Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tawakkul Karman

Tawakel Karman (Arabic: توكل كرمان Tawak[k]ul Karmān) (Anglicised: Tawakul, Tawakkol, Tawakkul or Tawakel Abdel-Salam Karman) (born 7 February 1979) became the international public face of the 2011 Yemeni uprising that is part of the Arab Spring uprisings. She has been called by Yemenis the "Iron Woman" and "Mother of the Revolution." She is a co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Prize and the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date.

Karman is a Yemeni journalist, politician and senior member of the of Al-Islah political party, and human rights activist who heads the group "Women Journalists Without Chains," which she co-founded in 2005. She gained prominence in her country after 2005 in her roles as a Yemeni journalist and an advocate for a mobile phone news service denied a license in 2007, after which she led protests for press freedom. She organized weekly protests after May 2007 expanding the issues for reform. She redirected the Yemini protests to support the "Jasmine Revolution," as she calls the Arab Spring, after the Tunisian people overthrew the government of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. She has been a vocal opponent who has called for the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime.

Personal life
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 and is described as a place of learning in a conservative country. 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. She is the sister of Tariq Karman, who is a poet, and Safa Karman, who works for Al-Jazeera. She is married to Mohammed al-Nahmi and is the mother of three children.

Karman earned an undergraduate degree in commerce from the University of Science and Technology, Sana'a and a graduate degree in political science from the University of Sana'a.

At a protest in 2010, a woman attempted to stab her with a jambiya but Karman's supporters managed to stop the assault.

According to Tariq Karman, "a senior Yemeni official" threatened his sister Tawakel with death in a telephone call on 26 January 2011 if she continued her public protests. According to Dexter Filkins, writing in The New Yorker, the official was President Saleh.

Women Journalists Without Chains
Tawakel Karman co-founded the human rights group Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC) with seven other female journalists in 2005 in order to promote human rights, "particularly freedom of opinion and expression, and democratic rights." Although it was founded as "Female Reporters Without Borders," the present name was adopted in order to get a government license.[ Karman has said she has received "threats and temptations" and was the target of harrassment from the Yemeni authorities by telephone and letter because of her refusal to accept the Ministry of Information rejection of WJWC's application to legally create a newspaper and a radio station. The group advocated freedom for SMS news services, which had been tightly controlled by the government despite not falling under the purview of the Press Law of 1990. After a governmental review of the text services, the only service that was not granted a license to continue was Bilakoyood, which belonged to WJWC and had operated for a year. In 2007, WJWC released a report that documented Yemeni abuses of press freedom since 2005. In 2009, she criticised the Ministry of Information for establishing trials that targeted journalists. From 2007 to 2010, Karman regularly led demonstrations and sit-ins in Tahrir Square, Sana'a.

Tawakel Karman was affiliated with the Al-Thawrah newspaper at the time she founded WJWC in March 2005. She is also a member of the Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate.

2011 Nobel Peace Prize
Karman became the first Arab woman, the youngest person ever to become a Nobel Peace Laureate and the category's second muslim woman. At 32, Tawakel Karman is the youngest winner of a Nobel Peace Prize. She is younger (born 7 February 1979) than Mairead Maguire (born 27 January 1944), who was a co-recipient of the award in 1976 and previously held that record. In 2003, Shirin Ebadi was the first Persian woman and first muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Before the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded, only 12 other women had ever been recipients in its 110 years, and now there are 15 women.

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." Of Karman, the Nobel Committee said: "In the most trying circumstances, both before and during the 'Arab spring', Tawakkul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen." The Nobel Committee cited the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000, which states that women and children suffer great harm from war and political stability and that women must have a larger influence and role in peacemaking activities; it also "[c]alls on all actors involved, when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, to adopt a gender perspective."

Upon announcing the award, the committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland said: "We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society." He later added that the prize was "a very important signal to women all over the world" and that, despite the events of the Arab Spring, "there are many other positive developments in the world that we have looked at. I think it is a little strange that researchers and others have not seen them." He had earlier said the prize for the year would be "very powerful... but at the same time very unifying [and would] not create as strong reactions from a single country as it did last year [with Liu Xiaobo]." The 2011 prize is to be divided equally among the three recipients, from a total of 10 million Swedish kronor.

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," that she "dedicate[s] it to all the martyrs and wounded of the Arab Spring… in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria and to all the free people who are fighting for their rights and freedoms" and "I dedicate it to all Yemenis who preferred to make their revolution peaceful by facing the snipers with flowers. It is for the Yemeni women, for the peaceful protesters in Tunisia, Egypt, and all the Arab world." She also said she had not known about the nomination and had found out about the award via television.

Post-Nobel Prize
After the announcement, Karman traveled to Qatar where she met with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and also requested the Doha Centre for Media Freedom's assistance to set up a television and radio station, which would be named Balqis, in honour of the Queen of Sheba, in order to support female journalists and to broadly educate Yemeni journalists.

She also made a video message in Washington, D.C. on 25 October on the occasion of the release of the 14th annual report of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The report included information about the Arab Spring, Yemen, and Karman.

She has been selected as the first place of the FP top 100 global thinkers of 2011.

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