Tawakkul Karman, the widely acclaimed heroine of the revolution in Yemen, vowed on Friday that the Norwegian Nobel Committee won’t have any reason to regret its decision to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to herself and two other peace and women’s rights activists from Liberia. “Thank you for making us more strong,” Karman told committee members.
The committee was sitting in the front row at a traditional press conference with the winners, which Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) carried live on national TV in Norway. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize is an important annual event in Oslo, and this year it went to Karman, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and fellow Liberian Leymah Gbowee.
All three women said they were proud and honored to receive the prize, but noted that it carries a lot of responsibility with it. Gbowee joked that they will all need to be aware that “whatever we say now can be quoted,” but she claimed the Peace Prize will give their efforts to improve women’s rights and resolve conflict “a larger voice, a larger platform.”
Karman was perhaps the most animated of the three, sitting in the middle and repeatedly touching the arms of her fellow winners in a show of solidarity and affection. She has faced an enormous challenge leading the revolution in Yemen in a culture where women are rarely in the forefront. She was clearly on the offensive on Friday, and convinced the revolution will succeed and result in a new democratic system.
“I am so optimistic for the future,” she said. “Don’t be afraid. We can work together.”
Karman also claimed that religion, including her own Muslim faith, is all too often misused and that she firmly believes the spirit of Islam supports democracy. She also said she prefers to use the term “world spring” instead of “Arab spring,” because so many share a dream of eliminating dictatorships. She claimed the world will soon see a new and “real” Yemen based on peace and achievement.
All three winners stressed the need to educate women, and they credited women for their own success. “It’s on their behalf we accept this prize,” said Johnson Sirleaf. “It will make us even more committed.”
“The world can no longer exclude us after this,” added Gbowee. “The prize says ‘your skills and abilities have been recognized.’ We will continue to do even more after this recognition.”
They will receive their shared Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony beginning at 1pm in Oslo’s City Hall.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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