By Dina Kobeissi
Tawakkul Karman Remember this name.
The first and the youngest ever woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize is Tawakkul Karman.
At 32, this Yemeni journalist, democracy activist and politician who co-founded the human rights group “Women Journalists Without Chains” back in 2005. She started protests as an advocate for press freedoms. She also led protests against government corruption. The young mother of three children has advocated for laws that would prevent females younger than 17 from being married.
Karman also replaced the traditional niqab, a full covering garment, with a colourful headscarf on national television to make a point that the full covering is something cultural and not dictated by Islam. She has also called for attention to the plight of Yemeni girls who suffer from malnutrition and illiteracy. It is a custom in some poor families to feed well the boys while starve the girls as males are seen as the “bread-winner” and “righteous heirs”. Illiteracy rates are astronomically high among Yemeni women as figures suggest at least two-thirds cannot read or write.
She is rallying, protesting, opposing, and demonstrating against what, in global terms, we call TYRANNY.
I, on the other hand, was scared out of my mind when a certain diplomatic mission called Arabian Gazette and asked about a certain article I wrote recently.
At the beginning I was very excited. This was news to me. An amateur writer who could only dream of getting her material published a couple of months ago is now being contacted about a certain piece she has written. This is great!
But then something else happened. I was talking to some of my loved ones and conveying my excitement about what happened, and they basically poured cold water by giving me all these ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ theories. Moreover, they blamed me for my writing and how I exposed the subject of mercy killing in a way that has caught the attention of concerned authorities. “This incident is negative and there’s a chance I might get sued,” they implied while offering me their advices…
This led to a panicky discussion with my editor, who basically assured me that this is something good and everything will be alright. I got my nerves back on track and started thinking about Tawakkul Karman, the Yemeni democracy activist, and it hit me straight in the gut.
Here I am, a suburban housewife by all means, scared of getting sued, for writing a simple harmless and thought provoking article while Tawakkul stands in the face of tyranny, and is literally threatened of being killed and tortured by a scary regime.
So what did I do? I cried…
Compared to other women, who are facing live bullets and batons every single day to defend the legitimate cause of freedom and justice, how dare I surrender to the thoughts of being sued or whatever slap on the wrist I might get for writing something that I consider trivial?
How did we, or rather I, become so self-absorbed, that even in the process of writing about this brave woman, I was so shaken by some unfounded fears?
As an average person, I watch all the ongoing events in the Arab world, and I feel like becoming morally uplifted and proud of witnessing all these changes. However, the fear that has been planted in us through years and years of repressed upbringing is very hard to change.
For this very reason, and because of the fear-mongering, I changed the initial article about Tawakkul Karman, and choose to salute her in my own way by declaring the following:
I may not be as brave as you are or probably I’m simply not as fortunate, and it might be too late for me to acquire your strength and courage; but I’ll be sure to plant the seeds of valour in my own child, hoping that one day I can be as proud of her as I am of you. By writing about you, I have moved one step closer to a person I would like to become. And for that, I THANK YOU
The views expressed in this article are the author‘s own and do not necessarily reflect Arabian Gazette‘s editorial policy.