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Middle East

Week of horror in Ajdabiya's hospital

Reports that women were raped by forces loyal to Gaddafi after they retook the eastern city of Ajdabiya.
Last modified: 28 Mar 2011 01:15
Mourner at grave of a rebel killed by Gaddafi forces in Ajdabiya [Reuters]

Walking through the corridors of the El-Mgareaf hospital, Dr Suleiman Refadi went from sadness, to boiling fury, to unhindered joy in the space of just half an hour.

The general surgeon had stayed holed up in the hospital in east Ajdabiya for the six days Gaddafi's forces spent in his city after retaking control last week. He and a number of his staff risked being shot by snipers in the city or being arrested and taken away like so many others during this time.

Three of his doctors had disappeared on their way to pick up injured civilians just two streets away from the hospital. Only their shot up ambulance was found.

The surgeon told me about the women he had treated who said they had been raped by government soldiers. One woman was snatched from outside her home as she called for her child to come indoors. Another was inside her own house near the west gate to the city when soldiers broke in and raped her.

His sadness turned to bewilderment when the doctor described how he believed this rape was very much pre-meditated. He described how he had personally searched the bodies of Gaddafi troops that were brought into the hospital morgue: "When they bring the cadavers to the hospital I search their pockets. I have seen Viagra and I have seen condoms."

This, he ascertained, was because they had been instructed to rape.

His bewilderment turned to blind fury as I asked if he thought Colonel Gaddafi should be tried for war crimes for the abuses his troops had committed. This highly educated man didn't believe a court of law was good enough for him.

"Over the past 42 years Colonel Gaddafi has killed doctors, lawyers, engineers, journalists, teachers, cleaners, even crazy men. We will hang him when we catch him." 

But it wasn't long before this doctor's fury melted away and excitement about his city's freedom began to shine through. Yesterday it hadn't sunk in but today people were beginning to believe their six days under siege were really over. And they were beginning to smile. 

The doctor's relief was evident. He'd lost patients during the siege of the city because they had no medical supplies, no electricity and no running water. Women had asked for abortions believing their children would be killed if born under the Gaddafi regime.

One new mother had refused to take her baby home as she was sure she and her newborn baby wouldn't survive. 

But yesterday she'd come back to the hospital and taken him home. The people had their city back and Dr Refadi could, at last, go home.