he was found hiding.