The Oil and the Glory

In trouble? Call Charles Clover

Back when I was based in Almaty, one of my roommates was Charles Clover, who was the Financial Times correspondent for Central Asia. Charles was an Arabist who decided to shift over to the former Soviet Union, and pretty quickly distinguished himself for investigative work in Central Asia, Afghanistan and Ukraine. He’s now the paper’s ...

Courtesy of Charles Clover
Courtesy of Charles Clover

Back when I was based in Almaty, one of my roommates was Charles Clover, who was the Financial Times correspondent for Central Asia. Charles was an Arabist who decided to shift over to the former Soviet Union, and pretty quickly distinguished himself for investigative work in Central Asia, Afghanistan and Ukraine. He’s now the paper’s Moscow correspondent, but the editors dispatched him to Libya, where he’s distinguished himself again.

This time, Charles (pictured above in Iraq, and in the blue-checkered long-sleeved shirt in the video below) physically defended Eman al-Obeidy, the Libyan lawyer who burst into the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli last Saturday, and told foreign correspondents that she had been taken from her car at a checkpoint, and raped by 15 men over a two-day period. As she was speaking, government security officers disguised as hotel waiters and receptionists leaped on her. Charles stepped in the way, pushed around a couple of the burly security men, then got tackled in the hotel lobby because the authorities wanted to get the iPod on which he had taped his interview with the woman.

Over at the New York Times, David Kirkpatrick describes Charles as "a pretty big and young guy, physically, with the build of a college rugby player." Given Charles’ personality, you’d have to do an awful lot to rile him up; I never saw nor heard of him doing anything like that, not in Afghanistan during Taliban days, nor Uzbekistan under Karimov. Which tells you something about what went on in the breakfast room in Tripoli.

Charles was deported the next day, and is back in Moscow now. We’ve exchanged emails. He says he’s got a lot on his plate in Russia. In Libya, the government says the men whom al-Obeidy accused of rape are suing her. She has disappeared. Charles filed this great dispatch.

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