Activist and revolutionary Tawakkol Karman's receiving of the Nobel Peace Prize last week has provided further galvanization not only to the uprising in her native Yemen, but also, specifically, to its women.
On Sunday, 15,000 women took to the streets of Saana, Yemen's capital and largest city, with additional marches occurring in Taiz and Shabwa provinces. They gathered not only in celebration of Karman's win, but also to send the signal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh that he is no more popular with the nation's female populace than he is with his fellow men. "Saleh will stand trial," the women of Taiz chanted, and in Shabwa, female protesters called on the United Nations to place sanctions against Saleh and his family.
At a presentation I attended last spring, Egyptian columnist and social media artisan Mona Eltahaway, gesturing to a photo of Karman that she'd displayed to the audience, remarked - unforgettably - "In that face lies the death of all preconceived notions of the Muslim woman."
Not only has Karman consistently proven Eltahawy's point - obliterating the uninformed assumption that any woman with a headscarf by definition must be docile or oppressed - but now she's energized other women to destroy those assumptions on their own. Women who take to the streets by the tens of the thousands in the face of brutal reprisals can't exactly be labeled the brow-beaten type. As Roula Khalaf of the Financial Times argues, the Nobel decision "sends a powerful if symbolic message of western acceptance of Islamist movements, an alternative view to the simplistic belief that they are incompatible with women’s empowerment."
I mentioned violent reprisals. There has already been at least one disgusting occurrence of such, with multiple sources confirming the attacks by pro-government thugs on 38 women in Taiz's Freedom Square. I therefor call on readers to keep Yemen's female Muslim revolutionaries - and future Founding Mothers - in their hearts and minds, and praise them for the singular role they play in steering their nation to the state of liberty it deserves.
Companions of the Garden