Monday, August 6, 2012

Ramadan Challenge Day 18 - Tawakkul Karman

In the last two posts, I wrote about women who suffered torture at the hands of authoritarian regimes of Nassar and Assad in Egypt and Syria respectively. Those women displayed great courage in the face of disturbing persecution and in my opinion, are the mothers from contemporary times of the women of the Arab Spring. Tawakkul Karman is one such woman who rose to fame in the latest Arab uprisings and became the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

Tawakkul is the first Arab woman to receive this award and the second Muslim woman after Shirin Abedi to be awarded this. Born 7 February 1979, she happens to be the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate todate and is known by many Yemenis as the "Iron Woman" and the "Mother of the Revolution."

Like all women we have discussed in this series of Ramadan Challenge, Tawakul too is a woman of intellect, political fervor, and someone who displays great faith in Allah. A journalist by profession and a senior political member of Al-Islah political party, Tawakkul is an example from current times by which we ought to bring our girls up too. She co-founded and heads a human rights group called "Women Journalists Without Chains."

Tawakkul's political role

Tawakkul Karman is a member of the opposition party Al-Islah which is an umbrella party expanded beyond it roots as an Islamic political party after it began in 2005, the same time when Tawakul came into Yemeni limelight. When in 2007 the Yemeni government denied a license to a mobile phone news service in her country, she began staging weekly protests for press freedom, gradually expanding her issues of concern. Always against government corruption, she became more vocal in her anti-Saleh protests after village lands of families around the city of Ibb were appropriated by a corrupt local leader.

 Speaking of women's rights: 
"Women should stop being or feeling that they are part of the problem and become part of the solution. We have been marginalized for a long time, and now is the time for women to stand up and become active without needing to ask for permission or acceptance. This is the only way we will give back to our society and allow for Yemen to reach the great potentials it has."
          Tawakkul Karman told the Yemen Times in 2010

Tawakkul is an advocate for laws that should prevent Yemeni girls under the age of 17 from being married. She has also voiced her concern over malnutrition being more common amongst girls, as well as higher rates of illiteracy amongst females.

Tawakul Karman and the Arab Spring:
Calling the Arab Spring in Yemen, the "Jasmine Revolution," Tawakkul owes the liberation of the region to Tunisian revolution. Being a vocal opponent of President Saleh, she redirected the Yemeni protests to support the "Jasmine Revolution." After her 36-hour imprisonment (in chains) on 22 January 2011, Tawakkul Karman, led another protest on 29th January calling people to come together on the "Day of Rage" on 3rd February. On 17 March, she was re-arrested amidst ongoing protests.
Iron Woman:
Tawakkul's life has not been a safe one any way. A woman attempted to stab her during 2010 protests where she was saved by her supporters. Her brother Tariq Karman, his sister was given a death threat on 26th January 2011 via a telephone call, which Dexter Filkins, of The New Yorker, believed to be President Saleh himself. 
When asked by journalists regarding her Hijab not impeding with her level of intellect and education, Tawakkul responded:
“Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am told and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is a regression back to the ancient times.” 
Nobel Peace Prize: Tawakkul considers the Nobel Peace Prize given to her as a victory for Arabs and Arab women around the world. She dedicated the Prize to the youth of Tunisia, Egypt and the rest of the Arab world. She also saw this as an acknowledgement for the struggles of the youth of Syria, Libya and Yemen who wanted to see an end to authoritatianism in their countries.

Speaking before an audience at the University of Michigan, Karman summed up her belief: 

"I am a citizen of the world. The Earth is my country, and humanity is my nation."


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