Dozens of women were reportedly injured in Yemen’s second-largest city yesterday after government supporters attacked an anti-government rally celebrating Yemeni activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman.
According to reports, pro-government “thugs” threw stones at women who were taking part in a peaceful women’s march in the south-western city of Ta’izz.
“Yemeni authorities must protect the right to freedom of expression, which includes not tolerating violent attacks on peaceful marches,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“A full, independent and impartial investigation must be carried out to identify and bring to justice all those responsible for wounding dozens of women at the Ta’izz march.”
Yesterday’s march in Ta’izz was called after last Friday’s announcement that Tawakkol Karman, a young Yemeni rights activist, would be among three women to receive the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.
As a journalist and President of the NGO Women without Chains, Tawakkol Karman has long campaigned against human rights violations in Yemen. She has called on the authorities to protect freedom of expression and women’s rights as well as to release political prisoners.
The activist was involved in this year’s pro-reform protests in Yemen from a very early stage and was briefly detained for her activism in the capital Sana’a in January.
She shares this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with two Liberian women, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and rights activist Leymah Gbowee. She is the first Arab woman to win the prize.
“These attacks on a peaceful gathering in Ta’izz come just days after the Nobel Peace Prize highlighted the struggle for rights in Yemen,” said Malcolm Smart.
“The whole world continues to watch as Yemeni authorities fail to act on demands for reform while peaceful protest is being violently suppressed.”
A larger march, involving both men and women, condemning yesterday’s attack and celebrating Tawakkol Karman’s Nobel peace prize on top of its usual anti-government calls also took place in Ta’izz today. A pro-government group reportedly attacked a group of women who were near the Republican Hospital during the march.
Since February 2011, scores of people have been killed and more than a thousand have been injured in protests across Yemen as security forces have repeatedly used excessive force, including by firing live ammunition at peaceful protesters.