Born and raised in a country where women were severely oppressed, discriminated and were deprived of basic human rights, Tawakkol Karman , a women journalist in her twenties started fighting against the dictator president Shalleh, in favor of establishing women’s rights, democracy and freedom of expression in her country , Yemen.
Fights For Freedom of Expression
In 2005, Karman and several of her colleagues founded Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC), started to advocate mainly for freedom of expression and to further promote human rights and women’s rights in Yemen. In addition, the organization also started exposing corrupt government officials by producing reports on human rights abuses, cases of attacks and unfair sentences against newspapers and writers in Yemen. Women Journalists Without Chains gradually become a national movement for freedom of expression for press.
In 2007, Karman and her and her Women’s Journalists Without Chains began a weekly peaceful demonstration and protest against systematic repression of Government , demanding freedom of the press and democratic reforms. These demonstration continued for 3 years , until 2011, on every Tuesday in front of the cabinet of Sana. The ‘Tuesday Protests’ or Sit-ins aimed to expose and criticize corruption and injustice of Yemeni Government and demanded justice and inquiries in a non-violent way. The place of Karman’s Tuesday sit -ins is now known as “Freedom Square”.
In 2010, inspired by the Arab Spring movement in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, Karman and her Women’s Journalists Without Chains started protesting against the dictatorship of President shallah at the public square of Sana’a University, and called out people to join in the movement. She used social media to bring fellow journalists, women and hundreds of young people to the streets of Sanaa.
Her anti-Government movements, women and human rights activism over the years have caused her severe harassment, death threats , arrests and detention by the Yemen’s Saleh regime . Her arrest and detention caused outrageous reaction in the nation, driving millions of people in the street in demand of her release. This is considered as a key moment in Yemen’s uprising . She also had a narrow escape from an attempted assassination and she survived the attack with a stab wound.
She was awarded the Courage Award by the Embassy of United States of America, Sana’a in 2008 and One of the seven women who change the history for the year of 2009.
Karman was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. She was the first Arab, first Yemeni, and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate at the time, at the age of 32 in 2011.
Tawakkol on Yemen’s Civil War
Her mother land Yemen is torn and devsated by a civil war which has been described by the UN, as the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. The entire country is on the brink of famine with 22 million people are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance and protection.
Tawakkol Karman has called for urgent and just international action to end the tragedy of Yemen. She has also expressed her concern and appealed for International help in rebuilding and reconstructing the country once the war ends. She believes that secularism and democracy are the key to put an end to all forms of chaos.