Newspaper article International New York Times

Killing of Libyan Activist before Vote Stuns Nation

Newspaper article International New York Times

Killing of Libyan Activist before Vote Stuns Nation

Article excerpt

The killing of Salwa Bugaighis silenced a lawyer who helped propel the 2011 uprising and who tried to broaden Libya's notions of rights and citizenship.

Salwa Bugaighis, a Libyan lawyer and civil rights activist, stood on the roof of her home in Benghazi this past week and watched as armed groups fought gun battles on the edges of town.

The fighting was "intense," she wrote Wednesday on Facebook. "Heavy smoke near the cement factory." She seemed unconcerned about her own safety, but instead worried that the thundering clashes might discourage her fellow residents from voting during a critical national election to select a new Parliament.

"My people, I beg of you, there are only three hours left," she wrote about 5:45 p.m., before the polls closed. She posted pictures of a group of fighters downstairs from her house, and about 8:45 p.m., she told her sister during a telephone call that her husband was going outside to talk to the men.

Within minutes, Ms. Bugaighis, 50, was dead, having been stabbed, shot and left bleeding in her living room. Her husband, Essam al- Ghariani, has not been heard from since.

The killing has stunned a nation where assassinations, kidnappings and explosions have intruded on life with a dulling regularity in the turbulent years since Libya's revolt against the dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Judges, police officers, journalists and bystanders have died, but for many, the killing of Ms. Bugaighis represented a terrible new low. It silenced a lawyer who helped propel the 2011 uprising, a woman who tried to broaden Libya's notions of rights and citizenship, and a charismatic leader in a place with few to spare.

By Thursday, her death had eclipsed an election that was supposed to represent a milestone in Libya's political development. Instead, people seemed to look backward, mourning the latest victim of the country's punishing transition. …

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