Gaddafi's Harem: Book summary and reviews of Gaddafi's Harem by Annick Cojean

Gaddafi's Harem

The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya

By Annick Cojean

Gaddafi's Harem
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2013,
    272 pages.

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Book Summary

Soraya was just fifteen, a schoolgirl in the coastal town of Sirte, when she was given the honor of presenting a bouquet of flowers to Colonel Gaddafi, "the Guide," on a visit he was making to her school the following week. This one meeting - a presentation of flowers, a pat on the head from Gaddafi - changed Soraya's life forever. Soon afterwards, she was summoned to Bab al-Azizia, Gaddafi's palatial compound near Tripoli, where she joined a number of young women who were violently abused, raped and degraded by Gaddafi. Heartwrenchingly tragic but ultimately redemptive, Soraya's story is the first one of many that are just now beginning to be heard. But sex and rape remain the highest taboo in Libya, and women like Soraya (whose identity is protected by a pseudonym here) risk being disowned or even killed by their dishonored family members.

In Gaddafi's Harem, an instant bestseller on publication in France, where it has already sold more than 100,000 copies in hardcover, Le Monde special correspondent Annick Cojean gives a voice to Soraya's story, and supplements her investigation into Gaddafi's abuses of power through interviews with people who knew Soraya, as well as with other women who were abused by Gaddafi.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A moving and disturbing wake-up call to the personal costs of totalitarianism." - Publishers Weekly

"Gripping, deeply disturbing, and compulsively readable. Readers interested in women's rights, global issues, or Gaddafi's regime will find this book fascinating." - Library Journal

"An important contribution to the understanding of Gadhafi's regime and the social and political challenges that confront Libya now." - Kirkus

"In one moment, Gaddafi had indeed marked Soraya as special. And soon she would disappear completely. What happened to Soraya is recounted in Annick Cojean's staggering new book." - New York Post

"A personal account from one of Muammar Gaddafi's former sex slaves....sheds even more light on the strange and terrifying lifestyle of Libya's former dictator." - Daily Mail (UK)

"A terrifying book-length investigation whose journalist author follows the trail of Soraya, bringing her story to life before embarking on a broader, no less chilling investigation into Gaddafi's 'system of sexual slaves.'" - Livres Hebdo (France)

"In this shocking book, Annick Cojean gives these women a voice... [Gaddafi's Harem] will stay with you for a long time... Cojean describes a terrifying system where young women were forced to satisfy the perverse desires of the "Guide," under threat of terrible reprisals... An exceptional piece of reporting." - Elle (France)

"If you think you have discovered all of the quirks in Gaddafi's character, you are mistaken... A study taken with great audacity by a senior reporter for Le Monde, and at some personal risk since these crimes are completely taboo in Libya, even today. Astonishing." - Le Figaro (France)

"Gaddafi joyfully paraded around like a feminist of the East, avowing his struggle 'to liberate the women of the Arab nation.' But, completely at odds with the Bedouin suffragette Gaddafi pretended to be, Gaddafi's Harem shockingly reveals his sexual exploitation of an entire country." - Le Point (France)

"You follow this remarkable investigation and relive the nightmare. Gaddafi's Harem bears witness to an entire system that used rape as a weapon of terror." - Marie Claire (France)

"Annick Cojean's book, written in a precise and ultra-sensitive language, assembles facts and testimonies that appall, while also giving a behind-the-scenes view of high-risk reporting. Outstanding." - Paris Match (France)

"Lifts the veil on the terrible sexual abuses perpetrated by Gaddafi. A fantastic investigation... Page after page, Cojean gives a name, a face and a voice to the victims of this devastating suffering." - L'Express (France)

"Gaddafi's Harem takes Soraya as its starting point to recount the fates of so many other women. She has gone to remarkable lengths – rape is the highest taboo in Libya – to collect these women's stories." - Le Monde (France)

"Special correspondent at French newspaper Le Monde, Annick Cojean is an all-terrain journalist: she landed the final interview Princess Diana gave in 1997, but also won the Prix Albert-Londres for her set of reports entitled 'Rembering the Shoah.' ....Gaddafi's Harem is at once poignant, terrifying, and unsettling." - 24 Heures (Switzerland)

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Annick Cojean, special correspondent for Le Monde, is one of France's most widely admired journalists. She chairs the committee for the Prix Albert Londres, the French equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, and won the prize herself in 1996. She is the author of several books.

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