No sooner had President Obama praised Libya on its elections for a new Council of Representatives than the White House followed up with a condemnation of the assassination of a human rights leader in Benghazi — slain for voting.
“While yesterday’s vote demonstrates the power of individual Libyans in determining their future, we recognize that elections are just one step in Libya’s broader democratic transition. Libya’s new government must now focus on building consensus to address the challenges of establishing security, providing effective public services, and ensuring an inclusive political process,” Obama said in a statement this morning. “The United States calls on all parties to renounce violence and resolve differences through political dialogue and participation in the democratic process.”
“The United States was proud to support the Libyan people in the darkest days of their revolution and through their efforts to end the Qadhafi regime, and we remain committed to supporting the Libyan people as they work to lay the foundations of a democratic society during this challenging yet historic time.”
Last night after casting her vote, Benghazi women’s rights activist and lawyer Salwa Bughagis was confronted by five gunmen at her home, stabbed several times and was shot in the head. She died after being rushed to Benghazi Medical Center, according to the Libya Herald.
Bughagis’ husband, who was home at the time, is missing and presumed kidnapped. A gardener was wounded in the attack.
“She had earlier returned home after voting in today’s elections and put pictures on her Facebook page of herself casting her vote today. She was then on Al-Nabaa TV for a few minutes at around 6pm speaking about clashes in the city which she said she could see from her house between security forces and an Islamist brigade. She urged people to go out and vote,” the Herald reported. “…Her support for women’s rights made her a vocal opponent of not only Islamic extremists but also of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Grand Mufti. She was against the hijab, insisting it was not Islamic, and rarely even wore a headscarf.”
Bughagis had moved her family out of the country after a death threat was made against her son. She and her husband returned to vote in this week’s elections.
“The United States strongly condemns yesterday’s brutal and senseless murder of human rights and civil society activist Salwa Bugaighis in Benghazi, Libya,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice said in a statement issued just after Obama’s. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Salwa in Libya in November 2011, soon after the ouster of Qadhafi. I was deeply impressed by her courage, leadership and dedication to building a peaceful, democratic Libya where the rights and freedoms of all Libyan women and men are respected and protected.”
“We join the Libyan people in mourning the loss of Salwa Bugaighis and call on all Libyans to reject violent extremists seeking to silence their opponents and derail the aspirations of the Libyan people,” Rice added.