By Fakhri al-Arashi & Ebrahim al-Sharif
Yemen has been known by its ancient history as the country of the Queen Bilquies and Araw. Both women ruled Yemen long ago but their legacy remains. Such leaders were how people in a time once past viewed Yemen. Today’s Yemen is hardly viewed the same; al-Qeada, tribalism and armed militias is now are the names that are writing Yemen’s history in the 21st century.
However, in an announcement that briefly takes Yemen back to its storied past, Tawakul Karman was selected as a Nobel Peace Prize Recipient. As the Arab Spring swept through the Middle East, Karman seized the movement of change and served as source of strength for all Yemeni women throughout the protest.
By honoring Karman, the world turned its attention to Yemen once more, not through the worn out headlines of al-Qeada, but through positive news. The selection grabbed the attention of all mass media in what came as a unexpected surprise for the country of Yemen.
To Yemen, Karman’s selection is a victory. For the government, her selection is based on democracy and human rights. To her supporters and friends, it is a story of triumph. To the editor of the National Yemen, it is one more Yemeni leader that will always be remembers in Yemen’s history. But most importantly, the award to Karman herself, is a gift to the soul of the revolution in Yemen that is protesting for a better future.
National Yemen like one of the hundred thousands of newspapers, websites, broadcast and satellite TV’s, described the prize as a reminder that it is Yemen’s duty to promote the meaning behind the award, and work towards a future where the hardest days of the millions of Yemenis suffering are behind them.
Karman donated her prize to build what is being destroying in Yemen as a result of the revolutions. She will only use her prize until after President Saleh leaves the country and then will contribute to building a modern and civil Yemen under a new democratic government.
Many people in Yemen consider the Noble Prize a big slap in the face of the Yemeni government who has repeatedly killed protestors and its people to keep Saleh and his family in power. Others in Yemen believe that the prize cheats the principles and manners of Nobel selection standards. Regime loyalists noted that there are many well-known names who contributed to the safety of humans, whereas Karman pushed many young Yemenis to their death. They also state that the money was given to her in order to create trouble with the government and to turn the global attention towards the revolution in Yemen.
In reaction to the award Karman, while camped out in Sana’a during ongoing anti-government protests, said, “I didn’t expect it. It came as a total surprise. This is a victory for Arabs around the world and a victory for Arab women” and that the award was a “victory of our peaceful revolution. I am so happy, and I give this award to all of the youth and all of the women across the Arab world, in Egypt, in Tunisia. We cannot build our country or any country in the world without peace,” adding that it was also for “Libya, Syria and Yemen and all the youth and women, this is a victory for our demand for citizenship and human rights,” that “all Yemenis [are] happy over the prize. The fight for democratic Yemen will continue.
The award given to Karman has stirred many emotions throughout all Yemeni citizens. Accordingly, National Yemen gathered quotes from many individuals to gauge the range of opinion and sentiments on this occasion:
“Tawakkul Karman has greatly contributed to the start new civil Yemen. She was detained many times, but that made her strong person, who feels proud of his culture and identity.” – Shawki Al-Kadhi, a 50 year old opposition member.
“For me, I am quite worried if this prize will push her to support her Islah party rather than supporting the country Yemen. I don’t know what her point of view about what is happening in Sa’ada and South Yemen or even child marriage as being from Islah.” — Yahya Sharaf Al-Deen, a Yemeni student in Sweden.
“I am glad that a Yemeni Muslim woman has been among the nominees for Nobel Peace Prize this Year. Karman has taken the lead as an activists and journalist to make a difference in Yemen through the Yemen revolution. Tawakkul has been growing day by day to fulfill her promise on fighting corruption and know she is fighting to make the revolution come true in Yemen, she deserves the prize.” — Hana’a Al-Shami, project assistant at the British Council
“Many people argue that the prize only goes to those who promote international peace and Tawwakul is only active within the circles of her own country. I guess the Nobel Prize committee wanted to award a figure from the Arab Spring for the peaceful methods of change and Tawwakul was the best option given her history that goes way back before the Arab spring.” –Ali Al-Murtada, a 22 year old student
“Tawakul gets a lot when Yemenis followed her in the protests because she affected on people’s hearts by touching their pain. She insisted to continue fighting for her issue and revolution and finally she surprised the whole world. She waked up Yemenis from their sleeping in the dictatorship. Tawakul works daily in Yemeni target to get freedom. She fights for Yemeni issues in south before north for activists and other people. Yemen was represented for the first time by a great woman in the best prize in the world which gave Yemen and its revolution the world highlights.” –Abdullah Al-Harazi, a 35 years old reporter based in Qatar
“I am glad that Yemen got international media highlights, but I am sure that Yemen gets people more important that Tawakul and the prize should be given to Yemen not to any Yemeni person and there are some commons that she works for other countries and gets money from them which is so bad. In addition, I think the prize was given for political reasons which aren’t clear, but tomorrow we are going to see what she will do in Yemen after being the responsible of killing protesters in front of the blood bank.” — Hayat Ahmed, a 22 year old student
Who is Tawakkul Karman?
Tawakel Karman was born on 7 February 1979 in Mekhlaf, Ta’izz province, Yemen. She grew up near Taiz, which is the third largest city in Yemen. She is the daughter of Abdel Salam Karman, a lawyer and politician, who once served and later resigned as Legal Affairs Minister in Ali Abdullah Saleh‘s government and he is a member of Shoura council for the GPC.
Tawakel Karman co-founded the human rights group Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC) with 7 other female journalists in 2005 in order to promote human rights, “particularly freedom of opinion and expression, and democratic rights.” The organisation was originally called “Female Reporters Without Borders.” Tawakel Karman is a member of Al-Islah, which sits in the opposition, and holds a position on the Shura Council, or Central Committee.
Karman started protests as an advocate for press freedoms. Afterward she has also led protests against government corruption. She has also stopped wearing the traditional niqab, which is a full covering, in favour of more colourful scarves, often pink, that show her face.
During the ongoing 2011 Yemeni protests, Tawakel Karman organised student rallies in Sana’a to protest against Saleh and his government. She was arrested once, amid complaints her husband did not know her whereabouts. On January 22, she was stopped while driving by plain-clothed men without identification and taken to prison
At 32, Tawakel Karman is one of the youngest winners of a Nobel Peace Prize as she is slightly younger than Mairead Maguire, who was a co-recipient of the award in 1976. Before the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded, only 12 other women had ever been recipients in over 110 years, and Karman became the first Arab woman and the youngest person ever to become a Nobel Peace Laureate
Karman, along with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, were the co-recipients of the the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” [source: Wikipedia.com]