Nobel winner says Arab Spring will banish terror

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2011 7:12 PM
Nobel winner says Arab Spring will banish terror

Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman says she believes the pro-democracy revolts that have swept the Arab world will help "drive out" al-Qaida terrorists.

Karman told The Associated Press on the eve of Saturday's award ceremony that the autocratic leaders that were toppled from Tunisia to her native Yemen created an environment where extremism could grow.

"When there is dictatorship, you will find extremism and you will find terrorism," said Karman, a female icon of the protest movement in Yemen. "I am so confident that these peaceful revolutions and new governments in the Arab region and the rest of the world will drive out terrorism."

A 32-year-old journalist and member of the Islamic party Islah, Karman is the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She shared it with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and women's rights campaigner Leymah Gbowee.

The peace prize committee recognized the three women for championing women's rights in regions where oppression is common and helping women participate in peace-building.

Karman, who also heads the human rights group Women Journalists without Chains, said she's not worried that conservative Islamist parties would roll back women's rights, and she expects women in Yemen to hold top political offices, including that of president, "in the near future."

Islamist parties dominated the first round of Egypt's first parliamentary elections following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Only four women won among 150 of 498 seats determined. Islamic parties also scored election victories in Tunisia and Morocco.

"I am not afraid of the future. If we did we would not make this revolution," Karman said. "We should not marginalize anyone. Participation in the political life is the only way that will drive extremism (away), so I am not afraid."

At a joint news conference earlier Friday, the three peace laureates said they felt the award had empowered their struggle for women's rights, democracy and peace in their home countries and beyond.

"No longer will the world exclude us," said Gbowee, 39, who long campaigned for the rights of women, against rape and challenging Liberia's war lords.

Karman drew applause when she proclaimed that the period in which women appeared as victims has ended.

"They are leaders," she said. "Not just leaders in their countries, or leaders in their struggles. They are leaders in the world."

She said she hoped the uprising against outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh had changed Yemen's reputation as hotbed of terrorists.

Sirleaf, Africa's first democratically elected female president, is widely credited with helping Liberia emerge from an especially brutal civil war. She dedicated the Nobel to the women who have suffered in conflicts in Africa.

"They have carried the burden of those conflicts, subjected to rape, to sex slavery, being the ones who have to continue to have to provide for their children even as their men are out in war," she said.

Sirleaf was elected president in 2005 and won re-election in October.

No woman or sub-Saharan African had won the prize since 2004, when the committee honored Wangari Maathai of Kenya, who mobilized poor women to fight deforestation by planting trees.

By selecting Karman the prize committee also recognized the Arab Spring movement championed by often anonymous activists from Tunisia to Syria.

Last year's peace prize went to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was represented by an empty chair at the awards ceremony as an infuriated China would not allow him to travel to Norway.

The three women will share the 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) award, to be presented Saturday at Oslo's City Hall.