Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tawakul Karman : ‘Mother of Yemen’s Revolution’


On Jan. 23, 2011, Al Arabiya ran a story about the arrest of Yemeni activist, Tawakul Karman,

who was calling on Yemenis to show their support of the Tunisian revolution and demand a regime change in their country.

Nothing has changed in Yemen since Karman’s arrest [and subsequent release] except that on Friday, the young woman was propelled to worldwide fame after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, along with two other women ─ Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her compatriot Leymah Gbowee, who mobilized fellow women against their country’s civil war.

Karman, the 32-year-old mother of three, was not a leading candidate in the days leading up to Friday’s announcement for the highly anticipated Peace prize. Many were expecting it to go to participants or leaders of The Arab Spring, like Egyptian Wael Ghonim. Karman’s win has been as much a surprise as the Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer getting the Nobel for Literature – both came out of nowhere.

Yet, barely an hour after announcing her win, people on Twitter for calling for Karman to replace President Ali Abdullah Saleh as Yemen’s president.

This is because slowly the world is slowly learning about Karman’s tireless efforts in leading a regime change in her country.

Karman went into activism primarily after watching the injustices meted out to villagers in Ibb by a tribal leader years earlier. “I watched as families were thrown off their land by a corrupt tribal leader. They were a symbol to me of the injustice faced by so many in Yemen,” she said in an interview in March in The Guardian. “It dawned on me that nothing could change this regime, only protest.”
However, it is her arrest in January that galvanized the country’s youth into action that has yet to let up ─ first to protest her arrest, second to continue with their demands that Saleh step down.


was already known as an activist in Yemen since 2005 when she founded her organization, Women Journalists Without Chains, and a year later started a SMS news service which distributed news to subscribers. It was shut down in 2007 which is when she began organizing protests in Liberty Square in the capital Sana’a; sometimes a few would show up, other times thousands.

However, as she told Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker in April this year, events in Tunisia inspired her. “Tunisia was our solution — it hit me just like that,’’ she said. “The problem in our society is the regime, just as in Tunisia. The whole regime has to go.”

Karman was released 36 hours after being arrested, unharmed, but, according to The New Yorker, not before Saleh spoke to her brother, a poet, Tariq, warning him: “Control your sister. Anyone who disobeys me will be killed.”

In the same story, Karman spoke about how both her husband and father supported her work, even though they sometimes asked her to lay low on certain occasions, worried as they were for her safety. “I ignore them, of course,” she said.

Karman’s affiliation to the Islamist party Islah is bound to raise some concerns in the international community because one of its members, Abdel Majeed al-Zindani, is considered a terrorist by the Americans for having served as an advisor to Osama Bin Laden.

However, Karman’s own relationship with the party seems complex. She’s progressive and outspoken critic of some of the more conservative elements within the party who, according to an article in The Guardian in March, opposed the criminalization of marrying girls under the age of 17.

She has always maintained that she supports the party because it was the group that paid heed to women’s issues in Yemen. She has dismissed criticism that the party is trying to hijack the youth movement for personal gain; she believes that only a unified front will succeed in toppling Saleh.
Since the Tunisian revolution that ushered in the Arab Spring, there have been regime changes in Egypt and Libya, with uprisings in Syria and Bahrain at different stages of strife.

Yet Yemen appears to be almost stuck in limbo ─ with no clear solution in sight, especially since Saleh returned to Yemen four months after going to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment following an assassination attempt.

There has been no ease in the protest or violence, or drone attacks by the United States in their desperate hunt for al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen, or in the escalating poverty that plagues the country.

Karman’s win is not going to change that but it will for a brief moment provide succor to the unrelenting protestors in Yemen who dare not dream of giving up the fight.

And with Karman leading the way, the fight is just getting started.

‘Have a goal,’ Nobel victor tells Wall Street activists

Liberian Nobel peace prize winner Leymah Gbowee on Friday backed anti-Wall Street protestors in New York and said they must have an objective and stick to it if they are to achieve anything.

“When I wake up in the morning I have goals: women’s rights, peace, security” the 39-year-old social worker told an audience of students at Columbia University who had asked for her advice on activism.

“If you are doing a protest you need to have an agenda. If you wake up in the morning and poke a guitar, take a drum downtown and someone is singing and another one is dancing and movie stars are coming and saying do this, do that... and everyone is confused, you’ll be there for a long time.”

