On Friday, October 7th, three women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: Tawakul Karman from Yemen and Ellen Johnson Surleaf and Leymah Gbowee from Liberia. Tawakul Karman is a Yemeni journalist and activist. Karman, 32, mother of 3, and the first Arab woman to win the prize, has been a central figure in Yemen’s revolution to remove President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Referred to by some as the “Mother of the Revolution,” she began her activist work several years ago.
In 2005, Karman founded the organization Women Journalists Without Chains to advocate for freedom of the press. She also led demonstrations demanding an end to media censorship. Even before the Day of Rage in Yemen on February 3rd, 2011, Karman led weekly protests at the Girl’s College of Sanaa University. Karman campaigns for democracy, freedom of the press, and equal opportunity for women. She has also spoken out against child marriages in Yemen.
According to the Nobel Prize committee, these women were rewarded for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building.” In an interview with Al-Jazeera English, Karman emphasized repeatedly that “peace is the only solution” to bring change. Moreover, in the case of Karman specifically, Thorbjan Jagland, the Chairman of the Nobel committee said that her award underscored the fact that women and Islam played a part in the Arab revolutions.
Unaware of the fact that she was even nominated, Karma was in Sanaa Change Square protesting when she was informed that she was a laureate. She dedicated the award to the youth and all the protestors for democracy in the Arab world, saying that this award was “a victory for the Arab Spring.” For me, Karman represents the true spirit of Islam towards women, which calls for women to fully participate in their societies and to be positive forces of change.
What do you think of Tawakul Karman being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? Does she alter your views on Muslim women? Do you think one person can bring change? Do you think women’s participation in the Arab revolutions has been recognized? Please share your comments below.