Arab woman becomes first to win Nobel

Tawakkul Karman, women's rights activist shares the Nobel peace prize with Liberia's president and another activist

She is known among Yemenis as 'the iron woman' and the 'mother of the revolution.' A conservative woman fighting for change in a conservative Muslim society, Tawakkul Karman has been the face of the mass uprising against the authoritarian regime of President Ali Saleh.

Women power: Yemeni journalist and activist Tawakkul Karman's husband
congratulates his wife as he learns that she has won the Nobel peace prize.

The 32-year-old has been an activist for human rights in Yemen for years, but when she was arrested in January, it helped detonate protests by thousands demanding the ouster of Saleh.

Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee

When the announcement was made yesterday that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Karman was where she has been nearly every day for the past eight months: in a protest tent in Change Square, the roundabout in central Sanaa that has been the symbolic epicentre of the revolt.

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Pics/AFP

"This prize is not for Tawakkul, it is for all the Yemeni people, for the martyrs, for the cause of standing up to (Saleh) and his gangs. Every tyrant and dictator is upset by this prize because it confronts injustice," she said.
Like the majority of Yemeni women, Karman once wore the niqab, but last year, she changed to a more moderate headscarf, covering just her hair -- saying she wanted to be "face to face with my activist colleagues."

The Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Leymah Gbowee, a social worker turned peace campaigner from the same country, will share the 10 million kronor prize with Tawakkul Karman.

The Nobel committee said the three had been chosen "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work".

"We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society," the committee said in a statement.

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