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Yemeni Peace Prize Winner Tells VOA Struggle Will Continue

  • Al Pessin

The Yemeni activist who shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize says the democracy movement she helps to lead will continue, in spite of the transition plan developed by the Gulf Cooperation Council and endorsed by the international community.

Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have marched for freedom in all corners of the country this year, eventually forcing President Ali Abdullah Saleh to agree to step down.

But the process he agreed to calls for an end to the demonstrations and sit-ins. That is something Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman says will not happen. “Of course not, people will continue their peaceful revolution until they reach all demands and goals," she said.

The transition plan would put Mr. Saleh’s vice-president into power. Karman calls it undemocratic, corrupt and contrary to everything the revolutionaries have been protesting, fighting, and dying, for.

“We will stay in the squares until we reach to a new country, democracy country and modern country," she said.

It has been a long road for Tawakkol Karman, six years of writing and protesting, and the past year living in a tent on Sana’a’s main square.

Now that foreign leaders are listening to what she says, she wants them to freeze the assets of the Saleh regime and prosecute the president at the International Court of Justice. “I trust them and I believe that they will act now. If they will not, they choose wrong way because we will achieve, we will succeed, and we will not go back. We will not go back. We choose the way of freedom and dignity and democracy country, and we will reach to this period.”

Karman says Western leaders are wrong if they think a popular Yemeni government would hurt their efforts to fight al-Qaida and other terrorist groups operating in the country. “Ali Saleh and his regime, they are the environment of terrorists and of al-Qaida. “We know that dictatorship means al-Qaida. And we know also that we are the only ones who [have] interest and who will dry al-Qaida and its resources. We are the future and we believe that we have the responsibility to do that," she said.

She says the youth in the Middle East are learning that peaceful protest is the best way to achieve their goals, not terrorism.

At 32-years-old, the journalist and mother of three is the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. "The crisis around us, the crisis," she said when asked what motivated her. "Our country collapses around it. And there was a question, how can we save our country, and how can we be part of the solution, not the problem.”

The Nobel Committee says it gave Tawakkol Karman the Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle, particularly on behalf of women.

She says that struggle will continue.