She remains to this day the only Arab woman to have received a Nobel Prize. In 2011, when the Oslo committee crowned her, along with two other women, the Liberians Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, hardly anyone knew the young Yemeni Tawakkol Karman. Journalist, human rights activist, she made a name for herself in Yemen for having removed her niqab (full veil), revealing her face in a still very traditional society, but above all for her fierce opposition to President Ali Abdallah Saleh, in power since 1978.
From 2007, she organized a regular sit-in in front of the offices of the presidency to protest against human rights violations and corruption. In early 2011, she became the face of the Yemeni uprising when she was arrested by regime henchmen, then released shortly after under pressure from public opinion. From then on, she no longer left the revolutionary tent village installed in the center of Sana’a, until the resignation of President Saleh, torn off at the end of 2011. These feverish and intoxicating hours are far away. Tawakkol Karman left Yemen at the end of 2014 and is not about to set foot there again.
Like many revolutionaries, this 41-year-old woman, mother of three, now lives in exile, between Turkey, where she has taken up residence, and the United States, where she studies at Columbia University. But, unlike those whom homesickness gradually destroys, exile has not weakened its good humor, its dynamism and its sense of the sharp formula.
No words harsh enough
Tawakkol Karman had to flee his home in Sana’a when Houthi militias – from a tribal confederation in northern Yemen, of Zaydi obedience, a dissident branch of Shiism, and supported from afar by Iran – invaded the capital, in the fall of 2014, with the help of ousted President Ali Abdallah Saleh. She doesn’t mince words with him. “Rather than take revenge, the peaceful revolution had granted its party half the government, she declares to World. But he preferred to ally with his former enemies to declare war on the Yemenis and overthrow the state like Samson the columns of the temple. “ When Saleh died, assassinated by his Houthi allies whom he was betraying for the benefit of the Saudi-Emirati coalition, on December 4, 2017, Tawakkol Karman openly rejoiced on social networks.
None of the warring camps in Yemen today finds favor in his eyes: the Houthis, sponsored by Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah, no more than the legal power, under the thumb of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates , and which she nicknames “The government of the Saudi ambassador”. “I put them on the same level: Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are the enemies of the Yemeni people. Their goal is the same, to share the shreds of our country. But a nation that has existed for four thousand years does not disappear because of a war. “
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