Libya’s Department for Combating Illegal Immigration (DCIM), the Shara Al-Zawia detention center, has a lot of untold stories. Stories of rape, and sexual assault. Moreover, Somali prisoners in the center have accused the Libyan security forces of sexually assaulting minors. Sexual violence and exploitation are quite common in several detention centers in Libya, and mainly for migrants. Despite the Department for Combating Illegal Immigration receiving support, supplies, and training on human rights, some of Libya’s 29 DCIM-run centers lack basic hygiene, health care, food and water, along with beatings and torture. The United Nations refugee agency has reported multiple rapes in detention, including some who were pregnant and gave birth during detention.
Human traffickers have captured some Somali women who were trying to reach Europe. They imprisoned, tortured, and sexually abused them for more than two years. The Libyan security forces rescued them, and they suffered even more sexual abuse; this time at the hands of guards at the Libyan detention center in Tripoli. Nine young female migrants were in the Shara Al-Zawiya detention center where migrants usually stay short periods for processing.
They were between 16-18 years old, and human rights organizations have been trying to release them for weeks. These Somali teenagers have been asking for their release, and reported sexual assaults, as the stories on the matter are nothing short of horrifying and tragic. Even more traumatizing on the matter is the fact that it is inflicted on them by people who were supposed to be protecting them.
The story of a Somali woman
A 17-year-old Somali young woman said, “You have to offer something in return to go to the bathroom, to call family, or to avoid beating.” The guards of the center sexually abused her and attempted to rape her. While she was casually going to the bathroom, a guard grabbed her breasts, and stripped off her clothes. She fought him to stop, but he didn’t stop until he was done. After that, he told her to clean herself up, like it was nothing. When she shared this story with a girl in her cell, she learned that it’s not the first time this happens in the center.
If a girl fights back, the guards beat her up. Two women have attempted to kill themselves, as a result of the PTSD they suffer with from the sexual assaults. The guards at this center have normalized sexual assault and rape, a matter that all girls here share their own stories about.