Nobel Peace Prize laureate
Tawakkul Karman is undoubtedly the female face of the Arab Spring. The youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize - aged just 32 - Karman has found herself touring the world, bringing Yemen’s plight before diplomats and fighting for women’s rights.
In her own country, of course, she has been working hard to promote freedom of speech for years. In 2005, she set up the campaign group Women Journalists Without Chains, and commenced holding protests in the Yemeni capital, two years later. But Karman really hit the international headlines last year, when she led a series of protests calling for the departure of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. One year on – due in part to those same protests - Saleh has quit his post and is now in the US.
Although the demonstrations led by Karman and others were peaceful, they resulted in a strong backlash from the Yemeni government. Hundreds were killed, and thousands were injured. In a recent newspaper interview, Karman herself expressed surprise that she was still alive. For now, she believes that the West needs to help the Arab Spring states further, and is campaigning for that support. “I have always believed that resistance against repression and violence is possible without relying on similar repression and violence. I have always believed that human civilisation is the fruit of the effort of both women and men,” she said in her Nobel prize acceptance speech. Karman is married with two daughters and a son.