Arab women activists under threat demand international support–TRFN

Posted on: March 17, 2015, by :

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logo_reuters_media_africaUNITED NATIONS, March 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Too much talk and too little action by the international community are exposing women human rights defenders in some Arab states to great risks as the security situation deteriorates, advocates said on Friday.

Lack of support for women’s security and participation in peace negotiations has helped create a climate of impunity in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), where gross violations of human rights go unpunished, women activists said.

“The international community is such a disappointment…We don’t need more resolutions and believe me…we are so over reports,” said Hibaaq Osman, founder of Karama, an organisation that works to promote gender equality and women’s leadership in Arab countries.

Osman spoke at the United Nations headquarters during the launch of an international campaign calling on U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council to start an independent investigation into the assassination last June of Libyan human rights advocate Salwa Bugaighis.

A U.N. spokesman could not immediately provide comment on Friday night.

The death of Bugaighis, who helped organise the first protests against Libya’s former ruler Muammar Gaddafi, drew widespead condemnation from the international community.

In countries like Libya – a nation still marred by conflict and a political stalemate four years after the revolution that toppled Gaddafi – and Egypt, the security situation has deteriorated in recent months, said Osman.

Women activists are being identified, targeted and murdered by adherents of what Osman called an “ideology of subjugation of women.”

A month after Bugaighis was shot to death in Benghazi, gunmen in the eastern Islamist hotspot of Derna shot dead Fariha al-Barkawi, a former member of the Libyan parliament.

Earlier this year, activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was shot to death in downtown Cairo as she took part in a peaceful demonstration to mark the fourth anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

“We are asking for political and diplomatic support,” Osman said. “You have tools at the international level, make sure those tools are used.”

The campaign launched by Karama, women’s advocacy group Equality Now and the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace, called on the U.N. to make security for women’s participation in civil and political life a priority in all its mission mandates, and for the world body to fully implement the articles of the Security Council resolutions concerning women, peace and security.

Activists called for greater involvement of women in their countries’ political life and in peace processes, but not a token role.

“We don’t want to be a tablecloth on the peace table,” said one activist.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Lisa Anderson)