WiSi Online 1/2022: The visual securitarization of a ‘woman in need’ during the 2011 military intervention in Libya

A week after the NATO-led military intervention in Libya had commenced in March 2011, Iman al-Obeidi stormed into a hotel in Tripoli telling journalists that she had been raped by Gaddafi’s fighters. A video of this incident was broadcasted worldwide. It became the visual imagery most frequently replayed by CNN in the context of the Libyan War.

This reporting is of interest for analysis because the intervention was based on the Responsibility to Protect - the aim to safeguard civilians. Therefore, the media representation of civilians and human rights abuses by the Gaddafi regime were especially relevant in influencing the public’s opinion on the legitimacy of the intervention. In this edition, Theresa Ogando outlines that the CNN’s broadcasting on Iman al-Obeidi used a gendered narrative of the ‘woman in need’ and thereby securitized the situation for Libyan civilians, supporting the legitimization of the 2011 NATO intervention.