Cairo, Egypt (June 25, 2015) – Activists, diplomats and politicians from across the world joined events to remember Libyan human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis on the anniversary of her murder. Representatives from the Libyan government, diplomats from the Netherlands, Norway and the League of Arab States, the Arab Women’s Organization and Egyptian dignitaries, amongst others, met in Cairo, while Dutch politicians and activists met in The Hague to commemorate the life of one of the Libyan revolution’s most prominent activists.
The events saw tributes paid to Salwa from Mohamed al-Dairi, Libya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Haifaa Abu Ghazalla, Assistant Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Dr. Mervat El Tallawy, Director General Arab Women’s Organization, Gerard Steeghs, Netherlands Ambassador to Egypt and Kristel Manal Tonsted, First Secretary at the Norwegian Embassy in Cairo, as well as former colleagues, friends and family of Salwa.
A year after being gunned down in her home on the day of the Libyan general elections, no one has been charged with Salwa’s murder. Activists are calling for greater protection for human rights defenders and an end to the impunity of those who threaten and murder them, for justice for victims of political violence, such as Salwa and Fareha al-Barqawi.
They are also calling for Salwa’s murder to be a top priority for the immenent fact-finding mission to be carried out by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Paying tribute to Salwa Bughaighis, H.E. Mohamed al-Dairi, Libya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said:
“A year on from Salwa’s martyrdom, where she paid a high price for her principles and values, Libya’s situation is getting worse. Militias are attacking government institutions, civil society organisations and citizens, jeopardizing Libya’s future.
“Through Salwa, the world came to know that Libya has minds to be respected and activists that can defend their country. Salwa’s efforts made her an icon for the struggle for human rights that will always be a beacon of light for activists to come, especially women who would learn a lot looking into her life experience.
“This gathering is a testimony of Salwa’s influence on us all of as an icon, heroin and human rights activist.
“Salwa was a tireless patriot who tried to bring together communities and build peace through tenacity and leadership, in spite of the repressive regime.
“Reconciliation without redefining ourselves is meaningless. In her honor we pledge to continue to build the Libyan nation on the values of freedom and peace.”
H.E. Dr. Mervat El Tallawy, Director General Arab Women’s Organization, said
“Salwa was a model of strong Arab women, representing the true core of Arab women, instead of the widespread stereotype of weak oppressed Arab women. Only through our unity we can overcome the obstacles that face Libya and other countries in the region.
“The Arab Women Organization appreciates women activists and we look forward to working with them on their causes and their needs on various topics like refugees and women and children safety.”
H.E. Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, Assistant Secretary General of the League of Arab States, said:
“Salwa joined the list of Arab women martyrs that started in Palestine and spread to the whole Arab region. Arab countries will continue loosing activist, men and women, till the tyranny is over and conflicts stop
“I thank Karama for its role to support women activists working for peace and security in the Arab region which very much needed and appreciated. I would also thank H.E. Mohamed al-Dairi for being here, which reflects the Libyan government’s appreciation for Salwa and women activists efforts.”
H.E. Gerard Steeghs, Netherlands Ambassador to Egypt, said:
“It was my privilege to have worked with Salwa Bugaighis in Libya. Salwa was looking for more women leaders across Libya to help build their country and make their voices heard.
“She used her ability as an activist and a lawyer to advocate for peaceful change and progress. She was a great woman and a great Libyan. Her life will inspire generations to come.”
Hibaaq Osman, founder and CEO of Karama, said:
“In our societies, we deprive women from education and health services, allow women to be harassed, to be raped, and in doing so we are setting the stage for them to be murdered. Women are the backbone of our society, when they are targeted, society as a whole breaks down.
“If we cannot protect our women then we cannot protect ourselves. Salwa was articulate and intelligent, a symbol for goodness and strength and she was murdered and targeted for her love for her people and her country. This was not only targeting Salwa, it is targeting the whole society in an attempt to bring it to its knees.”
Zahra’ Langhi, Founder of Libyan Women Platform for Peace, said:
“Libya is seeing the number of martyrs increasing by hundreds every year, martyrs like Salwa and others who fought for a better Libya, for a Libya that is pluralistic, progressive and democratic.”
“The people gathered here today to remember Salwa, from national, regional and international partners shows how diverse were here efforts and how profound was her influence. Salwa died while she was voting in the Libyan elections and calling upon her fellow citizens to go and vote, asking them to believe in peaceful resistance and positive change. Salwa and many other martyrs died dreaming of a peaceful progressive Libya.”
Kristel Manal Tonstad, First Secretary, Royal Norwegian Embassy in Cairo, said:
“We are deeply moved by the bravery of Salwa and her dedication to the Libyan cause. Today we are reminded of our duty to protect and support human rights defenders across the world and help spread their cause.”
Mr. Abdul Hafiz Gouka, Deputy Head of the former National Transitional Council, said:
“Salwa’s struggle started long before the Libyan revolution. She was always one of the most prominent human rights activits and change makers. Salwa spearheaded the revolutionary mobilization in Libya even though this meant direct confrontation with a tyrant regime and risking her life.
“Salwa was the first Libyan woman that contributed the establishment of the first local councils, health and education committees and the first transitional council.”
Ms. Rana El Howjery- UN
“This commemoration is an occasion to celebrate Salwa’s efforts and pledge to continue her struggle, for social equality, for an inclusive and pluralistic society. We will continue to work for women’s equality and inclusion in peace building and decision making.”
Ms. Um El Ezz El Farsi, Political Sciences Professor, Libya, said:
“When they targeted Salwa, they targeted the civil state, freedom, equality and peace
We are asking Salwa for forgiveness as we could not fulfill our promise to her and achieve our common goal for a free strong democratic civil Libya yet. The assassinations of Salwa and Fareha al-Barqawi were an attempt to assassinate hope in our hearts but they failed and we will succeed in reaching our dream even if late.”
Ms. Amal Bugaighis, Salwa’s cousin, said:
“Salwa’s martyrdom was for the sake of democracy and peaceful exchange of power. It is so sad to see the international community not respecting the elections and democractic outcome, and even asking the Libyans to put these elections aside and start over from square one. Salwa and 14 others died on the day of the election, and even more were killed after.”
Salheen Behiyom, Libyan activist, said
“Salwa was so supportive for Libyan youth participating in their demonstrations and marches and giving them guidance and listening to their dreams and hopes.”