Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Gaddafi’s Harem

by Annick Cojean

“Not only should Cojean be praised for her unveiling of Gaddafi’s sexual atrocities, but, more importantly, she has drawn attention to the severe improvement needed concerning women’s rights in Libya.” —Libya for the Free

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date September 09, 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2282-7
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 81/14"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

Soraya was just fifteen when she was given the honor of presenting a bouquet of flowers to Colonel Gaddafi, “the Guide,” on his visit to her school. She carried out her task with grace, but the next day three women from the “Department of Protocol” came to Soraya’s house, telling Soraya’s mother that she had to come and present more flowers to him—immediately. Soraya was taken to a luxurious desert encampment, measured for clothes, asked her bra size, shaved, and adorned with makeup. When she went into Gaddafi’s trailer, he was naked. This was the first sexual encounter she had with a man who would torment her for almost seven years.

In Gaddafi’s Harem, 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 other women who were exploited by Gaddafi and people working in his administration. Her book is a disturbing and important portrait of the horrors that can occur in any dictatorship—abuses of power on the most intimate level.


“An absolutely fascinating book.” —Tina Brown (of The Daily Beast), speaking on NPR Morning Edition

“Deeply disturbing . . . [Cojean] makes her case solidly. . . . Cojean’s dogged reporting leads us to the same sad path the world has trudged down before. It is the weakest—the poor, the women, the children—who suffer the most.” —Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Acclaimed French journalist Annick Cojean unveils the deranged dictator’s deviant sexual regime and his enslavement of young women throughout the country. The details are shockingly graphic and the stories horrifying, made even more so by the victim-shaming that has silenced the women in the aftermath.” —Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News

“In this compelling work of non-fiction, renowned French journalist Annick Cojean tells a story that is the stuff of nightmares. . . . An important book for anyone interested in women’s rights, social justice and international news.” —Julie Carl, Winnipeg Free Press

“Cojean traces the tragic arc of Soraya’s life under Gaddafi’s iron rule—and reveals the systematic abuses of the despot who palled around with world leaders in public and who submitted his subjects (both male and female, powerful and lowly) to his cruel private lusts.” —The Daily Beast

“Exposes the full extent of Gaddafi’s brutality. . . . It’s hard not to weep at the cruelty one man inflicted on so many. . . . [But Cojean’s] persistence and Soraya’s courage have been rewarded. The fact that Cojean’s book has been translated into Arabic and is now freely available in Libya offers a small ray of hope for the future safeguarding of women’s rights in that troubled nation.” —Independent

“In this horrifying inside look at the lives of Libyan women under the Gaddafi regime, Cojean, a special correspondent for Le Monde, has created a work of powerful and compelling nonfiction that will stagger readers. . . . A journalistic expos’ that can not be denied and that readers will not be able to put down.” —Booklist
(starred review)

“A harrowing read, difficult to put down. . . . Cojean details Gaddafi’s perversion, the lengths to which his inner circle would go to satisfy his desire for women and power, and the systemic use of rape as a weapon of terror. She also elucidates the astounding challenges still faced by women who have been abused and enslaved under his regime, shedding light on an aspect of the dictatorship often hidden or dismissed, even within Libya. 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 (starred review)

“A renowned French journalist for Le Monde uncovers another level of monstrousness in the recently overthrown dictatorship of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. . . . A moving and disturbing wake-up call to the personal costs of totalitarianism.” —Publishers Weekly

“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

“Not only should Cojean be praised for her unveiling of Gaddafi’s sexual atrocities, but more importantly, she has drawn attention to the severe improvement needed concerning women’s rights in Libya.” —Libya for the Free

“Annick Cojean provides a fact-based corrective to those fooled by Gaddafi’s illusions, specifically those impressed by the radical feminist image evoked by his once highly visible—and sexily transgressive—corps of ‘Amazon’ body guards.” —Libya Now

“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,’ the violated women that Gaddafi called his ‘girls.’ She shows all the distress, loneliness, and fear of these young women, victims not only of a dictator but also of a society that considers their dishonor to be a national disgrace better left unspoken.” —Livres Hebdo

“Kidnapping, rape, humiliation. This was the fate of so many women who were held at the mercy of Colonel Gaddafi. In this shocking book, Annick Cojean gives these women a voice. . . . 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

“This is a subject that is still taboo, even in the new Libya, a country that has barely overthrown its former tyrant. . . . Gaddafi joyfully paraded around like a feminist of the East, avowing his struggle ‘to liberate the women of the Arab nation.’ But Gaddafi’s Harem shockingly reveals Gaddafi’s sexual exploitation of an entire country, something completely at odds with the Bedouin suffragette he pretended to be.” —Le Point


The school auditorium was packed. Teachers, students, administrators—everyone was nervously waiting. We, the small group of girls meant to welcome the Guide, were lined up in front of the entrance and were exchanging meaningful glances, as if to say: “Really, what luck! We’ll remember this moment for the rest of our lives!” I clutched my bouquet of flowers and was shaking like a leaf. My legs felt like rubber. One teacher cast a stern look at me and said, “Come on, Soraya, stand up straight!”

And suddenly, there He was. Cameras flashed as he came out, surrounded by a horde of people and female bodyguards. He was wearing a white uniform, his chest covered with insignia, flags, and decorations, a beige shawl over his shoulders that matched the color of the small cap on his head from which some dark black hair peaked out.

It all happened very fast. I held out the bouquet, then took his free hand in mine and kissed it as I bowed down. That’s when I felt him squeezing my palm in a strange manner. Then he looked me over coldly, from top to bottom.

He pressed my shoulder, placed a hand on my head, and patted my hair. And there my life ended. For, as I later learned, that gesture was a sign to the bodyguards that meant: “That’s the one I want!”