August 31st, 2011
12:12 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Female forced executioner a war criminal or victim?

CNN's Arwa Damon reported from Libya on the story of a 19-year-old girl who became an executioner for Moammar Gadhafi's forces. She admits that she murdered 11 rebels, all prisoners of the Gadhafi regime. (CNN is not identifying Nisreen by her full name because of her experiences in Gadhafi's all-female brigade.)

The story was one that clearly struck a chord with our readers. It brought up a lively debate in the comments about people's thoughts about the girl herself and some thought-provoking questions: Is this woman responsible for the actions she took based on the position she was put in? How does someone in this position respond? And what does this all mean for the fight for freedom in Libya?

"She was following orders. In war you really don't have an option to what you want to do. Is it horrible? Yes," MyDogLue wrote. "Should she be punished? Possibly if incriminating facts come up, but probably not. Should her commanding officers be punished? Yes."

Other readers sympathized with that idea, wondering how they would respond in the situation this 19-year-old says she was put in.

"OK – so it was kill or be killed. I don't know what I would do in that kind of situation, and I doubt many could really be sure, unless it actually happened," talkiseasy wrote. "If her story is accurate, I don't know if I can blame her. It is a natural inclination to self-preserve."

Others said they couldn't judge at all; they have no idea how they would feel if put into such a horrible position.

"Unless we have been in this kind of position, not one of us knows how we would respond. I have a 17 year old son. This girl is just a few years older than him. I can't imagine him being anything but terrified of losing his life or losing his parents," IdleHands wrote. "It appears this young woman had no choice, she either did what she was ordered to do or face her family being killed and her own life taken. Like the poster said, I would like to think I would not take a life, but I really don't know."

Dinkydo wrote that they believed this was a woman compelled to do something without any say.

"This is terrible................just a young girl required to do such terrible things.....to kill for a dictator..........I feel sorry for her...........she was not compelled....she was required to do this," the user wrote.

MightyMoo agreed, saying: "It doesn't matter if she pulled the trigger or the man who would kill her did.

"Those rebels were dead men and she may have done it under duress," MightyMoo continued. "Not everyone follows a tyrant happily some just want to survive and hope to get out of a bad situation."

Many readers were struck by the emotions the story left them having.

schmeddles wrote that the story was "one of the saddest stories I have ever read. I wish I could hug her, and the families of the young who were killed, too."

Other commenters spoke about the use of a regime that thrives on using fear to intimidate their people.

"What strikes me as so sad here is how these young women were taken against their will, indoctrinated, taught to fight/kill, and then raped as a way of being kept under control," TaWeaver wrote. "The rape is all about asserting power or dominance over the victim. It is as if the men in command were showing the women that they had no control over anything, even their own bodies or personal space.

"There are the emotional effects as well... fear, uncertainty, pain, anger, worthlessness, sadness, hopelessness... One feeling so demoralized would not question the authority of her rapists. She would do as they say, even executing another. Perhaps if some people here had an ounce of compassion, they would be able to see the horrible situation this girl was in with a little more clarity and a little less judgment."

Others couldn't fathom what the woman had gone through and said there shouldn't even be a discussion of judgment.

"Sounds like this woman is already in a prison..... for the rest of her life....regardless if they put her in a real one..." GatorALLin wrote. "Those male guards could have done the killings faster or easier themselves, but they chose to have someone else pull the trigger (was that to avoid possible prosecution later? or to try and turn non killers into killers? or just to be evil?).... really sick any angle you look at this from.

DRinNC agreed, writing: "This poor child has already suffered like most of us never will. Even sadder is the fact that she is only one of many."

Many others commenting on the story questioned the legitimacy of her story and whether things went exactly as she explained them to CNN.

"Her story may well be just as she gives it," js555554 wrote. "But she might also be just trying to save her own life with this act. Most likely will never know for sure."

Others pointed to the story as a reason for why the Gadhafi regime needs to be one of the past.

"The regime needs to be wiped out," darren27 wrote.

Quabbin13 wrote: "Thank God for the defeat of Gadhafi."

Another commenter simply wished for a positive outcome for this woman.

"I hope they let her go home," ridey wrote.

soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. George Patton

    Did this Nisreen girl really do that or is this another ploy by the right-wing thugs in Washington to keep the public in a Huzzah over the recent "rebel" victory in Libya? Besides, the public is willing to believe anything bad about Mohammar Qadaffy as the right-wing media continues to villify him!

    August 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob

      i wouldnt blame washington... remember the Nayirah story?

      August 31, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      I totally agree with you. Who knows if we can believe her or is this made up in Washington

      August 31, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      The only way that dictators can remain in power for such a long time is by creating a Gulag where opponents (who come up frequently during their life-times) can be "dealt with." This is the major difference between a dictator and a participant in a democracy. By necessity, executions therefore must be carried out by the dictator, or in this case forcing others to do it for them. You're extremely naive' if you believe that Ghadafi was able to remain in power so long without this kind of activity.

