When the Norwegian ThorbjørnJagland, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, announced Tawakkol Karman as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011, many Yemeni people did not believe the new at the beginning.
They thought it was one of a lot of rumors coinciding with the most critical political and security crisis in Yemen's modern history.
But later the news was confirmed to be true and then the Yemeni people started to congratulate each other happily and spontaneously leaving behind all differences and political disputes. On that Friday named the Friday of Loyalty to Diseased President Ibrahim Al-Hamdi, the general atmosphere was different. There was not polarization by fans and foes of the former regime.
The country lived a moment of harmony because of that historic and unexpected winning of the first Yemeni woman of the world's most prestigious prize. No doubt giving the prize to Karman did not surprise only Karman nor her people but also many people and observers outside Yemen. Choosing the winners for this year's prize brought a real dilemma for the Norwegian Nobel Committee as the number of nominees of 241 organizations and individuals hit the record.
The nominees' list was kept secret until the winners were named and that was among reasons that complicated the game of expectations of who would win.
Whatever it is, journalist and human rights activist Kamran became representing a bright and positive image of the Yemeni woman. Her hopeful making headlines on international media after winning the prize will lead in one way or another to a refreshing change in the stereotype about the Yemeni women introduced as veiled and illiterate and that have been suffering from discrimination and prejudices in a society where conservative religious and social values dominate.
Karman, a mother of three kids, is a prominent leader of the Yemeni youthful revolution, active member in many human rights and media organizations inside and outside Yemen. She is also a member of the Shura Board of the Islah Party, chairperson of the Yemeni Female Reporters without Chains Organisation, member of the Yemeni revolution alliance and great defender of the rights of women, human rights and freedom of media in Yemen.
During the last three months, she emerged at squares of mass protests that have entered their ninth month and was among the first people to call for the ouster of the regime of the president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Bold and strict
Karman was born on 7thFebruary 1979 to a rural family in the district of MikhlaftSharab, Taiz governorate. She is the daughter of politician and lawmanAbdulsalam Khalid Karman. She moved with her family in her early age to the capital Sanaa where her father has been working. She studied in Sanaa and got Bachelor's degree in commerce in 1999 and then Master in Politics from University of Sciences and Technology. Moreover, she received a diploma in education from University of Sanaa and a diploma in investigative journalism from the United States of America.
Karman participated in training courses and events outside Yemen including the investigative journalism organized by the US Department of State, the dialog of religions, the dialog of religion and society. She holds memberships from local and international civil organisations including the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, the Federation of Arab Journalists, the international federation of journalists, YemenJAC, IRE, founding member of WANA, the Frontline Defenders and Amnesty International.
Arab Spring Once the Arab Spring arrived in Yemen early this year, Karman was the most famous woman since she was in the forefront of youthful protests demanding change and ouster of the regime. During the past months of mass demonstrations in all Yemeni cities, Karman appeared on the wooden platform of the Change Square located in front of Sanaa University delivering speeches and statements to thousands of protesters.
And from calling for the departure of the tribal elder of Al-Ja'ashin who displaced families in Ibb province at Tuesdays' modest protests, she was now chanting along with the protesters: either you leave or leave, a third option you leave and the last option you leave. It was not the Ja'ashin sheikh who they wanted to leave but rather the Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
With her winning of the Nobel Peace Prize this month, it is worth mentioning that the civil democratic uprising in Yemen has gained momentum and a push forward at a difficult time. Most importantly, the winning gave the character of Mrs Karman an aura and charisma based on international recommendation that can't be underestimated and then would let others to see her as a fair sex symbol of this growing civil and democratic movement.
Moreover, this event will contribute to creating an internal consensus on the character of Karman, the young activist and leader within the organizational and political frameworks of the peaceful revolution. Maybe, it will qualify her very fast to go the top of the pecking order of the opposition in Yemen, at least at this sensitive and critical turning point in the age of the uprising against the regime of president Saleh. Karman shared the prize with Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Liberian activist LeymahGbowee who mobilized the Liberian women against the civil war.
Karman considered her winning a winning of all activists who demand democracy in Yemen and all Arab Spring's revolutions. Karman was the first Yemeni and Arab and second Muslim woman after the Iranian ShirinEbadi to get the Nobel Peace Prize. From this moment on and based on the morale, spontaneous, massive and sustainable power the winners of the prize have, she has become a pivotal doer whose charisma at public atmosphere can't be ignored.
Secondly, her activities to support democracy and human rights and counter the authoritarian regime inside and outside Yemen will gain growing international support. What strengthens her position more is her character. The veiled young woman has become more respected at a society where male supremacy and conservative rural and religious values prevail. And her political affiliation to the Islamist Islah Party did not prevent her from playing the role of activist defending the rights of women and men nor from being a moderate politician open to various Yemeni currents.
Thus, she shall practically be included within the traditional and conservative opposition elite in the country and that is important for the future. This crucial and unprecedented event in Yemen's history, however, will not prevent dialectics about whether she deserved a key prize like the Nobel Peace Prize especially at this critical time which is witnessing large political polarization and armed conflicts. Moreover, the winning will revive repeated and usual doubts about this Western prize.
The talk about it, its real objectives in particular and how precise its standards are will be repeated as well at a time when some see it as a puzzle and others see it unclear and as some criticize it as a politicized prize. In the end, all this leads to accusing the giver of this prize of being biased for a specific ideological type and specific values that are wanted to be globalized and imposed by all means.
The situation is that the history of the Nobel Prize, in particular, remains controversial and subject to a lot of speculations and accusations because of controversial figures presented with this prize, whichis dedicated to peace promotion like its establisher Alfred Nobel wanted. Nobel also wanted that the prize helps deepen the value of peace promotion to face tendencies of conflicts, war and destruction.
The case of Yemeni Tawakkol Karman will never be an exception despite her own peculiarity amid complicated circumstances and ambiguous context in which she won the prize, and impacts that will be obvious over time. Meantime, there is an assumption which lies in the role expected to be played by the person who wins this prestigious world prize. First, this role will theoretically be judged by the principle of what this prize has been awarded for.
Secondly, the behavior of the winner expected by its givers and those welcoming it. Thirdly, what skeptics might say about it all. Accordingly, it is likey that Mrs Karman, who accepted the prize without conservations, will be chained in her future performance in one way or another.
She will be controlled by her new job as peacemaker and relative velvety behavior, which is supposed to be overwhelmed by wisdom and care reflecting responsibility of a person who accepts to be a star and international figure pointed to wherever they go. If Karman's winning of this prize represented a gleam of hope for the Yemeni people who have suffered for a long time.
Nonetheless, some are still afraid peace in the folds of this prize will turn into an omen reflected on the current chaotic situation in Yemen and then this elated, joyful and prideful event will turn into a new gate to a different nightmare controlled by civil war whose result might be an endless of violent and destructive conflicts. And in the end, peace building besides peace promotion becomes an issue concerned by all Yemeni people without exceptions not only Tawakkol Karman.