UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Women's rights groups on Friday demanded an international investigation into the killing of a Libyan activist who had become a symbol of her country's efforts to create a democracy.
The shooting and stabbing of Salwa Bugaighis shortly after she cast her vote in Libya's parliamentary elections last year shocked the international community, with U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice calling the assassination "brutal and senseless."
The women's groups say Libya's authorities have never investigated the murder of the lawyer and mother of two. They are calling on the U.N. secretary-general and the international community to hold accountable those responsible for violence against women in the Arab region.
"We are calling for protection for ourselves," said Fatima Outaleb with the Morocco-based Union of Women's Action. "Nothing scares us. But we need a safe environment where we can work."
There has been concern since Bugaighis' murder last June that an investigation isn't possible amid Libya's political chaos. The country has fractured into two rival governments and multiple militias since the 2011 ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
After Gadhafi was overthrown, Bugaighis became one of the most outspoken voices against militia fighters and Islamic extremists. She also was deputy head of the National Dialogue Preparatory Commission, which tried to work out reconciliation among the country's rival factions.
The international groups Equality Now, Karama and others from the Arab world and elsewhere remembered her Friday with a somber luncheon in the middle of a major U.N. conference on women.
Several participants have been threatened for being outspoken. "That's why we don't go home," said Zahra Langhi with the Libyan Women's Platform for Peace, which she co-founded with Bugaighis.
Langhi now lives in Cairo. She said the last time she dared to return to Libya was in August, when she stayed just half a day to observe the transfer of power to the elected and internationally recognized House of Representatives. Bugaighis was killed after voting in that election.
"I was there just to say, 'Salwa, it happened,'" Langhi said.