Muslim Woman Is One of Three to Win 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

Posted on October 7, 2011


Tawakkul Karman’s Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize Speech in Oslo

One of the most moving speeches I have listened to. This is the complete acceptance speech of Tawakkul Karman from Yemen, the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as its youngest winner to date. Karman, a 32-year-old mother of three and an outspoken journalist and activist, has agitated for press freedoms and staged weekly sit-ins to demand the release of political prisoners from jail. She founded Women Journalists Without Chains and has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy in Yemen. Most recently, she has led rallies in the protests against the rule of the longstanding U.S.-ally, President Ali Abdullah Saleh. “The Arab world is today witnessing the birth of a new world which tyrants and unjust rulers strive to oppose, but in the end, this new world will inevitably emerge,” Karman says. “Our oppressed people have revolted declaring the emergence of a new dawn, in which the sovereignty of the people, and their invincible will, will prevail. The people have decided to break free and walk in the footsteps of civilized free people of the world.”

Los Angeles Times

[…] The Nobel committee’s selection of Tawakkul Karman, a journalist and longtime human rights activist, is a nod to the democratic revolutions sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. Karman has organized anti-government protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh and in 2005 founded Women Journalists Without Chains to demand wider freedom of expression.

“I am very, very happy about this prize,” Karman told The Associated Press. “I give the prize to the youth of revolution in Yemen and the Yemeni people.”

A 32-year-old mother of three, Karman has inspired youth rallies for civil rights and economic opportunities in a conservative and impoverished Muslim nation. She has often criticized religious extremists, including those in the Islamic Islah Party, which she joined years ago. The party is run by radical Sheik Abdul Majeed Zindani.

Karman stunned many in the country when she removed her face veil during a human rights conference in 2004.

“I discovered that wearing the veil is not suitable for a woman who wants to work in activism and the public domain,” she told The Yemen Times. “People need to see you, to associate and relate to you. It is not stated in my religion [Islam] to wear the veil, it is a traditional practice so I took it off.”

Her activism and protests have agitated Saleh’s regime. The government has refused to grant Women Journalists Without Chains a license to start a newspaper. The Ministry of Information blocked Karman from sending out SMS bulletins on human rights. Last winter, as the so-called Arab Spring spread across the region, Karman camped with tens of thousands of demonstrators in what became known as Change Square.

Those peaceful protests, which have been eclipsed by tribal fighting and government offensives, have shaken the country but have not dislodged Saleh from his 33-year rule. The country is slipping closer to civil war and government soldiers and loyalists have increasingly fired on unarmed protesters.

“I was threatened through phone calls, letters, and other means of communication. I was threatened to be imprisoned and even killed,” she told The Yemen Times in June. “So far, the threats have not been fulfilled although I consider that taking away my right to expression is worse than any form of physical violence.” [Please click here to read more]


Upon hearing the news she said: “Thank God for this victory. I was not aware I was nominated for this prize. I am totally engaged with the revolution here in Yemen. I dedicate this victory to all the youth of the Arab Spring, to the memories of the martyrs, to the injured and all the activists.

“I am totally overwhelmed, not only because of the prize but because of the dreams of freedom and dignity.

“We will build our country with peace [and] I give this award for all the youth in the Arab world – in Egypt, in Libya, Syria and Yemen. All the youth and women, this is a victory for our demand for citizenship and human rights.”

And for those who understand arabic