October 07, 2011
Yemeni Activist wins Nobel Prize
I'm so pleased that Tawakkol Karaman won the Nobel Peace Prize along with two other female activists. Tawakkol is an amazing woman who led protests every Tuesday for two years in a row--prior to the revolution. A journalist, Tawakkol was denied a newspaper license and championed media freedom, putting out a semi-annual comprehensive report on all the violations against journalists as well as a comprehensive report detailing corruption in Yemen--who stole what when and how it added up to billions embezzled annually. She is a leader of today's Yemeni revolution, always on the front line facing down the rifles. Update: Tawakkol is also on the leadership council of the uber-scary Islah political party, the Islamic Reform Party, which is quite diverse; many members are young vibrant pro-democracy reformists.
I'm reprinting a 2005 letter Tawakkol wrote to the American people after Hurricane Catrina:
9/6/05 Dear Jane Novak, My name is Tawakkul A. Karman, I'm from Yemen, and I'm a journalist, at the same time I'm the Chairwoman of Women Journalists Without Borders. I'm sending to you this letter with my best regards, wishing this letter would find you in best health, and to share with the American people during this hard time they are passing through now and was caused by "Catrina" hurricane. Brother Abdulkarim al-khaiwany has informed me to contact you because you would be the best person who can convey our condolences to the American People (either governmental or non-governmental offices), you would find an attachment condolences letter attached to this e-mail. Thank you very much. Sincerely, Chairwoman of Women Journalists Without Borders Tawakkul A. Karman
To the Victims of "Catrina" hurricane:
Yemeni Women Journalists Without Borders, is sending to you their best regards hoping this letter would find you in a best shape, at the same time we would like to express to you our condolences for the victims of "Catrina" hurricane. We're sure that the American nation will pass this tragedy with more strength, and hope for brighter future. God Bless you all.
Women Journalists Without Borders.
Tawakkul A. Karman
A 2008 post: Tawwakkol Karaman is an AMAZING woman who is under severe threat from the Yemeni regime for her civil society work. She is currently in fear for her life and is also getting threats on kids. They write nasty stuff about her in the yellow tabloids. Why? Because she, like al-Khaiwani, believes in democracy and freedom of speech. (Also Yemen is ranked the number one most gender unequal society in the world, so she faces a second set of challenges.) Some of her reports on press freedom are here
This is a 2007 profile I wrote about Tawakkol:
Tawakol Karman is the founder and Chairwoman of Women Journalists Without Chains (WJC). Ms. Karaman is an effective Yemeni activist dedicated to advancing press freedom in Yemen. Hood on Line, the Yemeni National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, notes that Tawakul Karman has been harassed for more than a year. For example, she received a phone call November 12, 2007 from the Yemeni phone number (011-967)734606844 in which she was accused of undermining national unity because she attended public rallies in Radfan and Dhalie which called for enhanced democracy. She received death threats on herself and her children and was ordered to stay at home, which she did not. Ms. Karman also received numerous lewd messages repeating the slander published in the attack newspapers, Al-Dastor and Al-Belad.
On December 1, 2007 Political Security Organization confiscated WJC documents on press freedom during a civil society exhibition. Ms. Karman and WJC have also been denied a newspaper license despite fulfilling legal requirements. The organization was originally called Female Reporters Without Borders, but a regime-loyal clone was issued a license for the same name.
Among Ms. Karman's many accomplishments is the production of the Semi-Annual Press Freedom Report which showed an uptick in assaults on Yemeni journalists with 53 recorded in 2005 and 69 in 2006. Another WJC report tallies hundreds of assaults on journalistic freedom by perpetrator and finds the National Security Organization the biggest violator. The Ministry of Information, Ministry of Interior, Political Security Office and the Military Guidance Unit also committed numerous attacks.
She lead journalists in a weekly sit-in protesting a regime ban on text message news alerts. At the seventh weekly sit-in by journalists in Sana'a, Ms. Karman explained, “While we are holding this sit-in for the sake of freedom of expression and the right of having its media means, we salute journalist, Abdulkareem Al-Khaiwani, and announce our solidarity with him, considering him one of the pioneers of freedom of expression” She added. “The good pressmen are being violated, imprisoned, abducted, beaten, and wiretapped all over Yemen.” After fourteen weeks, the ban was reversed with the exception of WJC's text messages, which remained banned.
In the highly conservative Islamic country, "Karman is one of very few Yemeni women who removed her face veil publicly to prove that Islam doesn't impose the face veil on women, so she used herself as an example," the Yemen Times noted. During the cartoon controversy, Ms. Karman wrote an article, "Burning Embassies Is Not the Way", which stated, "We are not to call for tyranny and bans on freedom."
Speaking at a forum against organized violence, Tawakol Karman said she could not find herself offended in “an offended country in general”. She noted, “ I have received many critical messages about alleged relations with American and about my parent’s remorse to get a girl like me. But many Yemeni men face more violence than women,” NewsYemen reported. In the recent past, the death threats on Tawwaol Karaman and her children intensified and she is currently in fear for her life.
This is the face of today's Yemeni Revolution.
Update: if you have two minutes, listen to young blogger/activist Afrah Nasser (first link) for a real sense of Yemenis, the revolution and what the prize means. And an article by Tawakkol from this year in the Guardian about the Yemeni revolution. Better photo from today: