15 OCTOBER 2011
|NOBEL PRIZE TAWAKKUL KARMAN: BREAKING THE SHACKLES
Three years ago at a debate on freedom of opinion, Yemeni journalist activist Tawakkul Karman started by announcing that she had something to do
first before entering into substance. She uplifted her Yemeni imposed veil, showing her full face.
"That's who I am," she announced.
Since then, she fearlessly faced varied opponents: Reactionary "macho" tribal mentality, and repression by dictator Ali Abdallah Saleh. In a very
thinly veiled threat, the 35 year-long dictator called her brother to tell him that his government will not be responsible for whatever harm
Tawakkul will suffer from then on. She was arrested in her hometown of Taiz but released the following day after widespread popular pressure. She
formed first a group called "Women Without Shackles." Then she formed "Women Journalists Without Barriers."
Her fight for freedom and democracy did not conflict with her deep faith in her religion Islam. She combated an oppressive mentality and
domineering authority long before the recent uprising. She was in the forefront of the current fight. While her husband joined her in a nearby makeshift
tent, she kept her three children with her mother. Despite pressure and ?, she stood by her principles -- always maintaining her winning smile.
The 32-year-old Tawakkul is the first Arab woman to receive the Nobel Prize. It was indicative of a whole new Arab world that the pioneer of
female rights in the region came from the least developed, that the most effective one was not a sophisticated stylish urban socialite from Cairo or
Beirut, but a straightforward clear-headed woman from Taiz. It is similarly indicative that when she was telephoned the news, she dedicated the prize
to the active Arab Spring and those steadfast in the squares of Yemen. She continued: "We will retain the dignity of our people and their rights by
bringing down the oppressive regime."