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Yemen - Tawakkol Karman and Women Journalists Without Chains

Tawakkol Karman - Demonstrating in Yemen

YEMEN: Tawakkol Karman and Women Journalists Without Chains

At the forefront of Yemen's pro-democracy movement is a Womens NGO, Women Journalists without Chains (WJWC), founded by Tawakkol Karman,

WJWC is a non-governmental organization in Yemen that seeks to advocate for rights and freedoms, especially freedom of expression. It also aims at improving media efficiency and providing skills for journalists, and particularly women and youth.

Founded in 2005 the NGO brought out the first of many annual reports on Freedom of the Press in Yemen in which it documented more than 50 cases of attacks and unfair court sentences against newspapers and writers.


Report in 2005

On 17th of July, Hajam al-Jahaf, editing manager of al-Nahar Weekly was injured in his face when he opened a booby-trapped letter

Report in 2007

In 5/6/2007, the reporter of Al Wahdawi newspaper in Amran, Mr. Mahmoud Taha, got a threatening of murder by some unknown armed people after he published a report about Sa'ada war. His house was also attacked and his family and children got intimidated.

19/2/2007: Abusing and humiliating the female writer, Anissah Mohammed Othman, by Al Distoor newspaper, which believed to be security-financed newspaper, after writing series of critical articles where she criticized the government in Al Wassat newspaper.

Detaining the reporter of Al Ayam newspaper in Taiz,  Maha Al sharjabi, and trying to confiscate her camera by the criminal investigation agent in the Republican Hospital of Taiz while she was reporting on the nutrition presented to the in-patients of the hospital

Kidnapping and assaulting the journalist and activist, Ahmed Omer Bin Fareed, and throwing him in a remote desert in Aden. This violation was committed by the 3 of national security personal after the journalist has written an article in Al Ayam newspaper talking about the demands of the retired army people

The Founder - Tawakkol Karman

Long before the founder, Tawakkol Karman, was photographed leading February’s protests against the regime, she was called a brave defender of freedom of expression and human rights in Yemen.

In a January 2010 interview with Al-Jazeera, she spoke of detained journalists, a sheikh’s tyranny against villagers in Ibb, a governorate south of the capital, Sanaa, the lack of justice for the family of a murdered doctor, and – long before January’s WikiLeaks revelations – went so far as to accuse the government of being “in alliance” with Al-Qaeda.

Today, she continues to protest, demanding peaceful change.

A Letter from Tawakkol Karman, Chairwoman, Women Journalists Without Chains

February 1st 2011 - excerpt from letter to Women without Borders/SAVE

Terrorism and extremism are issues that our organization had touched upon before the world started to talk about al-Qaeda and its increasing presence in Yemen.

We see that extremism is not only carrying weapons, but it is rejecting and marginalizing the ‘other.’ Consequently, it pushes the ‘other’ to resort to violent recourses to defend his point of view or to prove his existence. Using weapons, bombings, and other terrorist acts is a result of a big accumulative process that has started with disrespecting and marginalizing the ‘other’ combined with hostile attitudes towards him. This process usually starts in early age. That means that extremism is a result of a failure in raising our children, a failure in culture and the absence of belief in the value of dialogue and coexistence.

This week I was hosted by a number of channels and newspapers to talk about the situation in Yemen in terms of politics, human rights, al-Qaeda, and terrorism. The last of these interviews was just yesterday on the al-Jazeera Channel, and the presenter asked me about the possibility of women getting involved in terrorism in Yemen and the possibility of women in combating terrorism.

My answer was that women have more opportunities in challenging extremism and terrorism than men due to woman's nature in having patience, containing others, hating killing and bloodshed and—more importantly—women have tremendous feelings of love and sacrifice towards their husbands, children, and communities that is enough to enhance the attitude of coexistence, respect, trust, and listening to the other.

This, in turn, will lead drying the roots and sources of extremism. Extremism stems from the culture of rejecting the other and the culture of hating the other. Therefore, there is no solution other than spreading the culture of coexistence and dialogue, skills that women master and possess.

A Yemeni woman cannot be part of terrorism because she herself is suffering from terrorism. She is banned from taking part in public life, fearing she will mingle with men (which is forbidden). The intellectual terrorism that is practiced against woman by a large segment of men in the Yemeni society makes her ineffective in the public domain either politically or socially.

A Yemeni woman without doubt has no role in recruiting or training terrorists in order to kill innocent people. If the policy of excluding women from public life and preventing her from effectively taking part in developing this country and challenging terrorism along with men continues, the culture of extremism will flourish and the ramifications will be disastrous.


See also

Yemen’s Unfinished Revolution


The Daily Star - Lebanon News

Women without Borders/SAVE