Bab-al-Azizia was not just Muammar Gaddafi's citadel in the heart of Tripoli, nor just the emblem of a decades-long dictatorship. It was also, according to a new book by French journalist Annick Cojean, one of Dante's circles of hell, reserved for the victims of the Colonel's voracious sexual appetites.
Titled The Prey, the book tells the stories of girls like Soraya, 25, who spent five years at Bab-al-Azizia. At 15, she was noticed by the Colonel's personal bodyguards in a Sirte high school. Within a few hours, she was torn from family and school and taken to Gaddafi's court at Tripoli. Here, she says, she was made to wear revealing clothes, to smoke, drink alcohol, and take cocaine. This was a fate common to adolescents of both genders during the Gaddafi regime, Cojean says in her book. The dictator's vast network of flesh peddlers, all of them eager to ingratiate themselves with the Colonel, included diplomats, employees, members of his protocol, and the military, Cojean writes.