Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tawakkol Karman: An Extraordinary Woman from Yemen

"As long as I live - no matter what I do - my goals will remain the same. Ending corruption, defending human rights, fighting dictatorship" - Tawakkol Karman

A Muslim, an Arab, a Yemeni woman won the 2011 Noble Peace Prize breaking so many stereotypes all at once. Muslim and Arab women, especially Yemeni have often been perceived as oppressed, subdued and submissive, yet Tawakkol Karman, a journalist and mother of three corrected this misconception. She is a human rights activists who created the human rights group Women Journalists withit Chains (WJWC) in 2005 to promote human rights, "particularly freedom of opinion and expression, and democratic rights". She had been calling for change and peacefully protested to topple Saleh's corrupt regime long before the Arab spring, when nobody in Yemen believed it was even possible. She has been arrested, threatened, harassed by the regime yet exhibited bravery, courage, steadfast and a heroic determination to pursue her cause. The Prize motivation which she shared with two other great women from Liberia, President Ellen Jihnson Sirleaf and peace activist Leymah Gbowee as quoted by the Noble Prize official website was for "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work". She had been living in a tent for the past 8 months, speaking out and leading peaceful protests in Sanaa's Change square, where she heard news of her Noble Peace Prize award.
Tawakkol Karman in a conversation with Sudarsan Raghavan said she "hoped the United States and the rest of the international community would increase pressure on Saleh to step down and face trial. It was clear that she had no intention of leaving her tent until the regime falls."

"This award did not come to me as Tawakkol Karman the individual, it came to me as a daughter of this great nation, that amazed the world with its peacefulness. No one could solve the riddle of this nation ... it was the international community's recognition of the most amazing revolution the world has ever seen." 

Yemen and it's current revolution are often marginalized, yet it continues to inspire those who follow it. Tawakkol Karman Noble Peace Prize is an acknowledgment, honor and victory for Arabs, for Yemen, for human rights activists but mostly for Yemeni revolutionaries and Yemen's Peaceful Revolution.
I have always been proud to be an Arab and a Yemeni, but Tawakkol made me more proud to be so. Whenever asked where I originally came from since I am proudly Egyptian too, I reply "from Yemen, land of Sheba and Queen Bilquis", but now I'll boast and say "from Yemen, the country of Tawakkol Karman, this Year's Noble Peace Prize winner.