Yemini Activist Tawakkul Karman Rightfully Earns Nobel Peace Prize Recognition


Due to her efforts at home, Karman is a dictionary example of what great peacemakers symbolize.


Due to her efforts at home, Karman is a dictionary example of what great peacemakers symbolize. (Photo Courtesy of Adam Baron/MCT)

Nobel Peace Prize laureates haven’t always been deserving of the accolade. I’m still wondering why President Obama received a Nobel Prize. I also don’t understand why Al Gore earned one for “An Inconvenient Truth” when he didn’t lead the scientific research behind its content. In these cases, the famous award is more of a gesture to encourage a politician’s humanitarian work and/or to spread awareness about an issue.

This year the bestowment of the prize to Tawakkul Karman (one of the three laureates) encourages the Arab Spring, the progression of political protests that have thrown various Middle Eastern dictators out of power. It also spreads awareness about Yemen, Middle Eastern feminism and the flaws of American foreign policy. This year, a laureate is actually deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Karman is a 32-year-old, hijab-wearing mother of the three and the journalist who is known as the “Mother of Yemen’s Revolution.” She famously called for her country’s “Day of Rage” (the title used for the largest and most organized demonstrations in Arab Spring protests) in February. As a result, she was able to organize a dawning uprising that started a month earlier.

Since that epic day in February, Ms. Karman has been regularly spending time in a tent in the epicenter of demonstrations, Change Square, where the “Day of Rage” occurred. This altruistic and devotional Yemeni activist was actually in her camp when she was informed of her Nobel Peace Prize win.

Karman’s “Day of Rage” was inspired by Tunisia and Egypt’s uprisings and is consequently a major contributing factor to the wildfire that is the Arab Spring. Today Egypt’s January 25th revolution, which overthrew its dictator of 29 years in 18 days, seems to be crumbling. It’s military lacks transparency in its dealings with government transitioning and minority Coptic Christians are being killed off during this state of political instability.

However, because Karman is a symbol of the Arab Spring, her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize reminds the world of the strides of these political activists. These audacious figures dare to confront authoritarian politicians by tirelessly fighting their corrupt administrations through civil disobedience. Consequently,  Karman is also a fierce reminder of the leaders who brough the Arab Spring into action.

One controversial topic of conversation in regard to the Arab Spring is American intervention. Egyptian activists pride themselves as progressing independently of foreign powers. Yemen, on the other hand, became another example of how destructive and counter-productive an American intervention in a Middle Eastern revolution can be.  A re-blogged tweet highlights the irony of a former Nobel Prize laureate (President Obama) bombing a new laureate (Karman).

Ms. Karman also wrote an article for The New York Times called “Yemen’s Unfinished Revolution,” which uniquely counters the Obama administration’s bombing of Yemen. It’s important that the activist uses her prominence not to align herself with powerful Western powers but to advocate independent political change in the Middle East.

Women have been at the forefront of these Arab Spring uprisings and Karman is a symbol of power for many of them. She is the first Arab woman to win any type of Nobel Prize. Karman is also one of the seven co-founders of a Yemen-based organization, Women Journalists Without Chains, which advocates freedom of the press. This remarkable woman is well known for her humility, her passion for freedom of speech and her social conservatism.

Her self-empowerment explicitly contradicts the Western stereotype that all conservative Muslim women are oppressed. As she leads rallies and marches, her husband goes ahead of her for physical safety purposes and thousands of Yemeni with millions of supporters worldwide following behind.

Tawakkul Karman’s name has been added to the list of deserving Nobel Prize laureates that include the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Elie Wiesel and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Karman’s tireless work to bring about freedom of speech, of press and of association through peaceful protests is another example of how powerful an Arab women and a democracy movement can be. I think this definitely warrants a Nobel Peace Prize.