      Same with Iran (Mulluhs). Same with other dictators. It's really very simple: Long-time dictator= atrocities to remain in power.

      sanjosemike

      August 31, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dasthi

    You could point a gun at my head and I still wouldn't be able to kill anyone else. I'm tired of hearing that people were forced to do certain things.

    August 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Army Ranger

      That is what you say now, if you had a family, kids you wanted to see, your natural instint of survival would have made you take the shot. If you hadn't you will be taking a dirt nap. So don't judge what you haven't been through. I went to war, something I did not want to be in, but if it were my life or the other person, I would defend myself, so this way I will go back home. Will I have remorse? Yes I would, a life is precious and one that I don't take for granted.

      August 31, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      I'm the same way you are, Dasthi. Anybody here who thinks that killing is a good or even a glorious thing are without a moral compass! I can't see how these people can be so cold blooded like this Army Ranger above. I know I cannot!!!

      August 31, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      Sorry for the missprint above. I meant "is", not "are" in the above statement.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reekoe

      Dasthi – this is not YOU.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • GnatB

      If you really wouldn't pull the trigger then you are an evolutionary mistake who should probably be put into this situation, hopefully before you have offspring to procreate your apparently inferior genes. I also simply don't believe you.

      Killing is wrong. Yes. However the prisoners were already as good as dead. If you didn't kill them, they would after killing you too. The only question is do you commit voluntary suicide and join the prisoners in death as some sort of moral protest. If I may point out, suicide is also morally wrong.

      That being said, I still wouldn't really expect to avoid punishment. Death sentence now (probably inhumane, at that) or prison/death sentance later (most likely humane?) I also rather expect I'd be tormented by guilt for the rest of my life. As for Nuremberg comparisons? As far as I can tell, common footsoldiers weren't any of the defendants.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tank rothchild

    Murderer.

    August 31, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    It's all a ploy, George Patton.
    After all, you wouldn't want anything negative said against your beloved Ghadfi, would you?

    August 31, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    Well said, Army Ranger.

    IMO, her life, for all intent and purposes, is over.

    August 31, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I believe that the Gadhafi regime would force a 19-year-old to choose between the regime and the rebels, then order her to kill or be killed.
    If I were in that teenager's position, I would kill when forced to do so.
    I would regret the situation terribly, but I would not feel guilt.

    August 31, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. justathought

    ======== One wise person said, "the worst sin is is inhumanity against humanity." How can we ever know what is the truth? Fear is a great motivator. I think it is well known that Gadhafi and his sympathisers were crule. Question: was this girl 'drafted' against her will to serve in Gadhafi's forces?

    August 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I absolutely did not write the second JIF post above, the 1:00 PM post.
    I wrote the first.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Not JIF at 1:03.
    Troll.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. michaelfury

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3_G8ha5vmo&w=640&h=360]

    August 31, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Reformer7

    So, you think Ghadafi had nothing better to do than order a 19-yr old girl to be killing people? What proof do we have that she's not making up this story? I am having a hard time believing she was forced to, because in that part of the world, men would be chosen for such a task, not 19-yr old girls. If this whole thing is true, then I say she is a "mass murderer" and should be tried in court.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      It's sometimes impossible to really KNOW if the individual was forced to do this or participated under ideology. Child soldiers are conscripted every day in Africa and taught how to commit murders. During the Pol Pot regime, young children were "trained" to commit horrible murders by their over-seers.

      Anyone who said no was simply summarily executed. Over time, some of these people lost their humanity completely and went into a kind of "fugue" state for personal survival. It's not like they had a choice. They didn't, except to simply die on the spot.

      sanjosemike

      August 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    We know the difference, JIF.
    We always do.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Raymundo Escobar

    CNN-Female forced executioner a war criminal or a victim ?

    My take . NEITHER, just another CNN lie intended to pave the way for the dumbed down US populace to instill hate against
    Gaddhafi that way the illegal overthrow of his regime is prepared for digestion, US media all too willing to cooperate . The pattern is ALWAYS the same, going back to the 50´s with Iran, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan ... demonize them publicly then tacit acceptation of unjust wars of aggression become easy ..... Lybia is just another one, next, Syria and Iran .....

    August 31, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      You are extremely naive if you believe a long-time dictator like Ghadafi could remain in power so long without creating a Gulag and "dealing" with opponents. Either they order their opponents killed, imprisoned or risk getting forced out of power. It's always like that. Long-time dictator=atrocities commited to remain in power. It's not a matter of media lying about it. All they had to do is look under the surface. It's always there.

      sanjosemike

      August 31, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Fred54

    How about propaganda hoax, per the CIA and the servile media.....

    August 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Whome

    What is the determining factor that labels you as a war criminal, I guess if your side wins your not and if you lose you are.

    August 31, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
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