because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tawakkol Karman

In 2011, when Tawakkol Karman became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize ever, many people in the world might initially have assumed that she was the warm and fuzzy type.  Not so.  In fact, her fellow citizens in Yemen have called her the "Iron Woman" and "the Mother of the Revolution."  Karman was only 26 years old when she co-founded Women Journalists Without Chains, an organization dedicated to establishing freedom of speech in her country.  Death threats -- written and over the telephone -- immediately ensued, but Karman not only didn't flinch, she amped up her active and increasingly public protests to one per week by 2007.

Being vaulted into the limelight didn't mean that Karman was only grandstanding, however. Indeed, Foreign Policy magazine placed the wife and mother of three at number one on their annual list of top 100 global thinkers of 2011. And she holds a senior level position in the opposition political party in Yemen.  All while maintaining that: "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."

Earlier in 2011, the Yemen government had tried to intimidate Karman by placing her in chains in a prison for thirty-six hours.  Her response was to organize students (a third of them women) to participate in a massive Day of Rage protest demonstration on February 3rd. This made Yemen one of the countries the world watched in amazement during what will always be remembered now as the Arab Spring, when hundreds of thousands of citizens poured into the streets throughout the Middle East demanding the ouster of tyrants and the establishment of democracy.  Still, while clearly committed to Yemen and to its people (most particularly its women), Karman  has, nevertheless, stated unequivocally: "I am a citizen of the world. The Earth is my country and humanity is my nation."

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