Gbowee, who shared the peace accolade with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Yemen’s Arab Spring activist Tawakkul Karman, praised the protestors whose stand has spurred similar demonstrations in other U.S. cities.

“The uprising is a good sign that people are no more sitting back and taking crap from anyone, but those doing the protest need to come together now and say these are the reasons why we are occupying Wall Street.

“And we will not leave until we will get this, or we will take it to another level,” she said, alluding to activists who began to camp out in protest in New York on September 17 but who have not yet announced what their aims are.

“There has to be some plans. Nobody can solve your problems better than yourselves,” she added.

The mother of six learned early Friday in a text message received after an overnight flight from San Francisco to New York that she had been jointly awarded the Nobel.

“What a day,” she said, at a separate event in a Harlem church where she recounted her struggle for women’s rights, which she said had been helped by her faith.

Gbowee, Sirleaf and Karman will share the 2011 peace award “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

The three bravest women in world

Declaring women’s rights vital for world peace, the Nobel Committee awarded its annual Peace Prize on Friday to three indomitable campaigners against war and oppression - a Yemeni and two Liberians, including that country’s president.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first freely elected female head of state, shared the $1.5 million with compatriot Leymah Gbowee, who led a “sex strike” among her efforts against Liberia’s civil war, and Arab activist Tawakul Karman, who hailed the award as a victory for democracy in Yemen. “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,” Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told reporters.

Tawakul Karman said the award was a victory for Yemen and all Arab Spring revolutions and a message that the era of Arab dictatorships was over. The peace activist, who was detained briefly during protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, told Reuters the peaceful revolution to topple him would continue.

The trio of laureates follow only a dozen other women among 85 men, as well as a number of organisations, to have won the prize over its 110-year history.

PML-N leaders Chaudhary Waqar & Sardar Iqbal join PPP

Two leaders of PML-N Chaudhary Waqar Khan and Sardar Iqbal have joined Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Geo News reported.

This they announced in a press conference here on Saturday. They were flanked by PPP leaders Jahangir Badar and Faryal Talpur.

Chaudhary Waqar said it had become to hard to go with PML-N therefore he and his friend Sardar Iqbal decided to join PPP, adding that they would live and die for PPP now.

It is to be noted here that Chaudhary Waqar Khan is the cousin of PML-N leader Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan.

‘Taliban can’t raise a finger without Pakistan’

As the war in Afghanistan hit the 10-year mark on Friday, President Hamid Karzai claimed the Taliban were being propped up by Pakistan and that the militants could not lift a finger without Pakistan’s consent. The war will only end when something is done to rout insurgents from their sanctuaries across the border, he said.
President Karzai admitted his government and the US-led NATO mission had failed to provide security to Afghans in an interview to mark 10 years of war. Karzai, who was forced to review his efforts to broker a settlement after his peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani was assassinated last month, also told the BBC that he had not ruled out peace talks with the insurgents. “We’ve done terribly badly in providing security to the Afghan people and this is the greatest shortcoming of our government and of our international partners,” he said.
“What we should do is to provide better, more predictable environment of security to the Afghan citizens, and that the international community and the Afghan government definitely have failed (to do),” he added. The Afghan president, who took office shortly after the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban regime, denied that Rabbani’s killing by a suicide bomber on September 20 had suspended his quest for talks with the Taliban. “We have not said that we will not talk to them. We’ve said we don’t know who to talk to, we don’t have an address,” he told the BBC.
The assassin who killed Rabbani with explosives under his turban had secured a private audience with the former Afghan president by posing as a peace emissary from the Taliban leadership. “We were asking for negotiations,” said Karzai. “We wanted to talk to them, but with the assassination of president Rabbani, and by someone who came in the name of a messenger from Taliban, now we know that we don’t have an address to talk to,” the president added. Until a representative emerges “we’ll not be able to talk to Taliban because we don’t know where to find them”, he told the BBC.
Karzai has promised to call a traditional assembly of national leaders, the loya jirga, in order to decide on a peace strategy after coming under mounting calls to drop talks with the Taliban from the agenda entirely. On the other hand, the Taliban vowed to keep fighting until all foreign forces left Afghanistan in a statement on Friday to mark the 10th anniversary of the US military campaign in the country.
The group’s fight in the last decade, “even with scarce weapons and equipment...forced the occupiers, who intended to stay forever, to rethink their position”, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an English-language statement.