Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkul Karman called on the United Nations Tuesday to stop the bloodshed in Yemen and to stand up for human rights and democracy. The Yemeni activist says she will not return home until President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s file has been transferred to the International Criminal Court and his regime’s assets are frozen.
Tawakkul Karman rallied supporters of Yemen and the Arab Spring at a plaza across from the United Nations, denouncing the regime of Yemeni President Saleh as well as that of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. She told more than a hundred demonstrators that both men are war criminals and must be held accountable for the massacres of their people.
Karman told reporters that she rejects any immunity for President Saleh and his inner circle and that she would stay in New York until his assets are frozen and his file is sent to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
She read a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General and the U.N. Security Council, which she said would be delivered Wednesday. In it, she calls on them to take immediate action to stop the massacres and hold the perpetrators accountable.
The U.N. Security Council is currently drafting a resolution calling on both sides to stop the violence, but not imposing any sanctions on the Saleh regime. It is also likely to call for a political settlement, possibly on the basis of a Gulf Cooperation Council initiative that calls for President Saleh to step down.
Karman said Yemen’s protest movement does not support the GCC initiative, because it provides immunity for President Saleh and his family.
The rally drew not only Yemenis, but other Arab-Americans as well. They welcomed the new Nobel laureate, who came straight from the airport to the demonstration, showering her with rose petals.
One of the rally organizers, Sherif Ahmed, 37, an Egyptian-American, urged the United Nations to do more to stop the bloodshed.
“The people of Yemen are being massacred by their own president and by their own security forces," said Ahmed. "And it is high time for the U.N. to at least stand on the right side of history and condemn this in the strongest terms, and to try to pass some sort of legal punishment for those who kill their own people, such as Bashar al-Assad in Syria, or Ali Saleh in Yemen, or [Moammar] Gadhafi previously, they are all the same, they are all nothing but a bunch of criminals, that’s what they are.”
Aneesa Shehadeh, 41, came to New York from Chicago to show her support for Yemeni democracy and to call on the United Nations to stop the violence.
“We want the massacre to stop," said Shehadeh. "We want them [the UN] to, if they were to intervene, to help the people that are dying unjustly and people that are starving daily in our country. We want democracy just like everyone else.”
Protesters said they would set up a tent in the square across from the United Nations and demonstrate daily until their demands are met.