Karman: Peaceful revolution ‘only solution’

Yemeni rights activist and Nobel Peace laureate dedicates prize to the Yemeni revolution and to all Arab revolutions.

Twakul Karman
Karman believes that change will come to Yemen through its youth by peaceful means [Luke Somers]

Sitting in her tent in Change Square where she has been since the Yemeni uprising began in February, Tawakul Karman was oblivious to the fact that she had been chosen as one of three women to share one of the world’s most prestigious awards.

“I didn’t even know that I was nominated, let alone a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. I found out from TV,” she told Al Jazeera.

“This was a total surprise to me. I am overwhelmed, not only because of the prize but because of the dreams of freedom and dignity.

“I dedicate the prize to the Yemeni revolution and to all Arab revolutions.”

In video

Tawakul Karman spoke exclusively to Al Jazeera following her win

Karman, 32 and a mother of three, is not new to being at the centre of news. She is a journalist and human rights activist.

Her activism began years before the start of the 2011 uprising.

Since 2007, she has been staging weekly protests with fellow members of Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC), the movement she had founded two years earlier, to campaign against injustice.

Her activities intensified after Yemeni people started to push for the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power since 1978.

Karman has regularly led demonstrations and sit-ins in Change Square, the focal point for anti-government protests in the capital, Sanaa, and organised student rallies.

Her passion for human rights and democracy has landed her in trouble with authorities several times. She has been arrested twice this year but says that will not deter her from continuing her struggle.

The following is the transcript of the whole interview of Al Jazeera’s Fatma Naib with Tawakul Karman following the announcement of her Nobel Peace Prize win:

After winning your Nobel Peace Prize, do you think that the Yemeni authorities will harass you? Will this make them focus on you more? How will this award help your cause as an activist and as a Yemeni?

First of all there is no Yemeni authority, there is a regime and a former toppled leader. The regime can not do worse than what they have already done. They used brute forces against the Yemeni people and killed us.

I have personally experienced this, I was threatened several times with abductions and escaped death. I was imprisoned twice by the regime so I don’t think they can do more than what they have already done.

I am ready to sacrifice myself for my people, my country and the cause that I believe in.

This prize represents the future. This recognition has given me a strong push to continue in the same path that we started during this revolution.

The crucial next step is the rebuilding of our nation, this is what is important now.

It took Saleh 33 years to destroy this nation, we will rebuild it. Men, women, old and young side by side.

Where were you when you heard the news about the Nobel Prize?

“The people that have inspired me are Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Their non-violent approach is what will heal Yemen and take us into the next step where we will build a new free and modern country.”

– Tawakul Karman

I was inside my tent, totally oblivious to everything including the nomination. It came as a total surprise, I found out from the news channels and it was a shock.

It was a very symbolic pleasant surprise for me to find out inside my tent in the middle of Change Square.

This is a gift for the revolution and all the Change Squares in the world, and my children that have supported me and missed me.

I also dedicate it to my husband, my parents, siblings, friends and fellow revolutionaries from the square, who all stood by me from the beginning.

Do you think the world image of Yemeni women, who are often regarded as oppressed with no rights, will change now?

The Arab women in general, especially the Yemeni women, have shown their true selves, and true role.

We are more than capable and have been playing a pivotal role in participating in the revolution. The Yemeni woman was a true leader in the revolution, in every part.

We all, men and women, paid the ultimate price and sacrificed our lives.

Yemeni women will also take positions within the new Yemeni government.

You have been sleeping in the square since the uprising began. How have you been perceived by your fellow male revolutionaries?

I have been here since the 18th of February, and we will remain here until we can rebuild the Yemen that we want, a democratic, civil, modern state.

The square is a mini society that hosts men, women, old and young. Everybody showed the true respect that we have for each other, and our ability to rebuild our new Yemen.

What do you say to governments which are holding on to Saleh because of fears of al-Qaeda and terrorism?

This award shows the world’s respect and appreciation of our struggle, and that Saleh’s regime was responsible for the true terror.

Al-Qaeda was able to flourish under the rule of Saleh, but we, the people, will push for a terror free Yemen and I know that we will be able to achieve that.

Do you believe that peaceful revolutions may gain fruit?

Yes, peaceful revolution is the only solution for Yemen. Taking to the streets in peaceful protests is the only way.

I learned about anti-violent struggle from reading and I owe my passion for peace to Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

These three are the pioneers of peaceful struggle and for them I am eternally grateful.

What have you learned from other Arab revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria?

We have learned a lot from them, and I am sure they have learned from us too. It is one struggle and one revolution, it’s an ongoing struggle where we learn how to stand in the way of oppression. This is the Arab awakening and the Arab revolution.

Now, we have to learn from one another how to become productive, it is not enough to get rid of the regimes and the leaders.

We need to think about what we should do next. The youth all across the Arab world need to organise themselves and regroup. The real struggle for democracy, equality, justice, human rights and freedom has just begun and the fight will continue to protect our revolution from being hijacked.

Source: Al Jazeera