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Amira Yahyaoui, Tunisia 
2012 Global Trailblazer Award Honoree

To learn about the death of someone is a hard thing, but to learn about the cowardly murder of a joyful human being so full of life is even harder.

Today, in mid-afternoon, on the way to my office I received an email-Salwa is dead. She was murdered at home. Shot in the head.

“Salwa” is Salwa Bugaighis, a Libyan human rights lawyer. She was there in the courtyard of the Benghazi Court when Gaddafi attacked it at the helm of the Libyan revolution, and she survived.

In 2012 we shared together a prize, but we also shared endless discussions about Tunisia and Libya and the status of women, youth and poor. We talked about everything and what should be done to bring Libyan MPs to the Tunisian parliament [to observe], and we were working out so many projects of mutual interest. She was full of energy.

She was THE Libyan girlfriend, par excellence, the one I called upon to give me a sound, patient and thoughtful reading when all that I read was “chaos and catastrophes” in her country. She was a truly joyful woman, aware of the state of affairs in her country. Above all, she was hardworking and optimistic.

Salwa is also the person I called first to share my joy in the voting on the gender article in the new Tunisian constitution. She told me: “This article is not yours alone. It’s ours!”

Salwa leaves behind her children and a very loving husband, whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Rest in Peace.

Salwa loved this picture and thought it was symbolic of all of us in the MENA region. Tawakol Karman,Yemen; Shatha al-Harazi, Yemen; Marianne Ibrahim, Egypt; myself, Tunisia; and Salwa, embracing us like a caring mother and embarrassing all of us. (Photo taken at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for Vital Voices 2012 Global Leadership Awards) 

Marianne Ibrahim, Egypt 
2012 Global Trailblazer Award Honoree

When I first met Salwa at Vital Voices in DC, her rough English did not help the people around her fully understand the value of what she was doing for her country. She was talking about writing a new constitution and women’s rights in Libya. My first impression was, “How come there are such strong, well represented, smart women in Libya? How come I am so ignorant of the country next door?” I was so wrapped up with the drama in Egypt that I rarely paid attention to the country right next to us. 

I was impressed beyond description. In the afternoon, we went to a late dinner, as all middle easterners do. We spoke in Arabic and only then did I learn more about what Salwa was doing in her country. She spoke very calmly about the fights that had erupted in her city and how she encouraged her son to stand up and fight for his home. She said she would be next to him shoulder to shoulder defending their family. She spoke with confidence about writing the constitution of her country, which she considered a battle of a different kind. She was concerned that people needed to change and believe in the constitution not just re-write it. She used to say that Egypt and Tunisia wrote constitutions that people never read. “I want something else for Libya.”

I can’t find the proper words to pay farewell to such a strong, hot blooded, hard headed woman as Salwa; a true representation for the Arab women and Libyans. But mostly a real personal inspiration to me. 

She is a loss to Libyans, to women and to the world she worked to make better!

Shatha Al-Harazi, Yemen  
2012 Global Trailblazer Award Honoree

Salwa was a pure soul who did her best to bring about change, freedom and peace to her society. She worked hard on women’s issues while equally caring for about civic engagement in Libya. She gave me hope when I thought things could not get any worst and that we had no more to give for our countries. She was such a powerful, intelligent and brave lady. A character that doesn’t cross our ways everyday. May she Rest in Peace

Photos by: Sharon Farmer