Profile: Karman, the first Arab woman to win Nobel Peace

AFP , Friday 7 Oct 2011

Yemeni journalist and mother of three, Tawakkul Karman is a major figure in the uprising against President Saleh, previously leading calls for women's rights and a free press

Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Yemeni Tawakul Karman flashes a victory sign outside her tent in Tagheer Square in Sanaa (Photo: Reuters)

Tawakkul Karman, a Yemeni activist and journalist who has fallen foul of the authorities in her struggle for rights, on Friday became the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mother of three, Karman has not left Sanaa's Change Square -- the focal point of demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh -- for around four months, at the risk of being hunted by gunmen loyal to the embattled president.

The Nobel Prize Committee awarded the 2011 Peace Prize jointly to Karman as well as Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Liberian "peace warrior" Leymah Gbowee.

Yemeni state television completely ignored the win of Karman who was born in Mikhlaf village, outside Taez, the second largest city in Yemen and another hotspot in the uprising against Saleh.

Karman, 32, has become a leading figure in the uprising against the veteran leader after heading demonstrations demanding his immediate ouster.

A journalist by profession, Karman in 2005 founded a group called "Women Journalists without Chains".

Shortly after being declared one of three women winners of the prize, she dedicated her award to the activists of the Arab Spring.

"I dedicate it to all the activists of the Arab Spring," she said.

"This prize is a victory for the Yemeni revolution and the peaceful character of this revolution," she told AFP.

"It is a recognition by the international community of the Yemeni revolution and its inevitable win," she said from her tent in Change Square, where she stays with her husband and leads several alliances of youth protest groups.

When protesters in Tunisia triggered the Arab Spring at the start of the year by demonstrating against their autocratic president Zine El Abedine Bin Ali, Karman led protests in their support.

She was soon back on the street in support of Egyptian protesters demanding regime change.

And when Bin Ali fled Tunisia, Karman led a jubilant demonstration of around 4,000 university students to the North African state's embassy. She was also the first to lead protests celebrating the ouster of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.

She wears the Islamic headscarf, having abandoned the traditional face veil of women in her impoverished Muslim country, and has for the past two years led demands for women rights, freedom of expression and for a free press.

Last year, she was detained for 24 hours after a large demonstration targeting the offices of Yemen's public prosecution.

Karman is a member of the council of the Islamist Islah (Reform) opposition party, which the regime describes as the Muslim Brotherhood branch in the country.

But the graduate of political science says she opposes radical Islam.

On her Facebook social network page, she wrote "you are not to impose any chains on my FREEDOM."

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